During a 2017 visit to Arlington Cemetary on Memorial Day with then-Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, a trip taken with the intention of paying his respects at the grave of Kelly’s son, a Marine who was killed in 2010 in Afghanistan, sources report that Trump looked at Kelly and said “I don’t get it. What was in it for them?”
“He can’t fathom the idea of doing something for someone other than himself,” one of Kelly’s friends, a retired four-star general, told me. “He just thinks that anyone who does anything when there’s no direct personal gain to be had is a sucker. There’s no money in serving the nation.”
Kelly’s friend went on to say, “Trump can’t imagine anyone else’s pain. That’s why he would say this to the father of a fallen marine on Memorial Day in the cemetery where he’s buried.”
An exclusive in The Atlantic examines Trump’s seeming contempt towards veterans and Americans who have died in war, enumerating the times when sources say the president has made rude, dismissive, or condescending comments about Americans who have served in the military. (Like most wealthy people, Trump managed to dodge the draft, receiving a medical deferment during the Vietnam War because of the alleged presence of bone spurs in his feet.)
Although there are plenty of valid reasons to be critical of the U.S. military, unsurprisingly, Trump’s problems with veterans seemingly have little to do with any opinions he may have on the actual wars that these former members of the military fought in, or on American imperialism more broadly. In fact, he doesn’t seem to know much about the wars the United States has participated in at all. During an ultimately-canceled trip to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery to honor the Marines who perished during the WWI battle at Belleau Wood, Trump reportedly asked “Who were the good guys in this war?” He also expressed confusion as to why the U.S. would have intervened in WWI on the side of the Allies. Trump canceled the visit to the Aisne-Marne American cemetery himself, apparently because he didn’t want his hair to get messed up in the rain.
Trump’s disparagement and seeming contempt towards veterans and the military more broadly has also been evident through his attitude towards the late John McCain—one of the few Republicans who continued to publicly criticize Trump after he got the Republican Party’s nomination for President in 2016.
When McCain died, in August 2018, Trump told his senior staff, according to three sources with direct knowledge of this event, “We’re not going to support that loser’s funeral,” and he became furious, according to witnesses, when he saw flags lowered to half-staff. “What the fuck are we doing that for? Guy was a fucking loser,” the president told aides.
Even before McCain’s death, Trump openly dismissed the late Senator’s war record. “He’s not a war hero,” Trump said in 2015 while running for the Republican nomination for president. “I like people who weren’t captured.”
Whether the reason for Trump’s feelings about the military stem from his own self-involvement, or whether he holds particular disdain for people who have served in the military, it’s clear that being the commander in chief of the U.S. armed forces for the past four years has not stopped the president from letting the people around him know that he thinks the people who served in the military are “suckers.”
Alyssa Farah, a White House spokesperson, provided this statement to The Atlantic regarding the claims in their article.
“This report is false. President Trump holds the military in the highest regard. He’s demonstrated his commitment to them at every turn: delivering on his promise to give our troops a much needed pay raise, increasing military spending, signing critical veterans reforms, and supporting military spouses. This has no basis in fact.”
Okay, so they can’t refute any of the quotes in the Atlantic article.
While talking to senior staff members on the morning of the previously mentioned scheduled visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery, Trump reportedly said, “Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers,” before later referring to the more than 1,800 marines who were killed during the battle of Belleau Wood in 1918 as “suckers.”
The man is nothing if not a class act.