Three days after an American drone destroyed a car on a Kabul street, General Mark Milley ignored reports of civilian casualties, insisting it was a legitimate strike.
That word came back to haunt the Americas’ highest general on Friday when the Pentagon was forced to admit the 10 dead were civilians, including seven children. The drone had struck the wrong white Toyota Corolla.
It was, says Milley, a horrible and heartbreaking war tragedy.
It was the last act of the longest war in the Americas, as tragically insane as most of the previous 20 years.
It also dealt a blow to Milleys’ credibility as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at a time when he needed it most, at the end of a week of revelations of action during the administration. Trump who appeared to bend and possibly break the rules of how civilian leaders and generals are supposed to interact under American democracy.
Milley has previously confirmed an account in the book Peril, from the Washington Posts Bob Woodward and Robert Acosta, that he offered to warn his Chinese counterpart if Donald Trump ordered an attack in the chaotic final weeks of his tenure. He did not deny telling junior officers to consult with him if Trump orders a nuclear launch, an order that conflicts with the official chain of command.
Republicans have demanded his resignation, and even those who defended him for being ready to step in to possibly save the world from an arguably deranged American leader, have expressed unease over the example set by a general undermining the authority of the elected commander-in-chief. -chief.
I think he did the right thing given the terrible situation we put him in, but it sets a terrible precedent, said Tom Collina, policy director at the Plowshares Fund, which advocates disarmament and disarmament. non-proliferation.
We see General Milley doing something very disturbing, which is to violate the distinction between civil and military authority, Collina said. The decision to launch nuclear weapons should be a civil decision. We decided that in 1945. The military should not decide on the use of nuclear power.
Trump gave Milley the top job in December 2018, long before his predecessor, General Joseph Dunford, retired, and against the recommendation of then Defense Secretary James Mattis.
By all accounts, it was the outspoken affability of the Bostonians that seemed to have won over the wayward president, along with his combat experience, his bulldog demeanor, and their common concern about wasting Pentagon spending.
Respect for the tough men in uniform and bipartisan enthusiasm for Milley in Congress made him difficult to fire, giving him some clout over the president.
But the relationship began to fade with the Black Lives Matter protests in the summer of 2020. Milley fiercely resisted Trump’s efforts to put troops on active duty on the streets to quell the protests and supported changing the names of army bases named after Confederate generals.
The pivotal moment came on June 1 when Trump had Lafayette Square, the park in front of the White House, cleared of protesters by riot police using tear gas, so the president could hold a photo op in front of the White House. church across the road.
Milley was dressed in fatigues that day because he was on his way to visit an FBI operations center when he was summoned by the President on short notice.
So here is the dilemma for a senior officer, said a former Pentagon colleague from Milleys. You go back to the Pentagon, take 45 minutes to change and come back, don’t you? No, the president is calling, go ahead.
When Milley followed Trump out of the gates of the White House with an entourage of cabinet secretaries and assistants, he believed they were about to thank the National Guard officers for their service. It wasn’t until they approached the church and press photographers emerged that he realized he had been hijacked to appear in uniform during a political coup.
Ten days later, Milley publicly apologized, much to Trump’s disgust.
I shouldn’t have been there, he said in an opening speech at the National Defense University. As an officer in uniform, it was a mistake I learned.
He’s funny, smart, irreverent, straightforward and all that, said one of Milleys’ friends. But he is also somewhat of an obsessive constitutionalist. He reads a lot of history. He believes in American citizenship and he understands American citizenship. It understands the branches of government and who has what responsibility for what.
It was Milley’s historian and constitutional scholar who grew increasingly concerned in the aftermath of the November election as it became clear that Trump would not accept the result.
The generals’ greatest fear was that the defeated president, in his despair, would start a war as a pretext to impose martial law on him. Milley called it the Reichstag moment, according to Peril and a previous book on the last days of the Trump presidency, I Alone Can Fix It.
Milley confirmed his call to his Chinese counterpart to reassure Beijing that Trump would not launch a surprise attack, saying it was to ensure strategic stability and that it was perfectly within the duties and responsibilities of the president.
Subsequent reports suggested that Milley had been authorized by then Defense Secretary Mark Esper to make the appeal.
The issue of nuclear launch is legally more problematic for Milley. According to Peril’s account, Milley summoned senior officers from the National Military Command Center (NMCC), the Pentagon’s war room, and made it clear that he must be consulted in case the president issues an order for a nuclear attack. . .
There would be no legal basis for the Milleys Ordinance. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs is an advisor to the President but is not part of the chain of command. In the American system, once the president gives the NMCC its verification codes, he can order the general one star in service at the NMCC to launch American nuclear missiles and no one, not even the Secretary of Defense, can l ‘Stop.
Milley’s demand for combatant commands to pass any use of nuclear weapons through him would certainly be seen as a violation of both the status and standards associated with the presidency, said Katherine Kuzminski, senior researcher at the Center for a. New American Security. .
The low-key part of the analysis, Kuzminski added, was that such actions would be inappropriate in the case of any other president. The Trump case presents an anomaly, but there is no guarantee that there will not be more assets in the Oval Office in the years to come.
Milley has said he will provide a full account of his actions when he appears before Congress later this month. His supporters argue that the extraordinary conditions of Trump’s past weeks have demanded flexibility from the senior US official in uniform in order to uphold the constitution and his duty to defend the American people.
It’s the tension between the Chairman’s de jure role of Joint Chiefs and the de facto role, his former Pentagon colleague said. The chain of command goes from the president to the command of the fighters, not through Mark Milley but given his experience, his intelligence, his willingness to speak the truth in power, well that’s why they have it in the fucking meetings.
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