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General Milley’s Own Private Constitution

The armchair general didn’t fulfill his oath, let alone save America and the world.

Credit: Alexandros Michailidis

One of the evils of the Trump era was that illegal, immoral, and at times unconstitutional acts were raised to high standards if they seemed to chip away at Trump somehow. So a fake dossier, which consumed several years and millions of dollars of American life, was brushed off with a fine from the elections commission rather than someone going to jail for lying to the FBI. So it is now up to General Mark Milley, the Left's newest and bestest friend in violating the Constitution, to save the Constitution from Trump.

A slithering little piece of hagiography in the Atlantic about Milley (published while he was still Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a position he goes to great pains to explain should be apolitical while himself being very political) might have just been that—a chance to kick the dog one more time without consequence—except for the fact that Milley clearly has higher aspirations in Washington (or at least higher aspirations to sell books), most of all because Trump stands close to a second term.


The article serves up the usual, proclaiming Trump an existential threat to Mom and apple pie, never mind democracy, all without details or explanation. Readers of the Atlantic just know it is true and the author, Jeffrey Goldberg, sees no reason to expand on the idea. The real danger here is not poor journalism (we’re used to it) but the promotion of the idea that Trump is inherently dangerous and, without men like General Milley willing to warp the Constitution, we will all die in some Trumpian nuclear hissy fit.

It is important to restate at this point that Trump finished his four years as president. He started no new wars. He did not launch nuclear attacks on Iran or North Korea, nor antagonize nuclear power Russia closer to the edge of one. He came as close as any modern president to some sort of rapprochement with North Korea. Trump never used the Insurrection Act to send the military against lawful protesters in the United States. It is worth remembering these things because Milley’s comments create the impression of something very different.

A healthy portion of the Atlantic article details what Milley felt was Trump’s disrespect for the military (Trump’s deferments but not Biden's are mentioned.) The Atlantic's Jeffery Goldberg writes. “Milley’s family venerated the military, and Trump’s attitude toward the uniformed services seemed superficial, callous, and, at the deepest human level, repugnant.” Former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, Goldberg continued, “in addition to other former Trump administration officials, also argued the former president had such contempt for the military that it made it challenging to explain concepts of honor, sacrifice and duty. That sour view of the armed forces, alongside Trump being unfit to serve as president among other points of contention, made Milley’s first 16 months as chairman far more difficult than he anticipated.” Retired three-star general James Dubik, one of the general's mentors, said “For more than 200 years, the assumption in this country was that we would have a stable person as president.”

One wonders about that disrespect for the military, and how a candid Milley might characterize the actions of commanders Bush and Obama. Was invading Afghanistan when the 9/11 perpetrators came mostly from Saudi Arabia the act of a sane man? How about lying to create an excuse to invade Iraq? What about the bombing of Libyan infrastructure, the results of which were on display for the world recently as tens of thousands drowned in a broken-dam flood there? Over 7,000 U.S. service members, plus near millions of civilians, died in the post-9/11 wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. Are those sane acts? Should Milley or one of his counterparts have acted unconstitutionally to stop them?

Milley, while speaking out of one side of his mouth about the sanctity of the chain of command and the president’s role as commander-in-chief, goes on to call Trump a “nuclear monarch” and bemoan the fact that Trump alone could order the use of nuclear weapons as if that was something new. Milley then says without batting an eyelash that during the final days of the Trump administration he took the extraordinary step of having key military officers swear an oath to him, promising to involve Milley in any decisions “weird or unusual.”


Milley also called together senior military officials in charge of the National Military Command Center on January 8 and “instructed them not to take orders from anyone unless he was involved.” Milley says his fear (without evidence, of course) was that Trump would initiate a nuclear war with Iran after losing the 2020 presidential election. Milley was out to break the chain of command to save it, which you see was A-O.K. because breaking all the rules if you possess the judgment of General Milley is itself A-O.K.

His other brush with insubordination came in the form of two phone calls to General Li Zuocheng, leader of China's People’s Liberation Army, in the days surrounding January 6, assuring the PLA that the U.S. had no plans to launch a first strike against China. Milley was not ordered to do this, but just did it because he personally felt Trump might launch the nukes as a bizzaro-world way to stay in office after the “insurrection” of January 6 failed. Oh yeah, that insurrection—Milley, an alleged student of history—claims was America's “Reichstag moment.” He called Trump's statements “The gospel of the Führer.”

Kori Schake, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, said that the revelations Milley covertly acted to counter his commander-in-chief are “bad for the military as an institution…It encourages people to do what Americans are already doing, which is viewing the military as they view the Supreme Court: apolitical when they agree with them, partisan when they don’t.”

As if to prove the point, an anonymous (of course) senior military official said that Milley “did what he had to do to fulfill his oath to the Constitution and to protect this country.” Yet, Trump called it treason. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida demanded Milley resign, as did Christopher Miller, who served above Milley as acting defense secretary in the final months of Trump’s presidency. Milley ignored his boss’s admonition to quit. So much for the chain of command.

Milley did not act to fulfill his oath; he acted like a clumsy coup planner at best, and an idiot at worst, because Trump did not launch a nuclear attack on China, and General Li must have wondered exactly what was going on in Washington to prompt Milley to call and forswear a strike, a first of its own in U.S. history.

None of this—what he said recently and what he did during the Trump administration—has hurt Milley’s standing in political Washington. Biden loves him. Milley was chosen to speak at the French ambassador’s residence, a journalist-heavy throng that officially was a celebration of the First Amendment. It was the sort of gathering where you’d “expect an address from a fight-the-power free-speech lawyer or a hell-raising investigative reporter, not a uniformed four-star general. But Milley’s lack of journalism credentials didn’t appear to bother many in the audience, who greeted him as a hero.” Politico says that “Milley has become a cause celebre in Washington—and a presence around town.” The Washington Post calls him “Pattonesque.”

In peacetime, it is not normal for a senior general in the U.S. military to be famous. It is not normal for one to seek the spotlight as a domestic protector of our democracy. It is not normal for a general to claim to be apolitical while acting aggressively in the political sphere. Milley instead found a way to spread the gospel of a non-politicized military as itself a political act, with himself as a hero at the center. Why, you’d almost think Milley was up to something, setting himself up for some new role, maybe running for some office...

Milley warns in his Atlantic interview he and others will likely be sent to jail if Trump is reelected. Be sure to vote accordingly.