Let’s read between the lines of Donald Trump’s speech on the U.S. presence in Afghanistan. The President’s words are in bold.
Thank you to the men and women of Fort Myer, and every member of the United States military at home and abroad. We send our thoughts and prayers to the families of our brave sailors who were injured and lost after a tragic collision at sea, as well as to those conducting the search-and-recovery efforts.
“I hereby retract my earlier description of these tragic events as ‘too bad’—and join with all Americans in agreeing that they qualify, at minimum, as a ‘full-on bummer.’”
I am here tonight to lay out our path forward in Afghanistan and South Asia.
I love Teleprompter Trump. He’s so awkward. The robot from Lost in Space is a more natural orator: “After the extraordinary sacrifice of blood and treasure, our people must realize [arms begin flailing] DANGER AMERICAN PATRIOT!”
Trump spent the whole of his address swiveling back and forth, staring precisely 45 degrees off camera, right and left, at the screens of text. Back and forth, back and forth, reading clumsily. It was as though he was watching a tennis match between sentences he’d never seen before.
Occasionally his gaze would land—briefly—on the camera dead ahead of him. His favourite camera! But he’d never linger there, despite his clear affection for it. The sentiment was clear in his eyes: “I love you, centre camera—but Daddy’s gotta work tonight.”
But before I provide the details of our new strategy, I want to say a few words to the service members here with us tonight, to those watching from their posts.
“Please stop crashing my boats into stuff.”
American patriots from every generation have given their last breath on the battlefield for our nation and for our freedom. Through their lives, and though their lives were cut short, in their deeds they achieved total immortality.
Want to bet that Trump insisted on adding the “total” to that sentence? Immortality is great but total immortality—that’s even more immortal. The best and most luxurious eternity.
A wound inflicted upon a single member of our community is a wound inflicted upon us all. When one part of America hurts, we all hurt. And when one citizen suffers an injustice, we all suffer together.
Weird. This was billed as a foreign policy speech but so far all Trump has done is write Beyonce’s next single.
Loyalty to our nation demands loyalty to one another. Love for America requires love for all of its people.
Rosie O’Donnell is a “pig” and a “slob” with a “fat ugly face”—Donald Trump, loving all of America’s people.
When we open our hearts to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice, no place for bigotry, and no tolerance for hate. The young men and women we send to fight our wars abroad deserve to return to a country that is not at war with itself at home. We cannot remain a force for peace in the world if we are not at peace with each other.
“I am making a civil, almost elegant reference to all that recent business with the white supremacy movement. Please join me tomorrow when—freed from this cursed Teleprompter apparatus—I praise the many fine character attributes of our nation’s foremost Nazis.”
Shortly after my inauguration, I directed Secretary of Defense Mattis and my national-security team to undertake a comprehensive review of all strategic options in Afghanistan and South Asia. My original instinct was to pull out, and historically, I like following my instincts.
They don’t call me Ol’ Pussy Grabber for nothing.
But all my life I’ve heard that decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office. In other words, when you’re president of the United States.
This is far and away my favourite part of the speech. Read it again and let’s imagine how these two sentences came into being:
TRUMP: Good line here about the desk and the Oval Office. Powerful. But let’s explain that you have to also be president—not just some guy who happens to be sitting at the desk. Important distinction.
SPEECHWRITER: [Raises cocked revolver to own temple in one smooth motion…]
So I studied Afghanistan in great detail…
It’s a cliché but it’s true: Every speech is made better with the inclusion of at least one laugh line.
… and from every conceivable angle.
“On three consecutive days last week, I studied it from the greenside bunker on 15.”
After many meetings, over many months, we held our final meeting last Friday at Camp David with my Cabinet and generals to complete our strategy. I arrived at three fundamental conclusions about America’s core interests in Afghanistan.
- Can we wrap this up? I’m bored.
- Which one’s Pakistan again?
- Do whatever Mattis wants, I guess.
No one denies that we have inherited a challenging and troubling situation in Afghanistan, and South Asia. But we do not have the luxury of going back in time and making different or better decisions.
We have arrived at the Woe is Me section of the speech. You’ll find it in pretty much every Trump address. Who knew health care could be so complicated? Who knew foreign policy could be so complicated? WHY WAS I NOT INFORMED THAT THE PRESIDENCY IS A FULL-TIME JOB??
When I became president, I was given a bad and very complex hand. But I fully knew what I was getting into: big and intricate problems. But one way or another, these problems will be solved. I’m a problem solver, and in the end, we will win.
Look at all the problems he’s solved in his first seven months as president:
- For the first time in a generation, there is a surplus of vacant offices in the West Wing.
- Against all odds, Tucker Carlson found work.
As I outlined in my speech in Saudi Arabia, three months ago, America and our partners are committed to stripping terrorists of their territory, cutting off their funding, and exposing the false allure of their evil ideology. Terrorists who slaughter innocent people will find no glory in this life or the next.
Hang on, how can he be sure about the next life? Has Trump struck up a partnership with… God? Fast forward to 2019 and God saying to Himself: “Man, I put down a deposit two years ago and Trump still hasn’t broken ground on that condo in Mesa.”
[The terrorists] are nothing but thugs and criminals and predators and—that’s right—losers.
“We may not ever be able to win a military victory in the historic quagmire of Afghanistan—but by golly, so long as I am president, the United States of America shall bring down upon the world’s terrorists the full force and fury of our relentless name-calling.”
Working alongside our allies, we will break their will, dry up their recruitment, keep them from crossing our borders, and yes, we will defeat them, and we will defeat them handily.
“When? No one knows. How? I fell asleep for that part of the briefing.”
We are not nation building again. We are killing terrorists.
Let’s face it: This is a terrific line. In an otherwise formal and vague address, this is the one line that Trump’s supporters will seize on, and remember, and repeat to each other while employing an unnecessary number of contractions. WE’S KILLIN’ DEM TERR’RISTS!
We are committed to pursuing our shared objectives for peace and security in South Asia and the broader Indo-Pacific region. Finally, my administration will ensure that you, the brave defenders of the American people will have the necessary tools and rules of engagement to make this strategy work, and work effectively, and work quickly.
Here’s a tweet sent out during Trump’s speech by the White House Bureau Chief of the Washington Post: “Tonight is a new President Trump: Acknowledging a flip-flop and talking about gravity of office, history & substance.”
How many “new” Donald Trumps does that make for his 214 days in office? How many times has he “pivoted” toward a more stable presidency? How many times has Trump “truly become president” in a moment? Americans used to be pretty demanding of their political leaders. These days, a guy reads someone else’s words from a computer screen and the pundits are blown away. Imagine how they’d react if Trump threw in some close-up hand magic? “WHERE DID YOU GET THAT QUARTER??? You are greater than Lincoln and Washington put together, you magnificent wizard!!!!”
I’ve already lifted restrictions the previous administration placed on our warfighters that prevented the secretary of defense and our commanders in the field from fully and swiftly waging battle against the enemy. Micromangement from Washington, D.C., does not win battles.
“Also, I’ve got a tee time and, let’s face it, only the vaguest sense of where Afghanistan is located. I want to say… to the right of us?”
We will also expand authority for American armed forces to target the terrorists and criminal networks that sow violence and chaos through Afghanistan. These killers need to know they have nowhere to hide, that no place is beyond the reach of American might and American arms.
“They can run but they can’t hide.” –George W. Bush, 2001
Retribution will be fast.
“Mission accomplished.” –George W. Bush, 2003
From now on victory will have a clear definition: Attacking our enemies, obliterating ISIS, crushing al Qaeda, preventing the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan, and stopping mass terrorist attacks against America before they emerge.
“We will crush al-Qaeda” –Barack Obama, 2008
We’re already seeing dramatic results in the campaign to defeat ISIS, including the liberation of Mosul in Iraq. Since my inauguration we have achieved record-breaking success in that regard.
“That’s right, America—record-breaking success. You might think the record for liberation is held by the Allied armies of 1945 but I’m pretty sure Mosul is bigger than Europe. That’s just geology.”
When America commits its warriors to battle, we must ensure they have every weapon to apply swift, decisive, and overwhelming force. Our troops will fight to win. We will fight to win.
“Dammit—I knew I forgot to tell the troops something!” –Barack Obama, just now
We will ask our NATO allies and global partners to support our new strategy with additional troop and funding increases in line with our own.
“Guys, I know I’ve spent the past 18 months mocking your stupid little club and insulting all of your countries and trying to extort more money from you. Well, now it’s time for YOU to do something for ME.”
Terrorists, take heed: America will never let up until you are dealt a lasting defeat. Under my administration, many billions of dollars more is being spent on our military and this includes vast amounts being spent on our nuclear arsenal and missile defense.
Uh, yeah, about that—you’re going to nuke the terrorists? I’m not sure if anyone’s told you but they don’t all live together in a hillside retreat called Terrortown.
Not far from where we are gathered tonight, hundreds of thousands of America’s greatest patriots lay in eternal rest at Arlington National Cemetery. There is more courage, sacrifice and love in those hallowed grounds than in any other spot on the face of the Earth.
“Nice try, battlefields of France.”
We will push onward to victory with power in our hearts, courage in our souls, and everlasting pride in each and every one of you.
Now off you go to Afghanistan and please don’t ask how 12,000 of you are going to do what 140,000 of you couldn’t do more than a decade ago. Enjoy total immortality!