Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was seen walking the streets of Washington, D.C., in battle fatigues after curfew Monday night — a scene that sparked an intense wave of criticism.
“We’ve got the D.C. National Guard out here, and I’m just checking there and seeing how they’re doing, that’s all,” Milley said as he strolled the nation’s capital on Tuesday, two hours after the city’s curfew which started at 7 p.m. ET
General Milley, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, walking the streets of Washington DC right now. Briefly spoke to say he is observing the situation. pic.twitter.com/fHcYOTYMzN
— Shabtai (@velvetart) June 2, 2020
The presence of the military general followed a conference call on Monday in which the president resorted to name-calling, suggesting many of the nation’s governors were “weak” in their ability to restrain racial turmoil. On that same call, Defense Secretary Mark Esper employed the military strategy term “battlespace” to the streets that have become the stomping grounds for nationwide demonstrations against police brutality. Esper said the streets need to be dominated in his view to return to the “right normal.”
The response to Milley’s presence on Twitter was swift, with some questioning why he appeared in military fatigues, which signaled a readiness “for war.”
Ridiculous. General Milley, who I respect, is embarrassing himself. I worked 3 years at the White House at the National Security Council. I never once saw Admiral Mullen come to the building ready for war. (Please someone tell me there was a good reason for this uniform) https://t.co/iqwAisUJAb
— Michael McFaul (@McFaul) June 2, 2020
I worked with General Milley at the Pentagon and I hope he’s thinking seriously about the moral and ethical issues surrounding his role in the coming days.
— Rep. Elissa Slotkin (@RepSlotkin) June 2, 2020
David Frum, a writer for The Atlantic and a former speechwriter for George W. Bush, suggested that Milley should consider resignation.
Letter of resignation is also a constitutional option https://t.co/UTMKOGJ3c4
— David Frum (@davidfrum) June 2, 2020
Others reacted with dismay over the visual:
The fact that Milley thinks this is a good idea is a terrible indictment of his judgment. https://t.co/mLTc848ItM
— Garrett M. Graff (@vermontgmg) June 2, 2020
There is absolutely no reason for the Chairman to be walking the streets right now. This is not even remotely in the tradition of U.S. civil-military relations. https://t.co/gN7FZwD2lC
— Tom Nichols (@RadioFreeTom) June 2, 2020
The president laid the groundwork for a ramped up military presence in the nation’s capital when he deployed 1,200 troops from the D.C. National Guard onto the city’s streets to contain racial unrest in D.C. on Monday.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany also announced the president’s plans to set up a “central command center” that would include Milley, Esper, and Attorney General William Barr, among state and local officials.