The Atlantic

Radio Atlantic: ‘He Doesn’t Understand War’

A congressman and combat veteran talks about what happens when the commander in chief has no sense of what life on the front lines is like.
Source: Matt York / AP

Ruben Gallego is an Iraq War veteran, a three-term congressman, and a member of the House Armed Services Committee. Despite all that, he’s as confused as most Americans about what’s happening with Iran.  

America isn’t at war, he told me in an interview Wednesday morning, but that “doesn’t mean that we’re not in conflict … and we don’t know how long it’s going to take.” As we spoke, Gallego was preparing to head to a classified briefing on the Iran situation, but he wasn’t confident about getting answers anytime soon. He kept using the word “scary” to describe what’s ahead. But the point he stressed repeatedly was how detached the politicized debate in Washington—as well as the chatter that erupted on social media about World War III after the strike killing Iranian General Qasem Soleimani—can feel to the troops on the ground.

Gallego fought alongside many marines who were killed in Iraq, including his best friend, and at several points in our interview started to

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