A coup by any other name and maybe even a little light treason. Those are the accusations flying over revelations in a new Bob Woodward book about what Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley did after the January 6 Capitol riots.
Milley reportedly held several phone calls shortly after January 6, with both Speaker Nancy Pelosi and with his counterpart in China. According to Woodward, the general gave assurances to Gen. Li Zuocheng that he would alert the Chinese to any possible coming attack, nuclear or otherwise.
There is no evidence President Trump was planning any kind of strike against China, or Iran, or Florida. No battle plans were being drawn. Miller supposedly took these actions after Trump signed an executive order removing US forces from Afghanistan. Woodward and Robert Costa write that Milley was concerned that Trump would ‘go rogue’ post election loss. Milley held meeting and phone calls without Trump’s knowledge and directed staff, ‘No matter what you are told, you do the procedure. You do the process. And I’m part of that procedure.’ Milley then went around the room to each general and demanded what the book is calling ‘an oath’.
The trouble is, Milley wasn’t legally granted any of these extraordinary powers. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff essentially usurped the chain of command and attempted to take civilian control of the United States military away from a duly elected president, simply because of his own gut feelings tinged with a bit of paranoia.
The larger problem at hand is that no one elected Gen. Milley to anything. It is not the job of the military state, or the intelligence state (James Comey) to override the governing authority granted to the president of the United States. We the people make those choices. If we the people decide to elect a brash gameshow host with a short fuse and no governing experience, then that is the choice we make, yes, even should the republic fall. Unelected bureaucrats and generals holding secret meetings with hostile foreign nations are the things that lead to actual banana republics and military juntas, not mean tweets and yelling at journalists.
Even Trump antagonist and MSNBC regular Alexander Vindman admits as much and is calling for Milley’s immediate resignation. Vindman tweeted, ‘If this is true GEN Milley must resign. He usurped civilian authority, broke Chain of Command, and violated the sacrosanct principle of civilian control over the military. It’s an extremely dangerous precedent. You can’t simply walk away from that.’
Vindman is correct. The United States is ours to keep or lose. That decision is not up to Gen. Milley, no matter how much he squeals he is ‘needed on that wall’.
You have to wonder: if Milley was willing to overstep his authority in January, what’s stopping him from believing that an 80-year-old Joe Biden might be incapacitated to the point of not being able to make clear headed decisions regarding actions in, say, Afghanistan? Media pundits and Milley defenders aren’t looking at the long game. But they should. Milley does not become a patriot by suddenly aligning with the wild fantasies of #Resistance Twitter. If he’s willing to overstep his authority with imagined scenarios in the Trump era, how far would he be willing to go in the real world? How much authority was Milley granted on President Biden’s catastrophic Afghanistan withdrawal? How much say did Milley have in a drone strike that reportedly targeted and killed a US-aligned aide worker and seven children in Kabul?
Milley has several questions to answer about all of these matters, but it’s clear that he should answer them only once he has resigned his post, hung up his uniform and is sitting for interviews in civvies just like the rest of us. He doesn’t belong anywhere near the levers of power that we the voters grant our elected officials. He has shown himself to be incapable of understanding or respecting that fundamental idea.