President Trump might have at least praised his wife’s tiny homeland of Slovenia for being among the many nations that sent troops to Afghanistan after 9/11 prompted the U.S. to invoke Article 5, as NATO's collective defense provision is known.
Trump also could have recognized Denmark, which by a measure first applied to this war by Steve Coll of The New Yorker has suffered a slightly higher per capita rate of combat casualties in Afghanistan than has even the United States.
Trump could have noted that Estonia has nearly the same fatality rate we do. He could have added that a number of the Estonian soldiers had fathers who had also served in Afghanistan—as draftees in the Soviet army before their own country even had one.
He could have also recognized Lithuania, Belgium, Slovakia, Latvia, Sweden, Hungary, Estonia, Norway, the Czech Republic, Greece, Turkey, Romania, the Netherlands. Georgia, Bulgaria, Portugal, Croatia, Spain, Denmark, Poland, Italy, Germany, France, Canada and the United Kingdom, all of which answered the call, almost all of which suffered fatalities.
That also includes little Montenegro, whose prime minister Trump smilingly pushed aside so he could get to front at the NATO gathering.
But Trump mentioned none of that as he stood beside a piece of World Trade Center steel known as “Article V Artifact,” and delivered a speech at Thursday’s dedication of the new NATO headquarters.
He did call for a moment of silence for the innocents who had been killed at Monday’s bombing in Manchester. And he did thank the September 11 Memorial and Museum for providing “this twisted mass of steel.” He spoke movingly of the artifact’s meaning.
“We will never forget the lives that were lost,” he said. “We will never forget the friends who stood by our side.”
He said this without acknowledging the lives that were lost by the friends who stood by our side. And he saw no need to reaffirm America’s commitment to Article 5 should our friends ever call on us as we called on them.
Instead, the man who once proudly declared himself the king of debt chose this moment to say they owed us money.
“NATO members must finally contribute their fair share and meet their financial obligations, for 23 of the 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying,” he declared.
Never mind that all of those 23 sent troops to Afghanistan.
Rather than laud them, he dunned them.
“This is not fair to the people and taxpayers of the United States,” said the man who stiffed countless people and taxpayers, failing to pay nearly 300 contractors on a single project even as he siphoned off millions.
Maybe those nations that responded so quickly and selflessly to aid us after 9/11 should consider Trump’s prime strategy when faced with daunting debt.
The guy who failed to affirm NATO’s collective defense pact while standing beside the Artifact of Article 5 is himself a living Artifact of Chapter 11.
He repeatedly used bankruptcy to dodge what he now so piously speaks of as “financial obligations” as part of a continuing scheme by which he became REALLY RICH.
Of course, Trump never even would have considered putting himself in harm’s way. His three kids sure didn’t, though they were all of military age in the aftermath of 9/11 and the attack was on their home city.
Donald Jr. and Eric did take up arms and leave our shores, but that was to go big game hunting in Africa thanks to a family fortune built with bankruptcy bucks.
While Danes and Estonians were risking—and too often losing—their lives taking on al Qaeda and the Taliban, Donald Jr. and Eric were shooting an elephant and a cheetah and other creatures who could not shoot back.
Not that the boys had much of an example in their father when it came to 9/11.
The future president spoke of seeing news footage nobody else saw of Muslims in Jersey City cheering the attack. He said he had lost “hundreds of friends,” though he never named even one of them and was seen at none of the hundreds of funerals and memorials afterward. He bragged that with the two towers gone he now had the tallest building in Lower Manhattan.
While Rosie O’Donnell—the woman he loves to insult—reached in her pocket on 9/12 and committed $1 million of her own money to the victims’ families, Trump pledged only $10,000 and apparently failed to make good even on that. He appears to have given next to nothing until he was running for president last year, when made his first ever visit to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum and presented it with $200,000. The check was drawn on his foundation, to which he had contributed nothing in eight years. He breezed past the pictures of the murdered innocents, including hundreds of his supposed friends, with less visible effect than when he strides through what he likes to call “the biggest Duane Reade in the world” in his building downtown.
But all that was already known on Election Day, and he still won.
And there he was, our president, at Thursday’s event at NATO headquarters, deciding it was a time to speak of money owed rather than sacrifice beyond measure.
He shamed us all.
But we do not have to share his crass indifference.
Just as we did not need Donald Trump to honor those who died at the Twin Towers, we do not need him to honor those from so many other lands who nobly stepped forward in the years that followed.
As we approach our Memorial Day, consider these words from Daniel Henriken, a 22-year-old soldier from Denmark, which proportionately made a greater sacrifice than we did ourselves.
“Before we went on patrol, I always called my mother and told her that I love her,” Henriken was quoted saying on a Danish website. “It was a kind of code meaning that I might be going on a patrol where it might get dangerous—without those words actually being said. I am proud of what we do, proud of being a Dane. I think that I have made a difference.”
He closed by saying, “Hell yeah, I have done my part in making the world a better place to live.”