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Russian Bounty for Dead U.S. Soldiers, and Our Commander-in-Chief Does Nothing
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Russian Bounty for Dead U.S. Soldiers, and Our Commander-in-Chief Does Nothing

The Pentagon Leaks an Explosive Story of Trump’s Dereliction of Duty, Widening the Rift Between the Military and the White House

Terry H. Schwadron

Terry H. Schwadron

The news late yesterday was chilling: Russians have been paying Taliban militants to kill Americans in Afghanistan even as peace talks with the Taliban were under way, intelligence sources told The New York Times. 

And Donald Trump has known about this intelligence since the beginning of March and has done nothing about it.

Actually, the more you roll this disclosure over in your mind, the worse it gets.

Protecting U.S. troops is Job One for any president, but particularly this one who insists on its primacy. And he isn’t doing his job to protect our sons and daughters in the field.

U.S. troops were attacked and we did nothing about it.

This alone should be an impeachable offense.

But it says more, much more about Trump’s turn away from real-world problems that affect the rest of us, from pandemic to income inequality to racism. Thanks to coronavirus and joblessness, the disclosure wasn’t even considered the most important news of the day.

The Times said U.S intelligence has evidence that a Russian military spy unit has been paying Islamic militants linked to the Taliban to target Americans and other coalition troops. The Times account was quickly confirmed by The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal. Just why Russia is doing this remains murky: Perhaps Russia wanted to break up peace talks with violence against Americans, perhaps it was in retaliation for a U.S. attack in Syria that unintentionally killed Russian soldiers.

Whatever it was or is, no one knows how many of the 20 Americans killed last year in Afghanistan were targeted this way. It’s a different picture than Trump appearing with U.S. troops for a celebratory photo.

What we do know is that U.S. troops were attacked and we did nothing about it.

Military Rift with Trump

Two soldiers killed in January: 21-year-old Pfc. Miguel A. Villalon of Joliet, Ill., left; and 29-year-old Staff Sgt. Ian P. McLaughlin of Newport News, Va.  (U.S. Army photos)

The disclosure emerged as The United States finally was telling British allies about it this week. Does that mean that the United States officially was withholding these developments from allies—another abridgment of presidential duty or at least moral responsibility?

Is this not an escalation of anti-American, anti-allied interests at a time when we’re talking about pulling troops from Europe?

Note, too: The leak didn’t come from the White House. That normally closed-mouth U.S. defense and intelligence folks would discuss this with these reporters who cover these areas seems a direct reflection of the growing rift between the Pentagon and Trump over national security policy-making. According to The Times, military officials offered a range of anti-Russia alternatives in March, and Trump has sat on them.

For the United States apparently to do nothing at all is stunning all by itself.

Two soldiers killed in February: Sgt. 1st Class Javier J. Gutierrez, 28, of San Antonio, Texas, (left) and Sgt. 1st Class Antonio R. Rodriguez, 28, of Las Cruces, N.M.  (U.S. Army photos)

We’ve seen the White House interfere with the military hierarchy over assignment and promotion of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who spoke out after Trump’s impeachable blackmail attempts of the Ukraine president. We’ve seen Trump moving to manipulate military justice courts in the cases involving former SEAL Edward Gallagher and the Navy captain who tried to help a virus-infected crew.

We’ve seen the generals increasingly willing to split publicly with Trump, and Trump, in turn, insulting and belittling people like James Mattis, the former secretary of defense; John Kelly Jr., the former chief of staff; and others. Only Trump himself knows the answers on foreign policy.

Except on issues involving Russia, and once again, we find ourselves scratching the head wondering whether Trump is not acting here—even issuing some formal knock-it-off message to the Kremlin out of some long, never-fully disclosed loyalty to the Kremlin.

With the extraordinary Trump administration effort this week to overturn criminal charges against the twice-admitted liar Michael T. Flynn and unsubstantiated “treason” calls against former President Barack Obama, we find ourselves still steeped in the Trump-Russia question.

Where’s the Tough?

Quite to the contrary of Trump’s self-proclaimed toughness on Russia, we are hearing of Trump’s maneuvering to get Russian leader Vladimir Putin back into the Group of Eight meetings. There is no more talk of sanctions against Russia—only acquiescence to Russian control of Syria, acceptance of ending Russia nuclear weapons treaties, proposed withdrawal of American troops from Europe and constant diminution of NATO.  Russia is still in Ukraine, Russia is still supporting Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela, Russia is still reportedly active in seeking to disrupt U.S. elections.

Where is the Trump toughness?

Yes, we’ve had a pandemic, an economic tsunami and widespread protests for social justice. But Trump has found time for anti-immigration moves and an attack on the U.S. health system along with personal promotion, campaign rallies and golf.

Do you think he could spend a few minutes on protecting Americans in uniform?

We’re seeing that the need to declare Afghanistan over, when it is not, in time for the Trump re-election campaign apparently outweighs the lives of our troops.

So long as you are there, do your job, Donald Trump.

Featured image: U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan attend to a wounded comrade. ( REUTERS)

 

June 27, 2020