Trump has no respect for war heroes — Pocahontas slur proves it

Trump has no respect for war heroes — Pocahontas slur proves it
© Getty Images

President Trump never misses an opportunity to dishonor the men and women who made the greatest sacrifices for their country.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, he insulted every prisoner of war in American history by claiming that Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainListen, learn and lead: Congressional newcomers should leave the extremist tactics at home Overnight Defense: Trump unveils new missile defense plan | Dems express alarm | Shutdown hits Day 27 | Trump cancels Pelosi foreign trip | Senators offer bill to prevent NATO withdrawal Bipartisan senators reintroduce bill to prevent Trump from withdrawing from NATO MORE (R-Ariz.), who spent nearly six years as a POW in North Vietnam during the Vietnam War, was “not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.”

ADVERTISEMENT

The day after his inauguration Trump visited the CIA headquarters. Standing in front of the memorial to the 117 men and women of the CIA who died in the line of duty, Trump thought it the right setting to falsely boast that more people came to his inauguration than to President Obama’s. 

 

The most recent defilement of American heroism came at a White House ceremony on Monday to honor the Navajo Code Talkers of World War II. Trump told the Navajo veterans that they were “special people” but then, with his customary sense of occasion, attacked Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann Warren2020 Dems seize on MLK Day for campaign messaging Kamala Harris staffer mocks O'Reilly for saying Harris 'lost' his vote for president Kamala Harris announces presidential campaign MORE (D-Mass.), whom he accuses of using her Indian ancestry to advance a university career (Warren denies this). “We have a representative in Congress who has been here a long time — longer than you — they call her Pocahontas.”

The leader of the Navajo Nation, Russell Begaye, said on CNN that Trump’s political attack on Warren was “uncalled for” and that “yes it was” an ethnic slur on Native Americans. Someone should have told these aging Navajo veterans that they weren’t going to be honored, but to serve as props for the Trump political show.

Trump’s Pocahontas slur obscured what Native Americans, including the Code Talkers, did for their country — and it deserves our undivided attention. In World War II, tens of thousands of Native Americans joined the Army, Navy or Marines. The Comanches fought the Germans in Europe, the Meskwakis fought them in North Africa, and the Hopi and Navajo fought the Japanese in the Pacific. They landed on Normandy on D-Day and on Guadalcanal, Tarawa and Iwo Jima (a Native American helped raise the flag in the famous photograph).

They fought for their country even though the American dream has been the American nightmare for their people, who were driven from their lands, lost the buffalo that sustained them to white hunters and signed treaties that the U.S. government regularly violated. 

The military trained Native American soldiers from at least 16 tribes to use their languages as codes for transmitting battlefield intelligence. These were courageous — to transmit battlefield intelligence, many Code Talkers had to be on the battlefield — and resourceful soldiers. They came up with words that didn’t exist in their native language. To describe a tank, the Comanches, for example, used a wakaree’a. That is their word for a turtle — like a tank, it has a hard shell and moves. The best known Code Talkers, thanks to the movie “Windtalkers,” were the Navajo. Their code remains the only oral military code never to have been broken. The Code Talkers saved American soldiers’ lives and helped win battles.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee said that it “certainly wasn’t the president’s intent to use a racial slur.”

Just like he didn’t intend a racial slur against President Obama by promoting the bogus birther theory that Obama was not born in the United States or claiming that a federal judge was biased against him in a case because of the judge’s Mexican heritage or insulting the Muslim ancestry of a Gold Star Mother whose husband spoke at the Democratic National Convention.

“[L]ook at his wife, she was standing there. She had nothing to say. She probably, maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say. You tell me,” Trump said of the Gold Star family. Come on Sarah, you can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.

These Navajo veterans had been among the millions of young men and women in World War II who fought and defeated two fanatic military dictatorships. The Greatest Generation gave America security and prosperity and an inspiring heroic legacy. How sad that, as these veterans pass into history, the president happens to be a man incapable of saluting anyone but himself. 

Gregory J. Wallance is a writer, lawyer, former federal prosecutor, and author of the forthcoming: “The Woman Who Fought An Empire: Sarah Aaronsohn and Her Nili Spy Ring.” (Spring 2018). Follow on Twitter @gregorywallance.