All 10 living former secretaries of defense are calling on current leaders of the U.S. military to defy any order Donald Trump may give them to enlist it in helping him to cling to the presidency. The former heads of the Pentagon, led by Republican Dick Cheney who served under former President George W. Bush, made the declaration in an extraordinary op-ed published in the Washington Post.
“Efforts to involve the U.S. armed forces in resolving election disputes would take us into dangerous, unlawful and unconstitutional territory,” they warn. “Civilian and military officials who direct or carry out such measures would be accountable, including potentially facing criminal penalties, for the grave consequences of their actions on our republic.
“Acting defense secretary Christopher C. Miller and his subordinates — political appointees, officers and civil servants — are each bound by oath, law and precedent to facilitate the entry into office of the incoming administration, and to do so wholeheartedly. They must also refrain from any political actions that undermine the results of the election or hinder the success of the new team.
“We call upon them, in the strongest terms, to do as so many generations of Americans have done before them. This final action is in keeping with the highest traditions and professionalism of the U.S. armed forces, and the history of democratic transition in our great country.”
The need for such a public reminder to the uniformed leaders of the armed forces became necessary because of two developments. The first is Trump’s use of the military to clear protestors from Lafayette Park near the White House in June so that he could pose for a photo op with an upside down Bible in front of St. John’s Church.
The second, perhaps more alarming, is the suggestion by admitted liar and former Army general Michael Flynn that Trump should declare martial law and use the military to hold a new election. Since falling into disgrace for lying to Congress and being pardoned for that crime by Trump, Flynn has become an increasingly radical voice in Trump’s ear and has been amplifying the president’s unfounded claim that the election was stolen from him.
Chuck Hagel, a former Republican senator who crossed the aisle to serve as a defense secretary for President Barack Obama, said in an interview Sunday that he asked ahead of publication whether the piece would be an overreaction to a potential problem.
But he ultimately decided that it was wise to weigh in, citing a desire to remind those serving in the Defense Department of their responsibility to help ensure a peaceful transition of power.