Let's Fix This Country

Suggested Milley Execution Brings Up Trump’s Mocking of the Military

Donald Trump is under indictment for what he did before, during, and after he was president. That is a staggering load to bear which may help explain his recent lashing out at the world, even more than usual.

No sooner had he given an 80-minute interview with NBC's Kristen Welker than he turned on the network with threats to investigate NBC-owner Comcast if re-elected. The company “will be thoroughly scrutinized for their knowingly dishonest and corrupt coverage of people, things, and events". Its "one-side and vicious coverage by NBC NEWS, and in particular MSNBC… should be investigated for its ‘Country Threatening Treason'.” He resumed use of Stalin's phrase, calling the media "the enemy of the people".

But of more immediate alarm was his post of a week ago that Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley should be executed. His sin: loyalty to the country, not to Donald Trump.

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In October of 2020 and again two days after the January 6th insurrection, the four-star Army general had spoken to his Chinese counterparts to assuage their apprehension about what the then-president might do next, considering his erratic conduct and ultimately his attempted coup. The calls were not surreptitious. A number of officials, including from the State Department and CIA, were listening in on the calls. They had been authorized by two defense secretaries at the time.

For Trump, contacting the Chinese was “an act so egregious that, in times gone by, the punishment would have been DEATH.”

Trump readily defaults to violence. We saw this what now seems long ago at his rallies in the 2015-2016 campaign where he reacted to protesters in the audience with "I'd like to punch him in the face", "Knock the crap out of him", "Throw him the hell out", "They'd be carried out on a stretcher, folks". But now he is directing his threats — his suggested violence for others to carry out — to prosecutors, jurists, witnesses, election workers and everyone else with his general pronouncement, "If you go after me, I’m coming after you!".

He leads what can only be called a cult. How can the millions who, lacking any evidence, believing only what Donald Trump says, still thinking three years after that their leader won the 2020 election, be deemed other than a cult. Among his "very fine people" are fanatics by whom Trump writing "in times gone by, the punishment would have been DEATH" was not mistaken "for a historical observation", as Brian Klaas quipped in The Atlantic. They would take it to be a suggestion as from a Mafia boss of what he would like done. And so Milley, as his tour as chairman of the chiefs ends October 1, like so many threatened by the violence Trump suggests, must be assigned security as he enters retirement — Trump's vengeance for 43 years as an Army officer.

Losers and suckers

Donald Trump is reflexively called a bully by the Left but cowardly is a better fit for his actions. He obtained five draft deferments that kept him out of Vietnam, ultimately by a doctor attesting that he had a bone spur in his foot. When asked by a reporter which foot, he couldn't remember. A narcissist of his extremes cannot abide thinking himself a coward so imagine how redeeming it was for Trump to tell himself he had become commander in chief over all the military, even with the gall to call it "my military".

Even that was not enough. He needed to denigrate the military, push it down a peg, belittle those who serve. Joseph Dunford, another four-star general, in his case the Marines, preceded Milley as Joint Chiefs chairman and as commandant of the Marine Corps before that. After one White House briefing by Dunford, Trump said to his aides, “That guy is smart. Why did he join the military?”

About Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona, shot down over Hanoi flying for the Navy to become a prisoner of the North Vietnamese from 1967 to 1973, Trump infamously said,

"He's not a war hero, he's a war hero because he was captured? I like people who weren't captured, okay? I hate to tell you".

We were warned; that was the month after he announced his candidacy in 2015.

When McCain died in 2018, Trump was furious to see the flag at half staff. “What the f**k are we doing that for? Guy was a f**king loser,” the president told aides.

Trump called former President George H. W. Bush, a Navy pilot in World War II, a "loser" for being shot down by the Japanese. His two crewmen died in the attack. Pilots in the Pacific were shot down in horrifying numbers. This was bravery far beyond what Trump can understand.

Trump went to France in 2018 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. That entailed visits to cemeteries where Americans troops were buried. On the morning of the visits he questioned why he had to go to two cemeteries. "Why do I have to do two?. Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers”.

Claiming "the helicopter couldn't fly" because of rain nor could the Secret Service drive him, he washed out on a visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery outside Paris. Neither reason was true. Four people with firsthand knowledge said the ex-president was concerned that the weather would blow his hair askew.

On that same trip, at Belleau Wood, a battle that is part of U.S. Marine Corps lore where some 1,800 lost their lives, Trump referred to them as “suckers” for getting killed. And he asked, “Who were the good guys in this war?”

Trump has shown that his idea of the military is pageantry with marching troops and tanks. He stipulated that wounded veterans be kept out of military parades. “Nobody wants to see that.” After being awestruck by France's Bastille Day parade, he planned a 4th of July parade in Washington D.C. but nixed the inclusion of wounded veterans. "That's not a good look. Americans don't like that."

Gen. Milley corroborated. He had chosen a severely wounded Army captain — Luis Avila, who after five combat tours lost a leg to an IED in Afghanistan — to sing “God Bless America” at the ceremony welcoming him to lead the Joint Chiefs. Avila had suffered two heart attacks, two strokes, and brain damage as a result of his injuries. Trump walked over to congratulate him, but then said to Milley, within earshot of several witnesses, “Why do you bring people like that here? No one wants to see that, the wounded.” Never let Avila appear in public again, Trump told Milley. Milley has invited Avila to sing at his retirement ceremony, writes Jeffery Goldberg in a profile of Milley in the current issue of The Atlantic.

Trump has the sociopath's void of compassion for human feeling. Gen. John Kelly, a Marine four-star, served as Trump's second chief of staff. His son was killed in combat in Afghanistan in 2010, making him the highest ranking military officer to lose a child in Iraq or Afghanistan. On Memorial Day, presidents pay homage to the military dead by attending ceremonies at Arlington Cemetery. Standing alongside Kelly at the grave of his son, Trump turned to Kelly and said, "I don’t get it. What was in it for them?". A friend of Kelly who is also a four-star general told Goldberg:

“Trump can’t imagine anyone else’s pain. He can’t fathom the idea of doing something for someone other than himself. He just thinks that anyone who does anything when there’s no direct personal gain to be had is a sucker. There’s no money in serving the nation.”

for those for whom the nation comes first

Trump expected "my military" to be loyal and subservient to him. That their loyalty was to the Constitution to which they had sworn an oath was an exasperating obstacle. ForTrump idolaters Milley's contacting the Chinese without Trump's approval was treasonous.

Those of a different mind and old enough remember their relief when they heard that Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger reportedly ordered in the tense days leading up to Richard Nixon's resignation that certain presidential orders — especially those related to nuclear arms — first be cleared by Schlesinger personally or by National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger.

It reminded Goldberg of a story from the 1970s which he relates in the Milley profile. An Air Force officer named Harold Hering was training to become a Minuteman crew member after serving in Vietnam, where his crew would be expected to launch nuclear-powered intercontinental ballistic missiles unquestioningly on receipt of a command originating from the president. One day in class, he asked, “How can I know that an order I receive to launch my missiles came from a sane president?”. The Air Force discharged him.

There's the dilemma. In 2018 we ran a story titled "One Finger on the Button. Are We Crazy?". With over 330 million at risk in this country, we need leaders such as Milley who will break out of the robotic obeisance to the single individual in the Oval Office who might be — to use a favorite word Trump applies to others — deranged.

Milley was not alone. According to the Associated Press, Kelly and James Mattis, Trump's first secretary of defense, made a pact with each other that one of them would remain in the country at all times so their president would never be left unmonitored.

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