A new report from Axios on Sunday revealed how eagerly it appeared then-President Donald Trump wanted to end America’s various wars abroad, and how unelected bureaucrats throughout the government worked to thwart that effort.
To say the least.
On November 9, 2020, Axios reported that, “John McEntee, one of Donald Trump’s most-favored aides, handed retired Army Col. Douglas Macgregor a piece of paper with a few notes scribbled on it.”
On that piece of paper were orders that would have changed the course of American history.
— Morgan Fairchild (@morgfair) May 16, 2021
“He explained: ‘This is what the president wants you to do,'” according to Axios.
The note reportedly read as follows.
1. Get us out of Afghanistan.
2. Get us out of Iraq and Syria.
3. Complete the withdrawal from Germany.
4. Get us out of Africa.
Trump went further, sending a memo to Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller:
“All U.S. military forces were to be withdrawn from Somalia by Dec. 31, 2020. All U.S. forces were to be withdrawn from Afghanistan by Jan. 15, 2021.”
It is understandable that some of the generals, even those favored by Trump and who might have agreed with him on withdrawal, thought this might have been a lot to accomplish in a relatively limited time.
Axios reports that many of them were “appalled” by Trump’s process.
But all of them should have been truthful with their Commander-in-Chief.
According to Axios, some were not. And the subterfuge began much earlier.
“Many would rally to push back — sometimes openly and in coordination, at other times so discreetly that top Trump administration officials had to turn to classified intercepts from the National Security Agency for clues.”
The Axios report is rife with anecdotes about how unelected bureaucrats in the national security apparatus thwarted even basic attempts by the Trump administration to gather information.
As former advisor Steve Bannon described his attempts to get basic information about the two-decade war in Afghanistan:
“They literally would not give you any information. And the information they gave you was bullshit. In every presentation, they say you’re 18 months away from turning the war around. Always. You’re always 18 months away.”
Outgoing US Syria envoy Jim Jeffrey (of neocon WINEP) says, "We were always playing shell games to not make clear to our leadership how many troops we had there" in northeastern Syria.
But remember, there is no deep state committed to permanent war. https://t.co/mLGeVL2a80
— Max Blumenthal (@MaxBlumenthal) November 13, 2020
Amid Trump’s efforts to get American troops back home – which, admittedly, Trump vacillated on several times, always based on the advice of bureaucrats (many of which he himself appointed) – there were overt instances of resistance.
The news outlet reported, “Some senior officials also deliberately deceived Trump. ‘What Syria withdrawal? There was never a Syria withdrawal,’ Jim Jeffrey, Trump’s special envoy to Syria and the anti-ISIS coalition, told Defense One in a post-election interview in November 2020.”
Jeffrey even admitted they were playing “shell games” with the president.
Axios reported, “We were always playing shell games to not make clear to our leadership how many troops we had there,’ he said, adding that the real number of troops in northeast Syria is ‘a lot more than’ the roughly 200 Trump initially agreed to leave there in 2019.”
So think about it: The President of the United States who constitutionally is the Commander-in-Chief gave an order and some of his top officials now openly admit they were lying to their boss in the Oval Office.
Now read Axios’ description of bureaucrats lying to the elected President: “It was a stunning admission. But it was one that reflected the mindset of some of the national security leaders and savvy bureaucrats who had repeatedly thwarted the commander in chief’s demands over four years.”
What is going on here?
Pleased to swear-in Jim Jeffrey as my Representative for Syria Engagement, coordinating policy on all aspects of the conflict in #Syria and our support for a political solution. Ambassador Jeffrey's distinguished diplomatic career makes him an outstanding choice for this role. pic.twitter.com/Sm658VuM5c
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) August 17, 2018
There is no longer a question of whether or not a “Deep State” exists. But only, how deep is it?
This Axios report indicates that its depth is considerable.
It is true that Trump’s directive came only only one week after Trump lost the general election to Joe Biden and he would be leaving the White House 10 weeks later. The timeline is worth debating.
It’s also true that many of the officials were appointed by Trump himself. But where was Trump supposed to find national security leaders, if not for the Pentagon, and people with decades of experience?
That some officials intentionally undermined or simply ignored the president’s orders is not at question. That is not how a functioning democratic republic works.
Who is really in charge of the American government if not the elected President?