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Trump and the Military: A Mutual Embrace Might Dissolve on America’s Streets

  • June 06, 2020

But both sides expected the turmoil that began with nationwide demonstrations against the killing of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, in police custody to continue.

One general officer, speaking on the condition of anonymity to avoid punishment from his superiors, said on Thursday that he was hoping to make it through another day without having to cite his constitutional obligations to decline an illegal order. He said he would not be surprised if he faced such a dilemma in the coming weeks.

Former top officers were able to speak more freely.

“Right now, the last thing the country needs — and, frankly, the U.S. military needs — is the appearance of U.S. soldiers carrying out the president’s intent by descending on American citizens,” John R. Allen, a retired four-star Marine general, wrote in Foreign Policy. “This could wreck the high regard Americans have for their military, and much more.” Last year, 73 percent of the public in an annual Gallup poll reported either “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the military, making it the highest of the institutions polled.

Military officials’ fears seemed to be borne out during the protests this week in Washington, where by Wednesday night those in uniform facing the peaceful crowd were no longer police officers or Secret Service but National Guard soldiers in camouflage. They stood on 16th Street near the White House in front of two Army transport trucks. Although they were not active-duty military troops, to the protesters they looked like them.

The crowd hurled obscenities and invective. “Fascists!” one person screamed. “Brainwashed!” another yelled.

“We don’t need military artillery to control a city,” Arianna Evans, 23, of Bowie, Md., said in a later interview. “We just don’t, not unless it’s goddamn Yemen.”

Senior Pentagon leaders worry that a militarized and heavy-handed response to the protests, Mr. Trump’s stated wish, will turn the American public against the troops, like what happened in the waning years of the Vietnam War, when National Guard troops in combat fatigues battled antiwar protesters at Kent State. The retired Sgt. Alan Kraus, a combat infantryman in Vietnam in 1970 and 1971, said in a telephone interview that when he returned home from Vietnam, he hung up his uniform and never put it back on, lest he become the target of protesters in the street.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/04/us/politics/trump-military-protests.html

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