“I know the president to be an honest and forthright man.” That was Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin in testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday. Trouble was, the questioner, Sen. Tom Cotton, did not ask Austin for his opinion of Joe Biden.
The Arkansas Republican, who served in Iraq with the 101st Airborne, wanted to know if it was true that, as Joe Biden said last month in an interview with George Stephanopoulos, no senior military officer advised him to leave troops behind in Afghanistan.
“Their input was received by the president and considered by the president for sure,” Austin testified but the senior military officers weren’t going to speak of “what they personally recommended in confidence.”
As U.S. Central Command Gen. Kenneth McKenzie testified, the officers recommended the United States maintain a presence of at least 2,500 U.S. service members in Afghanistan. Gen. McKenzie told the committee he made a similar recommendation in the fall of 2020 under the Trump administration. The general believed “the withdrawal of those forces would lead inevitably to the collapse of the Afghan military forces and eventually the Afghan government.”
Asked about future military involvement in Afghanistan, Gen. McKenzie said the United States reserved the right to go after ISIS and al-Qaeda targets, but “it will not be easy to do that.”
Gen. Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the committee his assessment was to maintain 2500-3500 troops and “move toward a negotiated solution.” On the other hand, Milley told Sen. Cotton, “I don’t discuss exactly what my conversations are with a sitting president in the Oval Office.”
Cotton pointed out that Kabul fell on August 15, and wondered why it took 10 days to ask about the continued presence of U.S. forces. If all this is true, Cotton said, “then why haven’t you resigned?”
Milley told the committee “resigning is a really serious thing – it’s a political act – if I’m resigning in protest. My job is to provide advice – my statutory responsibility is to provide legal advice or best military advice to the president, and that’s my legal requirement. That’s what the law is.” The president “doesn’t have to agree with the advice,” and “it would be an incredible act of political defiance for a commissioned officer to just resign because my advice is not taken.” On a personal note, Milley said, “my dad didn’t get a choice to resign at Iwo Jima,” and that raised another issue.
Alexander Milley did serve with the Fourth Marine Division at Iwo Jima, but if the American had tipped off Japanese Gen. Tadamichi Kuribayashi about an upcoming U.S. attack, Alexander Milley would have been expected to do more than resign. According to Bob Woodward and Robert Costa’s new book Peril, Gen. Milley told his Chinese counterpart Gen. Li Zuocheng that he would tip him off about a U.S. attack, despite a complete lack of evidence that President Trump planned any such thing.
If all that is true, the best remedy for Milley would hardly be resignation. Back in the 1980s Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger described Wojciech Jaruzelski as a “Russian general in a Polish uniform.” If people saw Gen. Milley as a Chinese general in an American uniform it would be hard to blame them.
Back in 2013, when he was second in command in Afghanistan, Gen. Milley told reporters “right now, I would say that the conditions are set for winning this war.” It didn’t exactly turn out that way, and in 2021 Milley helped set the conditions for a disastrous and humiliating withdrawal. In effect, the son of the Iwo Jima veteran helped the Taliban plant their flag in victory over the United States.
According to I Alone Can Fix It, from Washington Post reporters Carol Leonnig and Phillip Rucker, Gen. Milley believes Donald Trump is the moral equivalent of Adolph Hitler, Trump’s followers are “brownshirts,” and Trump’s complaints about voter fraud were calls for genocide. For Gen. Milley, the enemy is domestic, and the same is true of Lloyd Austin.
The secretary is a “determined advocate” of Critical Race Theory and the “1619 Project” as part of Pentagon training programs. He wants to purge the ranks of “extremists,” code for supporters of Donald Trump and the January 6 protest. None of this will make the United States more prepared for an adversary such as China. Indeed, such divisive indoctrination makes America weaker and more vulnerable.
Also on Tuesday, Sen. Cotton asked about the thousands of Afghan evacuees “about whom we know nothing.” He referenced assaults and sex crimes at Ft. McCoy and wondered if these evacuees “are going to be a menace.”
“I’m certainly aware of the allegations and I take the allegations very seriously,” secretary Austin said. “I assure you that our commanders at our bases have what they need to protect our troops and our families that live at those bases.” No word about any danger to the general populace.
In similar style, embattled Americans know nothing about the thousands of “migrants” now streaming across our border and being shipped all over the country. Under Milley, Austin, and the “honest and forthright” Joe Biden, this is the year of living dangerously.