Donald Trump made his first visit to a war zone on Wednesday, accompanied by his wife Melania, when he made a surprise after-Christmas trip to Iraq. The president was enthusiastically greeted by US troops there, but it appears that in their enthusiasm they violated military rules.
The report of Trump’s visit with U.S. service personnel in Iraq mentioned that he spent time signing hats. There was also a published video which showed him signing “Make America Great Again” hats and an embroidered patch that read “Trump 2020.”
These activities might be considered political in nature and thus could be violations of Department of Defense guidelines which proscribe political activities by members of the military.
The Defense Department guidelines contain the following clear language:
“Active duty military personnel may not engage in any partisan political activities.”
“In addition, all military personnel should avoid the inference that their political activities imply or appear to imply Department of Defense sponsorship, approval, or endorsement of a political candidate, campaign, or cause.”
American military officers in the Iraq war zone did not immediately respond to media requests for comment concerning possible violation of Defense Department guidelines.
However, Retired Rear Admiral John Kirby, said on Wednesday that service members having Trump sign the items was wrong and a clear violation. He said:
“It (Make America Great Again) is in fact a campaign slogan, that is a campaign item, and it is completely inappropriate for the troops to do this.”
“Every time the president is around military audiences, he tends to politicize it, and he brings in complaints and grievances from outside the realm of military policy.”
Kirby added that Trump was to blame for engaging in political activity around U.S. military personnel whenever he visited them or made speeches to military audiences.
CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr agreed that the behavior of the troops was “very much against military policy and regulation.” She said:
“The pool reporters traveling with the president said that the troops brought the hats with them, including one hat that said ‘Trump 2020.“
“We will have to see if that actually proves to be the case. The question is, if they brought them or if the President brought them: What commander allowed that to really happen? Troops are not supposed to be involved in politics.”
The fact that Donald Trump turned a troop visit into a campaign rally for himself is not surprising. We have learned that in Trump’s world, everything revolves around him. But in this case, as in so many others, what Trump did not only served his selfish purposes but also violated the law.
Just yesterday we reported that Trump’s approval rating among military personnel is at an all time low. This is not surprising. As president he is supposed to build up the morale of the troops and praise their sacrifices. Instead, he made the visit all about himself.