Activism in the U.S. Presidential Election by senior military personnel, retired and serving, has reached an unprecedented level. Alan Austin reports.
“Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people — does not even pretend to try. Instead, he tries to divide us. We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort... three years without mature leadership.”
That is a savage slam by a political opponent against a sitting United States President. But wait — that is not from a hostile Democrat. It is from General James Mattis, Trump’s own Defence Secretary from 2017 to 2019.
Mattis is one of more than 40 senior military officers now on the record condemning Trump for his multiple failures as Commander-in-Chief. Several served in Trump’s inner circle until they resigned or were fired.
It is not unknown for a military leader to criticise a president’s decision. It is less common for a top commander to resign in protest or be sacked. President Barack Obama accepted General Stanley McChrystal’s resignation as senior Commander in Afghanistan in 2010.
But never in U.S. history has there been such an avalanche of condemnations from the top military brass. These have been provoked by more than 12 separate issues.
Mismanaging the coronavirus pandemic
Admiral Steve Abbot was aghast at the needless COVID-19 deaths:
‘The loss of life around the world is staggering... The national leadership is manifestly incompetent. The deaths of tens of thousands of Americans who did not need to die will be tied to [Trump’s] abject failure to provide the leadership we need.’
Rear Admiral Kenneth Bernard agreed.
Denigrating the war dead
Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander General Wesley Clark felt obliged to respond to Trump calling fallen soldiers “suckers” and “losers” earlier this month:
“The idea that most of the troops love Trump — that’s wrong. They are seeing him for what he is... These comments really hurt people in uniform today. Plus they feel like a betrayal to those of us who have worn the uniform and have put our lives on the line for the country.”
Deploying the military to stop protests
General John Allen was shocked at Trump’s performance outside St. John's Church in Lafayette Square in June after using the military to clear protesters:
“The President’s speech was calculated to project his abject and arbitrary power, but he failed to project any of the higher emotions or leadership desperately needed in every quarter of this nation during this dire moment.”
Admiral James Stavridis was equally dismayed:
“The sweeping use of a combined civil-military force... against the protesters to clear the way for a presidential photo-op was beyond the pale of American norms. It was particularly ill-advised to include active-duty military personnel in that event.”
Trump’s decision to send troops into other city streets was the final straw for Admiral Mike Mullen, a former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
“The events of the past few weeks have made it impossible to remain silent. Whatever Trump's goal... he laid bare his disdain for the rights of peaceful protest in this country, gave succour to the leaders of other countries who take comfort in our domestic strife and risked further politicising the men and women of our armed forces.”
Expressing immediate agreement were General Martin Dempsey, General Richard Myers, ex-army engineer and former Defence Secretary William Perry, highly-decorated Vietnam veteran Tom Ridge and Trump’s Director of National Intelligence from 2019 to 2020, Admiral Joseph Maguire.
Foreign affairs disasters
Retired General Jack Keane called Trump’s decision to allow Turkey to capture northern Syria a “betrayal” and a “strategic blunder”.
Lieutenant Colonel John Shimkus, now a Republican congressman, was just as appalled:
“It's terrible. It's despicable. I'm heartbroken. I called my Chief of Staff in DC and said, ‘Pull my name off the I support Donald Trump list’. We have just stabbed our allies in the back. This has just shocked, embarrassed and angered me.”
Dividing the nation
We started with General Mattis grieving at the divisions Trump has exacerbated.
Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, Trump’s Director for European Affairs for the U.S. National Security Council from July 2018 to February 2020, concurs:
“In taking a very sober view of where this President is taking this country, the divisions, the catering to our adversaries, the undermining of national security interests, I am absolutely a never-Trumper.”
Other issues provoking military umbrage
Captain John Warner and 30-year veteran Rich Faucher condemned Trump hindering mail-in voting. Trump’s defiance of the Constitution outraged navy veteran Marty McBride and decorated war hero Lieutenant Larry Pressler. His denigration of the security agencies disturbed Air Force Lieutenant General James Clapper and Major General Paul Eaton.
His continual blatant lying was denounced by both General Stanley McChrystal (remember him?) and General Colin Powell. Those convinced that Trump is unfit to serve because of his ethical and character failings include General John Kelly, 33-year army veteran Jack Spielman and General Raymond Thomas.
Lieutenant Colonel Adam Kinzinger, an air force veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and Republican congressman for Illinois, was outraged last December at Trump threatening civil war if he was impeached:
“I have visited nations ravaged by civil war. I have never imagined such a quote to be repeated by a president. This is beyond repugnant.”
The last word goes to Admiral William McRaven, who served under all presidents from Carter to Obama:
“President Trump has shown he doesn’t have the qualities necessary to be a good commander-in-chief. As we have struggled with the COVID pandemic and horrible acts of racism and injustice, this President has shown none of those qualities. The country needs to move forward without him at the helm.”
Alan Austin’s defamation matter is nearly over. You can read an update HERE and help out by contributing to the crowd-funding campaign HERE. Alan Austin is an Independent Australia columnist and freelance journalist. You can follow him on Twitter @AlanAustin001.
- Trump and fascism: What would a second term look like?
- CARTOONS: Mark David's Trumped-up truisms
- The 'red mirage': Considering the outcome of a loss for Trump
- America could be heading towards a second Civil War
- President Trump may be facing his Waterloo
Support independent journalism Subscribe to IA.