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Wednesday, September 29, 2021

What Happened When the Generals Went to Congress?

            The generals went to Congress and were roasted. The top three military leaders – Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Army General Mark Milley (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff), and Marine General Kenneth McKenzie Jr. (Commander of U.S. Central Command – appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday. Austin, Milley, and McKenzie returned to Capitol Hill again today for another hearing in the House of Representatives.

            Much of the two hearings covered the same material. Fred Lucas found six big takeaways from the two hearings. 

1. Mental States of Biden, Trump

Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., pushed Milley on the contents of “Peril,” a new book by Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, by reading aloud from its reported conversation between Milley and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., shortly after the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol….

The book also quotes Pelosi as telling Milley about Trump: “You know he’s crazy. He’s been crazy for a long time.”

Woodward and Costa quote Milley as saying: “Madam Speaker, I agree with you on everything.”

“If you’re the principal adviser to the president and she said that to you, do you think that you were doing service to a president by agreeing with the speaker that your commander in chief is crazy?” DesJarlais asked Milley.

Milley responded: “I actually said I’m not qualified to assess the mental health of the president. What I’m agreeing to is that we have to have a secure nuclear system.” …

DesJarlais then pivoted to Biden.

“Have you had any conversations with the [House] speaker or any of our foreign leaders about our current president’s mental capacity?” DesJarlais asked….

Milley said he has not commented on the mental state of either Trump or Biden….

2. Liz Cheney Apologizes for GOP

Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., who has been on the outs with her party over her repeated criticism of Trump, did nothing to make amends with fellow Republicans during the hearing….

Gen. Milley, you found yourself in your constitutionally prescribed role standing in the breach. For any member of this committee for any American, to question your loyalty to our nation, to question your understanding of our Constitution, your loyalty [to] our Constitution, your recognition of the civilian chain of command is despicable. I want to apologize for those members of this committee who have done so, and I want to thank you for standing in the breach when so many, including many in this room, failed to do so.

3. Contradicting Biden Again

McKenzie again contradicted Biden’s claim that none of his military leaders advised against his timeline for a complete withdrawal from Afghanistan.

“It has been my view, I recommended a level of 2,500 [U.S. forces] a level that would have allowed us to hold Bagram and other airfields as well,” McKenzie said, referring to the large military air base that the U.S. abandoned in preference for staging an evacuation from the much smaller civilian airport in Kabul.

“Once you go below that level and make a decision to go to zero [troops], it is no longer feasible to hold Bagram,” Milley said.

4. ‘Conditions Set’ for al-Qaeda, ISIS Resurgence

Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., asked: “Is the terrorist threat from Afghanistan greater today or lesser than it was pre-9/11?”

Milley said in as little as six months either the al-Qaeda or the Islamic State terrorist group could “reconstitute” there….

Austin, the former four-star Army general who is Biden’s defense secretary, concurred that terrorists could take over the region….

McKenzie responded “absolutely” to the question of whether al-Qaeda is still at war with the United States.

Responding later in the hearing to Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., Milley said radical Islamists across the world will be emboldened by the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, including its capital….

5. State Department’s Fault

Rep. James Langevin, D-R.I., asked Austin why the United States did not rescue American citizens and applicants for or holders of special immigrant visas, mostly Afghans who assisted the U.S. in its 20 years fighting in Afghanistan.

“On the issue of why we didn’t bring out civilians and SIVs sooner, again, the call on how to do that and when to do it is really a State Department call,” Austin said….

Later, Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., asked: “The blame for the disastrous withdrawal that everyone agrees was a disaster, who is to blame for that?”

The three military leaders sat silently for seven seconds before Johnson said: “I’ll let the silence speak for itself.”

6. Milley Says He Is Apolitical

Well before the new Woodward-Costa book, Milley was criticized for talking about the threat of “white rage.” Amid the presidential campaign in 2020, he also apologized for accompanying Trump in a walk that June through Lafayette Square to a church that had been burned by vandals.

Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., asked about the concerns that the military had become politicized.

“I think an apolitical military is critical to the health of this republic,” Milley replied….

            Several members of Congress called for Austin, Milley, and McKenzie to resign or to be fired. Everyone knows that Biden will not fire them, and none of them said that they would resign.

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