Thursday, November 12, 2020

Why did Trump purge civilian leadership at the Pentagon?

  Why did Trump purge civilian leadership at the Pentagon? There is a great deal of speculation about why Trump did that. The most disturbing was the speculation that Trump fired Esper because he intended to use the active military to put down demonstrations against him post-election... calling it an "insurrection".

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election-pentagon-trump/after-esper-firing-white-house-moves-trump-loyalists-into-key-pentagon-jobs-idUSKBN27Q3F6

My observation: Joint Chiefs, in the wake of this summers demonstration from Lafayette Square to those on the west coast, had made it clear they would not intervene in domestic political affairs. https://www.axios.com/milley-military-election-trump-biden-7b448425-07c0-4c43-b03b-96ba8d741f84.html :
Later October 11, https://www.npr.org/transcripts/922827554

Per Gen. Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs:"“I believe deeply in the principle of an apolitical U.S. military,” Milley said in written responses to questions from two Democratic members of the House Armed Services Committee, according to AP.
  • “In the event of a dispute over some aspect of the elections, by law U.S. courts and the U.S. Congress are required to resolve any disputes, not the U.S. military. I foresee no role for the U.S armed forces in this process.”
  • When asked whether the armed forces would reject a presidential order to use military force for political gain, Milley said, “I will not follow an unlawful order.”

The big picture: This marks the second time that Milley has recently stressed the nonpartisan nature of the U.S. military.

  • He apologized in June for attending Trump's photo op at St. John's Episcopal Church, saying, "I should not have been there. My presence in that moment and in that environment created a perception of the military VWell, I've reminded people of that for years, you know, for four years as the chief of staff of the Army and in many years before that during reenlistment ceremonies, promotion ceremonies. I always talk about the Constitution and its importance to us as a military in that we - of all the countries in the world, I think that we are the only one - or at least one of the very few - that swears an oath of allegiance to an idea that's embedded in a document called the U.S. Constitution. We don't swear an oath of allegiance to an individual, a king, a queen, a president or anything else ....We don't swear an oath of allegiance to a country, for that matter. We don't swear an oath of allegiance to a flag, a tribe or religion or any of that. We swear an oath to an idea or a set of ideas and values that are embedded in our Constitution. And we, the U.S. military, are willing to die for - to preserve those ideas and values. And we're willing to die in order to preserve them and pass them onto the next generation. So - and they're all in the Constitution. They're all fundamental to the Constitution."
  • October 11, 2020, interview on NPR  https://www.npr.org/transcripts/922827554 ""This isn't the first time that someone has suggested that there might be a contested election," Milley said. "And if there is, it'll be handled appropriately by the courts and by the U.S. Congress. There's no role for the U.S. military in determining the outcome of a U.S. election. Zero. There is no role there."
That Joint Chief declarations also is relevant to the question of whether Trump could stage a coup. Answer: No so long as Gen. Milley has a say.. In the next 70 days, this aspiring autocrat of a President is taking revenge on the disloyal and may even try to start a war against Iran (for intervening against him in the elections), though I cannot imagine a Pentagon able to make such preparations for such an attack on such short notice, except for a bombing run. Removal of troops from Afghanistan is more likely, those our allies there say it would be turning the country over to the Taliban. https://www.militarytimes.com/news/your-military/2020/10/08/taliban-cheer-trump-tweet-promising-early-us-troop-withdrawal-from-afghanistan/ That he as put incompetent and Muslimphobes in key positions in the civilian control positions of the military is unnerving if any of this is on his agenda. The most benign reason might be incriminating document destruction.

The "insurrection" rationale depends upon whether Trump believes he is the state and demonstrations against him is an insurrection. The oath of office military take is allegiance to the Consitution and they do not have to obey illegal orders. From my Sept. 8 blog post: Can the president invoke the insurrection act to force the active military to put down post-election demonstrations? President Trump recently called for that. This apprentice dictator had better be able to tell the difference between protest riots and insurrection because the difference is already established case law. If he has fantasies of a military coup to keep him in office, he may be asking the military to commit an illegal act to overturn a constituted government. Ironically,  what is possible is that the insurrection act could be applied to organized militias and established right-wing terrorist groups who would foment violence if Donald Trump lost and tried to stage a "coup".  That would turn supporters of right-wing advocates calling for insurrection on its head, making them vulnerable to being charged with insurrection instead of left-wing demonstrators. Advocates of invoking the insurrection act ought to be careful what they wish. Riots and peaceful protests are not the same as acts of insurrections that could justify active military intervention per https://definitions.uslegal.com / "insurrection refers to an act or instance of revolting against civil authority or an established government. It is a violent revolt against an oppressive authority. Insurrection is different from riots and offenses connected with mob violence. In insurrection, there is an organized and armed uprising against authority or operations of government whereas riots and offenses connected with mob violence are simply unlawful acts in disturbance of the peace which do not threaten the stability of the government or the existence of political society. The following is a case law defining Insurrection: Insurrection means “a violent uprising by a group or movement acting for the specific purpose of overthrowing the constituted government and seizing its powers. An insurrection occurs where a movement acts to overthrow the constituted government and to take possession of its inherent powers.” [Younis Bros. & Co. v. Cigna Worldwide Ins. Co., 899 F. Supp. 1385, 1392-1393 (E.D. Pa. 1995)]" I note proven or unproven claims of voter fraud are not cited as a justification for an insurrection in the definition. 

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