That was Trump, back to advocating torture again.
Recently, Trump declared under his administration, he’d order the US intelligence community and the military to once again implement waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques (you know, what the civilized world, including the US before September 11, 2001 and after January 21, 2009, calls torture). Trump said he’d do it even if it broke US and international law.
Trump supporters cheered. Torture! Yah!
And then Trump walked back his statement. After strong pushback from the intelligence community, military leaders, bipartisan politicians, and the media, Trump reversed himself and said that he wouldn’t order the military to break the law after all.
Trump supporters were outraged. No torture? Boo!
So, in a reversal of a reversal that surprised no one, Trump demonstrated “yuge” leadership by first declaring he hadn’t actually said he WOULD order the military to break the law and then he changed course and said he never said he WOULDN’T order the military to break the law and besides what he’d do is make the law great again by changing it so it would be legal to use extraordinary methods and harsh interrogation techniques on prisoners even though history, evidence, science, and experience shows torture is ineffective and typically produces unreliable information.
Trump supporters once again made encouraging noises.
Thus, finally, Trump returned to his original theme and made it great again by doubling down on torture and declaring of course that he’d made no previous statements (despite having made more waffles than a Belgian breakfast joint). “We have to play the game the way ISIS plays the game,” Trump says.
We have to play the game the way ISIS plays the game. What a particularly damning statement. Let’s ponder that nugget of… well, I’m not going to call it wisdom, and you’d be more likely to find it floating in the toilet bowl, anyway.
Let me ask you something: If we “play the game” the same way our enemies do, if we adopt their methodology, their contempt for humanity, their contempt for law and morality, their brutality, then what makes us any different from them? The answer is, nothing. You can claim that you’re still better, that YOUR barbarism is somehow different, better, cleaner than theirs, but you’d be lying, to the world and to yourself. If you claim exceptionalism as so many Republicans are so ready to do, then you have to BE exceptional. And that’s something impossible to be when you’re acting just like the enemy you claim to outclass. The goal isn’t to become what we hate. It’s just the opposite.
That’s the ethical facts relegating this idea to the trash heap. Now let’s address the military facts.
Trump’s assertion proves that he never needs to be in command of a Boy Scout troop, much less the American military.
This is the difference between a military professional and someone who plays at being a soldier: When you allow the enemy to set the rules of the conflict, you’ve lost the initiative, you’ve lost the advantage, and you’ve lost the war even if you don’t yet realize it. This is true of every conflict, and every sporting event and business deal for that matter, something Trump should know. In fact, the chief reason Trump is winning at the polls right now is because he’s forcing his opponents to play by his rules. And yet he seems oblivious as to how this relates to the larger world, meaning he really doesn’t know why he’s ahead, he just assumes it’s because he’s exceptional… but he’s mistaken luck for virtue. Once you are forced to play by the enemy’s rules, you’ve lost. We shouldn’t be playing by our enemy’s rules, we must force them to play by ours.
In the long list of reasons why Donald Trump should not be the commander-in-chief of the U.S. military, this is a big one. Trump is a man who would play at soldier as if it were a game without any real understanding of how it works… and he would waste lives, riches, and what remains of America’s respect in the global community fumbling his way through.
And finally, we come to the legal argument against Trump. The candidate was put on the spot when he was asked what he would do if the U.S. military failed to carry out his unlawful orders. Instead of saying that he wouldn’t issue unlawful orders, instead of saying that he would support and defend the U.S. Constitution (which, as president, it would be his sworn duty to uphold), Trump boasted that the military would follow his orders no matter what.
Those are the words of a dictator, and one who has no concept of how our country’s military works. Our military does not follow blindly orders issued by “The Leader.” Our military swears an oath to the Constitution. Our servicemen and women swear to uphold the law of the land. They don’t swear allegiance to a single man (or woman) as president.
Trump’s blustering rhetoric reminded me of Richard Nixon’s infamous answer to David Frost about Watergate: “When the president does it, that means it’s not illegal.” No, no, a thousand times no. The president has to obey the law of the land, just as everyone else has to. No person is above the law, an American ideal that Trump seems neither to understand nor to embrace.
And that, once and for all, disqualifies him to be president and commander-in-chief.