• Trump said Monday military leaders want to fight endless wars
  • McConville says many military leaders have children who also are serving and think long and hard about combat decisions
  • Trump's conflicts with the military escalated last week when he was quoted as calling America's war dead "losers" and "suckers"

Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville, the Army’s top general, said Tuesday the military takes very seriously decisions on sending troops into combat and would do so only as a “last resort.”

President Trump, during a Labor Day news conference, said military leaders promote endless wars to keep defense contractors happy.

“I’m not saying the military is 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,” Trump said.

Without addressing Trump’s remark directly, McConville said he’s talked without other military leaders, many of whom “have sons and daughters who have gone to combat or may be in combat right now. So, I can assure the American people that senior leaders would only recommend sending troops to combat when it's required in national security, or as a last resort," McConville said during a Defense One livestream. "I feel very strong about it."

McConville stressed the necessity of the military staying apolitical – an apparent swipe at Trump’s use of Joint Chief’s Chairman Gen. Mark Milley during a photo op earlier this summer shortly after tear gas was used to clear a path from the White House to St. John’s Episcopal Church across Lafayette Square so the president could pose with a Bible.

Milley later apologized, saying, he “should not have been there” because his presence “created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics.” Both Milley, who was dressed in fatigues, and Defense Secretary Mark Esper said they had not realized what Trump had in mind.

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows on Tuesday attempted to clarify Trump’s Monday remarks, saying they were aimed at the military-industrial complex, not anyone in particular.

"This president is consistent about one thing: If we're going to send our sons and daughters abroad to fight on our behalf, he's not going to let some lobbyist here in Washington, D.C., just because they want a new defense contract, suggest that they need to stay abroad one minute longer than they should," Meadows said. "He's been consistent about stopping these endless wars. He's going to continue to fight against the special interest groups here in Washington, D.C."

Trump has been under fire in recent days following a report in The Atlantic, quoting him as calling America’s war dead “losers” and “suckers.” Trump has called the report “fake news,” even though it has been confirmed by other news outlets and The Atlantic’s editor has promised follow-up stories.