US Army's top officer says sending troops to war is a 'last resort' after Trump blasts military leaders who 'want to do nothing but fight wars'

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty ImagesArmy Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
  • President Donald Trump accused military leaders of fighting endless wars to satisfy defence companies during a press conference on Monday.
  • On Tuesday, Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville, the Army’s most senior officer, defended military leaders, saying that the brass takes the decision to send troops to war “very seriously.”
  • “Many of these leaders have sons and daughters that serve in the military, many of these leaders have sons and daughters who have gone to combat or may be in combat right now,” he said, while refusing to comment directly on the president’s remarks.
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After President Donald Trump said Monday that military leaders in the Pentagon “want to do nothing but fight wars” to line the pockets of defence firms, the Army’s top officer said Tuesday that senior military leaders recommend sending US troops to war only as a “last resort.”

“I’m not saying the military is in love with me. The soldiers are,” Trump said during a Labour Day press conference. “The top people in the Pentagon probably aren’t because they want to do nothing but fight wars so that all of those wonderful companies that make the bombs and make the planes and make everything else stay happy.”

“But, we’re getting out of endless wars,” he said.

His comments were followed by a report from NBC News citing multiple senior administration officials saying that the president had looked into replacing Secretary of Defence Mark Esper, a former lobbyist for defence contractor Raytheon whom Trump has reportedly been unhappy with for a while.

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows tried to clarify the president’s comments Tuesday morning, arguing that Trump was not criticising any specific military leader, but was instead criticising the “military industrial complex.”

While Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville did not comment on the president’s remarks, stressing the need for the military to stay out of politics, he did defend military leaders Tuesday, saying they take the decision to send service members to war “very, very seriously.”

“Many of these leaders have sons and daughters that serve in the military, many of these leaders have sons and daughters who have gone to combat or may be in combat right now,” he said during a forum hosted by Defence One, Reuters reported.

“I can assure the American people that the senior leaders would only recommend sending our troops to combat when it is required in national security and in the last resort,” he added. “We take this very, very seriously in how we make our recommendations.”

Trump’s remarks Monday followed an explosive report last week from The Atlantic that said the president spoke disparagingly about US service members who died in battle, those who were captured and held as prisoners of war, or who suffered injuries in combat.

The report, citing anonymous sources, said that the president cancelled his planned 2018 visit to a Paris cemetery because he felt it was unnecessary to honour those who fell in battle, service members he reportedly characterised as “losers” and “suckers.”

Aspects of the reporting were confirmed by Fox News, CNN, and other outlets, but the White House has repeatedly denied the report published in The Atlantic.

One White House official calling it “just another anonymously sourced story meant to tear down a Commander-in-Chief who loves our military and has delivered on the promises he’s made.”

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