Yesterday, most of us were stunned to find that in the aftermath of the January 6 disturbance on Capitol Hill, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Mark “White Rage” Milley had contacted his Chinese counterpart to promise that he’d give him advance notice of any attack on China carried out by an unstable President Trump. This is from the Washington Post’s promotion of the book “Peril” by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa.
Twice in the final months of the Trump administration, the country’s top military officer was so fearful that the president’s actions might spark a war with China that he moved urgently to avert armed conflict.
In a pair of secret phone calls, Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, assured his Chinese counterpart, Gen. Li Zuocheng of the People’s Liberation Army, that the United States would not strike, according to a new book by Washington Post associate editor Bob Woodward and national political reporter Robert Costa.
One call took place on Oct. 30, 2020, four days before the election that unseated President Donald Trump, and the other on Jan. 8, 2021, two days after the Capitol siege carried out by his supporters in a quest to cancel the vote.
The first call was prompted by Milley’s review of intelligence suggesting the Chinese believed the United States was preparing to attack. That belief, the authors write, was based on tensions over military exercises in the South China Sea, and deepened by Trump’s belligerent rhetoric toward China.
“General Li, I want to assure you that the American government is stable and everything is going to be okay,” Milley told him. “We are not going to attack or conduct any kinetic operations against you.”
In the book’s account, Milley went so far as to pledge he would alert his counterpart in the event of a U.S. attack, stressing the rapport they’d established through a backchannel. “General Li, you and I have known each other for now five years. If we’re going to attack, I’m going to call you ahead of time. It’s not going to be a surprise.”
Milley also summoned senior officers to review the procedures for launching nuclear weapons, saying the president alone could give the order — but, crucially, that he, Milley, also had to be involved. Looking each in the eye, Milley asked the officers to affirm that they had understood, the authors write, in what he considered an “oath.”
There is so much here to unpack that one doesn’t really know where to start. If the word “coup” is to have any meaning, then what Milley instigated here is certainly was one. It was a case of a military officer creating his own foreign policy, much like retired Lieutenant Colonel Alexander “Krispy Kreme” Vindman, and cutting out all civilian officials from the process. The idea that Milley would promise to give China’s generalissimo advance warning of any American operation against China is morally bankrupt and quite possibly felonious. The spectacle of the nation’s senior military officer agreeing to cause the death of young Americans by colluding with our main strategic opponent is both shameful and horrifying.
The underlying question here is how did this story come to be. Bob Woodward has a mostly solid reputation in his behind-the-scenes accounts. He’ll probably never live down his bizarre claim to have secretly interviewed a hospitalized and terminally ill CIA director Bill Casey on his deathbed for “Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA 1981-1987,” that said, he is right much more often than wrong. Woodward seems to use the tactic of the late Robert Novak, who gave people the choice of being sources for his reporting or the target of that reporting.
From the tone and detail of the account, the most obvious source for the story is none other than Mark Milley.
An update: the level of anger at Gen. Milley on Capitol Hill is immeasurable. There is a strong belief he leaked this story himself. Veterans on Capitol Hill are discussing next actions. The agreed opinion is he must go, but that media sycophants will attempt to protect him.
— Ben Domenech (@bdomenech) September 14, 2021
Who is the hero of the story? Milley. Who is the villain? Trump. Quite honestly, there is no reason for anyone other than Milley to have told this story.
Now we’re beginning to see some blowback. This from the Washington Post’s Josh Rogin really cuts to the heart of the matter.
2/3 “Milley was making these phone calls at a time when the U.S. government was in the middle of very complicated discussions with and actions against the PRC. For him to take this sort of action without any interagency coordination is astonishing…”
— Josh Rogin (@joshrogin) September 14, 2021
“…The risk is [Milley] could have caused the Chinese to miscalculate and take some sort of diplomatic, economic or military action with far ranging consequences, because he was giving the wrong signal, having no understanding of the context in which he was making the call.” 3/3
— Josh Rogin (@joshrogin) September 14, 2021
I suspect that part of the reason that Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin got a case of the vapors rather than testify before the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee hearing to determine who will be the “stuckee” for the Afghanistan debacle. He knew that Milley’s actions would probably end up being the central question, and he’d either have to fire Milley, stand by Milley, or call Woodward and Costa liars. (See Bipartisan Senators Rip Biden Team During Blinken Hearing, Threaten Action Against Defense Sec).
Now we’re beginning to see something of a defense being constructed to protect Milley. This from Jennifer Griffin of Fox News in response to Rogin:
I am told this is not true. There were 15 people on the video teleconference calls, including a representative of the State Dept and the read out and notes from Milley’s two calls with his Chinese counterpart were shared with the IC and the Interagency. https://t.co/sGRvaKgLfS
— Jennifer Griffin (@JenGriffinFNC) September 15, 2021
I am told that Gen Milley had 2 routine calls with his Chinese counterpart and more than a dozen calls with NATO allies after Jan 6 to reassure them the US government was stable and to reassure China that the US did not plan a surprise attack, an effort to avoid misunderstanding.
— Jennifer Griffin (@JenGriffinFNC) September 14, 2021
Just note that there is nothing in the Griffin story that contradicts that in the Woodward story. The difference is the spin. In Milley’s heroic story, he steps in to save America from going to war against China because, well, we’re not really sure why that possibility was even considered other than it was the craziest thing that President Trump might do. In Griffin’s version, this is a routine call…made twice…to assure the Chinese that the adults were in charge. There is no reason for the conversation about nuclear weapons that Griffin describes as routine unless someone was concerned about launching nuclear weapons. Milley, after all, was not quizzing a bunch of junior officers in missile silos at Minot, Malmstrom, and F. E. Warren about launch procedures. He was talking to senior people about a nuclear first strike. That is hardly routine.
As my colleague Bonchie points out in The Gaslighting Begins After Mark Milley’s Treasonous Actions Are Revealed:
What Milley did in conjunction with Pelosi is the biggest breakdown of the constitutional order in modern history. We had a general essentially declare himself a military dictator, calling up foreign adversaries to let them know he had their back and would sell out his own country to give them information. And for what? There is no evidence Donald Trump was going to order an attack on China. Rather, Milley’s actions were driven by his delusional god complex.
But even if you assume Trump was going to do something dangerous (he wasn’t, but let’s assume), Milley’s obligation would be to refuse the order, resign, and notify Congress. It would not be for him to make secret calls to the Chinese to let them know he’s going to feed them information.
Why, one might ask, would Milley tell a story that reflects so poorly upon himself and the defense establishment?
I’d suggest there are two parts to this. First, he saw the way Vindman was lionized in the press over his betrayal of trust (for a plot twist, read Hilarious: Mark Milley Has Even Lost Alexander Vindman Now) and his attempt to substitute his own foreign policy for that of the president. From that lesson, he learned that he had whatever political backing he needed from House and Senate Democrats and Republican quislings to do whatever he wanted so long as it made President Trump look bad. Second, he saw the rave reviews he got over the summer on stories of pushback against President Trump wanting to use federal troops to quell the BlackLivesMatter/Antifa spawned violence in dozens of American cities and for apologizing for appearing in a photo op with President Trump at St. John’s Episcopal Church after Lafayette Park was cleared of rioters.
This is nothing more than Milley’s friends covering Milley’s treason in a cheap veneer of Resistance fan fiction in a desperate attempt to convince whoever is actually in charge of the White House that Milley is one of them. https://t.co/q2Fr69MCTD
— Sean Davis (@seanmdav) September 14, 2021
The most amazing part of the Milley news is that Milley almost certainly thought, probably correctly, that he would be treated as a hero by the media elite for his actions.
— Brent Scher (@BrentScher) September 14, 2021
In fact, as early as July of this year, you see Milley auditioning for the role of “savior of the Republic.”
Top-ranking Army Gen. Mark Milley feared in the wake of the 2020 election that then-President Donald Trump or his allies might attempt a military coup to stay in power, according to a new book from two Pulitzer Prize-winning reporters.
Trump on Thursday denied discussing staging a coup to stay in power – but added that if he were to stage a coup, he wouldn’t want to do it with Milley.
Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, began informally strategizing in the final months of Trump’s one term in office about how to guard against such an attempt by Trump or those around him, according to “I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump’s Catastrophic Final Year,” which comes out next week.
The book from Washington Post reporters Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker portrays Milley seeing himself in the final months of Trump’s presidency as one of the few remaining officials in the crumbling administration still defending military and executive-branch institutions.
“This is a Reichstag moment,” Milley told aides in early January, according to the book. “The gospel of the Fuhrer.”
The journalists say the book is based on hundreds of hours of interviews with more than 140 sources, most of whom agreed to speak candidly on the condition of anonymity. The authors say they also interviewed Trump on the record for 2½ hours.
I don’t think there is any doubt that the Woodward source is Milley. I don’t have any doubt that what Milley told Woodward is true. It is a testimony to the deep corruption within the military and the intelligence community that this was allowed to happen without any intervention. The implications for the Republic are enormous. It means that elected officials no longer have the allegiance of the military command. That is unacceptable, and the next president and next Republican Congress need to act forcefully to bring this to a halt, that is, assuming there is a next one.