America’s top military brass on Wednesday tried to calm fears of soldiers and the anti-Trump media, by affirming the constitutional separation that rules military life and how armed forces are expected to interact domestically.
The leaders of the Navy, Army and Air Force provided statements that qualified the roles of the armed forces and their allegiance to the constitution above the fray of politics, while Defense Secretary Mark Esper addressed a press conference, telling reporters he was surprised by the direction U.S. President Donald J. Trump was taking by bringing out the troops to intimidate rioters.
Meanhwile, also on Wednesday, the Associated Press, citing unnamed DoD sources, said the 200 soldiers for the 82nd Airborne would be returning to base from the Capitol while other troops would follow in the street violence continued to subside.
The barrage of rhetorical ammo fired against the President started early in the day, with an Op-Ed by former Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis, published in The Atlantic, and distributed widely by CNN, where he takes the president to task for “not uniting” Americans.
Politics watchers immediately pointed out that The Atlantic had become an Establishment tool of those against the President, who fired Mattis for insisting that the U.S. continue fighting the Middle East war from Syria, which the Army has since walked away from that arena to bring troops home. That the article was placed there was telling.
Ultimately, draining the Washington swamp is about ending overseas wars as much as rooting out domestic corruption, so the direct attacks are only coming as the Administration comes closer to uncovering and exposing the decades of fraud.
Mattis wrote: “Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people—does not even pretend to try. Instead he tries to divide us.”
“We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership. We can unite without him, drawing on the strengths inherent in our civil society. This will not be easy, as the past few days have shown, but we owe it to our fellow citizens; to past generations that bled to defend our promise; and to our children,” Mattis wrote.
The move was also surprising after Mattis maintained that he owed the administration some silence, in August 2019: “If you leave an administration, you owe some silence. When you leave an administration over clear policy differences, you need to give the people who are still there as much opportunity as possible to defend the country.”
Late Wednesday, President Trump fired back:
Probably the only thing Barack Obama & I have in common is that we both had the honor of firing Jim Mattis, the world’s most overrated General. I asked for his letter of resignation, & felt great about it. His nickname was “Chaos”, which I didn’t like, & changed to “Mad Dog”…
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 4, 2020
…His primary strength was not military, but rather personal public relations. I gave him a new life, things to do, and battles to win, but he seldom “brought home the bacon”. I didn’t like his “leadership” style or much else about him, and many others agree. Glad he is gone!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 4, 2020
The statements from the heads of the branches were far more measured, focusing on the military’s constitutional role and the right attitude to counter any racism in the troops.
U.S. Army General Mark Milley issued a memo:.
“We in uniform – all branches, all components and all ranks- remain committed to our national values and principles embedded in the Constitution.”
The National Guard is “operating under the authority of the state Governors to protect lives and property, preserve peace and protect public property.“
The expectations in this memo are a clear reminder that members of the Joint Force are “comprised of all races, colors and creeds” and that this embodies the ideals of our Constitution.
A video statement from the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Mike Gilday encourages sailors to listen first, treat people with dignity and respect, and followed that up with private conversations when encountering racist behavior to educate people without inflaming their anger.
“Make them more self-aware of what they did and what they said. If we don’t do that, racism, injustice, indignity, and disrespect – it’s going to grow and it’s going to continue. And we’ll have more weeks like we’ve had this week. And we’ll be disappointed. We’ll be more disappointed in ourselves because we let it happen. We let it happen. “
The Army’s top brass also shared their concerns in an unsigned statement:
”We feel the frustration and anger. We felt it this week while traveling through the nation’s capital with the DC National Guard. We feel it, even though we can never fully understand the frustration and life experiences of people of color, in or out of uniform. But we do understand the importance of taking care of people, and of treating every person with dignity and respect.”
The Air Force also issued a statement, encouraging Airmen to look internally “at every echelon of command, so we emerge stronger as a profession of arms. It was our very own General Benjamin O. Davis, Tuskegee Airman, who said, “The privileges of being an American belong to those brave enough to fight for them.”
“It is time for every one of us to strive for understanding and a culture of inclusiveness and belonging across our Air Force.”
One former soldier responded to the issue by posting Army rule 4.1.2. Where military members must be non-partisan when in uniform — see the full document below.
4.1.2. A member of the Armed Forces on active duty shall not:
188.8.131.52. Participate in partisan political fundraising activities (except as permitted in subparagraph 184.108.40.206.), *RALLIES*, conventions (including making speeches in the course thereof), management of campaigns,
— LT FREEDOM (@lt_freedom) June 3, 2020