Christopher Slutman, 43, had always wanted to be a firefighter. He was that kind of kid, the kind who wants to save people. He was also a Marine Reserves Staff Sergeant who had served in Iraq. Last year, he was assigned to duty in Afghanistan.
On April 8, 2019, just two weeks before he was scheduled to return home, he and two other Marines were killed when a roadside bomb exploded near Bagram Air Base. This may be one of the attacks Russia was sponsoring.
Also murdered that day were Cpl. Robert A. Hendriks, 25, of Locust Valley, New York, and Sgt. Benjamin Hines, 31, of York, Pennsylvania.
The question that cannot be avoided is this: Did President Donald Trump — through laziness, dereliction or some still-inexplicable prostration to Vladimir Putin — make these Marines' deaths, or those of other Americans, more likely?
The New York Times, Associated Press, The Washington Post, Fox News and The Wall Street Journal all report that U.S. intelligence agencies had become aware that Russia was offering cash bounties to the Taliban to kill Americans and other coalition forces as early as March 2019. The intelligence was included in the president's daily brief in the spring of this year. It was also the subject of a National Security Council meeting. "Given that there was an NSC meeting, I suspect that (Trump) did know" about the intelligence, former CIA and NSA director Michael Hayden told The Washington Post.
The president's spokespeople are playing the word games. Pressed on whether the information was included in the PDB, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany sidestepped. The president "has not personally been briefed on the matter and that's all I have for you today." Well, that could mean merely that the information was not spoon-fed verbally. Besides, she added, the reports of Russian cash for American corpses were "unconfirmed" and there was "no consensus" in the intel community. But that is always the case with intelligence.
CIA Director Gina Haspel, by contrast, did not deny the intelligence. She acknowledged that when information is obtained that may affect the welfare of U.S. combat forces, it is "shared throughout the national security community — and with U.S. allies.
In fact, The Washington Post has reported that the intelligence was shared with the British. So the British were informed, but the president was kept in the dark? And if he was kept in the dark, what does that say about his leadership?
Trump, who maintains the highest vigilance about any harsh word from Joe Scarborough or Don Lemon, says he was unaware. "Nobody briefed or told me, @VP Pence, or Chief of Staff @MarkMeadows about the so-called attacks on our troops in Afghanistan by Russians, as reported through an 'anonymous source' by the Fake News @nytimes," he tweeted. He wasn't finished. "Everybody is denying it & there have not been many attacks on us."
Pause on that for a moment. "There have not been many attacks on us." That must be a great comfort to the Hendriks, Hines and Slutman families.
Trump is not slow to anger, as we know. Yet when it comes to Vladimir Putin putting bounties on the heads of America's warriors, he is strangely unperturbed. Knowing that Putin was reveling in American deaths, he invited him to attend the G-7 meeting in September.
It is hardly news that Trump lacks empathy, but he has made concern for "our great military" one of his calling cards. Where is even a hint of rage at Putin for putting targets on their backs? All of his ire is directed at The New York Times, with none to spare for the Kremlin ghoul. Far from imposing a price, Trump rewarded him.
Trump's vaunted "love" of the military is not for the real military, the one represented by Hendricks, Hines and Slutman. It's to a twisted, gangster image of militarism. He ran for office promising that as commander in chief he would order the U.S. military to commit war crimes. While president, he pardoned war criminals. His "love" of the military is worse than phony. He has no appreciation of what sacrifice means. He has no understanding that serving means putting someone else's welfare before your own. He thinks the military are a bunch of thugs. The thing that drew him to General Jim Mattis was the nickname "mad dog" — which Trump falsely later claimed to have bestowed on Mattis.
Robert Hendriks, Benjamin Hines and Christopher Slutman were patriots. Slutman, an Eagle Scout, was always contributing to his community. Robby Hendriks's mother always knew he would serve his country. Ben Hines had a gift for lifting morale in his unit.
It is not credible to imagine that Trump was ignorant of Russia's role in this. But in any case, it is now known to the world. Where, oh where, is Trump's concern for them?
Mona Charen is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.
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