Donald Trump has treated us to many ignominious moments on the campaign trail. Among them were his distasteful comments about Megyn Kelly and his mocking of a New York Times reporter who suffers from arthrogryposis, a congenital joint condition. In a sane nation, or even the United States of a generation ago, shame engendered by these incidents alone would have forced him out of the campaign. Yet nothing Trump has done while campaigning compares with when, in December, he said, “with the terrorists, you have to take out their families.”
Eloquent amidst the uproar was former NSA and CIA director Michael Hayden when asked about it by Bill Maher:
“What about killing the terrorists’ families?” Maher replied. “That never occurred to you, and you’re a real badass.”
“God no,” Hayden answered. “If he were to order that once in government, the American armed forces would refuse to act.”
“That’s quite a statement there. I thought the whole thing was, you had to follow orders,” Maher said.
“You cannot — in fact, you are required not to follow an unlawful order. That would be in violation of all the international laws of conflict,” Hayden replied.
The significance of Hayden’s response shouldn’t be underestimated, writes public policy authority Mark Kleiman at the Reality-Based Community.
Hayden could easily have ducked the question, dismissed it as merely hypothetical, asserted that surely Trump couldn’t have meant what he said, or simply replied that he didn’t want to be seen as taking a position in the Presidential campaign. He did none of those things. He flatly said that Trump had pledged to give orders that no honorable servicemember could carry out, thus clearly implying that Trump is unfit to hold office. And his saying so means that he’s pretty sure the people whose good opinion matters to him, including his former colleagues still in active service, agree.
Retired Army Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling said told the Washington Post:
“Somebody needs to remind Mr. Trump that the military is not his palace guards…”
“We do not do this,” he added. “It is not within our purview.”
Apparently the only generals he will ever control is the United States Football League franchise of the same name that he once owned.
Also this: Open Letter on Donald Trump From GOP National Security Leaders, including writer Max Boot, think tanker Robert Kagan, and former Attorney General Michael Mukasey,
His vision of American influence and power in the world is wildly inconsistent and unmoored in principle. He swings from isolationism to military adventurism within the space of one sentence….
His embrace of the expansive use of torture is inexcusable.
His hateful, anti-Muslim rhetoric undercuts the seriousness of combating Islamic radicalism by alienating partners in the Islamic world making significant contributions to the effort. Furthermore, it endangers the safety and Constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of American Muslims.
In the Daily Beast, Nancy Youssef reports of the Pentagon:
Here, officers are privately contemplating what they would do should Trump become their commander-in-chief. And more often than not, they proclaim they will leave.
The rank and file of the military, on the other hand, may be more inclined to support Trump. For instance, an Iraq and Afghanistan veterans organization, the Veterans for a Strong America issued a statement, excerpted below.
Mr. Trump is supporter of the U.S. military and of America’s veterans…. and what Donald Trump has tapped into is that people just don’t trust politicians and the slow pace the Congress is moving in addressing critical issues like border security, veteran’s issues and military funding.
Also, Trump has started a foundation called Donald Trump for Vets to solicit money for veterans. Youssef again in the Daily Beast:
Commanders deployed outside the Pentagon said they hear enlisted troops enthusiastically support Trump. … if the divide between the enlisted and officers is true, the former—the base of Trump’s military support—are not a well-represented population within the headquarters of the United States military.
Of course, that doesn’t mean enlisted men and women are willing to kill the families of alleged terrorists.