Thursday, June 11, 2020

Chair of Joint Chiefs apologizes for Lafayette walk, reaffirms apolitical military

The Washington Post reports that Pentagon’s top general apologizes for appearing alongside Trump in Lafayette Square.

The Pentagon’s top general apologized on Thursday for appearing alongside President Trump near the White House after authorities forcibly removed peaceful protesters from the area, saying that it “was a mistake that I have learned from."

Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made the remarks in a prerecorded graduation speech to students at the National Defense University. He has been roundly criticized for thrusting the military into politics by walking alongside the president on June 1 as Trump traveled on foot to a nearby church that had been damaged during protests following the police killing of George Floyd.

Milley advised the students that it is important to keep “a keen sense of situational awareness” and that he had failed to do so as he walked from Lafayette Square in combat fatigues alongside the president, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper and other senior advisers.

"As many of you saw the results of the photograph of me in Lafayette Square last week, that sparked a national debate about the role of the military in civil society,” Milley said. “I should not have been there. My presence in that moment, and in that environment, created the perception of the military involved in domestic politics.”

The apology follows a backlash from several retired senior officers, including Jim Mattis, who served as Trump’s first defense secretary.

In a scathing message, Mattis, a retired Marine Corps general, blasted the president for working to divide the country and took exception to the events in Lafayette Square. Mattis was motivated to write in part because he was appalled by the appearance of Milley in an event that critics said made it look as though Trump could use the military as a political club against opponents, several people close to Mattis told The Washington Post.

Go to the WaPo report for more quotes and background. There you will find a clip of Milley apologizing.

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