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Former US Army four-star general blasts Trump’s visit to US troops

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President Donald Trump’s surprise trip to Iraq to visit US troops, his first combat-zone visit as president, fell short among some political commentators, including one of the most highly decorated officers in the US Army.

Former US Army four-star Gen. Barry McCaffrey, who was awarded three Purple Heart medals, two Distinguished Service Crosses, and two Silver Stars, described Trump’s visit as “embarrassing” and “entirely inappropriate.”

McCaffrey said “it’s a good thing that the president went to Iraq and visited the troops,” but suggested that what was supposed to be a morale-boosting visit between troops and the commander-in-chief, became a political affair instead.

During his trip, Trump signed pieces of campaign memorabilia for the troops, including hats emblazoned with the “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan. McCaffrey suggested the hats may have been distributed by Trump’s campaign; however, the US Air Force and White House disputed that assertion on Thursday, calling the materials “personal items” that service members chose to bring on their own.

Read more: People have a lot to say about Trump signing MAGA hats for US troops in Iraq

But Trump’s speech to the troops particularly struck a nerve with McCaffrey. Last week, Trump announced he would withdraw the roughly 2,000 US troops from Syria, citing the highly disputed claim that ISIS had been “defeated.” Following the backlash from many national security experts, Trump suggested he was open to using Iraq as a staging point for another intervention in Syria, “if we wanted to do something.”

Trump, who did not meet with Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi during the trip, was also criticized for allegedly snubbing the leader of Iraq.

“The whole notion of going into Iraq and not genuflecting … the Iraqis is simply outrageous,” McCaffey said. “And announcing we’re going to use it as the site from which we’ll conduct combat operations in other nations, I mean, it’s just inciting Iraqi sovereignty concerns.

McCaffrey also took aim at one of Trump’s falsehoods about the military: the claim that US troops received their first pay raise “in more than 10 years” under his administration.

“The troops all should have known it was complete nonsense,” McCaffrey said, “but they were sort of excited the commander-in-chief was there and they were willing to blow by it.” McCaffey said.

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