WASHINGTON (Reuters) – After long refusing to explicitly criticize a sitting president, former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis accused President Donald Trump on Wednesday of making an attempt to divide America and roundly denounced a militarization of the U.S. response to civil unrest.
The remarks by Mattis, an influential retired Marine common who resigned over coverage variations in 2018, are the strongest to date by a former Pentagon chief over Trump’s response to the killing of George Floyd, an African-American, whereas in Minneapolis police custody.
They accompany a rising affirmation from throughout the Pentagon’s management of the U.S. military’s core values, together with to uphold a structure that protects freedom of meeting and the ideas of equality.
“Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people — does not even pretend to try,” Mattis, who resigned as Trump’s protection secretary in 2018, wrote in an announcement printed by The Atlantic.
“Instead he tries to divide us. We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort.”
Trump has turned to militaristic rhetoric in response to demonstrations towards police brutality following Floyd’s killing by a white police officer, who knelt on the unarmed man’s neck for nearly 9 minutes in Minneapolis final week.
On Monday Trump threatened to ship lively responsibility U.S. troops to stamp out civil unrest gripping a number of cities, towards the needs of state governors – alarming present and former military officers who worry dissent within the ranks and lasting harm to the U.S. military itself, certainly one of America’s most revered and well-funded establishments.
“Militarizing our response, as we witnessed in Washington, D.C., sets up a conflict — a false conflict — between the military and civilian society,” Mattis wrote.
Trump reacted on Twitter by calling Mattis “the world’s most overrated General!”
“I didn’t like his ‘leadership’ style or much else about him, and many others agree. Glad he is gone!” Trump wrote.
A distinguished determine in military circles, Mattis’s sturdy phrases may encourage others in uniform and veterans to converse out. They are notably shocking given his excessive reluctance to criticize Trump in scores of interviews and appearances since he left workplace over coverage variations with the U.S. president.
His feedback comply with denunciations by different retired prime brass, together with Navy admiral Mike Mullen and retired Army common Martin Dempsey, each former chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The present chairman, Army General Mark Milley, issued a message to the armed forces reminding them of their oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution, which supplies Americans the appropriate to “freedom of speech and peaceful assembly.” Similar messages had been delivered by different prime military leaders.
COMPARISON TO BATTLE AGAINST NAZIS
As he referred to as for unity, Mattis even drew a comparability to the U.S. battle towards Nazi Germany, saying U.S. troops had been reminded earlier than the Normandy invasion: “The Nazi slogan for destroying us … was ‘Divide and Conquer.’ Our American answer is ‘In Union there is Strength.’”
Mattis additionally took a swipe at present U.S. military management for taking part in a Monday photo-op led by Trump after regulation enforcement – together with National Guard – cleared away peaceable protesters.
He criticized use of the phrase “battlespace” by Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Milley to describe protest websites within the United States throughout a name with state governors this week. Esper, Mattis’s successor within the job, has stated he regretted utilizing that wording.
“We must reject any thinking of our cities as a ‘battlespace,’” Mattis wrote.
Esper stated at a Wednesday information convention he didn’t help invoking the Insurrection Act to deploy active-duty forces to quell civil unrest for now, in remarks that didn’t go over effectively with both the president or his prime aides, an administration official stated.
The head of the National Guard, whose troops have been reinforcing native regulation enforcement, issued a robust assertion (right here) condemning racism and reminding his troops of their oath to the structure.
“If we are to fulfill our obligation as service members, as Americans, as decent human beings, we have to take our oath seriously,” stated Air Force General Joseph Lengyel, the chief of the Guard. “We cannot tolerate racism, discrimination or casual violence. We cannot abide divisiveness and hate.”
Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Cynthia Osterman, Richard Pullin and Stephen Coates
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