US President Donald Trump went with the first lady to visit troops in Iraq on Christmas evening to show his support for the troops and wish them a Merry Christmas.
This marks the first time during Trump’s presidency that he has visited troops in an active combat zone and coincides with the decision by the Trump administration to remove the 2,000 US troops stationed in Syria and having the 14,000 soldiers stationed in Afghanistan. During his campaign, Trump promised to pull troops out of Syria and Afghanistan, but not from Iraq. Trump has made clear that he is not planning on withdrawing troops from Iraq and at the base said “We’re no longer the suckers, folks. Our presence in Syria was not open-ended, and it was never intended to be permanent. Eight years ago, we went there for three months, and we never left.”
Last year, Trump had visited the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, something former president George W. Bush had done from 2003 to 2008, continuing the tradition of sitting presidents visiting the troops during the holidays to boost morale. Trump may have visited the troops in Iraq to boost his approval ratings as well following the partial government shutdown over funding forTrump’ss border wall. Currently, Trump has an approval rating of around 41 percent, which is four percent higher than he was a year ago.
While visiting the troops, Trump said “We are always going to protect you. And you just saw that because you just got one of the biggest pay raises you’ve ever received — unless you don’t want it. (Applause.) Does anybody here — is anybody here willing to give up the big pay raise you just got? Raise your hands, please. Ah, I don’t see too many hands. Okay, don’t give it up. It’s great. You know what? Nobody deserves it more. You haven’t gotten one in more than 10 years — more than 10 years. And we got you a big one. I got you a big one. I got you a big one. (Applause.)”
Howeve,r it is unclear what 10 percent raise Trump is referring to. This year, according to figures from the Department of Defense, raises in 2018 were a 2.4 percent increase from the previous year. In August, Trump signed the Fiscal 2019 Defense Authorization Act, which will give a 2.6 percent pay raise to 15,600 service members in 2019.
It is also unclear what Trump meant when he said the troops “haven’t gotten one in more than 10 years” as the Department of Defense data shows there has been an increase in pay every year for the past 11 years. It is possible that Trump is referring to some other raise in military pay that is not included in the basic annual pay figures, but he did not clarify whose pay or which pay was being raised in his remarks.