- President Donald Trump in an interview with Piers Morgan that aired Wednesday was asked about his military record.
- Trump said he “was never a fan” of the Vietnam War, which he avoided fighting in because of a bone-spur diagnosis.
- He went on to say that by increasing Pentagon funding he was “making up” for not serving in the military.
- Opponents, including the Democratic presidential contender Pete Buttigieg, have accused Trump of lying about the medical condition.
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President Donald Trump in an interview with the British broadcaster Piers Morgan said he’s “making up for” not serving in the US military by providing billions of dollars in funding for the Pentagon.
In the interview, broadcast Wednesday before Trump attended ceremonies in England to mark the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion of Nazi-occupied France, Morgan quizzed Trump about his reasons for not having served in the military.
Morgan noted that Trump received a draft deferment for the Vietnam War because of a “bone spur” that was said to have made Trump physically unfit to serve.
Trump then discussed Vietnam at greater length, telling Morgan he was “never a fan” of the conflict.
“I thought it was a terrible war, I thought it was very far away, and at that time nobody ever heard of the country – today they’re doing very well,” Trump said.
“Nobody heard of Vietnam – so many people dying, what is happening over there? So I was never a fan – like we’re fighting against Nazi Germany, we’re fighting against Hitler.”
Morgan then asked Trump whether he would have liked to serve in another conflict. Trump said he would have been “honored” to serve and added that his administration’s funding for the military compensated for the fact he never did.
“I would not have minded that at all – I would have been honored,” he said.
“But I think I make up for it right now. Look, $US700 billion I gave last year, and this year $US716 billion. And I think I’m making up for it rapidly because we’re rebuilding our military at a level it’s never seen before.”
Trump has long faced questions about the draft deferment he received after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania in 1968, at the height of the Vietnam War.
He had already received four deferments to complete his college degree and afterward was given a medical deferment over a diagnosis of bone spurs, which are protrusions caused by calcium buildup on the heel bone.
He never sought treatment for the condition and worked for his father’s businesses after graduation. This past December,The New York Times quoted the daughters of the doctor who made the diagnosis as saying their father, who died in 2007, did so as a favour to Trump’s father.
The Democratic presidential contender Pete Buttigieg – a former naval intelligence officer who served in Afghanistan – has criticised the president’s military record.
“I have a pretty dim view of his decision to use his privileged status to fake a disability in order to avoid serving in Vietnam,” he told the audience at a Washington Post event in May.
Trump has positioned himself as a champion of the military as president, agreeing to a proposed $US750 billion military budget last year after reportedly having considered cutting back the budget to tackle the deficit.
He is scheduled to join world leaders including British Prime Minister Theresa May, French President Emmanuel Macron, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Portsmouth, England, on Wednesday for D-Day ceremonies.
Thousands of Allied troops embarked from the city for the land invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe on June 6, 1944.
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