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Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017 12:21 am

Trump’s wars

Jim Hightower
PHOTO BY LARRY D. MOORE
So, President Trump makes what was to be a condolence phone call to the young widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, one of the four American soldiers killed on a military patrol in Niger – and all of a sudden, the White House explodes in yet another political conflagration and a new burst of presidential lies.

Was Trump disrespectful to the widow by not referring to her dead husband by name, but as “your guy,” then declaring that Sgt. Johnson “knew what he was signing up for”? She and two witnesses to the call say “yes”; Trump and his White House PR flacks issued a furious string of “no.”

But rather than simply let it go at “no,” Trump couldn’t resist patting himself on the back and politicizing the whole exchange. He bragged that he has called the family of every soldier killed since he’s been commander-in-chief. Turns out the chief lied about that – many grieving families say they got no call from him. Then he took a cheap shot at Obama and other former presidents, declaring that most of them didn’t call any families of dead soldiers. Another lie, for Obama and others did, in fact, make calls.

But, wait a minute – Niger? While most media outlets have played this brouhaha as a she-said/he-said story, shouldn’t we be asking Trump the big question: What the hell are our military forces doing in Niger? To the public’s complete surprise, we suddenly learn that four of our soldiers have died there. Why? What was their mission, and what is our national interest in that West African country that warrants spending American lives and money?

Trump and his GOP Congress are throwing money – yours and mine – at the Pentagon, demanding a massive $700 billion military budget. For what? Here’s another shocker for you: The Pentagon has some 200,000 U.S. troops deployed in 177 countries ... Who knew? And, again, why?

Trump is the delegator-in-chief, having passed to subordinates a president’s most solemn duty of guiding our nation’s war policies – including what wars to be in. For example, he has turned the mess in Afghanistan over to the military brass, apparently hoping he can wash his hands of responsibility and have the generals to blame if things go wrong.

While battlefield tactics are largely the domain of armed service professionals, the burden of deciding to go to war, to extend a war, or to send more troops into the hell of war belongs on the shoulders of top civilian officials – as does the burden of fully explaining to the public why more war is warranted.

Just as he evaded military service during the Vietnam War, “Commander Trump” is shirking this basic presidential duty today. He’s letting his glittering array of non-elected generals hurl another 4,000 of our men and women into the now 16-year-long Afghan War they admit they’re losing, having already spent the lives of 2,304 American troops and more than a trillion dollars. What’s especially maddening is that Trump and his generals have no new strategy for “winning,” have no new idea how many more years and lives they intend for us to spend on Afghanistan, and, most damningly, can’t even explain why we’re in this war.

Ironically, by weakly dodging this core presidential responsibility, the killing will drift on, turning the Afghan debacle into Trump’s war.

At last, though, a bipartisan group of House members lead by Republican Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina and Democrat Rep. John Garamendi of California are saying “enough” – no more money to finance the Afghan political and military mess unless Trump or whoever is in charge can tell us why it’s worth more of America’s blood and treasure to be there.

Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, columnist and author.

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