As a rule, American presidential candidates tend to say positive things about U.S. servicemen and women, especially war veterans. But as Politico noted last night, Donald Trump is trying something a little different.
Donald Trump rang in the Army’s 241st birthday in unusual fashion on Tuesday – by calling attention to theft of government funds by American soldiers in Iraq.“Iraq, crooked as hell. How about bringing baskets of money – millions and millions of dollars – and handing it out?,” Trump said at an evening rally. “I want to know who were the soldiers that had that job, because I think they’re living very well right now, whoever they may be.”
A campaign spokesperson claimed soon after that Trump was referring to Iraqi soldiers, but that’s extremely hard to believe. In reality, it was Americans, not Iraqis, who were distributing millions of dollars, so the defense doesn’t make a lot of sense.
It’s worth noting that there were allegations – and some prosecutions – of U.S. troops accused of skimming, so I suppose there’s some truth to Trump’s rhetoric. But why take a gratuitous shot like this?
As the Politico report put it, “Trump has painted himself as a champion of soldiers and veterans, and it is unusual for American politicians on the campaign trail to call out members of the military, one of the country’s most popular institutions, for their transgressions.”
The New Republic’s Jeet Heer added:
While it’s true that there was corruption in Iraq … it still seems like a bizarre thing for Trump to bring up, completely unbidden. The context was his defense of the idea that the United States should have plundered Iraq’s oil. So perhaps he was trying to justify his own illegal policy recommendation with the argument that there were already other forms of corruption. Trump had made a very similar statement last September.Whatever the logic of Trump’s statement, it’s very unusual for a presidential candidate to malign war vets, particularly for acts that took place under the presidency of his own party (since this alleged corruption was in the George W. Bush era). But Trump continues to break all the rules.
Let’s also remember the broader pattern of how Trump is handling the issue. The GOP candidate has mocked POWs, presented a plan to privatize veterans’ care, and got caught lying about his financial support for veterans’ charities. Adding insult to injury, Trump, who avoided military service during the Vietnam war, has claimed more than once that he understands counter-terrorism better than American generals.
It seems the Republican’s efforts to win over the military vote is following a non-traditional course.