Saturday, June 6, 2020

The generals' revolt. Why it's important.

On the steps of the  Lincoln Memorial, June 2, 2020. (Photo credit: Martha Raddatz).

"When I joined the military, some 50 years ago, I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution. Never did I dream that troops taking that same oath would be ordered under any circumstance to violate the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens — much less to provide a bizarre photo op for the elected commander-in-chief, with military leadership standing alongside.”
 -- Gen. Mattis in The Atlantic
Trump has taken a political beating in the media over his threatened use of the Insurrection Act as a means to deploy the military against civilian demonstrators and send federal troops into the cities to "dominate" the protesters. State governors and local mayors are throwing him a collective middle finger on that one. But they're not his main problem.

His clownish, but dangerous maneuver Monday night to clear protesters out of Lafayette Park, stroll across H Street and hold up a Bible in front of the historic St. John's Church -- all the while flocked by a phalanx of law enforcement officials. actually cost him support among white evangelical supporters. Something few thought would ever happen.

Even more significant was the open revolt by a group of top military brass, including his own Sec. of Defense Mark Esper, at the prospect of the use of federal troops to put down the protests. General Mark Milley, the top US commander, even issued a memo to military leaders reminding them of their oaths to protect the US Constitution and the "right to freedom of speech and peaceful assembly".

All this came the heels of the resignation of James Miller, a former undersecretary of defense for policy. He announced his resignation from the Science Defense Board in the Washington Post upbraiding Esper for being such a political toady. Then came an open letter from Gen. James "Mad Dog" Mattis, who chimed in with his own strongly worded statement criticizing Trump directly for his divisive rhetoric during the protests.

Gen. David Goldfein, the Air Force chief of staff, and Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria, superintendent of the Air Force Academy, also spoke up this week in support of the protests for racial justice, with Silveria directly repudiating the use of violence against fellow Americans. In addition, Air Force Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel, who heads the National Guard Bureau, put out a statement Wednesday entitled “We Must Do Better,” denouncing the racism that has resulted in the deaths of so many unarmed African Americans

Troops from Fort Hood refused orders to go to Chicago to crush protests in 1968/ 

What the hell's going on you might ask?

Well for starters, with Trump's reelection campaign floundering and poll numbers showing Joe Biden pulling ahead, especially in key battleground states, any plan by Republicans to cancel or rig the elections in November or to hang onto power after a loss to Democrats, would require military and paramilitary logistical support.

Then there's the likelihood that the generals themselves are fearing dissension in their own ranks? Are they afraid of a revolt in the event troops are ordered to fire on members of their own communities? It wouldn't be the first time.

I'm thinking back to 1968 when the order for troops from Ft. Hood to go to Chicago for “Riot control” duty at the Democratic National Convention led to one of the most powerful rebellions by African-American soldiers who came to be known as the Ft. Hood 43.

Buckle up. These past four months have been a wild ride. The next five could get even wilder.

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