Earlier this week, we learned that Donald Trump had ordered the Pentagon to draw up plans for what may be the first-ever peacetime military parade through the streets of Washington.
Lawmakers from both parties have slammed this as a massive waste of taxpayer money. Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii, a Democrat, thinks that money could be better spent on things that actually help our troops.
A military parade costs millions. Let’s fix military housing, hire more VA doctors, fund telehealth, DOD schools, support the commissaries, daycare for families, or give more flight training time. Our highest defense priority must be the service members, not the politicians.
— Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) February 7, 2018
Congressman Lee Zeldin of New York, a Republican, is of a similar mind. He told CNN that he doesn’t think we need to see “tanks or nuclear weapons going down Pennsylvania Avenue,” especially in a time when we haven’t been able to fund the military for an entire year.
Adam Smith of Washington, the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, is concerned not only about the parade’s cost, but also about its symbolism. He believes such a parade would inevitably be focused on Trump–something that doesn’t sound very democratic.
— House Armed Services (@HASCDemocrats) February 7, 2018
To Smith’s mind, it’s yet another reason for him to fear that Trump harbors authoritarian ambitions.
I have disagreements w/ the President on policy. I’ve said earlier if you support his policies, I get that. But beyond all that, regardless of how you feel about policies; the constitution, the institutions that make us a free & democratic society are what we should cherish most. pic.twitter.com/i6sPL9dnXN
— Rep. Adam Smith (@RepAdamSmith) February 7, 2018
Smith thinks the parade runs counter to the “bedrock principle” of civilian control over the military. He is also concerned that Trump’s demand for a parade amounts to an order for the military to “march down and salute him”–something that raises echoes of North Korea and other dictatorships.
Joe Walsh, a Republican congressman turned conservative talk show host, is of a similar mind.
Obama wasn't a King.
Trump isn't a King either. My side needs to quit treating him like one.
We don't elect Kings in this country, remember?
No military parade.
— Joe Walsh (@WalshFreedom) February 7, 2018
But what do our men in uniform think of this idea? Retired First Lieutenant and Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran Paul Rieckhoff, CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said that he spoke with a number of his brothers about the planned parade, and the idea is “overwhelmingly unpopular.” Not only do they believe it’s a poor use of resources, but they are also concerned that it could politicize the military.
Congressman Tim Walz of Minnesota, a retired command sergeant major in the Army National Guard and the highest ranking enlisted soldier ever to serve in Congress, was equally unimpressed when he talked with Lawrence O’Donnell about the parade on Tuesday night. Watch here.
Walz, a 24-year Army National Guard veteran, called Trump’s plan “the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard,” and argued that it would actually be an “insult” to our troops.
But by far the sharpest criticism comes from retired Major General Paul Eaton, best known for helping train Iraqi troops during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Eaton, a 34-year Army veteran, is now a senior adviser to VoteVets, and minced no words in his criticism of this parade.
Retired Major General Paul Eaton says @realDonaldTrump's parade idea underscores his authoritarian tendencies, and that our military is not there to be "used and abused" to prop up his image.
VoteVets full statement on Trump's orders for a military parade. pic.twitter.com/Am7uSSWZfo
— VoteVets (@votevets) February 7, 2018
So there you have it. Three veterans with a combined 67 years of service think this parade is a massive fail.
One can hope they made their concerns known to the many military men in the White House. But will Trump listen?
(featured image courtesy New America, available under a Creative Commons-BY license)