Air Force veteran is demanding Trump stop sharing a dated video of him confronting Biden.

​It’s a real­ly hard pill to swal­low hav­ing to vote for Biden, but as a harm reduc­tion approach, I feel like there is going to be less harm inflict­ed with Joe Biden as pres­i­dent than Trump.
–US Air Force veteran and former Courage to Resist organizer Michael Thurman

By Sarah Lazare, In These Times

A U.S. Air Force vet­er­an who con­front­ed for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Biden over his Iraq War record in March dur­ing the Demo­c­ra­t­ic pri­ma­ry is demand­ing that Pres­i­dent Trump stop using a dat­ed viral video of the inci­dent to ​“mis­con­strue it” as a ges­ture of sup­port for the president.

Michael Thur­man, 32, is an active mem­ber of the anti-war vet­er­ans’ orga­ni­za­tion About Face: Vet­er­ans Against The War (for­mer­ly called Iraq Vet­er­ans Against the War). He says it has been ​“very stress­ful” and ​“dis­con­cert­ing” to see the Trump admin­is­tra­tion ​“using vet­er­ans as props for their own polit­i­cal gain against the wish­es of those vet­er­ans, myself includ­ed. That’s beyond wrong.”

On Super Tues­day, Thur­man con­front­ed Biden at a din­er in Oak­land, Cal­i­for­nia, where the for­mer vice pres­i­dent was mak­ing a cam­paign stop. In a video that has since gone viral, Thur­man can be heard say­ing to Biden, ​“We are just won­der­ing why we should vote for some­one who vot­ed for a war and enabled a war that killed thou­sands of our broth­ers and sis­ters, count­less Iraqi civilians.”

Joe Biden not only vot­ed to autho­rize the 2003 U.S. inva­sion of Iraq, but played a lead role in con­vinc­ing Democ­rats and the pub­lic to sup­port the war. Accord­ing to Thur­man, the con­fronta­tion was part of a larg­er effort among his orga­ni­za­tion to high­light the impor­tance of anti-war posi­tions in the pres­i­den­tial election.

In the video, Thur­man said to Biden, ​“You enabled that war and you also gave a medal to a man who caused that war. This blood is on your hands as well. You are dis­qual­i­fied sir, you are dis­qual­i­fied. My friends are dead.” Thur­man was ref­er­enc­ing Biden’s pre­sen­ta­tion of the Lib­er­ty Medal to George W. Bush and Lau­ra Bush in Novem­ber 2018.

Biden can then be heard say­ing that his son Beau, who served in Iraq for a year, was also dead, before walk­ing away as Thur­man said, his voice raised, ​“My broth­ers and sis­ters died in Iraq and Afghanistan. He enabled that to hap­pen. He is disqualified.”

On Sep­tem­ber 6, Don­ald Trump Jr. shared the video on Twit­ter, writ­ing, ​“Wow, an Air Force vet calls Biden out for vot­ing for the Iraq War.” Pres­i­dent Trump then retweet­ed his son’s post on Sep­tem­ber 7.

Thur­man wor­ries that view­ers will think the video cap­tures an inci­dent that hap­pened recent­ly, rather than du­ing the Demo­c­ra­t­ic pri­ma­ry cam­paign. Thur­man says, ​“This was treat­ed by Don­ald Trump Jr. like it just hap­pened. The video was post­ed on Super Tues­day.” His con­cern that view­ers might mis­in­ter­pret the video as an expres­sion of sup­port for Trump, due to the president’s boost­ing, prompt­ed Thur­man to release his own video state­ment con­demn­ing the president.

Thur­man told In These Times that impor­tant nuance did not come across in the video. At one point, dur­ing the con­fronta­tion, Thur­man said to Biden as the lat­ter was walk­ing away, ​“Trump is more anti-war than Joe Biden.”

Thur­man explains that in the hec­tic moment of con­fronting a nation­al politi­cian, it can be dif­fi­cult to express com­plex­i­ty. He says he was try­ing to high­light the prob­lem of bipar­ti­san sup­port for wars, and attempt­ing to make the point that Biden, at the time, was to the right of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic field when it comes to war and mil­i­tarism. ​“I thought most of the oth­er Democ­rats had a bet­ter record than Biden,” he explains. ​“I was more for Sanders and War­ren. I def­i­nite­ly thought that Biden was the worst one out there.”

Thur­man says that, what­ev­er his crit­i­cisms of Biden, he thinks Trump is more harm­ful. ​“I think Trump is worse than Biden,” he says. ​“It’s a real­ly hard pill to swal­low hav­ing to vote for Biden, but as a harm reduc­tion approach, I feel like there is going to be less harm inflict­ed with Joe Biden as pres­i­dent than Trump.”

“This has been tak­en out of con­text and mis­con­strued,” says Thur­man. ​“Trump is not anti-war. The wars that were start­ed by George W. Bush and con­tin­ued by the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion, he has con­tin­ued him­self and expand­ed those wars. He has tried to foment more wars abroad with Iran, and he is foment­ing a civ­il race war at home.”

In 2018, the Trump admin­is­tra­tion dropped a record num­ber of bombs on Afghanistan, with 5,213 weapons released from manned and unmanned air­crafts between Jan­u­ary and the end of Sep­tem­ber. Trump has also esca­lat­ed U.S. par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Yemen war (ini­ti­at­ed by the Oba­ma-Biden admin­is­tra­tion), has over­seen spikes in civil­ian deaths there, and has vetoed efforts to end U.S. involve­ment in the war. At the begin­ning of 2020, Trump brought the Unit­ed States to the brink of direct war with Iran when his admin­is­tra­tion assas­si­nat­ed Maj. Gen. Qas­sim Suleimani, the com­man­der of Iran’s Quds Force and a rank­ing offi­cial of Iran. Trump also with­drew the Unit­ed States from the Joint Com­pre­hen­sive Plan of Action, pop­u­lar­ly known as the Iran nuclear deal, and imposed dev­as­tat­ing ​“max­i­mum pres­sure” sanc­tions on the country.

Thur­man says he is con­cerned that Trump’s shar­ing of his video is part of a larg­er effort to false­ly brand the pres­i­dent as anti-war. Trump has appeared to be on a spree of spread­ing anti-war sen­ti­ments, recent­ly retweet­ing a tweet by the jour­nal­ist Glenn Green­wald which notes that, in his farewell address, for­mer Pres­i­dent Dwight D. Eisen­how­er ​“had 16 min­utes on TV to warn Amer­i­cans of what he thought they most need­ed to know, and used it pri­mar­i­ly to empha­size the dan­gers of Pen­ta­gon growth, weapons spend­ing, and the threats of End­less War.”

In remarks made at the White House on Sep­tem­ber 7, Trump pre­sent­ed him­self as an oppo­nent of the mil­i­tary-indus­tri­al-com­plex. ​“I’m not say­ing the military’s in love with me — the sol­diers are, the top peo­ple in the Pen­ta­gon prob­a­bly aren’t because they want to do noth­ing but fight wars so that all of those won­der­ful com­pa­nies that make the bombs and make the planes and make every­thing else stay hap­py,” he said.

In fact, Trump has over­seen bloat­ed mil­i­tary bud­gets, a buildup in nuclear weapons, and the appoint­ment of for­mer defense indus­try lob­by­ists like Sec­re­tary of Defense Mark Esper to top posi­tions in his administration.

Thur­man, who served in an intel­li­gence wing of the Air Force state­side, says he became a con­sci­en­tious objec­tor in 2008 ​“after I was exposed to things in my ser­vice I could­n’t con­sci­en­tious­ly be a part of any­more.” A San Fran­cis­co — Bay Area res­i­dent, Thur­man is ask­ing for Trump to imme­di­ate­ly stop shar­ing the video.

“Don­ald Trump and his admin­is­tra­tion,” says Thur­man, ​“is the embod­i­ment of every­thing we oppose as we fight for a more just, peace­ful and free world.”