Critics attacked Trump after he drew a moral equivalency between the actions of Putin and the U.S.
The controversy surrounds statements Trump made after O’Reilly questioned his positive attitude towards Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
O’Reilly: But he’s a killer though. Putin’s a killer.
Trump: There are a lot of killers. We’ve got a lot of killers. What do you think — our country’s so innocent. You think our country’s so innocent?
Predictably, Trump’s statement was met with outrage from liberal and social media platforms.
When the press said Putin's a killer, it was adorable to see how Trump stood by his man and criticized America instead. That's true love.— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) February 5, 2017
Politico’s Molly McKew wrote,
We still believe in international conventions governing war crimes — conventions the Russians explicitly reject — and we will expose our fighting men and women to criminal charges by fighting the way that Russians do…American forces operate with the most restrictive rules of engagement on the planet— even though we know that in minimizing collateral damage, there is sometimes a cost in American lives.
And Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar told ABC News, “You cannot compare any leaders in our country to what Vladimir Putin has done,” Klobuchar said. “This is a man and a regime that has taken down a passenger plane in Ukraine, killing hundreds of people.”
Although Klobuchar might not be aware, the U.S. has in fact also shot down a passenger plane killing hundreds of people. In 1988, the USS Vincennes shot down Iran Air 655, killing all 290 people on board. The incident, as subsequent investigations have revealed, was entirely the fault of Vincennes captain Will Rodgers III, who downed the plane while it conducted its routine, bi-weekly trip to Dubai. Far from “[exposing] our fighting men and women to criminal charges,” the crew of the Vincennes were regarded as national heroes. As Robert Fisk writes in his book, The Great War for Civilization,
When the ship returned to its home base of San Diego, it was given a hero’s welcome. The men of the Vincennes were all awarded combat action ribbons. The air warfare coordinator, Commander Scott Lustig, won the navy’s Commendation Medal for ‘heroic achievement,’ for the ‘ability to maintain his poise and confidence under fire’ that enabled him to ‘quickly and concisely complete the firing procedure.’
Captain Rogers retired honorably in 1991 after receiving the Legion of Merit award for “exceptionally meritorious conduct as a commanding officer,” and citizens in Vincennes, Indiana even erected a monument to honor the ship bearing their town’s name.
Just as McKew’s story was published, George H.W Bush received a standing ovation at Super Bowl LI as he delivered the opening coin toss. Bush, who was vice president in 1988, told the UN Security Council just days after the incident that the Vincennes acted, “in self-defense,” and that, “Iran, too, must bear a substantial measure of responsibility for what happened.” Bush would later respond to Iran’s repeated demands for an apology by saying, “I will never apologize for the United States—I don’t care what the facts are.”
As Noam Chomsky wrote, “the imperial mentality is wondrous to behold.”