If what Bob Woodward says is true, Gen. Mark Milley is guilty of double treason. Of course, that’s a big if. We’ve seen many books come out of Washington that promise stunning facts that turn out, upon scrutiny, to be nothing more than rumor and hot air.
Woodward, to be sure, is not known for flatly concocting things, but he does rely on largely unnamed sources, and even though he claims to have seen the relevant texts, emails, and transcripts, he doesn’t typically allow us to see them.
So we need a congressional investigation and a military investigation to find out what really happened. We’re not going to get anything from the Biden administration. President Joe Biden has already affirmed his support for Milley, insisting that he’s a patriot who is fully behind the Constitution. This is hardly the issue. The issue is what Milley allegedly did. Even the Pentagon, in its statement defending Milley, seems to concede that he did in fact convene a meeting of generals to outline emergency procedures and that he did in fact have more than one conversation regarding a U.S. strike with Gen. Li Zuocheng of the People’s Liberation Army of China.
The Pentagon statement is worded so vaguely as to be almost deliberately misleading. Milley “frequently conducts meetings” with personnel “across the services” to ensure that “all leaders are aware of current issues.” His goal was to “remind uniformed leaders” of “long-established and robust procedures.” Even his calls to Li were part of his “regular communications” aimed at “improving mutual understanding” and “avoiding unintended consequences or conflict.”
Yes, well. These are hardly denials of what Woodward and his co-author Robert Costa report in their book “Peril,” out this week. Let’s review their findings of what Milley allegedly did. First, he allegedly communicated with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi regarding removing President Donald Trump’s unilateral authority over nuclear weapons. Pelosi reportedly told Milley, “You know he’s crazy,” and Milley responded that he agreed completely. This might seem like Milley going through established channels, but let’s note that Pelosi is the leader of the rival opposition party, and Milley is accountable to his commander in chief, not the Democratic leader of the House.
Milley then allegedly proceeded to extract out of the other top generals an oath that if the president instructed them to fire nuclear weapons, they should not do it. Rather, they should make sure that they went through him. According to the book, Milley also made two calls to his Chinese counterpart, Gen. Li, one just before the 2020 election and another a couple of days after Jan. 6. In both cases, he allegedly informed Li that if Trump ordered an attack on China, he, Gen. Milley, would notify Gen. Li in advance.
Now, if Milley did these two things, in my view he is doubly guilty of treason. Even Republican calls for Milley to resign are insufficient. He deserves to be court-martialed. It doesn’t matter what Milley’s reasons are for taking these two remarkable and unprecedented actions. He did not have the authority to take them. Moreover, by placing himself in ultimate authority, above the president, he in effect pulled off a coup. He made himself, even if for a brief time, the military dictator of the United States.
Think of the implications! Milley testified before Congress that he was trying to understand “white rage” so he could figure out why protesters on Jan. 6 attempted to “overthrow the Constitution.” Never mind that there was no insurrection, no coup, no terrorist attack, nothing more than frustrated Trump supporters trying to get their voices heard by their representatives in Congress. The stunning irony, though, is that while bewailing the fake coup, Milley was in the process of orchestrating a real one. And he’s still in office, which means he can do it again.
Milley’s justification for his actions, according to Woodward and Costa, was that he believed Trump had “gone rogue.” But even though Woodward and Costa portray Trump as deeply frustrated about the result of the 2020 election—at one point Trump allegedly says that he can’t believe he lost to Joe Biden, at another he tells Mike Pence he can no longer be his friend—none of this remotely approaches a president gone rogue. At no point did Trump call for an attack on China, a firing of nuclear weapons, or any kind of wildly irresponsible foreign policy action.
Moreover, even had Trump done that, he would have been within his authority to do it. The Constitution clearly gives the president the power to carry out U.S. foreign policy. This does not mean that defense officials must carry out every order, no matter how outrageous or murderous or irresponsible, on the basis that they are merely “following orders.” There are certain types of orders that are illegal, and they can and must be disobeyed.
But the criterion here is legality, not reasonableness. Milley doesn’t get to decide who and when the United States should attack. He does not have the power to second-guess the president’s decisions and say, “That doesn’t make any sense. Clearly, the guy has gone rogue. It’s time for me to take over.” If the president is incompetent to perform his duties, there’s a 25th Amendment to the Constitution that clearly outlines the procedures by which he can be removed from office. In the end, it’s the cabinet, and a supermajority in Congress, that are required to remove a duly elected president.
Again, that’s the constitutional path to overriding presidential authority, and there’s no alternative path. Milley, if you think about it, was merely using the very same justification that despots through the ages have long used. Think of Augusto Pinochet, for instance, who seized power in Chile in the early 1970s. His justification was, in effect, “I had to seize power. Things were getting out of control. It had to be me.” And this is precisely Milley’s justification.
Who is to stop Milley from doing this to Biden? Surely a case can be made that Biden cannot be trusted with America’s nuclear arsenal. Even so, Biden is the one who has constitutional authority, not Milley. The general needs to be held accountable because he seems to have become a grave danger, not to our enemies, but to us.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.