OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
The General Milley story is getting even more complicated and deeper than was originally reported.
For starters, retired Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who was the key witness against President Donald Trump in his first impeachment trial and who has not shown himself to be a big fan of Trump, called for General Milley to resign if the accusations made in a new book about him are true.
The book, “Peril,” which was co-authored by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, alleges that Milley reached out to his Chinese counterpart to assure him that he would warn him if Trump initiated a strike against China.
“If this is true GEN Milley must resign. He usurped civilian authority, broke Chain of Command, and violated the sacrosanct principle of civilian control over the military. It’s an extremely dangerous precedent. You can’t simply walk away from that,” Vindman said on Twitter.
If this is true GEN Milley must resign. He usurped civilian authority, broke Chain of Command, and violated the sacrosanct principle of civilian control over the military. It’s an extremely dangerous precedent. You can’t simply walk away from that. #dotherightthingintherightway https://t.co/izsMMCFPrz
— Alexander S. Vindman (@AVindman) September 14, 2021
And Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio penned a letter to Joe Biden calling on him to fire Milley if the allegations are true.
“I write with grave concern regarding recent reporting that General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, worked to actively undermine the sitting Commander in Chief of the United States Armed Forces and contemplated a treasonous leak of classified information to the Chinese Communist Party in advance of a potential armed conflict with the People’s Republic of China (PRC),” Rubio said. “These actions by General Milley demonstrate a clear lack of sound judgment, and I urge you to dismiss him immediately.”
“General Milley has attempted to rationalize his reckless behavior by arguing that what he perceived as the military’s judgment as more stable than its civilian commander,” the senator said.. “It is a dangerous precedent that could be asserted at any point in the future by General Milley or others. It threatens to tear apart our nation’s longstanding principle of civilian control of the military.”
“You must immediately dismiss General Milley. America’s national security and ability to lead in the world are at stake,” he said.
And then there was Trump’s own Defense Secretary Mark Esper who also initiated back-channel communications with China, Axios penned.
“Esper directed his policy office to issue a backchannel message to the Chinese to reassure them the U.S. had no intention of seeking a military confrontation. The message: Don’t over-read what you’re seeing in Washington; we have no intention to attack; and let’s keep lines of communication open,” Axios said.
“These backchannel communications were handled a couple of levels below Esper, one of the sources said. U.S. officials involved thought the Chinese received the initial message well. Milley followed up later in the month with a call to his Chinese counterpart to reiterate the message, two of the sources confirmed,” it said.
“It’s unclear whether anyone at the Pentagon told President Trump or the White House what they were doing,” it said.
If Milley was following the lead of Esper then the question becomes, was the defense secretary undermining the president’s authority?
A statement from Gen. Milley spokesman Col. Dave Butler does not deny that he did what the book claims he did, and raises questions about Esper and the Department of Defense’s role.
“The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs regularly communicates with Chiefs of Defense across the world, including with China and Russia. These conversations remain vital to improving mutual understanding of U.S. national security interests, reducing tensions, providing clarity, and avoiding unintended consequences or conflict,” the statement said.
“His calls with the Chinese and others in October and January were in keeping with these duties and responsibilities conveying reassurance in order to maintain strategic stability. All calls from the Chairman to his counterparts, including those reported, are staffed, coordinated, and communicated with the Department of Defense and the interagency,” it said.
“In keeping with his responsibilities as senior military advisor to the President and Secretary of Defense, General Milley frequently conducts meetings with uniformed leaders across the Services to ensure all leaders are aware of current issues,” it said. “The meeting regarding nuclear weapons protocols was to remind uniformed leaders in the Pentagon of the long-established and robust procedures in light of media reporting on the subject.”