What Sgt. La David Johnson Didn't Sign Up For

It's practically a saying from the old country: If you elect a raging sociopath with a dead soul, don't be surprised when he acts like a raging sociopath with a dead soul.

So, frankly, what would have been shocking is if President Donald Trump had expressed remorse, sorrow, and sympathy to the widow of Sgt. La David T. Johnson, killed on a mission in Niger along with three of his fellow soldiers. Did anyone think that he wouldn't screw it up?

Of course, every time you think that Trump has cleared some incompetence bar, he sets it lower and still manages to flatten his gelatinous body to squeeze under it.

Talking to Myeshia Johnson while she was in a car with Florida Congresswoman Frederica Wilson on her way to the airport to greet the casket holding her husband and the father of her two children and one on the way, Trump referred to Sgt. Johnson only as "your guy." This is according to Wilson and Johnson's mother, who heard the call on speakerphone. And Trump's words of comfort were "He knew what he was signing up for, but I guess it hurts anyway."

The first part of that sentence has gotten the most attention, but, really, the second part is just as callous and malignantly narcissistic. "I guess it hurts anyway" makes it seem like Trump thought the death shouldn't have hurt as badly because Johnson had joined the military. Even more, it's that he doesn't comprehend what the pain of loss is like because it's not about him.

Let us pause here to recognize that the deaths of four soldiers in Niger on October 4 weren't acknowledged by Trump until Tuesday. The "fake news" had reported on it shortly after the ambush that also wounded two others. And Johnson's body was found two days after the assault by Nigeriens, not by the U.S. Special Forces there. American soldiers are in the African nation to train the local military on dealing with al-Qaeda, although history has shown that the mission creep from this kind of activity often plunges more troops into danger (see Vietnam, El Salvador, and on and on).

Let us also recognize that had this attack and these KIAs had occurred when Barack Obama was President and Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State, it would have been a scandal that would have stoked impeachment talk, if not criminal charged. The silence from the administration and the president would have been an indicator to Republicans of some massive cover-up, perhaps even the willingness of the administration to allow soldiers to die.

It would be a shame if, say, not only did the American forces lack enough medical support in Niger, but that "the military’s Africa Command asked lawmakers broadly for more help months before the attack in Niger, a West African nation nearly twice the size of Texas." Oh, right, they did. On March 9, 2017. To the Senate Armed Services Committee.

General Thomas D. Waldhauser, the head of the U.S. Africa Command, testified, "[Our] African partners lack the capability and capacity to assist with personnel recovery missions. Integrating personnel recovery and surgical stabilization/medical sustainment capabilities are a moral obligation and essential for the proper care of U.S. service members who risk their lives to protect our nation."

Committee Chair Sen. John McCain pledged at that hearing, "We owe our witnesses, and the men and women they lead, unambiguous national security priorities, clarity in our strategic thinking, and an unwavering commitment to provide them the resources required to support the necessary courses of action."

Except just under seven months later, those resources weren't there in a way that might have been able to help the soldiers killed in Niger. There are reasonable discussions to be made about distribution of forces and the use of resources. But had this been Obama and Clinton, we would be hearing how incompetent they are and how they abandoned our troops.

Certainly, we should now at least be saying that Republicans and Trump were warned and did nothing about it (just as they did nothing when Clinton asked for more funding to shore up defenses at embassies and consulates overseas).

So when Trump told Myeshia Johnson that her husband "knew what he signed up for," well, that's bullshit. What he signed up for didn't involve the nation not putting out the resources needed to make any medical attention quickly available. What he signed up for didn't involve being left to rot for a couple of days because of inadequate ability to search for his corpse.

What he didn't sign up for was that his family would be treated like their grief should be muted because his Commander-in-Chief cannot handle human feelings and doesn't understand that his incompetence contributed to their pain.