General Mark Milley wasn't exactly inundated with friend requests after he helped botch the disastrous situation in Afghanistan. In fact, when President Biden said it was on the general's advice that he closed Bagram Air Base, entire editorial boards were calling for the Joint Chief Chair's resignation. But long before Kabul, an unflattering picture of Milley had already emerged. His defense of critical race theory and the president's absurd climate change-as-a-security threat led many people to wonder if America's top military leader had turned woke. Now, after Tuesday's bombshells, they wonder if he's a turncoat.
Headlines of "Treason!" and calls for Milley's head were just part of the reaction to a new book by Robert Costa and Bob Woodward, Peril. In it, the authors make the astonishing claim that in the latter part of 2020, Milley -- appointed by then-president Donald Trump -- had reassured his Chinese counterpart that he would warn him if an attack by the U.S. was pending. Worried that Trump was "mentally unstable," he told General Li Zuocheng of the People's Liberation Army, "You and I have known each other for now five years. If we're going to attack, I'm going to call you ahead of time. It's not going to be a surprise."
The stunning allegation that Milley might have undermined American security and gone behind the commander-in-chief's back came as a shock even to Donald Trump. "So, first of all, if it is actually true, which is hard to believe, that he would have called China and done these things and was willing to advise them of an attack in advance of an attack, that's treason," the former president told Sean Spicer on Newsmax TV. Besides that, Trump added, the idea that he would "unilaterally attack China" is "totally ridiculous."
And yet, Milley was apparently convinced Trump would go rogue -- especially after the January 6th riot. According to the book, he called a secret meeting of military advisors and instructed them "not to take any orders unless [he] was involved." He considered it an "oath," the authors say.
Within hours of the revelations, Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) was writing to President Biden, demanding Milley's termination. "[He] worked to actively undermine the sitting Commander in Chief of the United States Armed Forces and contemplated a treasonous leak of classified information to the Chinese Communist Party in advance of a potential armed conflict with the People's Republic of China (PRC)," Rubio wrote. "These actions by General Milley demonstrate a clear lack of sound judgement, and I urge you to dismiss him immediately."
Imagine, Rubio said later, "if tomorrow General Milley decides, ‘I think Joe Biden is senile, so I won't follow his orders. I am going to collude with Russia or China to prevent him from acting.' It is the essence of a military coup, for lack of a better term. That's what it would equate to." In all honesty, he went on, "I hope we will have a statement tomorrow from General Milley saying this is an absolute lie and it never happened. The alternative is we live in a country where a general can decide ‘I don't like what a president is doing. I don't think the president is in his right mind. I will ignore his warning and collude with our enemies to prevent our president, elected by the people, from taking action.' By the way, in this case, there is no sign that the action he was trying to prevent was ever going to happen."
The following morning, there was no such statement -- only more incredulity that a man at the top of America's military org chart could have willingly violated the civilian chain of command. Reaction streamed in from other parts of the Capitol, as Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) demanded a full investigation -- "Immediately, today, he should be questioned under oath, if not with a polygraph test, on whether it happened. If it happened, he should be immediately relieved of his duties and court-martialed... We have elections. We can't have generals overturning elections. That's what we have always criticized in authoritarian regimes where the military takes over. This is very, very dangerous, and if this happened, Milley needs to be immediately removed of his command."
Even critics of Trump, like Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman -- who testified in the former president's impeachment -- agreed that insubordination of this kind should be punished. Bob Fu, FRC's Senior Fellow for International Religious Freedom, worried how the Chinese Communist Party could have misinterpreted Milley's action. Apart from the damage to the U.S. Constitution, he pointed out, "the most far-reaching consequence is that the general's rogue action could have sent the Chinese a wrong signal to take military action against our ally Taiwan." If they read Milley's pledge as a green light to attack Taiwan, he warned, the fallout would be horrific.
As for our own Lt. General (Ret.) Jerry Boykin, he was in disbelief. "One of the most fundamental things our founding fathers gave us was the principle of civilian control of the military. If Bob Woodward's revelations about General Milley prove to be true then it would seem that he has personally violated that principle and must be held accountable. This is neither a Republican nor Democrat issue," he pointed out. It's a constitutional issue that must be dealt with. Every man that enlists in the Army takes an oath to obey the orders of the President and the officer appointed over them. Milley has apparently breached that oath."