Updated: Feb 9
In his Christmas 2018 media event, US President Donald Trump insulted former FBI Director James Comey.
"What happened with the FBI, I have done a great service for our country when I fired James Comey, because he was a bad cop and he was a dirty cop."
Trump fired Comey on May 9, 2017 after supposedly asking him to end the FBI's investigation into Michael Flynn, the former National Security Advisor. The dismissal and Comey's subsequent Congressional testimony were interpreted by some commentators as evidence of obstruction of justice and became part of a widening investigation by Robert Mueller, Special Counsel appointed to probe Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Earlier in December, Donald J. Trump ordered the withdrawal of US forces from Syria, declaring a largely imaginary victory over ISIS and cynically suggesting that US soldiers killed in action are smiling on him from above. In response to this unilateral presidential order, Retired General James 'Mad Dog' Mattis, Trump's own Secretary of Defense, resigned from his position.
In a disturbing precedent to this dangerous trend of dismissing then publicly degrading high ranking members of the military and judicial branches of the government, Trump earlier pilloried retired Rear Admiral Bill McRaven for not having liquidated Osama Bin Laden soon enough, as if it were McRaven's personal failure and, in the end, would have made any difference in the balance of terror in the world or served any purpose other than a propoganda coup.
So what's the problem? Apparently nothing that can't be fixed with a smile and a hand grenade.
We’re talking about the so-called 'Samurai' class in American society and the inherent risks in alienating those holding the actual firepower.
“I did not back Hilary Clinton or anybody else in 2016…I am a fan of President Obama and George W. Bush, both of whom I worked for…I stand by my comment that the President’s attack on the media is the greatest threat to democracy in my lifetime. When you undermine the people’s right to a free press and freedom of speech and expression, then you threaten the Constitution and all for which it stands.” Retired Rear Admiral Bill McRaven to CNN, November 18, 2018
The forgoing was in response to Donald Trump’s same day rant to Fox News claiming that the high-ranking former Navy Seal and man responsible for taking out Osama Bin Laden was a ‘Hilary Fan,’ adding “wouldn't it have been nicer if we got Osama Bin Laden a lot sooner than that?"
Talk about sleazy back-stabbing.
The President of Pakistan didn't take kindly to Trump’s commentary any more than Admiral McRaven did.
Now, we all know that Donald J. Trump is a risk-taker who consistently fails to engage his brain or even use common sense before jamming his mouth into gear. The President's supposedly High IQ consistently fails to equate with 'smarts.' Anecdotal evidence and anonymous open letters to the mass media from the flock of sycophants and toadies surrounding the man suggest that the administration’s functionaries too are running scared of what this loose cannon may say next. And for good reason. It’s one thing to sling mud at your political rivals and quite another to kick the nation’s sacred cows and slander its living icons. Retired Rear Admiral McRaven, as well as General Mattis, are among those icons. As if it were a piece of coal in a Christmas stocking, Trump has now done James Comey the honor.
My father was a veteran of the Second World War (US Army, POW 1942-45). He was also a life-long Republican. His post-war political orientation was typical of many veterans of that era. Dwight D. Eisenhower had been the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe and the admiration and devotion of veterans to his leadership ensured his election to the White House on the Republican ticket in the 1950’s. The Eisenhower years are remembered as the most peaceful and prosperous in America's history.
Indoctrination of young male voters is a well-known phenomenon and the primary reason why the military draft was maintained in the USA long after WWII ended, and was only abolished after the debacle of the Viet Nam War. The ability to channel large numbers of impressionable young men through the military indoctrination process ensured that most would emerge malleable and eager to think/vote in a politically correct manner. Nonetheless, Eisenhower warned about the military-industrial complex and his administration was followed by that of John F. Kennedy who attempted to wind down hostilities in Viet Nam and put an end to American military adventuring abroad, returning America’s war materials industries to production of domestic goods. That didn't sit well with many corporate CEOs and their shareholders who feared the disappearance of government purchase orders and depressed revenues. Many analysts believe that Kennedy was assassinated by the military-industrial interests and their operatives in the government apparatus.
To publicly chastise a national hero like Admiral McRaven for ‘failing to capture and kill Osama Bin Laden sooner, then insulting or even demonizing one after another of the nation's loyal functionaries, is a very risky business. It’s risky because 1.) the votes of millions of veterans are at stake, and 2.) to criticize the military sector of any society on earth is tantamount to plotting one’s own demise. Again, the example of JFK. Today’s military is largely structured on a corporate model in the sense that the career path for soldiers, sailors and airmen more closely resembles that of the multi-national corporations than it did in my father’s day, the era of the citizen-soldier when American was loath to maintain a large standing army. But there's one thing that always remains the same.
The one thing that never changes anywhere, in any nation, is the fact that military culture itself has a long-standing and independent tradition, a kind of ‘samurai’ class within every society with its own values and economic interests; the hunters who dominate and ultimately control the gathers because hunters have weapons and gatherers don't. History has shown repeatedly that when a civilian populace proves incapable of governing itself, or in some form threatens the interests of this samurai class, the democratic process is usually swept away and replaced by a military dictatorship. There are far too many examples to cite in this short blog posting.
Not only does President Trump continually degrade those who control the actual firepower and diminish the sacrifices made by members of the armed services, he has avoided visiting any of the troops in combat zones as did his predecessors in the White House. When he did finally visit a military installation in Iraq during the 2018 Christmas holidays, he cynically turned the opportunity into a political campaign rally. Worse, he actually lied to the troops about a promised pay raise, both degrading former President Obama (who consistently raised military pay rates each year) and reminding the American public that he has the armed forces on his side. This despite the debacle of Veteran's Day 2018 when Trump snubbed other national leaders and dignitaries, citing a slight drizzle as an excuse to avoid visiting the American military cemetery outside Paris. The late General Eisenhower was surely not smiling down from above the clouds that day.
In 'Making America Great Again,' the country has instead become mysteriously beholden to elements that were always suspect in the mind of the 'samurai class' in American society, that is, cash-rich Russia, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia, among others. Earlier in 2018, Trump notoriously crowed approval of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s abolition of term limits. “I think it’s great,” he said. “Maybe we’ll give that a shot someday.” The signs are all there, if the American public cares to heed them.
It would be an enormous public relations coup if the current administration managed to convince the American military that it should lay down lives for what many of its officers consider criminal regimes. The armed forces of any nation are conservative by nature, and the USA is no exception. America has always been about racism, hypocrisy, and money, but Americans of all colors and political stripes have usually drawn the line at treason. After all, the mandate of the armed services is to protect the Constitution, not political leaders per se or their personal interests. Nonetheless, there is every chance that this President will go rogue rather than accept the inevitability of an indictment brought about by his adversaries in the House and Senate and his detractors on Twitter.
Trump’s warning of a popular uprising on his behalf should he be indicted or otherwise threatened is no joke. His praising of the Charlottesville goons, casual acceptance of wing-nut supporters who attack synagogues, a Star Wars mentality when it comes to border security, and veiled threats of more street violence to come, has right-thinking people as well as military leaders worried. “There is potential for a lot of street violence,” retired three-star Army General Mark Hertling told Newsweek.
This President, having no real experience in government coupled with a sociopathic personality and a huge ego, is not likely to go out peacefully as did Richard Nixon. According to contemporary sources, Nixon’s defense secretary James Schlesinger and the Joint Chiefs of Staff kept a close watch to make certain that no orders were given to military units outside the normal chain of command, especially after signs of a personality disorder became obvious. There was concern that an order could go to a military unit outside the chain of command for some sort of action against Congress during the time between a House impeachment and a Senate trial. This is certainly the way things might proceed, as Trump is not particularly creative. He doesn't need to be, given that 'his people' are generally poorly educated and dumber than a sack of hammers.
Trump will most likely reach into Nixon's playbook, or follow the example of Argentina's dictator, General Galtieri (Falklands War), to create some kind of military or political crisis with China or North Korea, or even the Middle East, in order to divert public attention away from himself, at the same time tying up military resources in a quagmire from which any successor could not easily extract him/herself. Again, Nixon is probably the best barometer with which to predict the near future should the Mueller investigation make things too hot for Donald Trump. Two days after firing Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox (a role now played by Mueller), Nixon shocked legislators when U.S. forces were put on Defcon 3 (one step short of war) supposedly to deter a Soviet intervention in the Middle East. With his presidency in ruins, concerns grew that Nixon might deploy troops to Capitol Hill to evict Congress and forestall impeachment.
Does anyone in America today believe that Donald Trump is above such tactics? Trump may be a bully and a coward, but 'his people' are sufficiently ignorant to assure that their leader and guru will go down in a rain of fire and brimstone. Trump will secretly, if not publicly, welcome violent uprisings by his followers, in the style and tradition of the dictators he so admires. A reign of terror could be unleashed on the American people, not only by Trump's right-wing supporters but also through government agencies themselves: suspension of habeas corpus, internment camps, warrantless wiretapping, CIA black-site 'enhanced interrogation techniques,' freezing of Americans' bank accounts, and stopping the communications networks (heaven forbid - no internet!). All these measures and more have been invoked by earlier American presidents to assert emergency powers.
But will the military support him in the end, especially those who have privately criticized his fitness for leadership? Departing White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general, called Trump “unhinged,” while outgoing Defense Secretary James Mattis, another Marine general, said the president had the intellect of a fifth- or sixth-grader. Resigning National Security Advisor General H.R. McMaster (the 'iconoclast general') deplored “those who glamorize and apologize in the service of communist, authoritarian and repressive governments,” a veiled reference to his former boss in the Oval Office. But these are only a handful of mostly retired veterans. What the guys with their fingers on the big red buttons will do is anyone's guess. Given a cross-section of voters, there is a more or less equal number of 'his people' in the armed services as there are in the public sector. And that's scary.
Donald Trump, take notice. Tampering with the samurai class and kicking sacred cows can be a very risky business. Please follow Richard Nixon's example and go quietly. Don't leave America in ruins.