Senior apolitical US military officer at center of controversy again

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As the 20th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, surly and highly decorated Army General Mark Milley was reportedly handpicked by then-President Donald Trump because of his boast “Badass” and his frank speech.

Under the United States Constitution, the President, not the President, is the Commander-in-Chief of the United States military. And since early 2019, Princeton-educated Milley has made it clear that his primary responsibility is to protect and defend the Constitution and not respond to a controversial president.

Officials close to Milley told VOA his attention to his allies and competitors was to seek “strategic stability” while reducing tensions.

But the president’s efforts to remain apolitical have sometimes been interpreted by his critics as politicizing his position. The man who said he wanted to keep the military out of politics has repeatedly found himself at the center of political debate and controversy.

2020 events

Milley apologized in June 2020 for marching with Trump on Lafayette Square, where protesters were protesting the death of African American George Floyd while in custody in Minneapolis.

FILE – President Donald Trump holds a Bible as he walks outside St. John’s Church through Lafayette Park from the White House on Monday, June 1, 2020, in Washington.

Riot police and members of the National Guard forcibly evicted protesters from the public park outside the White House before Trump crossed the plaza with several members of his cabinet and Milley. The president then stood outside a historic church, posing for photos with a Bible in his hands.

“I shouldn’t have been there,” Milley said later in remarks to students at National Defense University.

Immediately after the incident, a senior defense official told reporters that neither Milley nor then Defense Secretary Mark Esper intended to participate in the photoshoot and believed that they simply walked outside to see the troops present during the demonstrations.

In the final days of Trump’s presidency, Milley also issued a message to the military denouncing the Jan.6 attack on the United States Capitol by Trump supporters attempting to overturn President Joe Biden’s election victory.

“The violent riot in Washington, DC on January 6, 2021, was a direct attack on the United States Congress, the Capitol and our constitutional process,” Milley and other chiefs of staff wrote in a memo to the scale of force.

“We have witnessed actions inside the Capitol building that were incompatible with the rule of law. The rights to freedom of expression and assembly do not give anyone the right to resort to violence, sedition and insurrection, ”added the leaders.

Privately, it is reported that Milley bitterly blamed Trump for the tone of the election leading up to the riot, comparing it to the circumstances surrounding an election in Nazi-era Germany.

“This is a Reichstag moment,” he told others, referring to the 1933 attack on the German Parliament, according to a book by Washington Post reporters Carol D. Leonnig and Philip Rucker.

“Peril” revives critics

Now, new information shared in the book “Peril,” an account of the final days of the Trump administration by reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa of the Washington Post, has experts claiming once again that Milley has damaged relations. between civilian and military leaders. .

“The general’s actions have strained important civil-military precedents, and that confidence will need to be restored.” Retired Army Col. Jeff McCausland, a former member of the National Security Council, wrote this week in a NBC News trial. “But they also revealed the ripple effects of a president desperate to stay in office.”

FILE - General Li Zuocheng of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) of China, center, speaks during a meeting with the Chief of Staff of the United States Army, General Mark Milley, at the Bayi building in Beijing, August 16, 2016.

FILE – General Li Zuocheng of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China, center, speaks during a meeting with the Chief of Staff of the United States Army, General Mark Milley, at the Bayi building in Beijing, August 16, 2016.

The backlash centers around two phone calls Milley made to Chinese General Li Zuocheng. According to the book, Milley allegedly told Li during the first call on October 30, 2020, that he would contact him if a nuclear attack from the United States was imminent.

Milley reached out a second time in the aftermath of the Jan.6 assault on Capitol Hill in an attempt to reassure the Chinese that the United States remained stable, telling Li that “democracy can sometimes be botched.”

In addition to the two appeals to his Chinese counterpart, Milley also reportedly held a secret meeting of the country’s top military officials at the Pentagon after Trump refused to accept the presidential election results. According to the book, during the meeting he reminded officers of the procedure for launching nuclear weapons and sought to ensure that nuclear launch control officers would notify him if an order of this magnitude was issued.

Republican Senator Marco Rubio and retired Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman called for Milley’s resignation following the revelations, with Rubio saying the general was trying to “actively undermine” Trump.

Milley said on Friday that the calls he made to Li were “perfectly within the scope of the duties and responsibilities” of his job.

Regarding the meeting on nuclear weapons procedures, Milley’s spokesman, Army Col. Dave Butler, said it was “to remind uniformed Pentagon leaders of the sound and established procedures of long standing in light of media reports on the subject “.

President Joe Biden lent his support to Milley shortly after the book’s findings were revealed, saying he had “great faith” in the general.

Chairman of Joint Chiefs

The president generally serves a four-year term on the proposal of the president and confirmation by the Senate. While the President is the commander-in-chief of the military, Congress also controls the military by its sole power to declare war and its responsibility to raise and sustain armed forces.

This civilian control, divided between the executive and legislative branches of government, has been incorporated into the Constitution to “advance the security of the nation, while ensuring that the instruments of force do not undermine the practice of American democracy,” according to a congressional. June 2020 Research Service Report.

While the president is superior to all other military officers and holds a very prestigious position, the law prohibits him from operating in command of combat troops. Instead, the President is the primary military adviser to the President and the Secretary of Defense in exercising their powers of command.

The Goldwater-Nichols DOD Reorganization Act of 1986 delineates the military chain of command from the president to the secretary of defense directly to the commander of a fighter command. Therefore, military activities in Iraq, for example, would be carried out by the head of the US Central Command, Marine General Frank McKenzie, and not by the Joint Chiefs.

Joint chiefs include the president, vice president, and heads of the six military branches, including the military, navy, air force, marines, space force, and the national guard office.


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