Why the generals are silent: Trump has no sense of duty, honor or sacrifice

Why the generals are silent: Trump has no sense of duty, honor or sacrifice
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The silence of America’s most respected military leaders has never been more deafening — or more consequential.

John Kelly and James Mattis – two retired generals revered by rank-and-file Marines – do not deny explosive reporting that President Trump demeaned Americans killed in war as “suckers” and “losers.”

As a former supreme allied commander of NATO forces made clear, the generals’ silence is a striking sign that, despite his denials, Trump made the despicable comments attributed to him.


A flurry of confirmations – ranging from Fox News' “unimpeachable” sources to the Associated Press, the Washington Post and CNN – suggest that the reporting is spot-on.

But it gets worse for Trump.

In a miserable attempt to discredit the story as “fake news,” the president’s defense imploded further after he resorted to rattling off at least three blatant lies about the reporting.

More importantly, a former deputy director of White House operations confirmed to me that Trump’s central defense – that bad weather prevented him from visiting a monument to fallen Marines – is nonsense.

The truth is that if the president of the United States had wanted to pay respects to fallen Marines at an American cemetery abroad, his staff, U.S. Secret Service and our local allies would have made it happen. Full stop.

Apparently, Trump had no such desire.


Moreover, there is always a contingency plan for bad weather.

In other words, the reporting in The Atlantic can hardly be described as “fake news.”

I have vivid memories of accompanying General Kelly to Afghanistan’s Helmand Province in March 2012. I remember seeing the photograph of Kelly’s son, a fellow Marine killed nearby two years earlier, displayed on a wall of honor at the regional headquarters.

Ever the consummate Marine, Kelly remained stoic. But I am beyond seething.

I am livid that Trump asked Gen. Kelly – at the foot of his son’s grave – “I don’t get it. What was in it for them?”

“What was in it for them?”


Do not forget: Those words were uttered by a commander-in-chief with a genetic predisposition to avoiding military service.

Indeed, Trump was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He seemingly never had to struggle or sacrifice; he could say whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted and he cheated, insulted and demeaned others in the pursuit of power and riches.

But “What was in it for them?” is a phrase that no American with any semblance of decency or decorum would ever utter on the grounds of Arlington National Cemetery.

Such words are reserved for an entitled, narcissistic bully with no sense of duty, patriotism or sacrifice.

Indeed, in Trump’s world, the only thing that seems to matter is personal monetary gain and prestige. Morals are irrelevant. For example, one can manipulate evangelical voters while paying lip service to the military – all in the pursuit of power and riches – to the tune of nearly $1 million in grifted taxpayer funding.

Ultimately, I suspect that Trump’s inability to comprehend a higher loyalty – to country, community or simply to his fellow citizens – is why the generals kept their silence.

Marik von Rennenkampff served as an analyst with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, as well as an Obama administration appointee at the U.S. Department of Defense. Follow him on Twitter @MvonRen.