Air Force Chief Denies Military Allegiance Is To The President (VIDEO)
Last Monday, Donald Trump made a speech at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, FL that was apparently intended to win the military over to his side, whatever that is. He opened with a reference to the “wonderful election” and said:
I saw those numbers, and you liked me, and I liked you. That’s the way it worked.
Trump flattered and pandered, often keeping the focus on himself. He embellished a remark that the “great” Gov. Rick Scott is a “very close friend” by adding:
[He’s] somebody who endorsed me. That makes him a better friend of mine. If they don’t endorse, believe me. If you’re ever in this position, it’s never quite the same, OK? You can talk, but it never means the same.
With those words, he managed to put the three-quarters of the nation that didn’t support him on notice — while addressing a military audience. This is also the speech wherein Trump made outrageous statements about terrorism and the press, which was put on notice as well:
ISIS is on a campaign of genocide, committing atrocities across the world. Radical Islamic terrorists are determined to strike our homeland, as they did on 9/11, as they did from Boston to Orlando to San Bernardino and all across Europe. You’ve seen what happened in Paris and Nice. All over Europe it’s happening. It’s gotten to a point where it’s not even being reported. And in many cases, the very, very dishonest press doesn’t want to report it. They have their reasons and you understand that.
The very next day, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein saw fit to try and neutralize Trump’s efforts by speaking to defense reporters in D.C. The Air Force Times reported the general’s remarks:
This is a great opportunity to step back and remind ourselves and the American people of the oath we take as members of the military.
The oath we take, and we retake every time we are promoted, is to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. By design, we don’t pledge support to any particular party or any particular leader. We’re an apolitical military.
That’s a crucial distinction: the oath is to the Constitution, not to any leader or any political party. Retired Air Force General Michael Hayden has said that members of the military are not required “to follow an unlawful order.” He used Trump’s advocacy of waterboarding as an example, holding that the armed forces could refuse to act on an order to use waterboarding and they would have the backing of international law.
Members of the military are trained to obey authority, so whether they would refuse an unlawful order or not is questionable. It’s telling, however, that Goldfein seemed to feel the need to lay out that groundwork.
The Democrats’ ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, also felt impelled to issue a statement about Trump’s speech:
Once again, Donald Trump has made political comments in an address to a military audience that is duty-bound to be apolitical. The President’s efforts to politicize the military, starting with his remarks at the CIA memorial, are becoming a troubling rhetorical pattern. Attempts to politicize the military like this are never appropriate, and they put our men and women in uniform in an untenable position. This cannot continue.
Goldfein took matters a step further, apparently criticizing both Trump’s promise to load up the Air Force base with “beautiful new planes and beautiful new equipment,” and his ill-advised military raid in Yemen that killed 28 civilians and a Navy seal — but not the target of the raid. Goldfein took a principled stand that refuted Trumps words:
One of the things I’m very proud of is that we’ve never lost sight of the fact that we go to war with our values. Short-term gains that may be accomplished by rapid increases in numbers of weapons or numbers of sorties will pale in comparison to the long-term costs if we were to step away from how we fight, which is as a nation of values.
Those that are critical of the extraordinary efforts we go to every day to prevent civilian casualties perhaps forget that that’s who we are. And we take very seriously that if we don’t create something better on the ground for those that live there, after we’re done, then I’m not sure we’ve accomplished our long-term objectives.
Creating “something better on the ground” should be the goal of every action taken by the U.S. government, whether here or abroad. Unfortunately, the political right — and Trump, wherever he actually stands — sees no need unless it results in a direct benefit for them.
Watch Trump’s remarks here:
Feature photo, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein by Frank Grass via Wikimedia Commons.