Top former military generals, current Pentagon officials, and former US presidents have turned against President Donald Trump in his violent crackdown against protesters. In what could be termed a revolt of the generals, the president’s authority to summon the military may be weakened by former military elites who are now speaking up against his arbitrary use of power against peaceful protesters.
It started when former Defense Secretary James Mattis stated that President Trump is not trying to unite the American peoples or even pretending to try. He lamented a situation where a president would order troops to break their oaths to support and protect the Constitution by terrorizing and killing the people they have sworn to serve and protect.
“Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people — does not even pretend to try,” said Mattis who resigned in 2018 but led fierce battles in Iraq and Afghanistan among other places. “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.”
Analysts speculate that while Mattis has projected very valid and commendable sentiments, he may actually be speaking for serving senior officials who are not able to speak out against the president’s excesses.
Retired General John Allen who commanded troops in Afghanistan and in other foreign operations also attacked Trump for depriving peaceful protesters of their First Amendment rights. He made reference to an incident where the president ordered riot police to attack protesters so that they could clear Lafayette Park near the White House to enable Trump to walk through the park for a photo session opposite the St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington with a Bible in hand.
“It wasn’t enough that peaceful protesters had just been deprived of their first-amendment rights—this photo-op sought to legitimize that abuse with a layer of religion,” Allen stated.
But if the president could pretend as if he didn’t hear Mattis and Allen among others speak against him, he could not pretend not to hear when current Defense Secretary Mark Esper voiced his dissent with the president’s threat to invoke the Insurrection Act of 1807 to deploy troops within the United States. Esper made it clear that it is not right for Trump to deploy the military against people protesting the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
“The option to use active-duty forces in a law enforcement role should only be used as a matter of last resort and only in the most urgent and dire situations,” Esper said. “We are not in one of those situations now. I do not support invoking the Insurrection Act.”
Bloomberg reported that Trump summoned Esper to the White House over his remarks and questioned his capability to continue working in government. The paper reported that Esper might lose his job if Trump had his way even though this would spark severe criticism against the president.
Retired General Martin Dempsey, a former top US commander, has also spoken out against Trump for the way he handled the Minneapolis protesters, the spiraling economy, and the coronavirus situation among other aspects of national life.