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The Founding Fathers believed that subordination of the military to the authority of civil masters was critically important to prevent the emergence of a new form of tyranny or dictatorship.
Bob Woodward’s new book Peril, coauthored with Washington Post reporter Robert Costa tells how Gen. Milley asserted military control of the nation’s nuclear weapons behind the back of former President Donald Trump. The authors write that the events of January 6th shook the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Concerned with the president’s mental stability, Milley held a secret meeting at the Pentagon with his senior leadership.
Worried that Trump would launch a first strike against China, Milley told his senior leader not to follow any orders regarding military action, including launching nuclear weapons unless he was present. ‘No matter what you are told, you do the procedure. You do the process. And I’m part of that procedure,’ Milley told the officers, according to the book. According to Woodard and Costa, Milley considered this an oath.
Another sign of his new role of de facto or at the very least caretaker commander in chief was Gen Milley’s January 8th phone call with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Milley assured Pelosi that the nuclear weapons were safe.
Pelosi told members, ‘This morning, I spoke to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley to discuss available precautions for preventing an unstable president from initiating military hostilities or accessing the launch codes and ordering a nuclear strike,” Pelosi wrote. “The situation of this unhinged President could not be more dangerous, and we must do everything that we can to protect the American people from his unbalanced assault on our country and our democracy.’
During their conversation, the four-star general and the House Speaker both agreed that the president was “crazy” After the events of January 6th, Milley felt the military could no longer control President Trump. According to Woodard and Costa, the uncertainty led Milley to “take any and all necessary precautions.”
Along with getting a secret oath from his senior leaders and reassuring the House Speaker, Milley had back and forth phone calls with Chinese General Li Zuocheng. The American General told his Chinese counterpart that there would be no surprise attack from the United States.
‘General Li, you and I have known each other for now five years. If we’re going to attack, I’m going to call you ahead of time. It’s not going to be a surprise,’ Milley reportedly told him. Milley also told the Chinese general that ‘democracy can be sloppy sometimes.’
Peril also highlights the feelings of other senior leaders in the Trump Administration. CIA Director Gina Haspel reportedly told Milley, ‘We are on the way to a right-wing coup.’ In response, Milley told Haspel to ‘aggressively watch everything, 360.’
This year alone, we have seen military coups in Myanmar, Mali, and Guinea. There were also coup attempts in Armenia and Nigeria. In all of those, successful or otherwise, the military arrested and detained the civilian leadership.
While some may cheer on General Milley for his actions “safekeeping” nuclear weapons, it is not a giant leap to go from safekeeping to controlling them. The military is subordinate to civil authority for good reason and should not be an issue subject to partisan politics.Published in