WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump accused the US military brass on Monday of wanting to fight wars to keep weapon makers happy.

At a White House news conference, Trump criticised his rival Joe Biden, describing him as a proponent of “endless wars”, before turning his criticism toward military leaders who he himself appointed, saying they are interested in conflict to satisfy military contractors.

“I’m not saying the military is in love with me. The soldiers are. 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, make the planes, make everything else stay happy,” Trump said.

“But we’re getting out of endless wars,” Trump added. “Some people don’t like to come home. Some people like to continue to spend money. One cold-hearted globalist betrayal after another, that’s what it was.”

The army’s top general said on Tuesday leaders of the armed forces would recommend sending troops into combat only when it is in American national security interests or as a last resort.

Asked about Trump’s Monday criticism of Pentagon leaders, US Army Chief of Staff Gen James McConville declined to comment directly on it, saying the military should remain out of politics, especially close to an election.

“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, who Trump appointed to his post, said during an online forum hosted by Defense One, a media organisation focusing on the US military.

“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. We take this very, very seriously in how we make our recommendations,” McConville added.

Trump has increasingly clashed with Pentagon leaders over a range of issues after initially giving retired generals senior positions in his administration.

Such criticism of military leaders by a sitting president is highly unusual.

Trump’s comments come after a report last week that he had called fallen US troops buried in Europe “losers” and declined to visit an American cemetery because he thought it unimportant.

Trump has denied the reports.

Areas of disagreement between the Republican president and Pentagon leaders have included Donald Trump’s threats to deploy active-duty troops in response to a wave of protests against racial injustice and police brutality – a step that Defence Secretary Mark Esper and Gen Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, both opposed.

Published in Dawn, September 9th, 2020


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