Donald Trump condemned for calling US war dead ‘suckers’
Current and former members of the military, elected officials and the Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden, have reacted with outrage and sadness as former members of the Donald Trump administration confirmed key details of a bombshell report in which Trump referred to fallen soldiers as “suckers” and “losers”.
The Atlantic magazine published a story on Thursday based on four sources close to the president who said Trump cancelled a visit to pay respects at an American military cemetery outside Paris in 2018 because he thought the dead soldiers were “losers” and “suckers” and he did not want the rain to mess up his hair.
Both Elizabeth Neumann, a former assistant secretary of counter-terrorism in the Department of Homeland Security, and Miles Taylor, a former chief of staff in that department, said the account was true, asserting that Trump’s low opinion of soldiers killed and wounded in combat was well-known inside the administration.
Trump defenders included the secretary of state and the president himself, who dismissed the report as a false attack meant to damage his shot at re-election. The Atlantic report was “totally false”, Trump told reporters at the White House on Friday.
Asked if he should apologize for his reported comments about fallen service members, Trump said: “No, it’s a fake story.”
But a visibly angry Biden called the alleged comments “disgusting” and said Trump was “not fit to be commander-in-chief”.
“When my son volunteered and joined the United States military – and went to Iraq for a year, won the Bronze Star and other commendations, he was not a sucker,” Biden said, his voice rising, in remarks in Wilmington, Delaware. His son Beau, who died of brain cancer in 2015, was deployed to Iraq in 2008.
“If these statements are true, the president should humbly apologize to every Gold Star mother and father and every Blue Star family,” Biden said. “Who the heck does he think he is?"
“I’m always cautioned not to lose my temper,” Biden said. “This may be as close as I come in this campaign. It’s just a marker of how deeply the president and I disagree on the role of the president of the United States of America.”
The Democratic senator Tammy Duckworth, a Purple Heart recipient who lost both her legs during a combat mission in Iraq, accused Trump of attempting to “politicize and pervert our military to stroke his own ego” on a press call hosted by Biden’s campaign.
“This is a man who spends every day redefining the concept of narcissism; a man who’s led a life of privilege, with everything handed to him on a silver platter,” said Duckworth.
“Of course, he thinks about war selfishly. He thinks of it as a transactional cost, instead of in human lives and American blood spilled, because that’s how he’s viewed his whole life. He doesn’t understand other people’s bravery and courage, because he’s never had any of his own."
“I take my wheelchair, and my titanium legs over Donald Trump’s supposed bone spurs any day,” she added, referring to the reason Trump received draft deferments during the Vietnam war.
The call also included the Democratic congressman Conor Lamb, a marine veteran, and Khizr Khan, a Gold Star father whose son was killed by a suicide bomber in Iraq in 2004.
Khan said Trump is “incapable – let me repeat it again – he is incapable of understanding service, valor and courage”.
“His soul cannot conceive of integrity and honor,” Khan continued. “His soul is that of a coward.”
The secretary of state defended the president’s support of members of the military in an interview with the conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt.
“I’ve never heard that,” Mike Pompeo said of Trump calling the war dead “suckers”. “Indeed, just the opposite. I’ve been around him in lots of settings where there were both active-duty military, guardsmen, reservists, veterans. This is a man who had the deepest respect for their service, and he always, he always interacted with them in that way. He enjoys those times. He values those people.”
On Friday, the Biden campaign released a video quoting the president based on the Atlantic story and later corroborating reports by the Washington Post and the Associated Press.
With the tagline “If you don’t respect our troops, you cannot lead them,” the video overlays alleged Trump quotes on images of military cemeteries.
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