While I make final preparations for our trip tomorrow to Paris, I should like to make one or two comments about the flap over Trump’s call to the widow and family of La David Johnson, killed in Niger. First, a piece of totally unsolicited advice for Representative Fredericka Wilson, who was in the car when the call came and heard it on speaker phone: Stop talking! Thanks to General Kelly, Trump has won this little battle in the court of public opinion. The sooner you stop talking, the sooner the story goes away. Don’t defend yourself, don’t explain, just stop talking. Kelly has given Trump a get-out-of-jail-free card, and there is nothing you can do about it. Trump wants to talk about you [and the NFL] to distract attention from his real problem, which is Mueller. Don’t let him.
Second, and more important let me recur to something I have said before. The citizen army with which America fought WW II is no more, thanks to the Viet Nam War, which almost destroyed the Army. When the decision was made to raise the pay, improve the career opportunities, and move to an all-volunteer army, America became a full-fledged imperial power, capable of perpetual overseas military adventures without the danger of popular protest or opposition. The exaggerated quasi-religious respect shown to “the fallen” is compensation for and acknowledgement of the fact that almost no men and women will ever serve in the military and almost no families [or indeed neighborhoods] will lose men and women in war. The Viet Nam era campus anti-war protests were fueled by the threat of the draft [which also produced grade inflation.] Without that threat, the campuses are silent. The Congress has ceded war powers to the Executive, which treats the military quite rationally as an instrument of empire.
If Rachel Maddow’s suspicions are correct, these deaths were a direct consequence of the President’s decision to add Chad to the list of countries barred by his immigration ban, an incomprehensible decision that is quite probably a sheer mistake resulting from a hollowed out State Department and a complete lack of ordinary planning.