“Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people—does not even pretend to try. Instead, he tries to divide us.”
President Trump’s former Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, has broken his silence, issuing a scathing rebuke of the president. In a statement published Wednesday, he denounced Trump as intentionally divisive and accused him of using the U.S. military to violate the constitutional rights of American citizens.
“Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people—does not even pretend to try. Instead, he tries to divide us,” Mattis wrote. “We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership. We can unite without him, drawing on the strengths inherent in our civil society. This will not be easy, as the past few days have shown, but we owe it to our fellow citizens; to past generations that bled to defend our promise; and to our children.”
Mattis, who resigned in December 2018 over Trump’s policy in Syria, had long been silent on his issues with Trump, believing any public rebuke to be inappropriate. But Mattis changed his mind after observing the events of the past weekend and Trump’s response to the police killing of George Floyd. “I have watched this week’s unfolding events, angry and appalled,” Mattis wrote.
“When I joined the military, some 50 years ago,” he continued, “I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution. Never did I dream that troops taking that same oath would be ordered under any circumstance to violate the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens—much less to provide a bizarre photo op for the elected commander-in-chief, with military leadership standing alongside.”
“Never did I dream that troops taking that same oath would be ordered under any circumstance to violate the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens—much less to provide a bizarre photo op for the elected commander-in-chief, with military leadership standing alongside.”
He also implicitly criticized current Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and other senior officials as well for going along with Trump’s politicization of the military.
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“We must reject any thinking of our cities as a ‘battlespace’ that our uniformed military is called upon to ‘dominate.’ At home, we should use our military only when requested to do so, on very rare occasions, by state governors,” Mattis wrote. “Militarizing our response, as we witnessed in Washington, D.C., sets up a conflict—a false conflict—between the military and civilian society. It erodes the moral ground that ensures a trusted bond between men and women in uniform and the society they are sworn to protect, and of which they themselves are a part. Keeping public order rests with civilian state and local leaders who best understand their communities and are answerable to them.”
Mattis called for Americans to come together “with a renewed sense of purpose and respect for one another” and to “reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution.”
“Only by adopting a new path—which means, in truth, returning to the original path of our founding ideals—will we again be a country admired and respected at home and abroad,” he concluded.
The full text of Mattis’ statement can be found over at The Atlantic.