Six years ago, one of the most incredible plays in football history occurred. Duke had just pulled ahead of Miami by scoring a touchdown and two-point conversation, taking a 27-24 lead. With six seconds left in the game, Duke kicked off to Miami. Miami caught the ball at its 25-yard line, and following some amazing razzle-dazzle that involved eight laterals, a Miami player reached the end zone with the ball in hand, giving his team a 30-27 miracle win.
Anyone who saw that play and also happened to be watching the congressional testimony recently given by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) Gen. Mark Milley and Central Command’s Gen. Kenneth McKenzie may have had flashbacks to the game. Why? The testimony they gave involved similar razzle-dazzle and lateraling to dodge responsibility for the disastrous Afghanistan withdrawal and to avoid blaming President Joe Biden.
Milley refused to render an opinion on Biden’s mental state, although he did acknowledge, contrary to Biden’s assertions, recommending to the president he maintain at least a 2,500-man force in Afghanistan. When questioning of Milley turned to the call he took from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., dealing with her concerns President Donald Trump might start a nuclear war, he gave answers that tended to portray himself as lecturing her on the safety valves built into the system rather than as someone – as was reported in the book “Peril” – who allegedly agreed with her that Trump was both out of control and “crazy.”
Were Milley an honorable man, he would have told Pelosi two things during that phone call. First, it was inappropriate for her to challenge Trump’s presidential authority – a call totally outside her own authority to begin with in her capacity as a representative of the legislative branch; second, it was also most inappropriate for her to make such disparaging remarks about the president as she did during the conversation. He should have quickly rebuked her rather than have listened as Pelosi demonstrated such personal animosity against Trump, stating, “You know he’s crazy. He’s been crazy for a long time. … What I’m saying to you is that they couldn’t even stop him from an assault (Jan. 6) on the Capitol. Who even knows what else he may do? And, is there anybody in charge at the White House who was doing anything but kissing his fat butt all over this?”
While Pelosi suggested Trump was out of control, she demonstrated the signs of a House speaker out of control.
When questioning turned to Milley’s call to his Chinese counterpart, Gen. Li Zuocheng, he justified it by suggesting all he was doing was communicating Trump’s intent that he in no way planned to attack China. He told Li, “I guarantee you that President Trump is not going to attack you in a surprise attack.” He explained he felt this was necessary “in order to protect the American people and prevent an escalation or an event.”
However, that assertion conflicts with something else Milley told Li. He said, if there were a U.S.-initiated attack coming, “I’ll call you.” He acknowledged he would even make such a call again if it were necessary. Perhaps this statement was to insinuate he was somehow honor-bound to provide Li with advanced warning, but it is hard to see exactly how that would “protect the American people” in any way.
Milley’s statement drew the ire of Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., who admonished him accordingly. She charged, “You articulate that, that you would tell him, you would give him a call, is worthy of your resignation. I just think that’s against our country that you would call our No. 1 adversary and tell him that.” It would be interesting to know whether Milley – were the situation reversed and we had concerns of a China-initiated attack – would trust Li’s guarantee he would give Milley prior notice of such an attack. If so, that should raise further concerns about Milley’s judgment.
Another lateral was observed during the testimony of Austin when he was asked why we did not rescue American citizens and our Afghan allies. He responded, “On the issue of why we didn’t bring out civilians and SIVs sooner, again, the call on how to do that and when to do it is really a State Department call.” He immediately sought to give State a lifeline by adding they had been cautioned by the Afghan government that if U.S. citizens and our Afghan allies were pulled out at too fast a pace, “it would cause a collapse of the government we were trying to prevent.”
When Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., expressed concern that the military has become politicized, Milley answered, “I think an apolitical military is critical to the health of this republic.” Again, such a response lacked credibility since Milley has subscribed to Critical Race Theory, which uses as a foundational premise that all whites are racist.
Milley fielded calls for him to resign by responding, “I serve at the pleasure of the president.” However, “Peril” makes reference to the fact that, during the last days of Trump’s tenure, Milley considered having each JCS member resign one-by-one should Trump attempt to remain in office in what would not have been considered an apolitical move.
The more we hear from Milley, the more we understand why Trump’s decision in 2018 to promote him from Army chief of staff to CJCS was opposed both by then-Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and then-CJCS Gen. Joseph Dunford.
When the three witnesses were asked directly by Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., who was to blame for the disastrous withdrawal, they all sat silent for seven seconds. Johnson finally said, “I’ll let the silence speak for itself.”
There are a lot more answers needed to understand who clearly bears the blame for the disastrous withdrawal. What is becoming apparent, however, is that there is enough blame to go around for all those involved. That none of the key players has demonstrated the courage either to challenge Biden before he executed a decision all knew would result in abject failure, or even after executing it when all the world knew, is disgraceful. Serving at the pleasure of a president incapable of knowing what he is doing, resulting in the needless deaths of members of our military, is not serving in the best interests of our country.
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