Despite Donald Trump’s bravado that he would protect America like no other commander in chief, members of the U.S. armed forces should be very worried. For them, there can be no more dangerous president.
Some of Trump’s military faux pas, while offensive, do not pose direct threats to national security or to the lives of servicemen and women. True, he doesn’t know what the nuclear triad is, or the difference between Kurds (our allies) and Quds (Iran’s special forces). He disparages Sen. John McCain, who spent more than six years in a Viet Cong prison.
But as a retired Army colonel and Afghanistan veteran, I am both insulted and alarmed by the ease with which Trump is offering aid and comfort to our enemies through his outrageous statements and false narratives.
Take his proclamation that soldiers under his command would follow his orders to kill the children and wives of suspected Islamic State fighters. Though he subsequently said he would not use torture or order family members to be killed until he can get the laws changed, this does not alter the fact that Trump is certain soldiers would kill children at his behest.
If Trump had spent time in uniform, he would know that those who serve, fortunately, follow a very different moral compass.
Likewise, Trump’s recent recounting of an apocryphal anecdote about Gen. John Pershing murdering Muslim Filipinos during the Moro insurgency is as dangerous as it is false. Pershing did not kill 49 Muslims with bullets dipped in pig’s blood, or allow one survivor to send a message to the remaining insurgents.
Trump’s apparent intent is to demonstrate his toughness to voters by refusing to be constrained by the rule of law, morality or traditional American values. Of course, what Trump actually achieves is far different, and highly pernicious – providing valuable propaganda for terrorist recruitment.
Such reckless behavior is embarrassing and dangerous to all Americans, but especially to the military men and women deployed overseas who put themselves in harm’s way every day.
Thomas J. Umberg of Villa Park is an attorney, former state Assembly member and retired Army colonel who served in Afghanistan. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.