On Wednesday, amid the continued turmoil in his national security team, President Trump traveled to al-Asad Airbase in Iraq to congratulate U.S. troops stationed there and further bolster his tough-on-defense image.
During the trip Trump falsely claimed that the military had gotten its biggest pay rise in ten years and inadvertently exposed the location of Navy SEAL Team 5. But that’s not all.
The same day, a new report from The New York Times revealed the true extent of Trump’s fealty to the military. The story claims that Trump was diagnosed with bone spurs in 1968 by a former tenant as a favor to his father, property developer Fred C. Trump.
According to the Times, Dr. Larry Braunstein, a podiatrist who lived in the Trump-owned Edgerton apartments in Queens, New York City, signed off on the diagnosis to avoid the younger Trump being drafted into the Vietnam War. Braunstein died in 2007, but his daughters, Dr. Elysa Braunstein and Sharon Kessel, went on the record saying that their father often spoke of the diagnosis but gave the impression it wasn’t true.
Donald Trump received multiple deferments from having to serve in the Vietnam War, where more than 50,000 Americans were killed. He received four deferments from the draft due to education before using the bone spurs excuse in 1968 that classified him as 1-Y, meaning he was unable to be drafted except in case of national emergency.
His dislike of traveling to combat zones has reportedly continued into his presidency as well.
“He’s never been interested in going [to Afghanistan or Iraq],” one official told The Washington Post last month. “He’s afraid of those situations. He’s afraid people want to kill him.”
Despite this squeamishness about serving (or indeed being in the general vicinity of combat), Trump has repeatedly criticized combat veterans, including most infamously former Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who was held captive in North Vietnam while Trump was receiving his draft deferments. “He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured,” Trump infamously said in 2015. “I like people who weren’t captured.”
Trump has also attacked retired Admiral William H. McRaven, a former Navy SEAL who oversaw the 2011 operation to kill Osama bin Laden. In a November interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace, Trump derided McRaven as a “Hillary Clinton fan” who should’ve caught bin Laden earlier. McRaven had previously written an op-ed in The Washington Post saying that Trump had “humiliated us on the world stage.”
During the 2016 presidential election Trump also criticized the parents of Humayun Khan, a Muslim Army captain who was killed in Iraq. After the Khans spoke at the 2016 Democratic National Convention Trump said that “look at his wife, she was standing… maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say, you tell me.”
The remarks drew swift condemnation, as they seemed to imply Ms. Khan was not allowed to speak because of her religion. Ms. Khan later told MSNBC that the reason for her silence on stage was because she was still so overwhelmed with grief at her son’s death.