A day after Defense Secretary Jim Mattis issued a stinging rebuke of President Trump’s military and foreign policies, the commander in chief took to Twitter Friday to boast about how tough he was.
“There has never been a president who has been tougher (but fair) on China or Russia — Never, just look at the facts. The Fake News tries so hard to paint the opposite picture,” Trump tweeted at 9:41 a.m.
He then turned his attention to ISIS in the wake of outrage from lawmakers, including prominent members of his own party such as Sens. Lindsey Graham and Bob Corker, for his decision to leave Syria.
“I’ve done more damage to ISIS than all recent presidents….not even close!” Trump tweeted.
Major US military operations to defeat ISIS and recover land the terrorists seized in Iran and Syria began in 2014, though the group had been active for years before that on a smaller scale.
Graham had slammed Trump’s snap decision to pull US troops from Syria and declaration that ISIS had been defeated.
“An American withdrawal at this time would be a big win for ISIS, Iran, Bashar al Assad of Syria, and Russia,” whose leader, Vladimir Putin, supports Assad and applauded Trump’s move, Graham had said.
The social media muscle flexing came as critics lamented Mattis’ departure, scheduled for February.
Mattis, a retired Marine general, stressed in his resignation letter his belief in strong relations with traditional US allies, whom Trump has regularly scorned.
“One core belief I have always held is that our strength as a nation is inextricably linked to the strength our unique and comprehensive system of alliances and partnerships,” Mattis wrote.
“While the US remains the indispensable nation in the free world, we cannot protect our interests or serve that role effectively without maintaining strong alliances and showing respect to those allies.”
Trump has slammed NATO and its members, picked fights with the leaders of the UK, France, Germany and Canada, and cozied up to the leaders of longstanding rivals. including Russia and China, though he has also slapped them with sanctions and in China’s case tariffs.
Mattis alluded to those countries in his letter to Trump.
“I believe we must be resolute and unambiguous in our approach to those countries whose strategic interests are increasingly in tension with ours. It’s clear China and Russia want to … use their veto powers to promote their own interests at the expense of America and its allies,” he said.
Mattis, in an apparent knock at Trump’s lack of military service or experience, also highlighted his own Marine career.
“My views on treating allies with respect and also being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues,” he wrote.
Trump got several deferments to avoid the military in Vietnam, including at least one for bone spurs in his foot.
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