Grassley and Banks ask Milley to make it clear whether the general interfered in the chain of command
WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley and Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) have spoken in the Senate and House of Representatives to call on Gen. Mark Milley to finally and fully answer questions about the reports he has inserted themselves into the statutory chain of command – undermining civilian control of the US military.
“I ask General Milley to set the record straight. General Milley is accused of secretly seizing the President’s military powers. It is the most serious crime. If he is innocent, he has a duty to say so. Rep. Banks said in a speech today.
“On April 11, with twelve pointed questions, we gave General Milley a second bite of apple to clear the air. General Milley, honor your word. Answer the questions. Be candid with the American people,” said Senator Grassley in a separate speech to the Senate.
Statement prepared by Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa
President Emeritus Pro Tempore of the United States Senate
On civilian control of the military and accountability
July 14, 2022
Mr. President, I rise to sound the alarm on one of America’s guiding principles – civilian control of the military – a cornerstone of our Republic. This fundamental principle of self-government may have been threatened in the final days of the Trump administration.
Before I get to that, I’ll give some historical background. This principle became part of the American fabric on June 14, 1775, when Congress appointed George Washington commander of the Continental Army. His commission ordered him to report to the civil authorities. It stated: “You must observe punctually the orders and directives, from time to time, which you will receive from this congress or from a future congress of these united colonies. “At the end of the war, General Washington gave this principle a lasting purpose with power and grace.
On December 23, 1783, in a solemn ceremony at the Annapolis State House, he voluntarily surrendered his commission—and his military power—to the civil authority—the President of the Continental Congress. The scene is commemorated in a dramatic painting by John Trumbull which hangs in the Rotunda not far from where I stand.
Dictators rule their nations with an iron fist, for they control the sword. Washington selflessly laid down his sword to secure America’s destiny for generations to come. He chose to disband the army and return to private life at Mount Vernon. As one scholar put it, “the Virginian went home to plow.” By this noble act, he cemented a jewel in the crown of autonomy – civilian control of the military.
Five years later, when Washington was elected president, this fundamental principle was enshrined in the Constitution. Civilian control of the military is essential to the preservation of our precious democracy. It is incumbent on the armies, and in particular on the senior officers, to be faithful to this rule of conduct.
It was challenged with serious consequences. The Truman-MacArthur dispute over the conduct of the Korean War is a good example. Truman wanted to limit the war. MacArthur disagreed, defied orders, and publicly criticized Truman’s decision. So Truman fired him for insubordination.
Recently, several books, including Danger by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, suggest that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Milley, may have flouted this principle. Danger provides an alarming account of his words and deeds. Milley told the authors that he “was certain” that the Commander-in-Chief was “in serious mental decline…and that he could go rogue and order military action or the use of nuclear weapons.”
“Milley had no absolute certainty that the military could control or trust the president.” So Milley “took all the necessary precautions”.
“His job,” he said, was “to think the unthinkable” and to “shoot a Schlesinger.” To “contain Trump,” he had to “inject a second opinion” — his opinion — into the command structure. In doing so, he may have stepped out of his lane as the President’s top military adviser… And into the statutory chain of command to which he does not belong. By law, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has no command authority.
When President Nixon faced an impeachment and resignation crisis, Secretary of Defense Schlesinger feared he would order an unprovoked nuclear strike. He would therefore have taken extralegal measures to prevent it.
Shooting a Milley is a very different game. A four-star general cannot “shoot a Schlesinger”. Schlesinger was at the top of the chain of command, just below the president. He kept the president’s constitutional command authority firmly in civilian hands. Milley allegedly placed military hands — his hands — on controls that belong exclusively to the president.
According Danger, he summoned senior operations officers from the National Military Command Center to his office. He made them take an “oath” not to “act” on the president’s orders without checking with him first. These brazen words and actions – if accurate – strike at the heart of our democracy – civilian control of the military – and show complete disregard for the Commander-in-Chief.
Coming from the nation’s highest general, they are dangerous and against military code: TEN-US CODE-888. After describing Milley’s actions, Danger the authors rightly asked, “Was he overthrowing the president?” Had he overstepped his authority and taken over extraordinary power?
Milley assured me that his actions were getting better and better. The books tell a different story.
Senator Blackburn asked him about the lag. He replied, “I haven’t read any of the books. So I do not know. She said to read them and report back to us. “Absolutely,” he agreed, “happy to do this.”
Nine months later, he’s still dodging the question with the same lame excuse. To increase the pressure, I joined Senators Paul and Blackburn in a letter demanding a direct response. When no one came, I started sending handwritten notes. I soon received a 10-page letter from General Milley who ignored the question.
My second note triggered an email. He asserted that our letter did not raise “a direct question” and asserted that “General Milley answered the specific questions”. Is this Pentagon crap or what?
After my third note, General Milley replied with the same old routine of smoke and mirrors: “I never read the books.” Years of surveillance have taught me this lesson: evasive answers usually offer telling clues to the truth. He knows better… He knows the score.
If these books, and all the resulting media coverage, had contained gross misrepresentations, we would have heard about them a long time ago. He would have hammered the authors and corrected the notice. Not a word from the general. His silence speaks volumes.
Something is wrong. As the Pentagon’s watchdog, when I smell wrongdoing, I sink in my teeth and don’t let go. So Congressman Jim Banks, member of the Armed Services Committee, and I upped the ante. On April 11, with twelve pointed questions, we gave General Milley a second bite of apple to clear the air. General Milley, honor your word. Answer the questions. Be frank with the American people. We are all ears.