Category Archives: Military

To get along in Trumpland, you have to shame yourself

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, left, and Florida Congressperson Frederica Wilson, whom nobody has apparently told that dressing as a back-up singer in a Garth Brooks cover band harms her credibility.

Vanity Fair notes in a current piece by writer Tina Nguyen how we all knew that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, presented in the media as the straight shooter who is bringing order to the Trump Administration, would eventually have to shame himself in order to keep favor with the mercurial Trump and his loose association with anything resembling the truth:

All senior White House staffers duty-bound to serve President Donald Trump have, at one point in their tenure, stood in front of a crowd of reporters and delivered untruths to cover for their boss—a ritualistic torching of their integrity, as it were. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was forced to dodge accusations that he had called Trump a “moron”; National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, meanwhile, had to defend Trump after the president shared another spy agency’s intel with Russian officials. It was only a matter of time before Chief of Staff John Kelly’s turn arrived, and arrive it did, with Kelly unexpectedly taking the podium during a press briefing Thursday to exculpate Trump after he was accused of mishandling a phone call to a grieving war widow. Standing before the press, Kelly used his position as a four-star general who has lost a son in battle to take Florida Congresswoman Frederica Wilson to task, saying he was “heartbroken” by her comments criticizing the president, and accusing her of bragging about appropriating money for an F.B.I. building—a claim that was disproved hours later, when video of Wilson’s speech was released.

Plenty of Trump staffers have doubled down on more egregious falsehoods (beleaguered former Press Secretary Sean Spicer comes to mind), but to hear the claims coming from the sterling four-star general was a departure. Kelly, after all, entered the White House as part of a contingent of sober grown-ups, and reportedly felt duty-bound to restrain Trump when he supplanted Reince Priebus as chief of staff. Hopes rose that Kelly’s military discipline and love of country would keep the president in line. “He has a lot of credibility,” presidential historian Douglas Brinkley told The Washington Post at the time. “Trump better not double-cross him . . . The integrity is so high.”

That reputation held after Trump’s Charlottesville press conference and speech at the United Nations, where Kelly was photographed staring dourly at the ground in apparent shame. As my colleague Gabriel Sherman reported last week, Kelly is “miserable” in his job but has remained out of a sense of duty, while carefully eyeing an eventual exit strategy. But after Wilson told reporters that Trump had upset the widow of slain solder La David Johnson, saying of her late husband, “I’m sure he knew what he was signed up for,” Kelly took it upon himself to defend the president. Rather than delivering boilerplate condemnations, he leaned in to his own experience as a father of a slain soldier to attack Wilson, who had heard Trump call Johnson’s family and relayed his comments to the public.

“I just thought the selfless devotion that brings a man or woman to die on the battlefield, I just thought that might still be sacred,” a visibly emotional Kelly said, describing how his first reaction, upon hearing Wilson’s remarks, was to take refuge at Arlington National Cemetery. “I hope, as you write your stories, let’s not let this last thing that is sacred—a young man or woman giving his or her life for country—let’s somehow keep that sacred. It eroded a great deal yesterday by the selfish behavior of a member of Congress.” Kelly then called Wilson’s integrity into question, saying that, during the dedication ceremony for a building honoring two slain F.B.I. agents, she had bragged in a speech about how “she got the money” for the building.

You have probably seen the video evidence, released soon after Kelly’s comments, showing that Rep. Wilson said no such thing. In fact, she said things that would make any right winger proud in praising two murdered FBI agents and her bipartisan efforts to rush through legislation on Capitol Hill naming a new building after them.

(Of course she was taking some credit for what was an honorable thing to do. That is what politicians do. They transmit to the folks who vote for them that they have done something that warrants continued support. But that is nowhere near falsely claiming to have secured funding to get something built. )

In light of all of this, Kelly’s beatification in the press as one of the lone credible people trying to bring order to a chaotic, dissembling White House begs some questions.

Has he been turned to the dark side, willing to say anything to keep his job and puff up Trump’s fragile ego? Or has he always been there and this episode brought it out?

Perhaps Kelly’s love and dedication to country, the main reason he is rumored to have taken the chief of staff job in the first place, has taught him that he needs to go along to get along and keep an easily distracted and offended Trump from veering off course over an incident that, while certainly important to Wilson and La David Johnson’s family, is only another blip in the President’s continued campaign to bamboozle everyone into not paying attention to the real harm he is doing behind the scenes of the chaos he creates and craves.

It says much that is terrible that we live in a time when we have a presidency wherein the ability to tell, and further, easily disprovable lies is a chief job description for even Marine generals with a long history of rectitude.


Glenn Greenwald fears the CIA more than Trump

Glenn Greenwald

Civil libertarian attorney Glenn Greenwald was on Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman and had this to say about Trump and the Deep State — the national security machinery of the U.S. that is now purported to be gunning for Trump:

[Trump and his followers] want to enact bigoted policies against Muslims and immigrants and so many others. And it is important to resist them. And there are lots of really great ways to resist them, such as getting courts to restrain them, citizen activism and, most important of all, having the Democratic Party engage in self-critique to ask itself how it can be a more effective political force in the United States after it has collapsed on all levels. That isn’t what this resistance is now doing. What they’re doing instead is trying to take maybe the only faction worse than Donald Trump, which is the deep state, the CIA, with its histories of atrocities, and say they ought to almost engage in like a soft coup, where they take the elected president and prevent him from enacting his policies. And I think it is extremely dangerous to do that. Even if you’re somebody who believes that both the CIA and the deep state, on the one hand, and the Trump presidency, on the other, are extremely dangerous, as I do, there’s a huge difference between the two, which is that Trump was democratically elected and is subject to democratic controls, as these courts just demonstrated and as the media is showing, as citizens are proving. But on the other hand, the CIA was elected by nobody. They’re barely subject to democratic controls at all. And so, to urge that the CIA and the intelligence community empower itself to undermine the elected branches of government is insanity. That is a prescription for destroying democracy overnight in the name of saving it. And yet that’s what so many, not just neocons, but the neocons’ allies in the Democratic Party, are now urging and cheering. And it’s incredibly warped and dangerous to watch them do that.

Greenwald is like so many misguided liberals, Jill Stein and people like her, who are totally insulated from the danger that Trump poses to everyday people in this country, including:

  • LGBT people whose civil liberties are at risk.
  • The rights of women to choose the when and why of whether they should have children.
  • Law-abiding, tax-paying immigrants who are in danger of being deported.
  • The sick and the elderly who depend on the government to keep them alive.

I’m not fond of the Deep State and many of the things it does. But if they are what it takes to get Steve Bannon, a leading figure of the extreme right, away from the levers of power and the codes which launch nuclear weapons, then so be it.

It’s clear we cannot expect our elected officials to do the right thing.

Besides, it won’t be the CIA and NSA staging a coup, as Greenwald suggests. It will be the CIA and NSA exposing Trump and the incompetence and dangers of his presidency, thereby shaming the GOP into doing their jobs and getting rid of him. (Or, if you believe some pundits, providing political cover for the GOP to get rid of Trump so his followers don’t come after those Republicans in the next election.)

Greenwald and Stein and their kind are so far removed from the very real repercussions of a Trump presidency, they can afford to sit back and debate as if the rest of us have the luxury of waiting for the perfect in favor of the good. 

Members of the military giving three times as much to Clinton as to Trump

Well, here’s a little surprise for everyone: contrary to what the media and the GOP put out, military people favor Hillary Clinton over Trump.

Active and retired members of the military have been showing far more support for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton than for her Republican rival, at least as measured by the checks they’ve written to her campaign.

Individuals who listed their employers as the U.S. Department of Defense or major branches of the military, or who say they’re retired from one of those, have contributed a total of $972,709 to both nominees so far this year. Clinton has claimed $771,471 of the contributions, or nearly 80 percent.

All major branches of the armed forces – including the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard – have favored Clinton to a much greater degree than GOP nominee Donald Trump. Members of the Army have contributed more than other branches of the service this cycle, giving a total of $191,712 to the two presidential hopefuls, 72 percent of which went to Clinton.

Meanwhile, it’s the Air Force that has given the largest portion of its contributions to Trump, though it still favors Clinton by a lot. Trump received 39 percent of the $110,711 given to the two candidates by people connected to the Air Force.

Source: Members of the military giving three times as much to Clinton as to Trump | OpenSecrets Blog

Injured soldiers being let down by British government, too

In a world where America’s right-wingers like to scream about foreigners taking over their country and those nasty ungrateful Europeans, it’s useful to point out now and then that many of those foreigners have paid personal prices just as high as our own troops in wars American politician started under what amounted to, in the end, as false pretenses.

But the impulse to sign up for what what many soldiers see as defending freedom and democracy is a strong one and is an entirely good thing. Unlike after the Vietnam war, I think a lot of progressives have made peace with the notion that soldiers signed up mostly for the right reasons to take part in wars where they, too, were sold a false bill of goods. They are not to blame.

It should also be clear to anyone who is paying attention that the people — almost all Republicans — who sold these wars originally to the American public and the soldiers have betrayed at almost every turn the very service men and women whom they claim to admire so much.

Injured soldiers from all sorts of countries continue to struggle because war supporters-turned-budget-skeptics refuse to pony up the money to pay for the injuries and personal/financial damage their wars caused among those who answered their call.

As an aside, this good news comes from Consumerist about a company that preyed on soldiers, often with Republicans (and some Democrats) looking the other way:

A year ago, Virginia-based USA Discounters was in the spotlight after the supposedly discount retailer — which had several locations adjoining military bases and directly marketed its financing to servicemembers — was criticized for charging ridiculously high prices on its products and then suing soldiers in such a way that they could rarely defend themselves in court. The retailer then changed its name to USA Living and promised to not be so evil, even though the lawsuits continued. Now comes news that the retailer is going to close up shop for good.

ProPublica’s Paul Kiel, who has been driving the reporting on USA Discounters, writes that the chain is now holding “going out of business” sales at the seven locations that currently remain open. Most of the retailer’s stores were located near military bases.

For those new to this story, USA Discounters marketed itself as a low-cost financing option for military personnel and their families, but like many other rent-to-own and installment-payment retailers, USA Discounters was actually marking up products much higher than other stores.

A $329 iPad was listed at $699; a laptop that would cost you (at most) $650 elsewhere was listed at $1,799 by the store. With interest on the monthly installments, customers ended up paying even more. We found a TV ($960 on Amazon) that would have ultimately cost a USA Discounter customer $2,256 — and that doesn’t include things like the “warranty fee,” “credit life insurance,” “credit property insurance,” plus taxes and “specialist fees” charged to servicemembers. Last August, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) reached a $400,000 settlement, including $350,000 in refunds to customers, over this illegal specialist fee.

Some times the good guys do win.

Note that it has been Elizabeth Warren’s brainchild CFPB that has been leading the government’s charge against these massive Wall Street-backed companies that target soldiers and their families. Note also that the GOP has vowed to try and eliminate that agency if they come to power enough to do so.

Source: Injured Troops Say NHS Is Letting Them Down – Sky News

Source: Retailer That Overcharged, Then Sued Military Personnel Is Going Out Of Business – Consumerist

injured soldiers
British Lance Corporal James Simpson, 28, a double amputee, competes last September in the grueling 5K Spartan Race in Edinburgh, Scotland. He took on the race with two other severely injured but recovering comrades.

Beware the “transvestite” army

This guy clearly has no idea what he is talking about. I wouldn’t mess with a group of trans women walking down Broadway, much less an army of them.

The original member of America’s “transvestite” army.

End Times broadcaster Rick Wiles blasted the U.S. military yesterday for moving to end the ban on transgender service members, which Wiles pointed to as proof that America is turning into Babylon and “descending into the pit of filthy lewdness.

”Rather than serve alongside “transvestites,” Wiles said, “all Christians in the U.S. Armed Forces must now come out and all pastors must now announce to their congregations that young men and women in the churches should not enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces.”“Shame on the U.S. military for capitulating to Barack Obama’s sexual perversion,” the “Trunews” host said. “History will shame them for their moral cowardliness.”

Oh, the wingnuttiness. It knows no end.

Source: Rick Wiles: Christians Must Leave ‘America’s New Transvestite Army’ | Right Wing Watch

The growing connection between the KKK and white southern veterans

The video below is the trailer for a new investigation into the modern connections between the KKK and U.S. military veterans — a connection that goes back through Afghanistan, Iraq, Vietnam and the world wars. KKK

I don’t want to paint all veterans as being racists, but there is a clear connection here, so acting as if the connection is not there is not helping anyone, least of all respectable veterans who understand that the religious extremists they were fighting against in the Middle East were no different in their intolerance than are members of today’s KKK.

This KKK-veteran connection is a festering wound that is only getting more open and raw as we try to acclimate another generation of troubled, undereducated, disaffected poor white veterans into a society that is becoming less white with each passing year.

And let’s not forget: a lot of these veterans receive preferential status as law enforcement hires. For most of them I will guess they serve with honor in these jobs. But can it be any surprise that there is so much increasing racism still on America’s police forces despite the fact that the rest of society has improved so much more on this issue?

Read the message boards on law enforcement web sites, read police union newsletters, and you will witness rank bigotry even in the union newsletters. Boston police union newsletters have long been havens for racism, sexism, homophobia and other biases.

You can watch the full report at this link.

Please don’t write to me and tell me I’m sullying the reputation of law enforcement and military service. Other jobs can stand a little scrutiny. What makes law enforcement or serving in the military so sacrosanct that we cannot examine their warts as well as its rewards?