Top U.S. general defends freedom, democracy, ‘critical race theory’ against the right
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley. | Andrew Harnik / AP

WASHINGTON—In a stark contrast to perceptions of the military—and of the radical right—Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, passionately defended freedom and democracy against slams from the Trumpite right, specifically from Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla.

“I personally find it offensive that we are accusing the United States military, our general officers, our commissioned and noncommissioned officers of being quote ‘woke,’ or something else because we’re studying some theories that are out there,” Milley told Gaetz during a June 22 House Armed Services Committee hearing.

“And I want to understand white rage—and I’m white,” the general continued. “What is it that caused thousands of people to assault this building and try to overturn the Constitution of the United States of America?” on Jan. 6 to keep former GOP Oval Office occupant Donald Trump in power.

“What caused that? I want to find that out. It’s important to understand that because our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines come from the American people.” Understanding motives of those who serve “is important for leaders of the future,” Milley declared.

That didn’t stop Gaetz from ranting that Milley and the other “woke” military officers “lose more wars than they win.” Added Gaetz to the combat veteran: “The only war you fought was against the age of consent.”

That crack put Gaetz on the side of rightists who complain the military should not tackle problems of sexual assault within its ranks—another issue roiling Capitol Hill.

Gaetz’s rants and outbursts hijacked the hearing on the proposed military spending budget for the fiscal year 2022, which begins Oct. 1.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., one of the top Trumpites in Congress. He is currently the subject of a sex trafficking investigation. | Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

“On the issue of critical race theory”—another right-wing bugaboo—“it is important for those of us in the military to understand and be widely read” in both that idea and others, a calm Milley replied. That includes, he said, reading the works of Karl Marx, V.I. Lenin, and Mao Ze-Dong, “and I’m not a Communist.”

Milley himself was hijacked while in uniform last year. At the end of a White House meeting, he was dragooned into Trump’s infamous Bible-holding photo op—after Trumpite Attorney General Bill Barr ordered federal agents to violently clear Lafayette Square of peaceful protesters advocating racial justice. Barr strutted alongside Trump, while Milley trailed behind and later peeled away.

The general subsequently apologized for his unwitting participation, saying it gave an inaccurate appearance of military partiality to the GOP nominee, whose constant lies about “election fraud” led to the Jan. 6 coup attempt.

Milley didn’t apologize to Gaetz, but stuck to his stand—and denounced the Trumpites’ invasion, which trashed the Capitol. Seven people, including three police officers, died as a result. The invaders also injured almost 150 defenders. Gaetz was one of only 12 Republicans (and no Democrats) who later voted against honoring the Capitol’s defenders with congressional gold medals.

Left unsaid: Participation by some active service members in the invasion, which the military is investigating. Also left undiscussed: Trump’s refusal to even activate the D.C. National Guard to aid beleaguered and overrun Capitol Police when the insurrectionists attacked and pillaged the building.

Meanwhile, other pieces of evidence surfaced that belie the right wing’s reputation. Even as Milley verbally shot down Gaetz, another Floridian GOP Trumpite, Gov. Ron DeSantis, signed state legislation mandating ideological right-wing purity in the Sunshine State’s classrooms. DeSantis is a potential 2024 GOP presidential hopeful.

“Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announces he is signing a bill requiring high school students to learn about the ‘evils of communism and totalitarian ideologies,’” one commenter tweeted to Raw Story. “The bill also creates a library that allows students to learn about ‘real patriots’ who escaped communism and socialism.”

And a recent poll showed 46% of Republicans “would support a substantial departure from democratic norms to keep their party in power, which GOP-led state legislatures are trying to codify into law,” the same website reported.




Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.