The top general in the Army said Tuesday that military leaders only recommend sending troops to combat as a “last resort” after President TrumpDonald TrumpBaldwin calls Trump criticism following 'Rust' shooting 'surreal' Haley hits the stump in South Carolina Mary Trump files to dismiss Trump's lawsuit over NYT tax story MORE said Pentagon leaders support war to bolster the defense industry.
Gen. James McConville, chief of staff of the Army, was asked at an event hosted by Defense One on Tuesday about Trump’s comments from the day before.
McConville declined to directly comment on Trump’s remarks, saying the military should avoid politics, particularly close to an election.
But pressed more generally on private industry's influence on the decision to go to war, McConville said military officers take very seriously their recommendations on whether to send troops into combat.
"Many of these leaders have sons and daughters that serve in the military. Many of these leaders have sons and daughters who have gone to combat or may be in combat right now," McConville said.
"I can assure the American people that the senior leaders would only recommend sending our troops to combat when it is required in national security, and in the last resort,” he continued. “We take this very, very seriously in how we make our recommendations.”
At issue are comments Trump made at a news conference Monday in which he suggested Pentagon leaders do not support him because they are warmongers.
“I'm not saying the military is in love with me; the soldiers are,” Trump said Monday. “The top people in the Pentagon probably aren’t because they want to do nothing but fight wars so that all of those wonderful companies that make the bombs and make the planes and make everything else stay happy.”
Trump has often railed against so-called forever wars and has sought to bring troops home from war zones such as Afghanistan and Iraq. But he has also in the past frequently touted bolstered defense budgets and the importance of the defense industry to the U.S. economy.
Trump’s remarks came after days of controversy after reports surfaced that he allegedly made disparaging comments about fallen service members.
The Atlantic reported last week that Trump canceled a visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris in 2018 because he was worried about the rain ruining his hair and questioned the value of honoring war dead.
“Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers,” Trump said, according to The Atlantic.
The magazine also reported that Trump referred to the U.S. Marines who were killed in World War I’s Battle of Belleau Wood as “suckers” in a conversation during the same trip.
Trump and his allies have vociferously denied the story.
But The Associated Press, The Washington Post and Fox News have since independently confirmed many of the elements of the Atlantic’s report.