Several stories have been appearing in the media in the past few days about how Trump really wanted to put active-duty soldiers, lots of them, on the streets of the nation’s capital. The latest story is currently the lead on CNN:
The White House wanted to have 10,000 active duty troops on the streets of Washington and other cities earlier this week to quell protesters, but Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Chairman of the Joint of Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley pushed back at the use of any active duty troops, according to a senior defense official.
(It says “and other citites” but the story itself only mentions DC.)
David Ignatius reports the same in the Washington Post: How Trump came to the brink of deploying active-duty troops in Washington
“It was clear to me that the president was ready to use the Insurrection Act and send in troops” on Monday, when federal police cleared the area near the White House so Trump could pose for a photo outside St. John’s Episcopal Church, said one knowledgeable senior Pentagon official. The official requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issues.Trump’s push for direct military intervention came in a noisy meeting midday Monday in the Oval Office with Vice President Pence, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper, Attorney General William P. Barr and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Esper, Barr and Milley all opposed the active-duty troop call-up, while Pence took Trump’s side, the senior Pentagon official said.
And from the New York Times yesterday: Milley, America’s Top General, Walks Into a Political Battle:
General Milley, his friends say, has agonized over the events of the past week. But he has also managed to persuade Mr. Trump not to invoke the 1807 Insurrection Act to deploy active-duty troops across the country to quell protests, a line that a number of American military officials say they will not cross, even if the president orders it.
It is largely because of General Milley, administration officials say, that Mr. Trump has not ordered it yet despite his threat to do so.
I have to wonder if some of these stories were planted or encouraged by Esper and Milley or their allies as a way to help them recover from the PR disaster of the two of them accompanying Bunker Boy to his photo op. (Milley was in fatigues, another PR nightmare, but I’ve read that he normally wears fatigues to work. On the other hand, military protocol calls for wearing class-A uniform to the White House, so either he brought fatigues along, or he was called to the White House in such a rush that he had no time to change, or Bunker Boy gets hot seeing the CJCS in battle gear.)
The stories also explain Esper’s back-and-forth on the 1,600 troops who were positioned nearby. It seems he tried to send them back, then had to cancel that out of fear that Bunker Boy would order the full 10,000, then was able to send them back for real after he got more national guardsmen in place. From the WaPo piece:
Moving the active-duty forces, but not actually deploying them on the streets “was enough to keep the president at bay,” the senior official explained. “That bought us time.”
Milley has also spoken to Pelosi and Schumer since Monday, almost certainly without Bunker Boy’s knowledge and definitely without his approval.
This comes on top of all the retired generals, admirals, and defense secretaries who have spoken out this week against Trump, breaking the code that says they don’t comment on the sitting president.
Bunker Boy, a/k/a IMPOTUS, the Great Orange Shitgibbon, the Turd Stain on the Face of the Planet, the Narcissistic Psychopath, and, to our eternal regret, the incumbent president, was about to order the military forces of the United States to stand up in arms against American citizens exercising their Constitutional rights. He was barely talked out of it by the men who would have to carry out that order and who risked (still risk) their jobs by standing up to him. Even Barr opposed it. (?!) The only one who sided with him was the one man he can't fire, Pence. (He can replace him, but not until next January.)
What is equally critical to this nightmare is that highly respected retired military men are calling him out, and the active duty leaders are working to keep him from going ahead with it. This has serious implications for the tradition of civilian control of the military, but at the moment the civilian misuse of the military for political purposes is the impending new tradition that needs to be stopped.
It’s a fine edge of the sword we’re walking on here.