Congresswoman Frederica Wilson Sponsored Bill to Increase Involvement in Niger in 2015

Created: 19 October, 2017
Updated: 21 November, 2022
3 min read


Video Credit: TIME Magazine

After Donald Trump made a phone call to the wife of a soldier, U.S. Army Sgt. La David Johnson, who died earlier this month in an ambush by Islamic radicals in Niger, the president's words of condolence to the grieving widow became a national controversy.

Congresswoman Frederica Wilson was present with Myeshia Johnson when she took the president's call, and claimed on Tuesday that Trump told Johnson:

"He knew what he signed up for."

That's how many media sources have reported it, giving the impression that Trump's remarks were dismissive and insensitive.

But this bears the appearance of selective editing to create a false impression, because the part of the quote that is left out of many mainstream media headlines and the many social media posts criticizing Trump for the phone call is this:

"He knew what he signed up for, but when it happens it hurts anyway."

In many mainstream reports, such as this one by ABC News, this part of the conversation is buried in the article. In others, such as this one by the Washington Post and this one by the New York Times, this second part of the statement is not even included in the article.

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This appears to be very deliberate selective editing, and it's this sort of axe-grinding in the media that has earned the ire of so many voters, and a major reason why Trump appealed to so many Americans in the first place, because his attacks on media bias and fake news resonate so strongly with them.

To put a grieving family in the spotlight for the purpose of such a petty partisan swipe at Trump seems unconscionable.

But all the media smoke and mirrors obscures an even deeper reality than what Trump actually said, the reality of an aimless U.S. foreign policy with deadly consequences for American soldiers.

Many Americans were not even aware at the time of the October 4 ambush that the U.S. had troops on the ground in Niger. Sixteen years since 9-11, and the Overseas Contingency Operation, as the Global War on Terror was quietly renamed during the Obama administration, still has American soldiers fighting in foreign civil wars, sometimes with and sometimes against Islamic radicals, all over the Middle East and Africa.

And Rep. Frederica Wilson, who took Trump to task in the media for what he said on the phone call to her constituent, actually sponsored and got a bill passed in 2015 to increase the Department of Defense's involvement in the conflict in Niger and neighboring Nigeria.

So while partisans on both sides bicker over the president's words in a phone call to a dead soldier's widow, the actual cause of his death, and whether it serves any vital American interests has gone almost completely un-examined.

There have been some laudable attempts to address this question, notably by Slate and The Atlantic, which are worth reading.

In light of this tragedy, if Americans are weary of war overseas, and they certainly seem to be, they should demand that their representatives vote against funding for the Overseas Contingency Operation and pass a bill to formally bring this long war to an end.

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