President Trump said Wednesday he wants to stop the heartache of American families who lose their loved ones in combat during “these endless wars,” as he faced criticism for abandoning a U.S. ally in the Middle East.
During an event at the White House, Mr. Trump spoke about the solemn tradition of fallen soldiers returning in flag-draped caskets to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. He said he has occasionally met family members there — his last reported visit was in January — who seem in control before the cargo plane arrives.
“And then 20 minutes later we’ll be outside when that big [cargo] plane pulls up and that door comes down, and they are walking the coffin with their boy inside, this coffin with an American flag over the top,” Mr. Trump said. “And I’ve seen [relatives] that I thought were really incredible the way they were taking it — I didn’t even understand how they could take it so well — scream like I’ve never seen anything before.
“Sometimes they’ll run to the coffin,” the president said. “They’ll break through military barriers, they’ll run to the coffin and jump on top of the coffin — crying mothers and wives, crying desperately.”
He said of their sorrow, “And this is on these endless wars that just never stop. There’s a time and there’s a place, but it’s time to stop.”
Many in Congress are criticizing Mr. Trump for withdrawing U.S. troops from northern Syria, a move they say gave the green light to Turkey on Wednesday to attack its ancient enemy, the Kurds. Kurdish fighters had been helping U.S. forces defeat the Islamic State in the region.
Mr. Trump said his “hardest” jobs is writing letters to the parents of fallen soldiers.
“It’s not only that, [it’s the casualties] in areas where there’s not a lot of upside,” Mr. Trump said. “In many cases there’s only downside. And especially when that soldier was killed in a blue-on-green attack, where a [foreign] soldier being trained turned his gun on an American soldier. We have many of them in Afghanistan.”
The president said he campaigned on ending long-running U.S. wars, and he spoke of former President Dwight Eisenhower, who had warned Americans about the influence of the U.S. “military-industrial complex.”
“If we go with the theory of some folks in Washington, who all do well with the military-industrial complex … Dwight Eisenhower had it figured right many years ago,” he said. “It’s got tremendous power. They like fighting. They make a lot of money when they fight. But it was time to bring our soldiers back home.”
The president also spoke of his visits with wounded warriors at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, such as a trip he made there last week. One soldier he met had facial reconstruction for horrific injuries.
The president awarded five Purple Hearts on that visit.
He said of those criticizing his military withdrawal in Syria, “It’s easy to talk tough, you know, tough guys, all these tough guys — ‘Let’s keep fighting, let’s keep fighting.’ For me it’s very hard, when I see [wounded soldiers], it’s very hard.”
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