I would hear Republican veterans claim the majority of service members are staunch supporters of Donald Trump. I could not challenge them, even though I knew they were wrong.
Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) a military officer cannot use “contemptuous words against the President, the Vice President, Congress, the Secretary of Defense...etc.”
Even though I am permitted to make an objective argument as a reservist while off duty, there was no sense in risking my career with a person who had no intent of changing their mind based on facts.
Staunch Trump supporters, like the man, are loud, cantankerous and must be heard. Yes, there are hard-core Trump supporters in the military ranks. There is nothing in the UCMJ preventing a service member from making overt and wonderful praises about the president despite his conduct.
However, speaking in confidence with my friends and colleagues of all ranks, ages, active or reserve, we all share the same shame that our former Commander in Chief was frequently acting in a manner that would have had any military officer immediately court-martialed.
As a Libertarian, I did not vote for Trump, but not due to an ideological difference. I knew he was incompetent.
As a son of New York City, I grew up with Trump always in the background. His story was always the same.
He would grab attention by starting off an endeavor strong with “huge” promises and energy, then ultimately end in failure. The man has filed for bankruptcy multiple times.
When he won the 2016 election, I never thought he could do much damage. I have worked in government for over a decade, and I had confidence in the long-term bureaucrats to keep the machine from breaking down.
The “deep state” that Trump rallied against exists, but it is not a nefarious group of people. The deep state are long-term government employees who faithfully perform their duties, such as a military sergeant, an assistant attorney general, or deputy diplomat.
The only danger of a deep state employee are the few individuals who occupied a desk for so long that they become apathetic and create unnecessary red tape.
Trump ran into the red tape and soon learned that government agencies are large lethargic beasts. This is why all presidents rely on Executive Orders to push their agenda.
Once he saw that he could not act with government, he rallied against it like no other previous president. With the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who was universally admired in the military, I feared for our democracy, as Trump was pushing out his competent advisors in exchange for sycophants.
Trump was always dangerous because he had no moral compass. Growing up in the winner-take-all arena of NYC real estate, he learned old-school mafia-like tactics of bullying and back-door deals.
Members of the military have a different ethos. From the moment we are sworn into office, we learn the values of honor, sacrifice and loyalty to the Constitution. Leaders come and go; the rule of law is forever.
Trump has committed a multitude of unethical acts; it is impossible to list them all here. The act that stomped on the rule of law was the pardoning of convicted war criminals.
The U.S. military is the greatest and most powerful in history. However, we are not great because we are powerful; we are great because we are a professional military.
A professional military has standards dictating when and how to use force. These standards have existed through centuries and have been created through the horrible lessons of war.
The greatest lesson is for militaries to reduce unnecessary suffering, and thereby win the psychological battleground of both civilians and the enemy.
To enter any battle with the order to “kill anything on sight” may give an immediate victory. However, once the gruesome images of dead civilians, children, and charred religious sites reach the news, the war is lost. The enemy will become hardened, and our own civilians will turn on our military.
Finally, the military members who committed those acts will forever be psychologically scarred, except for the few sociopaths who enjoy killing. Those sociopaths need to be brought to justice.
Trump never understood the professional military ethos. He only understood us as being “trained to kill.” No, we are trained to be professionals, to kill only when necessary, and to save lives whenever possible.
Let there be no doubt, based on his four years of vile behavior and his final showing of true colors as an authoritarian when he incited a riot at the Capitol to stop the certification of the election, military veterans do not love Trump.
We love the Constitution and support the president, whoever he or she may be.
Michael Arcati is an attorney practicing in Forest Hills and chair of the Queens County Libertarian Party.