President Donald Trump has made a habit of using a particular phrase that has angered members of the US military community.
The latest instance came on Wednesday, when the president was asked whether he authorized the mission that resulted in the deaths of four US military members in Niger earlier this month.
“My generals and my military, they have decision-making ability,” Trump told reporters.
“As far as the incident that we’re talking about, I’ve been seeing it just like you’ve been seeing it. I’ve been getting reports. They have to meet the enemy and they meet them tough,” Trump said.
What has set military members off is Trump’s insistence on saying “my generals” and “my military,” which some say suggests a misguided sense of ownership over the country’s armed forces.
In the past, former military members have voiced their displeasure with Trump’s phrasing. Former Army Officer Mark Hertling recently told Business Insider he found Trump’s language “extremely offensive.”
“The US military belongs to the nation, not the president. We’re not his,” Hertling said.
Leon Panetta, the former defense secretary and director of the CIA, has also objected to the president’s choice of words.
“When it comes to the military, the military belongs to the country. Our defense system belongs to the country. And it’s not the president’s military, it’s the military of the United States of America,” Panetta said on MSNBC in April.
“He has responsibility obviously, as commander in chief, to be able to make decisions with regards to our military. But I think if you ask the men and women in uniform who they are responsible to, I think their answer would be, ‘We’re responsible to the United States of America.'”
Wednesday’s comments are far from the first time Trump has referred to the US military in possessive terms. He did it just a week ago as he incorrectly asserted that former President Barack Obama didn’t call the families of fallen soldiers:
“President Obama, I think, probably did sometimes, and maybe sometimes he didn’t, that’s what I was told. All I can do is ask my generals,” Trump said.
The president used the phrase again in July in a tweet announcing his decision to ban transgender members of the military, “after consultation with my generals and military experts.”
In April, when a reporter asked Trump if he had personally authorized a bomb strike on an ISIS tunnel complex, the president responded, “Everybody knows exactly what happened. What I do is I authorize my military.”
One of the first instances came on Inauguration Day in January — at a luncheon just hours after being inaugurated — when Trump recognized Gens. James Mattis and John Kelly.
“I see my generals, generals that are going to keep us so safe,” Trump said to members of Congress and other dignitaries, before saying to Mattis, “These are central casting. If I’m doing a movie, I pick you General.”