Those who are defending Trump’s comments about American veterans. And those who are not.

Here is David Frum at The Atlantic:

Never has he shouted louder than in the days since my colleague Jeffrey Goldberg reported the president’s disparaging comments about those who have fallen, been maimed, or taken prisoner in war.

Trump’s protestations have been seconded by his wife. The first lady’s endorsement of Trump’s pro-military credentials has been repeated by Trump Cabinet secretaries, as well as by Fox News talking heads, and by a recipient of a Trump pardon.  

Amid the clamor, it’s easy to overlook those who are not yelling, those who are keeping silent. Where are the senior officers of the United States armed forces, serving and retired—the men and women who worked most closely on military affairs with President Trump? Has any one of them stepped forward to say, “That’s not the man I know”?

How many wounded warriors have stepped forward to attest to Trump’s care and concern for them? How many Gold Star families have stepped forward on Trump’s behalf? How many service families?

The silence is resounding. And when such voices do speak, they typically describe a president utterly lacking in empathy to grieving families, wholly uncomprehending of sacrifice and suffering.

Read the entire piece here.

Retired Brigadier General: The US Army has “Confederate problem”

Fort Bragg

Here is Ty Seidule, a former Brigadier General and history professor at West Point:

The army started honoring Confederates in the early 20th century and never stopped. The army’s flagship institution, West Point, honors Robert E. Lee with many different memorials, including a barracks. Most Lee memorials came about in the 1930s, 1950s, and early 1970s. Each of those periods saw an increase in racial integration. Confederate memorialization served as a way to buttress white supremacy and to protest equal rights. For instance, a Lee portrait in Confederate gray appeared in 1952 as a reaction to President Harry S. Truman’s order integrating the military. Prints created for the Army War College graduating classes featured pro-Confederate depictions through the 1990s. Almost inexplicably, West Point created memorials to Robert E. Lee in 2001 and 2002 as well. 

Finding the countless memorials that honor Confederates across hundreds of US military bases will be no small task. The Department of Defense will need to set up a task force to find Confederate memorials and either remove or rename them. 

The military has perhaps the most diverse workforce in the country. That is something to be proud of. Yet we must ensure that no one who volunteers to protect America works in a place named for someone who committed treason to protect slavery. Changing who we honor will not end racism in one fell swoop, but it’s not a bad place to start.

Read the entire piece at the American Historical Association blog Perspectives Daily.

In Fox News interview, Trump suggests it is possible he has done more for African Americans than Lincoln. TRANSCRIPT

Here is Trump’s interview with Fox News journalist Harris Faulkner:

This rough transcript is taken off the video above. My annotations are in purple.

Faulkner: Mr. President, with all that’s happened in the last couple of weeks I feel like we are at one of those historical moments where future generations will look back and they’ll decide who we were. Are you the president to unite all of us, given everything that’s happening right now.?

Trump: Well I certainly think so and I certainly hope so. The relationships we have are incredible. The spirit of this country and especially considering what happened. We had out of nowhere a plague come in from China–it just came in. And it came all over the world. It went all over the world. You look at 186 countries and they were devastated. And we were certainly hit very hard. Some were hit harder than us, relatively. But we were hit very very hard. And now we are making our comeback.  NOTE: Trump continually uses COVID-19 as an excuse for his failed presidency.  He believes everything was going well until we got hit by the “plague.” He sees the coronavirus as an unfortunate parenthesis in what was, and will continue to be, one of the greatest presidencies in American history. In reality, COVID-19 and his response to the social unrest in the wake of the killing of George Floyd will actually define his presidency. This is the time when people needed a president. Sadly, we did not have one.

And then on top of it we had the riots, which were unnecessary to the extent they were. If the governors and mayors would have taken a stronger action I think the riots would have been–you could call them protesters, you could call them riots, there were different nights, different things. In Minneapolis they went numerous nights and I said “you got to get the [National] Guard in there. We got the Guard in there and it all stopped. It could have done that earlier. NOTE: The protests continue to take place.

No you look at what’s going on–I mean you could look at couple of places that are in such great shape–but then you look at Seattle, what’s that all about? How did they allow that to happen? That’s just a bad philosophy.

So I think it’s incredible where we are and what we’ve done considering where we came from. We were riding high. We had the greatest economy in history. We had the greatest employment numbers in history, including black, African American. And if you look at the African American numbers they were incredible–best they’ve ever been. Spanish. If you’d look at Hispanic and Asian numbers, women numbers, everybody. And then we got hit with this plague. This horrible plague. And it was devastating for many ways, including the lives that were lost. That can’t be never be regained. Economics we’re gonna economically we gonna be great. Next year we’re gonna have a fantastic year. I think we’re gonna have a fantastic third quarter. But you can never replace the lives.

Faulkner: I want to talk with you about where we are just in terms of the black community, people of color. I hear you use the word “rioter” and I understand, we covered it on Fox News, I covered much of that at night as it was bursting a couple of Saturday nights ago. The looting. And it was heart-breaking to see businesses, small businesses, which we know employ more than 66% of people in America.

Trump: Devastating.

Faulkner: It was. At the same time you had peaceful protesters. And they were hurting. And I know from your team you watched that eight minutes and forty-six seconds of George Floyd.

Trump: I did.

Faulkner: And Mr. President, your response to that is different than a person of color. And I’m a Mom. When he called-out “Mom” on that tape, it’s a heart punch. So I’m curious from you what do you think the protesters–not the looters and the rioters, we’re intelligent enough to know the difference in our country right–what do you think they want? What do you think they need right now? From you? NOTE: As you will see in the next paragraph, Faulkner asked Trump a question that he is incapable of answering. 

Trump: So I think you had protesters for different reasons. And then you had protesting also because they just didn’t know. I’ve watched. I’ve watched them very closely. ‘Why are you here?’ And they really weren’t able to say. But they were there, for no reason perhaps. But a lot of them really were there because they’re following the crowd. A lot of them were there because what we witnessed was a terrible thing. What we saw was a terrible thing. And we’ve seen it over the years. This was one horrible example, but you’ve seen other terrible examples. You know that, better than anybody would know it. And I know it. I’ve seen it too. I’ve seen it before I was president and during the presidency. NOTE: Trump continues to blur the difference between rioters and peaceful protesters despite the fact that Faulkner made it clear in her question that “intelligent” people know the difference. He fails to answer her question about what the African-American community needs from him right now. 

Faulkner: What do you say to them? NOTE: Faulkner won’t let him off the hook on this one.

Trump: I think it’s a shame. I think it’s a disgrace. And it’s gotta stop. At the same time, you also know that we have incredible people in law enforcement and we have to cherish them and take care of them and we can’t let something like this where you have a bad apple go out and destroy the image of a whole, of millions of people who take really good care of us. And then you have a movement where they say, “let’s not have a police department.” And you say where are these people coming from. NOTE: Trump gives lip service to George Floyd’s death, but he never says his name. In fact, he never says his name during the entire interview. And then he pivots to law enforcement.  It is worth noting that virtually no one wants to do away with police departments. But Trump needs his base to believe this. It will be a major talking point for the November election. Trump also repeats his “bad apple” approach to racism. In other words, this is not about systemic racism. It is only about a few bad cops.

Faulkner: So do you think you’re perhaps closer to where the nation might have been right now with police reform? You’ve got both sides talking. You’ve got the third most powerful person in the House, James Clyburn, saying “no” to defunding police. We need reform. NOTE:  Here is Clyburn.

Trump: “That’s a big step when he says “no” because everyone understands that. And I don’t know, is that just a phrase to break things up? NOTE: Again, Trump tries to pivot back to his campaign strategy here by suggesting that Clyburn really wants to dump police departments. As you see in her follow-up question, Faulkner won’t let that happen.

Faulkner: No, because he was talking about some of the things that would be in a bipartisan bill. I mean I can’t put words in his mouth, I can only tell you what he said.

Trump: No, I’m not talking about him, I’m saying when they talk about police, when they actually talk about beyond defunding, they actually go all out. Because defunding to a lot of people means break-up the police forces and either that or don’t give them any money so essentially their breaking-up.

Faulkner: What do you want to see? What is police reform to you?

Trump: I want to see really compassionate, but strong law enforcement, police force, but law enforcement. NOTE: In other words, Trump does not have any real plan.

Faulkner: Say “no” to choke-holds?

Trump: I don’t like choke-holds. Now I will say this. As someone who, you know, you grow-up and you wrestle and you fight or you see what happens, sometimes if you’re alone and you’re fighting someone whose tough, and you get somebody in a choke-hold, what are you going to do say “Oh, I don’t” and its a real bad person and you know that and they do exist, I mean we have some real bad people. You saw that during the last couple of weeks. You saw some very good people protesting, but you saw some bad people also. And you get someone in a choke-hold and what are you going to do now, let go and say “let’s start all over again, I’m not allowed you to have you in a choke-hold?” It’s a tough situation. Now if you have two people in the case that we’re talking about, you had four people. And two of them I guess pretty much started. It’s a very, very tricky situation. So the choke-hold thing is good to talk about because off-the-cuff it would sound like “absolutely,” but if you’re thinking about it, then you realize maybe there is a bad fight and the officer gets somebody in a position that’s a very tough position.

Faulkner: So say it’s a sliding scale depending on what the circumstances are. Do you want to be in that conversation? Are you in that conversation?

Trump: I really am. And I think the concept of choke-holds sounds so innocent, so perfect, and then you realize if its a one-on-one, now if it’s two-on-one then it’s a little bit of a different story depending, depending on the toughness and strength. You know we’re talking about toughness and strength. We are talking, there’s a physical think here also. But if a police officer is in a bad scuffle and he’s got somebody in a choke-hold

Faulkner: Well, if it’s a one-on-one fight for the life.

Trump: Yeah. And that does happen. That does happen. So you have to be careful. With that being said, it would be I think a very good thing that generally speaking it should be ended. NOTE: Trump could care less about choke-holds. This is a political dance. Choke-holds are “perfect.” It’s about “toughness and strength.” “Generally speaking it should be ended.” Just another word salad.

Faulkner: That’s interesting. Do you want that to be a top-down federal, or should it be at the local level?

Trump: Well it could be at the local level.

Faulkner: Because that’s the question right now as Congress goes back and forth too.

Trump: It could be local level and in some cases it will be local level. But I think we can certainly make recommendations and they could be very strong recommendations.

Faulkner: When you look at me and I’m Harris on TV, but I’m a black woman. I’m a Mom. And you know, when, and you’ve talked about it but we haven’t seen you come out and be that consoler in this instance. And the tweets. ‘When the looting starts, the shooting starts.’ Why those words?

Trump: So, that’s an expression I’ve heard over the years.

Faulkner: Do you know where it comes from?

Trump: I think Philadelphia, the mayor of Philadelphia

Faulkner: It comes from 1967. I was about eighteen months old at the time. Everybody’s shooting wiki because they probably got it wrong. But it was from the chief of police in Miami. He was cracking-down. And he meant what he said. And he said “I don’t even care if it makes it look like brutality, I’m gonna crack down.” When the looting starts the shooting starts. NOTE: See our post on this history here.

Trump: Yeah.

Faulkner: That frightened a lot of people when you tweeted that.

Trump: It also comes from a very tough mayor, who might have been police commissioner at the time, but I think mayor of Philadelphia named Frank Rizzo. And he had an expression like that. But I’ve heard it many times, I think it’s been used many times. It means two things. Very different things. One is if there is looting there is probably gonna be shooting and that’s not a threat, that’s really just a fact because that’s what happens. And the other is, if there’s looting there’s going to be shooting. Their very different meanings.

Faulkner: How interesting?

Trump: No, there’s very different meanings.

Faulkner: Do you think most people see it that way?

Trump: I think they see it both ways. No, I’ve had it viewed both ways. I think it’s meant both ways. Not by the same person. But when the looting starts it often times means their is going to be shooting, there’s going to be death, there’s going to be killing and its a bad thing. And it’s also used as a threat. It’s used both ways. But if you think about it, look at what happened, how people were devastated with the looting. Look at what happened. NOTE: Read Trump’s last three paragraphs aloud. They make no sense. We all know what Trump meant by that tweet. So does he. 

Faulkner: Your rally in Oklahoma is set for June 19th. Was that on purpose?

Trump: No, but I know exactly what you’re going to say.

Faulkner: I’m just asking.

Trump: Think about it.

Faulkner: I’ve not got anything to say.

Trump: Think about is as a celebration. My rally is a celebration. We’re going to Oklahoma and if you think about it relative to your question think about it as a celebration. Don’t think about it as an inconvenience. Think about this as a celebration.

Faulkner: Oh, no, no, no. It’s on the day of African-American emancipation.

Trump: The fact that I’m having a rally on that day, you can really think about that very positively as a celebration. Cause a rally to me is a celebration. It’s gonna be a celebration and its an interesting date. It wasn’t done for that reason but its an interesting date. But it’s a celebration. NOTE: Someone must have told Trump to pitch his Tulsa rally as a “celebration.” He uses the word eight times in about a minute or two.  Notice that Trump never explains what will be celebrated at the rally. An “interesting date?” That’s all he has to say about Juneteenth? If scheduling the rally on Juneteenth was a mistake (a mistake which reveals the racial insensitivity of the Trump presidency), his answer to this question might provide a wonderful opportunity to apologize, admit it was a mistake, and perhaps say something about the meaning of this day for the African-American community. He does not of this. Since this interview aired, Trump has moved the rally to June 20.

Faulkner: Talk to me about police reform. You call yourself the “law and order president.” What does that mean?

Trump: We are going to do lots of, I think, good things. We also have to keep our police and our law enforcement strong. They have to do it right. They have to be trained in a proper manner. They to do it right. Again, the sad thing is that they are very professional. But when you see an event like that with the more than eight minutes of horror–that eight minutes of horror, it’s a disgrace–then people are saying “are all police like that?” They don’t know. Maybe they don’t think about it that much. It doesn’t make any difference. The fact is they start saying ‘well, police are like that.’ Police aren’t like that. NOTE: When he says he is a law and order president he means this.

Faulkner: Can the “law and order president” also be the “consoler-in-chief?”

Trump: Yes. I think so. I think the “law and order president” can keep a situation like Seattle from ever happening. It should never happen. What happened in Seattle, what happened in Minneapolis should never happen.

Faulkner: You had some harsh words to say about Seattle’s mayor. Why?

Trump: Because I saw her break down. I saw her leave. I saw her have absolutely no control. And I saw her make a lot of bad decisions including “don’t do anything that’s going to affect anybody.” Toughness sometimes is the most compassionate. Because people are getting badly hurt. Look at what happened in Minneapolis where they left the precinct. The city was a great place. I’ve been there many times. It’s a great place.

Faulkner: Can you talk about the black police officer who was killed?

Trump: By being compassionate, she thought she was being compassionate or in the case of Minneapolis the young gentleman, the mayor, thought he was being compassionate. I mean what was that all about? And look at the damage and the travesty and the small business and the death. Look at what happened. So by being soft and weak you end-up not being compassionate. It ends-up being a very dangerous situation. NOTE: Trump does not understand the meaning of “consolation” or “compassion.”

Faulkner: I want to talk with you about revitalization in black communities. The focus of the opportunity zones that you put into place, I think it was late 2017.

Trump: Right, Tim Scott.

Faulkner: Senator Tim Scott. How does all that fit into talking with the protesters and people right now wanting for the black community, and not just black, but communities of color, people who are disadvantaged in general. I mean the economy is a great unifier right?

Trump: I think I’ve done more for the black community than any other president. And let’s take a pass on Abraham Lincoln, because he did good, although it’s always questionable, you know in other words the end result. NOTE: Trump’s narcissism is on display here. He cannot admit that Lincoln was a better president. Faulkner calls him out on it:

Faulkner: Well, we are free Mr. President. He did pretty well.

Trump: But we are free. You understand what I meant. So I’m gonna take a pass on Abe, Honest Abe as we call him.

Faulkner: But you say you’ve done more than anybody.

Trump: Well, look. Criminal justice reform, nobody else could have done it. I did it. I didn’t get a lot of notoriety, in fact the people I did it for then go on television and thank everybody but me and they needed me to get it done and I got it done and I got five or six Republican senators who had no interest in getting it done and they were great and got it done. We did that. The historically black colleges and universities were not funded, the weren’t funded. I got them funded on a long-term basis and took care of, I became friendly, every year for three years, you know the story, they would the heads, the deans, the presidents of the universities and colleges would come up. I got to know them. Forty-four or so people would come up to the Oval Office. First year was normal. I said “alright, let’s do it.” Second year I said, “why you back again?” Third year I said, “why are you here?” They said because for many years we’ve had to come back here every single year. One of them, great people, said “we have to beg for money.” I said, “you shouldn’t be begging, you should be back at your colleges or universities and you should be teaching and doing the job.” I got them long-term money. More than they had. Much more than they had. And I got it permanent. They don’t have to come back into Washington D.C. I said “the only bad part is I won’t see you again, maybe.” It was true. There were like forty-four guys, they were great people. But I took care of that. Opportunity zones, I did that. Prison reform. I mean I’ve done more, I mean, Harris, honestly, I’ve done more. NOTE: Trump’s record with historically black colleges has been mixed.

Faulkner: Were those hit in some of the rioting? Those cities? Those opportunity zones?

Trump: The opportunity zones where vast amounts of money are going into areas that never got money. They’re investing. The people that put the money have tax advantages or they get certain advantages otherwise their not gonna put-up their money. And it affects tremendously the employment in areas that were absolutely dead or dying.

Faulkner: So they should bounce back faster, either from the pandemic or from this latest round of destruction.

Trump: They were bouncing back really well and then we got the plague. OK. But they’ll be. And will get this straightened out with what this is now. You can never lose, we can never gain back all of those lives that were lost. Outside of that, we’re going to be in very, very strong shape. We have tremendous stimulus. We have a lot of things happening.

Faulkner:  I was gonna toggle right then to former commander in Louisville I believe Dorn, David Dorn.

Trump: Yes, I called his wife last night.

Faulkner: You talked with Anne Marie?

Trump: Yes.

Faulkner: It didn’t get a lot of coverage. We talked about it on both my shows on Fox. But his murder was streamed live on Facebook. African-American cop. These have been a really tough couple of weeks. And you have lost people of color on both sides of what I guess would be termed as a fight, although I think we’re all in this together, and we’ve got to get to a better place.

Trump: With Chief Dorn, so I spoke to his wife. She was devastated. Sounds just like a great woman. But did you see all the people that went to that funeral. It was incredible. So the people get it. But whatever it is, you’ll have to explain this one to me, it wasn’t covered. This was an African American, top guy, many years on the force. NOTE: Dorn’s death was covered by CNN, MSNBC, NBC, CBS, ABCThe New York Times, the Associated Press, and The Washington Post.

Faulkner: Killed by looters, streamed live on Facebook.

Trump: Killed by looters. And he wasn’t being aggressive either. He was just

Faulkner: He was defending his friend’s pawn shop.

Trump: He was a very professional guy. And he was killed. And why didn’t that get any air time? And yet the people got it, because when you looked at what, I don’t know if you got to see that, the lines were around the block. It was a beautiful thing to say.

Faulkner: Oh yeah. The visitation on Monday and the funeral the next. Absolutely. 6100 people.

Trump: But no, he was a great gentleman. I just say this, if there were more toughness you wouldn’t have the kind of devastation that you had in Minneapolis and Seattle. I mean let’s see what’s going-on in Seattle, but I will tell you if they don’t straighten that situation out, we’re gonna straighten it out.

Faulkner: And what do you mean by that? I don’t know if you caught it, but governor Cuomo was so upset with Mayor DeBlasio of New York he said “I’m gonna displace him.” I don’t really know how that would work, but, I mean, is that what you mean in Seattle?

Trump: What I mean is very simple. We’re not gonna let Seattle be occupied by anarchists. And I’m not calling them protesters

Faulkner: Have you talked to the mayor?

Trump: No, but I got to see a performance that I’ve never seen before. You think he was  weak person in Minneapolis, the woman, I don’t know, have she ever done this before.

Faulkner: In Seattle?

Trump: Oh, it’s pathetic. No, no. We’re not going to let this happen in Seattle. If we have to go in, we’re going to go in. The governor’s either gonna do it, let the governor do it, he’s got great National Guard troops, he can do it. But one way or the other it’s gonna get done. These people are not gonna occupy a major portion of a great city. They’re not gonna do it. And they can solve that problem very easily.

Faulkner: General Milley, Joint Chiefs of Staff, I don’t know how much you knew what he was going to say today before he spoke. But he says he regrets having been there [at Trump’s photo-op on June 1]. He apologized having been there on the Lafayette Square with you for the picture. The infamous picture as you walked to the church and held the Bible.

Trump: I think it was a beautiful picture. And I tell you I think Christians think it was a beautiful picture.  NOTE: I commented on this here. I also spoke to The Guardian and Australian public radio about it. Not all Christians thought it was a beautiful picture.

Faulkner: But why do you think you’re hearing from General Miller, from Secretary of Defense Esper, and not why you think you are, but do you think it’s significant?

Trump: No. I don’t think so. No, if that’s the way they feel I think that’s fine. I have good relationships with the military. I’ve rebuilt our military. I spent two and a half trillion dollars, nobody else did. When we took it over from President Obama, and Biden, the military was a joke. The military was depleted. NOTE: Learn more about how the military brass responded to his photo-op here and here. Trump is obviously angry about this. He pivots to his general support for the military.

Faulkner: I have one last question. It has to do with Joe Biden. Did you hear what he said today?

Trump: No, I didn’t.

Faulkner: OK. He said (sarcastically laughing) that he believes you will steal the election and if you don’t win he thinks that military will escort you from the White House. NOTE: Faulkner threw Trump a lot of softballs in this interview. Her sarcastic chuckle as she asks this question explains why many believe that Fox News is state television.

Trump: Look. Joe’s not all there. Everybody knows it. And it’s sad when you look at it and you see it, you see it for yourself. He’s created his own sanctuary city in the basement of wherever he is and he doesn’t come out. And certainly if I don’t win, I don’t win. I mean you know, go on and do other things. I think it would be a very sad day for our country. NOTE: First, expect more of these attacks on Biden in the coming months. Second, I don’t believe Trump will go peacefully.

How the White House Responded to the Call to Change the Names of Military Bases

Fort Bragg

We covered this here. The U.S. Army is willing to discuss renaming Fort Bragg, one of ten bases named after Confederate military leaders.

Donald Trump, the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, refuses to consider the change:

“Winning, Victory, and Freedom?” These bases are named after men who fought against their country and lost.

Trump’s use of the word “heritage” here is revealing. When people use the word “heritage” they are often talking more about the present than the past. The purpose of “heritage,” writes historian David Lowenthal, is to “domesticate the past” so that it can be enlisted “for present causes.” It is a way of approaching the past that is fundamentally different than the discipline of history. History explores and explains the past in all its fullness and complexity. Heritage calls attention to the past to make a political point. Since the purpose of heritage is to cultivate a sense of collective or national identity, it is rarely concerned with nuance, paradox, or complexity. As Lowenthal writes, devotion to heritage is a “spiritual calling”–it answers needs for ritual devotions.

This, of course, is why so many people in the South love to talk about their “heritage.” Confederate heritage operates through a series of rituals–the celebration of Confederate heroes, the waving of the Confederate flag, and glorification of white supremacy.

The renaming of these bases does not take anything away from the soldiers who fought our World Wars. Like the Bible photo-op at St. John’s Church, this is just another Trump appeal to his white base in an election year. And he has played this monument card before. Let’s remember when Trump tried to defend Confederate monuments in the wake of the Charlottesville race riots.

And then Trump’s press secretary Kayleigh McEnany tries to explain:

McEnany reads Trump’s tweet and says “we spent some time working on that.” So this was not an off-the-cuff tweet from Trump, it was a premeditated statement. Trump, McEnany, and the rest of the staff worked hard to compose it.

At the 10:30 mark, McEnany says:

He [Trump] does stand against the renaming of our forts, these great American fortresses where literally some of these men and women who lost their lives–the went out to Europe and Afghanistan and Iraq, and all across this world to win world wars on behalf of freedom. A lot of times, the very last place they saw was one of these forts. And to suggest that these forts were somehow inherently racist and their names need to be changed is a complete disrespect to the men and women who the last bit of American land they saw before they want over seas and lost their lives were these forts.

This is crazy. No one is saying to get rid of these forts. It is nonsensical to connect this kind of name change with “the very last place” a soldier saw before they went off to war. We can begin by mentioning that many of these soldiers sent to fight in the wars McEnany lists above were African Americans. I am sure many of their families are thrilled about the proposed name changes.

She picks it up again at the 23:30 mark and spins it into an attack on Joe Biden.

What would the late Ravi Zacharias think about this sophistry? What would the man most associated with the cross hanging from McEnany’s neck think about this?

I have noticed a new kind of public figure has emerged during the age of Trump, but I am sure some of my historian friends will tell me that this kind of person has been around for a long time. These are men and women who sound articulate, but are not really making any sense.

David Petraeus: “It is time to remove the names of traitors like Benning and Bragg from our country’s most important military installations”

Fort Bragg

David Petraeus is a retired U.S. Army general and former CIA director. He holds a Ph.D in international relations from Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School.

Here is a taste of his piece at The Atlantic:

As I have watched Confederate monuments being removed by state and local governments, and sometimes by the forceful will of the American people, the fact that 10 U.S. Army installations are named for Confederate officers has weighed on me. That number includes the Army’s largest base, one very special to many in uniform: Fort Bragg, in North Carolina. The highway sign for Bragg proclaims it home of the airborne and special operations forces. I had three assignments there during my career. Soldiers stationed at Bragg are rightly proud to serve in its elite units. Some call it “the Center of the Military Universe,” “the Mother Ship,” or even “Hallowed Ground.” But Braxton Bragg—the general for whom the base was named—served in the Confederate States Army.

Read the rest here.

Breen: “George Washington Would Hate Trump’s July 4 Parade”

Trump 4th

T.H. Breen brings the thunder:

President Trump has invited the American people to what he claims will be the biggest and best Fourth of July celebration in the nation’s history. Influenced by the huge nationalist displays he witnessed in Europe, Mr. Trump promises “a really great parade to show our military strength.” And he will treat the country to a “major fireworks display, entertainment and an address by your favorite President, me!”

All Americans should be appalled. Even during an era of extreme hyperbole, the unabashed narcissism driving the parade plans is astonishing. It runs counter to the explicit aims and faith of the ordinary Americans who founded the United States.

The focus on a single leader — on the construction of a cult of personality — would have incensed the men and women who sacrificed so much to create a new nation. As Capt. Joseph Bloomfield explained to a company of New Jersey troops preparing to fight in the Revolutionary War, the American states had “entered a new era of politics.” He warned the soldiers to be on guard against the rise of an “aspiring Demagogue, possessed of popular talents and shining qualities, a Julius Caesar, or an Oliver Cromwell” who “will lay violent hands on the government and sacrifice the liberties of his country.”

At a moment when exclusionary forms of national identity are on the rise, we should remember that the ordinary people who suffered so much during a long war believed that their sacrifice legitimated a system of government in which ordinary people like themselves had a meaningful voice. There would be no more doffing the cap to noblemen. No more claims to special privilege. In the independent republic all citizens would be equal under the law.

When Weapons of War Become Idols: How Christians Should Respond to Donald Trump’s Military Parade

 

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This guest post comes from my friend Byron Borger, proprietor of Hearts & Minds Bookstore in Dallastown, PA.  If you like Byron’s post (or even if you don’t) head over to the Hearts & Minds website and buy a few books from him.

Zechariah 4:6 may not be on most people’s minds on the 4th of July, but it has long been an important verse for me. Perhaps more firmly, now, we should invoke the law and the prophets who warn against Moloch, rebuking any and all who use weapons of mass destruction. (Those who stand in the serious just war tradition, the rational rubric helping discern if any given war and battle strategy is ethically justifiable will surely agree. Mass killing is always wrong.) This haughty Trump parade, in my view, is an abomination; prideful, showing our trust in the weapons of war. We want these technologies to save us. We will do anything, as long as we think they make us safe. It is what the Bible calls idolatry.

Trusting the weapons of war has always been (along with the power of money) a chief idol in the Bible. It’s why young King David said that the point of the famous Goliath story was “this shows that the Lord does not save with sword and shield.” (1 Samuel 17:47.) When ancient Israel trusted their military might or made alliances with pagan nations, they lost! If you know your Bible, you know it is true. (On the other hand just think of the Gideon story — God decreases the number of soldiers until they couldn’t possibly win through military strength. How about Gideon as head of the Department of Defense? Or maybe the Apostle Paul who said in Romans 12 if “if your enemy is hungry, feed him.”)

The most lethal military advancement in the time of the 8th century BC Hebrew prophets was the horse-drawn chariot (apparently invented by the Assyrians) and God forbade Israel from using it. Micah 1:13 says “it was the beginning of sin for you” which is an indication that their militaristic idol worship started in Laschish where they stockpiled these advanced weapons. Most serious Christians have read Psalm 20:7 and Psalm 44:6 and know we dare not trust our weapons.

(I would suggest that the famous “Be still and know that I am God” [Psalm 46:10] might actually be a call to resist making weapons. The King James translation gets it right, translating it as “cease striving.” In the context of the poem about international geo-politics, it is saying to stop an arms race — that is, cease striving to keep up with your global enemies. It seems not to be about private spirituality — it’s a passage more for a peace protest sign than a contemplative retreat. But I digress.)

One does not have to be a complete Christ-like pacifist (committed to nonviolence a la 1 Peter 2:21) to agree that we must never turn our nation’s military into an idol. Given our vast, vast tax expenditures going to the Pentagon (and to those making our weapons) and the hubris with which we usually talk about our military might, it surely is such. Both mainstream parties are guilty; nobody has heeded the warning of General Dwight D. Eisenhower when he warned about the “military industrial complex.” This costly parade is just making evident what our nation stands on and for. In a way, it’s a good thing, honoring the idols of war (what Leviticus calls “the gods of metal”?) so extravagantly. Even if we don’t bow down, it’s clear. Where are the “gospel-centered” teachers who are so helpful in rooting out personal idols? The just-war theorists? Those who critique the “cultural liturgies.” What about this? How far is too far?

“The Strategic Implications of American Millennialism”

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After reading this post at The Way of Improvement Leads Home, a friend sent me Major Brian L. Stuckert‘s 2008 study of the impact of dispensationalism on American foreign policy.  The paper was written as part of Stuckert’s education at the School of Advanced Military Studies at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

The paper is over seventy pages long and does a nice job of explaining dispensationalism to a military audience.  Stuckert’s “conclusions and recommendations” for the U.S. Army are worth considering:

“The enemy is a spiritual enemy. It’s called the principality of darkness. We, ladies and gentlemen, are in a spiritual battle, not a physical battle. Oh, we’ve got soldiers fighting on the battlefields, we’ve got sailors, marines, airmen, coast guardsmen out there fighting against a physical enemy. But the battle this nation is in is a spiritual battle, it’s a battle for our soul. And the enemy is a guy called Satan – Satan wants to destroy this nation. He wants to destroy us as a nation and he wants to destroy us as a Christian army.” – U.S. Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, Lieutenant General Boykin, 2003

A 2003 survey found that more than two-thirds of evangelical leaders view Islam as a religion of violence bent on world domination.181 Following the events of September 11, 2001, many Christian opinion leaders began to speak of President Bush’s election and policies as “divinely inspired.” This attitude can present challenges to rational decision making processes. While some political commentators have theorized that the administration’s unwillingness to admit errors is the result of arrogance or political calculation, it is more likely that the administration believes they are doing the will of God and will be vindicated in the end. In other words, intelligence or analysis that seems to support invasions or other administration policies are interpreted as an affirmation of God’s will, while information is to the contrary is viewed with suspicion – perhaps an effort by Satan to deceive or mislead.

As President Carter explained to former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, what people believe as a matter of religion, they will do as a matter of public policy.185 There is a tendency on the part of Americans to view foreign policy and international affairs as a “clash of moral opposites.” This tendency may make it difficult for U.S. policy makers and strategists to perceive and act upon subtleties that may lie outside our conceptions of moral absolutes. Military leaders have the difficult task translating this religiously tinged policy into successful strategy and operations. War is primarily about politics. While geography and technology play a role, in order to be successful military leaders must be able to see the political goals as clearly as possible. Because of the influence of pre-millennialism, it can be difficult for military leaders to see themselves and their government accurately and state policy goals objectively.

Because religion in America directly impacts policy, military leaders and planners must learn to recognize the tenets and implications of American millennial thought. Millennialism has always been a feature of the American culture and has shaped not only the objectives of U.S. government policy, but also the way in which we interpret the words and actions of other actors on the international stage. Millennial ideas contribute to a common American understanding of international relations that guide our thinking regardless of individual religious or political affiliation. Millennialism has great explanatory value, significant policy implications, and creates potential vulnerabilities that adversaries may exploit. By gaining insight into and embracing intellectual honesty where our own prejudices and proclivities are concerned, we can greatly improve the quality and clarity of our decision-making.

Pessimism and paranoia are two possible results of pre-millennial influence. In the Capstone Concept for Joint Operations, the Joint Staff describes the near-term future as one characterized by “a pervasive sense of global insecurity.”188 There are actually many reasons to trend toward optimism. The U.S. military has no rival and our power is truly global in nature. U.S. military spending always exceeds that of the next several major nations combined. The U.S. military regularly enjoys a position of leadership on the international stage and effectively uses military power to intervene in the affairs of other states. Decision makers should guard against unwarranted pessimism. We should consider whether a contemplated decision or policy is either overly optimistic or pessimistic. Dispensational pre-millennialism typically causes a predisposition toward pessimism in world affairs and a general worsening of international relations. A pre millennial reading of Bible prophecy paints a dismal picture of a world disintegrating toward a cataclysmic end where we are forced to confront the wrath and judgment of God. Assumptions and plans based on this worldview will be less than ideal. 

In the same manner that we so assiduously study the culture and thinking of others,
potential adversaries may study us, to include the ramifications of millennial thought, and gain significant advantages. Millennial thought and its policy implications may create strategic transparency that affords adversaries an advantage in decision-making. In other words, by studying the tenets and predictions of dispensational pre millennialism, one could, to some extent, predict U.S. government actions and reactions. This would certainly prove more useful in areas that figure prominently in dispensational pre-millennialist eschatology, such as Israel. An extension of this strategic transparency might include an ability to provoke or manipulate American policy and subsequent action. With or without the efforts of adversaries, American millennialism may increase the fragility of or even disrupt coalitions. Finally, adversaries could easily transform an understanding American pre-millennialism into a highly effective set of information operations themes and messages or psychological operations efforts to achieve a variety of results with American leadership or the population at large. By recognizing these potential vulnerabilities, American strategists can take action now to mitigate the effects.

Based on what we know about the effect millennialism has on our thinking, we may incorporate additional considerations into policy formulation and evaluation to assist ourselves in the identification of defects, diminished objectivity or unwarranted biases. As a result of millenarian influences on our culture, most Americans think as absolutists. A proclivity for clear differentiations between good, evil, right, and wrong do not always serve us well in foreign relations or security policy. Policy makers must strive to honestly confront their own cognitive filters and the prejudices associated with various international organizations and actors vis-à-vis pre-millennialism. We must come to more fully understand the background of our thinking about the U.N., the E.U., the World Trade Organization, Russia, China and Israel. We must ask similar questions about natural events such as earthquakes or disease. An ability to consider these potential influences upon our thinking may greatly enhance objectivity.

The inevitability of millennial peace through redemptive violence and an exceptional role for America have been and continue to be powerful themes running throughout the security and foreign policies of the U.S.191 Official U.S. government policy expresses these themes in a number of ways from the National seal that reads Novus Ordo Seclorum – the New Order for the Ages – or the nuclear intercontinental ballistic missile known as the Peacekeeper. Whether Americans seek to subdue the continent to realize their Manifest Destiny, conquer the Soviet Evil Empire or rid the world of Saddam Hussein, millennialism imparts an unusual degree of certainty and fortitude in the face of difficult situations. Judis points out that, for the same reasons, millennialism is usually “at odds with the empirical method that goes into appraising reality, based on a determination of means and ends.”192 As demonstrated by American history, millennialism has predisposed us toward stark absolutes, overly simplified dichotomies and a preference for revolutionary or cataclysmic change as opposed to gradual processes. In other words, American strategists tend to rely too much on broad generalizations, often incorrectly cast in terms of ‘good’ and ‘evil,’ and seek the fastest resolution to any conflict rather than the most thoughtful or patient one.

Read Stuckert’s entire monograph here.

Court Evangelicals Were Behind Trump’s Decision To Ban Transgender People From The Military

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Emily McFarlan Miller reports at Religion News Service:

President Donald Trump’s announcement on Twitter that he was banning transgender people from serving in the military seemed spontaneous and reportedly caught some administration officials and congressional leaders by surprise.

But evangelical Christian leaders who informally advise the president discussed reversing the year-old policy at the White House two weeks ago, according to a tweet by David Brody of CBN (Christian Broadcasting Network) News.

Read the rest here.

Andrew Bacevich Weighs-In on Trump’s Appointment of Generals to His Cabinet

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Andrew Bacevich

Andrew Bacevich is an historian of international relations, security studies, and military history.  He is a former Colonel in the United States Army and he is an emeritus professor at Boston University.  He is also a prolific writer and, in my opinion, one of the country’s leading public intellectuals.

Bacevich is troubled by Donald Trump’s decision to appoint generals to high-ranking cabinet positions.  Here is a taste of his recent piece at Commonweal: “American Junta.”

First, in contrast to, say, Marshall or Eisenhower, this latest crop of generals to occupy the upper rungs of the national security apparatus includes no one who has actually won a war. True, they have gained vast experience in the management of armed conflict, as their stacks of campaign ribbons and personal decorations testify. But if the ultimate measure of generalship is victory, they have come up short. As Trump himself once remarked, they haven’t “done the job.” So we may wonder what exactly qualifies these particular generals for the various offices to which they are about to lay claim.  

Second, and more importantly, even as he surrounds himself with generals, Trump himself—in contrast to the several presidents mentioned above—gives little evidence of possessing even a rudimentary grasp of the precepts and practices that govern the American civil-military tradition.

That tradition rests on two pillars. The first is the principle of civilian control, which the commander-in-chief asserts. The second is the military professional ethic, to which members of the officer corps subscribe. Yet here too, the president has a role to play, by respecting and therefore helping to sustain the code of “Duty, Honor, Country.”

Adherence to principle and ethic are necessarily imperfect. Some amount of tension between the two is inevitable. But together, they apportion authority and responsibility, establish boundaries, and define distinct but complementary spheres of action. In so doing, they function as twin sentinels guarding against the possibility of the nation with the world’s most powerful military succumbing to praetorian rule.

Whether Trump actually understands the American civil-military compact is an open question.  So too is his willingness to abide by its provisions. Indeed, to judge by statements he made during the presidential campaign, Trump is either ignorant of established practice or simply disdains it.

Read the entire piece here.

Why Joyce Goldberg Can No Longer Teach U.S. Military History

Goldberg teaches United States military history at the University of Texas at Arlington.  She has been teaching this subject for nearly 30 years, but she recently told her department chair that she is no longer willing to teach the class.

More than half of the students who take her class are either “ROTC students, members of the National Guard, students who would soon enlist, retired ‘lifers’ veterans from the first Gulf War, veterans of one or several recent overseas deployments, or loved ones of service people.” Her course stops at Vietnam, but she has found that students tend to use her class to “work through personal issues originating in more recent conflicts.”  Here is a taste of her essay from The Chronicle of Higher Education.  (HT: Ralph Luker).

Whether the day’s discussion centered on the 17th-century European heritage of the American military, or the managerial revolution of the Progressive Era, it became disturbingly evident that many students could only consider historical questions through the lens of their own personal experiences. I do not blame them one bit, and occasionally their personal insights were relevant. But the emotional needs of those students unrelentingly pushed the class in a direction I was not comfortable with as a historian.

As the semester progressed, it became increasingly clear just how unprepared universities are to deal with the needs of these student veterans or their relatives. As a historian, my pedagogical goals focus on honing cognitive skills through the tool of history. These student veterans and their loved ones were seeking something my class could never provide and that I was not trained to offer.

One student veteran wrote me a harsh e-mail because an assigned book refuted the popular idea that colonial militias defeated their European adversaries by adopting Indian tactics of irregular warfare, especially sniping. That could not be true, the student angrily insisted, because of his own success as an Army sniper.

A Response to a Blog Comment for the Ages!

Over at Cliopatria, Chris Bray has had enough with a commentator named David Silbey. 

Earlier today Bray wrote a post criticizing attempts to compare mandatory health care to early republican laws mandating that citizens join the militia.  In this particular case, Bray was challenging the thesis of Jack Belkin’s post on civic humanism, a post we blogged about a few hours ago at The Way of Improvement Leads Home.

And then the fireworks started. 

Here is Bray’s post.

Here is Silbey’s comment to Bray’s post.

And here is Bray’s response to Silbey:

David, I’m done with you. You aren’t reading. You’re not making an argument. I’ve asked you three times in three ways to clarify your argument or arguments, and you’ve refused or ignored all of those invitations. I’ve repeatedly defined my argument and my intent, and have said explicitly that I am not examining the question of constitutionality. You’re throwing out word clouds — the kind of chickenshit wordplay that academics find so impressive. It’s beyond dull.

I’ve built a discussion about the functioning of the early militia and the arguments over authority that people had at the time, and I’ve done that using historical examples (and with historiographic references). You haven’t. You’re boring.

Military Chaplains and Liberty Theological Seminary

According to this article in the St. Louis Dispatch, one out of every five Air Force chaplain candidates is enrolled in Liberty Seminary’s chaplaincy MDiv program.  Most of them are taking online courses.  Here is a taste:

Critics say that high rate of enrollment could add to an imbalance of evangelical Christians among the military’s corps of chaplains. And some even within the military have raised questions about the quality of Liberty’s program.

Liberty’s pairing of evangelical Christianity and patriotism is exemplified during Liberty’s annual Military Emphasis Week. According to the school’s website, the highlight of that week is “the patriotic convocation, occurring the Wednesday closest to Veterans Day, featuring patriotic music, veteran testimonies and an inspirational message from a Christian combat veteran.”

Liberty is not accredited by the Association of Theological Schools, the national accreditation agency for graduate-level seminaries. Instead, it is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. The Department of Defense requires only that seminaries that train chaplain candidates be listed with the American Council on Education, which is not an accrediting body.

Christians and the Military

In browsing different sites today, I ran across a letter from a female reader of Andrew Sullivan’s blog, The Daily Dish.  This reader has a masters degree in moral theology from the University of Notre Dame and has decided to become a Marine Officer.  Sullivan asks: “What if the Military Were Filled with Notre Dame Grads?”

Here are a couple of snippets of this interesting letter:

I think Just War Theory is a plausible theological way to deal with the annihilation of large swaths of humanity at the hands of others, and I cannot even vaguely justify our foray into Iraq in terms of it.  Afghanistan initially may have filled some criteria, but it certainly doesn’t any longer and hasn’t for some time.   Admittedly, I had to do some ethical contortions to justify my choice to try to enter the military.  Some were pathetic: as a woman I would never technically have a combat MOS and as such would always have some moral separation from actual killing.  Others were more honestly reasoned, but none of them were in complete harmony with Catholic doctrine—how could they be?  Ultimately, I decided that I could take responsibility both for disobeying an order I found to be immoral or for making a decision that violated the very core of my conscience. 

And…

The appeal of the military for many Catholics is obvious: we like rigor and pageantry.  We also take seriously the call to put our faith into action.  In light of our current wars, I now more than ever question the legitimacy of acting out one’s faith in military service—though I cannot bring myself to pacifism—but I think that it’s a decision best left to each individual and his or her conscience.  Mainly, I decided to join the Marines because I thought it afforded me the opportunity to make a positive impact in the world in  ways that pursing the life of an academic ethicist wouldn’t.  Ultimately, even though my job now is very different than the one I would’ve had had I managed to make it through OCS, undoubtedly I’m still in the same predicament I would have been in: hoping but unsure if what I’m doing is making the world a better place.

Will ROTC Units Keep the United States Out of War?

Writing at The Chronicle Review, Michael Nelson reviews several recent books on war and America.  I usually do not read much on war or military history, but after reading Nelson’s review I may go out an get a copy of Andrew Bacevich’s Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War or Richard Rubenstein’s Reasons to Kill: Why Americans Choose War.

Here is Nelson’s take on Rubsenstein:

Rubenstein, after pausing at the start of Reasons to Kill to puzzle over Tocqueville’s observation that Americans are “fond of peace” because it “allows every man to pursue his own little undertakings,” traces the roots of American bellicosity further back than either Bacevich or Beinart.  He cites a study showing that even in colonial times, “there was either a declared war or a conflict for 79 of the 179 years from just before the founding of Jamestown until 1785, nominally the end of the Revolution.” Choosing Your Battles: American Civil-Military Relations and the Use of Force, record 111 “militarized interstate disputes” that the United States initiated from 1812 to 1992. Rubenstein also mentions research by the political scientists Peter D. Feaver and Christopher Gelpi, who in their 2004 book

Rubenstein argues that a proclivity to war sank deep and enduring roots in American soil for two small reasons and one big one. The first small reason is the early settlement pattern that made Scots-Irish immigrants—warriors for more than six centuries in defense of their native land against the English—the dominant ethnic group in the southern frontier; the second is the “Billy Budd syndrome,” in which Americans have long been “blinded by uncritical trust in authority,” even when it leads them into unnecessary wars against countries like Mexico, Spain, and North Vietnam. The big reason is that Americans are a religious people who won’t fight unless convinced that their cause is just but who are easily persuaded that lots of causes are just. Those include “self-defense” broadly construed, an “evil enemy,” “patriotic duty,” and their “unique virtue” as “liberators and peacemakers, not selfish imperialists.”

But this is more than a review. Nelson suggests that the real answer to why America spends so much time fighting foreign wars has something to do with the expulsion of Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) units on elite college campuses.  I am not sure if he is right about this, but his argument is fascinating. Nelson explains:

First, both the volunteer forces and the ROTC expulsions turned the military’s recruiting gaze southward, to the region of the country (still rich in Scots-Irish ethnicity and culture) most supportive of the armed forces as an institution and of war as an instrument of national policy. In 1968 ROTC had 123 units in the East and 147 in the South.  Just six years later, Southern ROTC units outnumbered those in the East by 180 to 93. Alabama, with one-fourth the college population of New York City, has 10 ROTC units compared with New York’s two.  As Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates pointed out last month in a speech at Duke University, “With limited resources, the services focus their recruiting efforts on candidates where they are most likely to have success.”

Forty percent of enlisted men and women are now Southerners, and the officer corps speaks with an even stronger Southern accent. As a consequence, like the South generally, the military has moved rightward into the Republican Party. “Reversing a century and a half of practice,” laments the University of North Carolina military historian Richard H. Kohn,  based on surveys he helped to conduct, “the American officer corps has become partisan in political affiliation, and overwhelmingly Republican.” In his new book, Our Army: Soldiers, Politics, and American Civil-Military Relations,  Jason K. Dempsey  reports that in 2007 Republicans outnumbered Democrats 49 percent to 12 percent among senior officers. At West Point, Dempsey found, “enough officers overtly endorse the Republican Party that many cadets apparently conflate an identification with the Republican Party with officership.” 

Second, the end of the draft and ROTC’s banishment from many elite campuses mean that a steadily declining share of those in Congress and the upper reaches of the executive branch have served as either officers or enlistees. Until 1995 the percentage of veterans in Congress was consistently higher than in the country as a whole. Since then it’s been lower—around 30 percent and shrinking.

Muslims Praying in the Pentagon? This is Outrageous!

If you read my earlier post this evening you know that the title of this blog post is meant to be sarcastic. (And, I might add, a blatant attempt to attract readers).

According to this post at CNN’s Belief Blog, Muslim military personnel pray daily in the Pentagon less than 100 feet from where the hijacked plane slammed into the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.

Here is a snippet of the article:

On Fridays, a local imam conducts a service in the Pentagon Memorial Chapel built after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks by al Qaeda that killed 184 people at the U.S. military headquarters.

The chapel, with stained-glass windows, burgundy carpeting and a wooden alter, provides a place of prayer and religious observation for anyone regardless of faith or culture.

Its welcoming calm and nondenominational culture are in stark contrast to the emotional debate over plans to build an Islamic cultural center and mosque two blocks from ground zero in New York City, where planes flown by al Qaeda hijackers destroyed the World Trade Center, killing more than 2,700 people.

To chaplains who work in Army chapels around the world, the tolerance and openness represent the support and camaraderie of military culture.

“What happens here is normal,” said Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Carleton W. Birch, spokesman for the Army Chief of Chaplains.

The Pentagon chapel opened in November 2002 as part of the reconstruction of the complex from damage caused by the 9/11 attack.

Hmmmmm….