Donald Trump betrays the military, saluting with one hand and beating down those who serve with the other

A caricature of Donald Trump in the image of Uncle Sam requesting military volunteers.


He may say sweet words about the U.S. armed forces, but in reality, Donald Trump often betrays the military.

Trump likes to brag about the United States military and threaten other countries with its “fire and fury,” but when the rubber meets the road, the president insults military leaders, denigrates members of the armed forces, and sends troops out to do his wet work.

In his younger days, Trump used an imaginary bone spur to avoid military service. Now he threatens to send troops into the streets of America to use taxpayer-funded weaponry against American citizens. The current Commander in Chief has proven over and over that he does not respect those he commands, or have the slightest idea of what it means to serve.

Trump wants soldiers to honor the people who tried to kill them.

A characature of Donald Trump riding an elephant and carrying a confederate flag.

Flickr / DonkeyHotey

The Senate Armed Services Committee approved an amendment to the yearly National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which would require the removal of Confederate generals’ names from military bases. Democrat Senator Elizabeth Warren proposed the amendment, but it has bipartisan support, including from South Dakota Republican Senator Mike Rounds.

Rounds also serves on the Armed Services Committee, and he sees the amendment this way: “The message is that if we’re going to have bases throughout the United States, I think it should be with the names of individuals who fought for our country.”

That seems pretty straightforward, but dizzying logic gets broken out over memorials honoring so-called “heroes” of the Confederacy.

Army and Navy leaders seem willing to move forward with name changes, but Trump says he will veto the NDAA bill if this amendment is in there. The president expressed his opposition in a Tweet ending, “Respect our [m]ilitary!”

Just to review, the Confederates were an army of rebels who fought and killed members of the United States military. While calling for respect, Trump betrays the military by demanding they continue to honor the names of those who tried to kill them. Dizzying indeed.

The veto would mean no pay raise for troops, no new ships or planes, but that’s an unlikely endgame. If history tells us anything, it’s that Republican senators will probably fold under pressure from the White House.

That seems more likely than them seizing the opportunity to root out entrenched racist messaging.

Trump threatened to turn the military against the citizens — and Constitution — they swore to protect.

A photograph of National Guard troops blocking access to the Lincoln Memorial.

Screenshot / Twitter

In an address from the Rose Garden, Trump threatened to “dispatch” the military to states whose mayors and governors did not control Black Lives Matter protests, saying this would “quickly solve the problem for them.”

It is easy to imagine Donald Trump killing the citizens he has sworn to defend — after all, his failure to respond to the coronavirus has done just that — but it would be much harder for those who serve in the military. Assaulting the citizens they swore to defend would be an unimaginable moral quandary, and quelling protests that were largely an expression of citizens’ First Amendment Rights would go against their oath.

The first words of the Oath of Enlistment for Military Service are, “I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

That doesn’t fit well with denying citizens their First Amendment “right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Veteran Utah Marine Todd Winn, points to that very line in the Oath when he explains his one-man protest against the unfair treatment of African Americans. “Support and defend the Constitution,” Winn quotes, “not ‘until this time,’ or ‘only for these people.’”

Trump photo op caused members of the National Guard to violate their oath.

Wallpaper Flare

A Washington Post presentation uses activist video to illustrate the timeline and the tactics used by D.C. National Guard, Park Police, Secret Service, and other law enforcement to clear Lafayette Square for Trump’s infamous Bible Photo Op.

The Oath of National Guard Officers starts out the same way U.S. military Oaths of Enlistment do:

“I, ________, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States and of the State of (state of Guard service)…”

Still, there they were, tossing chemical agents into a crowd peaceably assembled to petition the Government.

Air Force General Joseph Lengyel, the head of the National Guard, reminded his charges of their oath on Twitter. “If we are to fulfill our obligation as service members, as Americans, as decent human beings, we have to take our oath seriously,” he wrote.

“We cannot tolerate racism, discrimination or casual violence. We cannot abide divisiveness and hate. We cannot stand by and watch.”

These words are a far cry from celebrating the use of Guards to violently clear away activists.

Trump’s drags the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs into his Bible Photo Op.

A photograph of Donald Trump walking through Lafayette Square with members of his administration, including General Mark Milley.

Screenshot / YouTube / Sky News

Trump likes to surround himself with adoring sycophants, and the higher their rank the better. Officials claim that Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, believed he was there to inspect members of the National Guard, but Milley should have known better than to take that walk.

Now that General Milley has publicly apologized for being there, saying it, “created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics,” he and Trump may be on the outs. The president told Fox News that he was “fine” with Milley’s comments, but aides say that Trump is furious with the general.

Having missed a golden opportunity to resign in protest, General Milley has now joined the ranks of administration officials who hang on and do their best until they get fired (by Tweet). His ongoing mission seems to be talking Trump out of using active-duty troops against U.S. citizens.

Trump disrespects the military he already commands, but took time during his Fox interview to brag that, “we have a Space Force.” Just for the record, Mr. President, “we” don’t have a Space Force.

Netflix has a Space Force.

Trump called James Mattis ‘overrated.’

A photograph of retired Marine general James Mattis.

Gage Skidmore / Flickr

It is possible that General Milley found the strength to disavow his involvement in Trump’s Lafayette Square photo stroll by following General James Mattis’s lead.

A retired Marine four-star general, Mattis resigned as Secretary of Defense in 2018, but has recently made remarks about Trump’s handling of Black Lives Matter protests. Members of the military, and particularly top brass, are known to be tight-lipped regarding personal opinions of their Commander in Chief, which made Mattis’s statement that much more of a resounding cry.

“Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people — does not even pretend to try,” Mattis wrote. “Instead he tries to divide us. We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort.”

Mattis drew a comparison between Trump’s tactics and those of the Nazis. “The Nazi slogan for destroying us … was ‘Divide and Conquer.’”

Unsurprisingly, Trump spent a few seconds composing a nasty Tweet about Jim Mattis, calling him “overrated,” claiming that he fired Mattis, and saying he is, “glad (Mattis) is gone.”

Trump thanked troops in Afghanistan for their service to the country’s 401Ks.

Flickr / Al Jazeera

Well over two years into his administration, Donald Trump made his first visit to U.S. Troops stationed in Afghanistan to deliver his Thanksgiving message in person.

Trump also announced that he was resuming peace negotiations with the Taliban, and let soldiers know that “the stock market reached the highest level ever in the history of the exchanges.”

Because when you are deployed to Afghanistan, nothing makes up for missing Thanksgiving with your family like knowing that civilians back home have “401(k)s… up 78 percent.”

Trump pulled troops out of Syria against EVERYONE’S advice (except the President of Turkey, who got some free land out of it).

Flickr / Fibonacci Blue

In October of 2019, the president suddenly pulled U.S. troops out of Syria, deserting our allies among the Kurds, and opening the area to a resurgence of the Islamic State (ISIS).

Kurdish forces had proved themselves to be the United States’ “most reliable partner” against the terrorist organization in that area. American troops who had fought alongside the Kurds were “ashamed” to leave their allies in harms way. “

They trusted us and we broke that trust,” one Army officer told the New York Times. “It’s a stain on the American conscience.”

American troops had invested time, training, and friendship in their Kurdish allies, but Trump betrays the military’s partnerships and their efforts in Syria. The president ignored advice from the Pentagon to follow a course that seemed much more in line with Turkey’s President Erdogan.

Once U.S. military evacuated, Turkish forces swept into the area to establish a zone where Syrian refugees can be relocated, and where ISIS can regain a foothold. Arizona Representative Ruben Gallego, a Democrat and veteran Marine, said, “The Kurds will never trust America again.”

Trump insulted William McRaven

Wikimedia / U. S. Special Operations Command photo Mike Bottoms

US Navy Admiral William McRaven, who was in charge of the mission that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, criticized Trump’s command for troops to exit Syria.

Writing in the New York Times that the U.S. failure in our role as “the protectors of the less fortunate,” would also demoralize our own troops. “If our promises are meaningless, how will our allies ever trust us? If we can’t have faith in our nation’s principles, why would the men and women of this nation join the military?”

A year earlier, after Trump revoked former CIA director John Brennan’s clearance, McRaven wrote an open letter to Trump in the Washington Post “I would consider it an honor if you would revoke my security clearance as well, so I can add my name to the list of men and women who have spoken up against your presidency.”

That time the president had an insult for the admiral, asking Fox News’ Chris Wallace, “wouldn’t it have been nice if we got Osama bin Laden a lot sooner than that?”

Trump insulted John McCain. A gazillion times.

A photograph of Senator John McCain

Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Trump has insulted John McCain again and again, even after McCain’s death.

While on the campaign trail, Trump horrified many Republicans by saying McCain was “a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured,” and calling him a “loser.”

Republicans may have pushed back then, but over time even McCain’s close friend Lindsey Graham failed to defend him against Trump’s repeated attacks.

Trump at first refused to fly the White House flags at half-staff when this American hero died, perhaps in retaliation for not being invited to McCain’s funeral. And Trump was still disrespecting this military veteran nearly nine months after McCain was laid to rest, telling a audience at the Faith and Freedom Coalition he was “happy” that McCain had gone on to “far less green” pastures.

Screw the troops, build the wall.

A photograph of construction of a wall along the southern border of the U.S.


When Trump betrays the military, that extends to military families: he took money earmarked for their communities to pay for his border wall.

Donald Trump said Mexico would pay for the wall along our southern border, but Mexico didn’t. Then he said tariffs would pay for the wall, but that’s not how tariffs work: consumers in the U.S. pay tariffs on imported goods.

And that’s not how the wall funding worked either: Congress didn’t give Trump the money he insisted on, despite a government shutdown that stretched over 35 days.

In the end, money for Trump’s wall project came out of military building projects. Trump likes to brag about how much money “he spends” on U.S. military budgets, but when his wall was at stake, he was more than willing to pilfer those funds.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper rubber-stamped a $3.6 billion withdrawal from already approved and funded military projects by using an obscure statute, diverting Trump’s wall money without needing approval from Congress.

So what isn’t being built? The money was pulled away from projects that would have benefitted military families, and improved safety and training at U.S. military bases around the world. A fire and rescue station. A veterinary facility for Military Working Dogs.

And Mitch McConnell didn’t make a peep when plans for a middle school at a Kentucky base were shelved. Child care facilities were planned for several bases, including Andrews Air Force Base, where Trump flies out of to go play golf.

Trump will have plenty of planes to fly out on; the money for two new presidential planes and their new hangar at Andrews is safe and sound. Meanwhile, those who serve in the military can do without.

Bob Mueller

President Trump standing at a podium


Veteran Marine Robert Mueller received a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart in the Vietnam war, not to mention serving as a U.S. Attorney, Acting U.S. deputy attorney general, and as Director of the FBI for twelve years.

His long and honored career did not buy him a whisper of respect from the president. Even before Mueller’s report on election interference was delivered, Trump was stitching together stories about him being “highly conflicted” and a “Trump hater.”

As Americans began to die of COVID-19, Trump was still making time to call Bob Mueller a liar.


Anyone who testified at his impeachment.

Lt Col Vindman testifies


Bill Taylor and Alexander Vindman both testified in front of the House of Representatives in the impeachment investigation.

U.S. envoy to Ukraine Bill Taylor, a veteran of the Army infantry including two tours of Vietnam, implicated Trump in the aid to Ukraine being withheld. Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, who received a Purple Heart after being wounded in Iraq by an IED, testified about the phone call at the center of the investigation between Donald Trump and Volodymyr Zelensky.

Trump said he didn’t know either of these distinguished veterans, but that didn’t stop him from referring to both as “never Trumpers” (although there is no evidence of this).

He also insulted Alexander Vindman, then fired him, then fired his twin brother (so he wouldn’t have to meet him either).

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