Army chief disputes President Trump’s claim that military leaders want to fight wars

Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville pushed back Tuesday on the assertion  — most recently voiced by President Trump — that the military’s senior leaders are eager to fight wars because doing so benefits defense contractors.

“Many of these leaders have sons and daughters that serve in the military,” McConville said, in reference to the military’s flag officers and senior enlisted advisers. “Many of these leaders have sons and daughters that have gone to combat and may be in combat right now. I can assure the American people that the senior leaders would only recommend sending our troops to combat when it’s required for national security and in a last resort.”

The four-star general did not reference the president, but made the comments during an online interview hosted by Defense One when asked whether the brass was beholden to defense contractors, a claim made by the president the prior day.

Soldiers are “in love with me,” Trump told reporters Monday. “The top people in the Pentagon probably aren’t because they want to do nothing but fight wars so that all of those wonderful companies that make the bombs and make the planes and make everything else stay happy.”

McConville demurred when first asked for his reaction to Trump’s remarks. “I’m not going to comment on really the president’s comments or really any of the politicians’ comments,” he said. “We live in a political environment but we’re an apolitical organization, and I think it really must remain that way, especially with an election coming up.”

But when the interviewer asked again, this time without mentioning Trump, McConville answered more expansively, seemingly keen to dispel any notion that the military’s most senior officers played fast and loose with the lives of their troops. “We take this very, very seriously,” he said. “I feel strongly about that.”

Trump’s statement that the troops are “in love” with him runs counter to the results of a recent Military Times poll of service members, which showed that more troops intend to vote for Democratic challenger former Vice President Joe Biden than plan to vote to reelect the president. About half (49.9 percent) of the respondents had an unfavorable view of Trump, compared with 38 percent who had a favorable view, according to the poll.

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