By Mark Gruenberg
There are a lot of folks – including veterans – raining on Donald Trump’s triumphal military parade plan.
And possibly the sharpest statement came from someone who should know: Tammy Duckworth, the Iraq War veteran who had both legs blown off while piloting her helicopter there – and who’s now a Democratic U.S. senator from Illinois.
“We don’t need to hold parades like some Third World dictator,” she told National Public Radio.
The Republican president plans demanded a monster parade, complete with tanks and weapons and reminiscent of pageants tyrants stage, marching down Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol to the White House. Trump originally told media about it on the way back from France after attending last Bastille Day’s parade, but they didn’t report it. He repeated it in September to the New York Times.
And at a Feb. 6 Pentagon meeting, Trump told military brass he wanted the parade. The next day, Trump Defense Secretary James Mattis, a retired general, told reporters the military is drafting plans. Trump, after all, is the armed forces’ Commander in Chief.
Trump camp followers among congressional Republicans threw hosannas. U.S. peace groups, the Union Veterans Council, and veteran-heavy unions – such as the Fire Fighters and the Letter Carriers – are silent so far. The reaction from everyone else has been, for lack of a better term, derisive.
“He wants to hold a parade? For what?” Duckworth told Sun-Times Washington bureau chief Lynn Sweet.
“Let’s take that money and spend it on our troops or their families, not order them to participate in some sort of a show and parade for his ego.”
“American taxpayers should not pay millions of dollars to throw Trump a parade,” Rep. Anthony Brown, D-Md., also an Iraq war veteran, tweeted. “Our men and women in uniform work tirelessly to accomplish the mission every day. They don’t have any time to feed Trump’s ego.”
“A military parade of this kind would be a departure from the values of our constitutional democracy,” said Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., the top House Armed Services Committee Democrat. “We are a nation of laws, not of one person.”
Smith noted the U.S. held military parades to celebrate the end of wars – the last one in D.C. was for the end of the Gulf War in 1991 – and to thank stateside contributors, such as war plant workers, too.
“A military parade like this — one that is unduly focused on a single person — is what authoritarian regimes do, not democracies,” Smith said.
That 1991 parade, by the way, cost $12 million and had 8,000 troops. Its 67-ton tanks and 30-ton Bradley Fighting Vehicles, in 85-degree heat in mid-summer, chewed up Pennsylvania Avenue, leaving its pavement a tarry mess, and D.C. footing the bill.
That result led D.C. City Councilman Charles Allen (D), whose ward includes the first half of the Pennsylvania Avenue parade route, to say “If Trump really wanted to honor the men and women serving, how about pushing for full voting representation for the nearly 10,000 D.C. residents in active military duty and thousands more veterans, rather than a throwing a parade just to feed his own ego.”
And presidential historian Michael Beschloss noted President Dwight Eisenhower, the victorious European commander in World War II, vetoed military parades in his White House years. Beschloss did not say so, but Ike also denounced the “military-industrial complex” in his 1961 farewell address.
“It is impossible for me to understand how, knowing he (Trump) is a five-time draft dodger, he could still convince so many that HE is America’s patriot,” Illinois resident Gary Pierce responded to an anti-parade tweet from Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill. “What in world can be done that would open their eyes to the fact that he (Trump) is masquerading as a patriot for his own purposes which are not the same as those of true patriots?” Pierce asked.
Trump’s plan also pissed off other rank-and-file vets.
“It’s just a publicity stunt that’ll be over before you know it, and we’ll all move on to the next trending outrage,” Alex Hollings, a retired Marine and special forces vet wrote in a blog for their group.
“The real issue I see with all the angry debate…has nothing to do with the cost of organizing the parade, or how it might affect the perception other nations have about our country. It’s that everyone seems to have passionate feelings about a damn parade, while the men and women actually tasked with defending our nation have been operating without a functional budget for months, and no one on the right or left seems the least bit concerned about that.”
“Do I find the idea of forcing service members to perform a charade that will cost a lot of time, money, and resources, and ultimately do nothing to make our country stronger or more safe, repulsive? Yes, I do,” said former Afghanistan and Iraq War combat medic Adam Linehan in another blog.
“But lest we forget, we’ve been treating them (service members) that way since 2001. We’ve sent them into battle after battle in a growing list of countries without a logical explanation for why they’re killing people, and why their buddies are dying, and why they’re getting their legs blown off.”
And the director of the top Iraq and Afghanistan veterans’ group told Politico the parade “is definitely unpopular” among his members because it could politicize the military.
The writer is Washington Bureau Chief of People’s World