Monday, June 8, 2020

Military leaders take stands against Trump

Heather Cox Richardson (Letters from an American) notes that hundreds of current and former military leaders are taking stands against Trump and his betrayal of his oath to the Constitution.

What has changed this week is that there are critical numbers of Americans, including those who control the military, publicly rejecting Trump and his version of America.

Crucially, the week saw military leaders taking a firm stand that they would not permit military personnel to be used against Americans. This is a huge deal, putting to rest any thought that Trump could rally the military to his standard. Over the course of the week, more and more former officers declared their support for equal rights and the Constitution, to which they swore an oath, and opposed Trump’s suggestion that he would call soldiers to put down protesters. Today, 89 former defense officials added their voices with an op-ed in the Washington Post echoing their colleagues, but going further to note: “We are alarmed at how the president is betraying” his oath to the Constitution.

This protest by high-ranking defense officials is having an effect. These are of note.

Without consulting the president, the Pentagon today disarmed the federalized National Guard troops in Washington and sent back to their bases the regular troops that had been moved to the city.

Today, the Marines directed their corps commanders to “identify, and remove the display of the Confederate battle flag or its depiction within work places, common-access areas, and public areas on their installations.” The order is to “support our core values, ensure unit cohesion and security, and preserve good order and discipline.”

Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser ended the state of emergency in the city and formally asked Trump to withdraw all extraordinary federal law enforcement and military presence from Washington, D.C.

Today [June 5], Trump visited the state of Maine, where he was greeted with a message from the editorial board of the Portland Press Herald. The headline read: “To President Trump: You should resign now."

Hundreds of Former National Security Officials Condemn Trump’s Response to Protests. In a letter, more than 200 former senior diplomats and military leaders say there is “no role” for the U.S. military to deal with protesters exercising free speech rights.

More than 280 former senior U.S. diplomats and military leaders rebuked President Donald Trump over his plans to use U.S. military units to control protests across the country in a letter shared with Foreign Policy on Friday.

The participants joined a chorus of high-ranking current and former officials who already have condemned the commander in chief after police forcibly cleared protesters near the White House this week for a photo opportunity.

Here is some of what they wrote.

"Many of us served across the globe, including in war zones, diplomats and military officers working side by side to advance American interests and values. We called out violations of human rights and the authoritarian regimes that deployed their military against their own citizens,” the former high-ranking officials wrote. “We condemn all criminal acts against persons and property, but cannot agree that responding to these acts is beyond the capabilities of local and state authorities.”

“There is no role for the U.S. military in dealing with American citizens exercising their constitutional right to free speech, however uncomfortable that speech may be for some,” the signatories added, condemning the use of National Guard helicopters in a so-called “rotor wash” low-flying action against protesters near the White House on Monday night. On Thursday, Defense Secretary Mark Esper ordered as many as 700 soldiers with the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division that were on high alert to respond to protests back home, leaving under 1,000 active-duty U.S. troops nearby, mostly from military police units.

Along the same lines in a Washington Post op-ed, 89 former Defense officials wrote The military must never be used to violate constitutional rights. Here’s some of the Post’s op-ed.

Looting and violence are unacceptable acts, and perpetrators should be arrested and duly tried under the law. But as Monday’s actions near the White House demonstrated, those committing such acts are largely on the margins of the vast majority of predominantly peaceful protests. While several past presidents have called on our armed services to provide additional aid to law enforcement in times of national crisis — among them Ulysses S. Grant, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson — these presidents used the military to protect the rights of Americans, not to violate them.

As former leaders in the Defense Department — civilian and military, Republican, Democrat and independent — we all took an oath upon assuming office “to support and defend the Constitution of the United States,” as did the president and all members of the military, a fact that Gen. Milley pointed out in a recent memorandum to members of the armed forces. We are alarmed at how the president is betraying this oath by threatening to order members of the U.S. military to violate the rights of their fellow Americans.

Beyond being unnecessary, using our military to quell protests across the country would also be unwise. This is not the mission our armed forces signed up for: They signed up to fight our nation’s enemies and to secure — not infringe upon — the rights and freedoms of their fellow Americans. In addition, putting our servicemen and women in the middle of politically charged domestic unrest risks undermining the apolitical nature of the military that is so essential to our democracy. It also risks diminishing Americans’ trust in our military — and thus America’s security — for years to come.

As defense leaders who share a deep commitment to the Constitution, to freedom and justice for all Americans, and to the extraordinary men and women who volunteer to serve and protect our nation, we call on the president to immediately end his plans to send active-duty military personnel into cities as agents of law enforcement, or to employ them or any another military or police forces in ways that undermine the constitutional rights of Americans. The members of our military are always ready to serve in our nation’s defense. But they must never be used to violate the rights of those they are sworn to protect.

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