Trump’s Ex-Defense Chief “Angry and Appalled”
Cleveland Police First District Commander Daniel Fay and protester Daniel Watkins, of Cleveland, Ohio hug after kneeling together at police headquarters. Meanwhile, in Minnesota, all four officers have been arrested and charged in the killing of George Floyd, a black man, nine days after the incident. (By Joshua Gunter/cleveland.com)
Former United States Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in the present administration blasted President Donald Trump on Wednesday, two days after the impeached leader said he is mobilizing “all available resources – civilian and military – to stop the rioting and looting, to end the destruction and arson, and to protect the rights of law-abiding Americans, including your Second Amendment rights.”
Trump used this incendiary language (the Second Amendment of the Constitution protects the individual right to keep and bear arms) on the seventh night of demonstrations for justice in the killing of George Floyd, a black man, by a police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota in dozens of cities across the country.
He called himself “your president of law and order”. While Trump spoke of justice, police fired tear gas and stun grenades on peaceful protesters outside the White House. After his speech, he and his staff walked through the cleared-out Lafayette Park and took photographs in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church, whose basement had been set afire on Sunday night. Trump held up high a Bible.
I feared that Trump would declare martial law as a dictator. In 1878, Congress passed the Posse Comitatus Act, which forbids U.S. military involvement in domestic law enforcement without congressional approval. The purpose of the act – in concert with the Insurrection Act of 1807 – is to limit the powers of the federal government.
Once again, Trump attempted to place himself above the law.
Mattis, who resigned from Trump’s cabinet last year, broke his silence:
“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.”
The retired U.S. Marine Corps general penned the impassioned plea In Union There Is Strength, made even stronger because Mattis has never publicly criticized Trump in the tradition of military leaders distancing themselves from politics and partisanship.
“I have watched this week’s unfolding events, angry and appalled. The words ‘Equal Justice Under Law’ are carried in the pediment of the United States Supreme Court. This is precisely what protesters are rightly demanding. It is a wholesome and unifying demand – one that all of us should be able to get behind. We must not be distracted by a small number of lawbreakers. The protests are defined by tens of thousands of people of conscience who are insisting that we live up to our values – our values as people and our values as a nation.
“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 circumstances 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.
“We must reject any thinking of our cities as a ‘battlespace’ that our uniformed military is called upon to ‘dominate’. At home, we should use our military only when requested to do so, on very rare occasions, by state governors. Militarizing our response, as we witnessed in Washington, D.C., sets up a conflict – a false conflict between the military and civilian society. It erodes the moral ground that ensures a trusted bond between men and women in uniform and the society they are sworn to protect, and of which they themselves are a part. Keeping public order rests with civilian states and local leaders who best understand their communities and are answerable to them.
“James Madison wrote in Federalist 14 that ‘America united with a handful of troops, or without a single soldier, exhibits a more forbidding posture to foreign ambition than America disunited, with a hundred thousand veterans ready for combat.’ We do not need to militarize our response to protests. We need to unite around a common purpose. And it starts by guaranteeing that all of us are equal before the law.
“Instructions given by the military departments to our troops before the Normandy invasion reminded soldiers that the Nazi slogan for destroying us . . . was ‘Divide and Conquer’. Our American answer is ‘In Union There is Strength.’ We must summon that unity to surmount this crisis – confident that we are better than our politics. . . .
“We can come through this trying time stronger, and with a renewed sense of purpose and respect for one another. The pandemic has shown us that it is not only our troops who are willing to offer the ultimate sacrifice for the safety of the community. Americans in hospitals, grocery stores, post offices, and elsewhere have put their lives on the line in order to serve their fellow citizens and their country. We know that we are better than the abuse of executive authority that we witnessed in Lafayette Square. We must reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution. At the same time, we must remember Lincoln’s ‘better angels’, and listen to them, as we work to unite.
Only by adopting a new path – which means, in truth, returning to the original path of our founding ideals – will we again be a country admired and respected at home and abroad.”
Trump tweeted his response to Mattis on Wednesday:
“Probably the only thing Barack Obama and 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 it to ‘Mad Dog.’ 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!”
Perhaps Mattis’ outspokenness will encourage others, who have been silent, to speak out and not be complicit in Trump’s ineptness and priority of his own interests, not those of the American people.