French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau were among the leaders who gathered at the Aisne- Marne Cemetery and Memorial near Paris over the weekend for a ceremony honoring the fallen soldiers of World War I. But there was one world leader who was missing: President Donald J. Trump, who visited Paris for events marking the 100th anniversary of World War I but decided to pass on that one.
Trump has been drawing much criticism for missing the event at Aisne-Marne. On Twitter, NeverTrump conservative David Frum posted, “It’s incredible that a president would travel to France for this significant anniversary” and not “pay in person his respects to the Americans who gave their lives in France for the victory gained 100 years ago.”
However, this was not the first time Trump has disrespected the U.S. military. From mocking Sen. John McCain’s military record to sending troops to the U.S./Mexico border as a political stunt, Trump’s history is actually quite anti-military.
Here are seven events demonstrating that Trump is no friend of the United States military.
1. Trump Couldn’t Be Bothered to Honor the Americans Who Died at the Battle of Belleau Wood
Saying that the fighting at the ferocious Battle of Belleau Wood in 1918 was absolute hell would be an understatement. President Macron was spot on when he described Belleau Wood as a place where “the blood (of Americans) was spilled to defend France,” and Aisne-Marne Cemetery and Memorial (where 2289 American military heroes are buried) remains a powerful symbol of the U.S.’ long-lasting friendship with France. This week, Aisne-Marne Cemetery was where world leaders remembered those who died at Belleau Wood and other World War I battles. But sadly, Trump passed on this weekend’s ceremony at Aisne-Marne due to rain.
2. Trump Avoided Fighting in the Vietnam War with a Series of Educational and Medical Deferments
The Vietnam War was incredibly divisive in the United States, with some Americans on both the left and the right vehemently opposed to military intervention in Vietnam and other Americans on both the left and the right passionately supporting it. And one American who clearly wasn’t taking the “my country right or wrong” position was Trump.
Born on June 14, 1946, the 72-year-old Trump turned 18 in 1964—and he avoided the draft with a series of educational deferments, followed by medical deferments. During the Vietnam War, it wasn’t uncommon for young American men to avoid being drafted by attending college. But when Trump graduated from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School in Philadelphia and was no longer a student, he was once again a candidate for the Vietnam War—and in 1968, he avoided military service with a 1-Y medical deferment (which he said was due to a problem with his foot).
3. Trump Equated Dating and Avoiding STDs with Fighting in the Vietnam War
Although Trump has boasted about his history of promiscuity, he has also boasted about avoiding sexually transmitted diseases. In a 1997 interview, Trump asserted that avoiding STDs was “like Vietnam, sort of. It is my personal Vietnam. I feel like a great and very brave solider.” And in a 1993 interview with Howard Stern, Trump equated dating with fighting in Vietnam: “You know, if you’re young, and in this era—and if you have any guilt about not having gone to Vietnam—we have our own Vietnam: it’s called the dating game. Dating is like being in Vietnam. You’re the equivalent of a soldier going over to Vietnam.”
4. Trump Mocked and Belittled Sen. John McCain’s Military Service
During his 2016 presidential campaign, Trump clashed with Sen. John McCain—who, unlike Trump, fought in the Vietnam War and spent five years a prisoner of the Viet Cong. McCain was tortured both physically and psychologically, and while President Barack Obama always praised McCain’s military service, Trump mocked and belittled it during a 2016 interview. Trump insisted that McCain was “not a war hero” and that a true war hero wouldn’t have allowed himself to be captured. “I like people that weren’t captured,” Trump remarked.
5. Trump Got Into a Feud with the Father of a Fallen Iraq War Solider
When Trump called for a ban on Muslim immigrants during the 2016 presidential race, two of the Muslims who were appalled were Khizr and Ghazala Khan—the parents of Capt. Humayun Khan, an American Muslim who was killed in the Iraq War in 2004. Khizr Khan, who grew up in Pakistan and moved to the U.S. in the late 1970s, stressed that his son was every bit the war hero that non-Muslim soldiers were. And Trump got into a war of words with Khizr Khan, attacking him on Twitter more than once. In an August 1, 2016 tweet, Trump posted, “This story is not about Mr. Khan, who is all over the place doing interviews, but rather RADICAL ISLAMIC TERRORISM and the U.S. Get smart!”
6. Trump Opposes Counting Military Votes in Florida Gubernatorial and Senate Races
In Florida, the recent gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races were so close that they are heading for recounts. On Election Night, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum conceded to Rep. Ron DeSantis in Florida’s gubernatorial race, but incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson has yet to concede to Gov. Rick Scott. But Trump is adamantly opposed to recounts in both races, and he is also opposed to counting military ballots from overseas. On Veteran’s Day, Trump posted on Twitter, “The Florida Election should be called in favor of Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis in that large numbers of new ballots showed up out of nowhere, and many ballots are missing or forged. An honest vote count is no longer possible-ballots massively infected. Must go with Election Night!” And journalist Ari Berman, in response, tweeted, “On Veterans Day, Trump is saying he doesn’t want ballots from overseas military voters to count. They have until Nov. 16 to be counted, according to state law.”
7. Trump Sent U.S. Troops to the Border as a Political Stunt
During the final weeks of the 2018 midterms, Trump decided that an effective way to rally his far-right base would be terrorize them with anti-immigrant rhetoric—and that included claims that a caravan of Central American refugees making its way north was determined to swarm the U.S. with everything from MS-13 gang members and radical Islamists to smallpox. Trump, determined to show the base that Republicans alone could protect border security, sent U.S. troops to the U.S./Mexico border—a cheap political stunt. Maintaining border security is a job for law enforcement, not the military. And by wasting the skills of U.S. troops, Trump wasn’t doing the military any favor.