‘It is my belief that you were doing great and irreparable harm to my country’
Mark Milley, the four-star US army general whom former president Donald Trump picked to serve as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, drafted a resignation letter to Mr Trump accusing him of “doing great and irreparable harm” to the United States in an undelivered resignation letter. It was written just days after the then-president ordered a violent crackdown on protesters near the White House so he could participate in a photo opportunity.
In the draft letter, which was obtained by New Yorker writer Susan Glasser and New York Times reporter Peter Baker for their upcoming book The Divider: Trump in the White House, Mr Milley wrote that he found that he could “ no longer faithfully support and execute” Mr Trump’s orders after “deep soul-searching” following the 1 June 2020 clearing of Lafayette Square by federal law enforcement.
Mr Milley had been heavily criticised in the days following the crackdown, which Mr Trump reportedly pushed for so he could walk across the square for a bible-wielding photo opportunity at St John’s Episcopal Church, for wearing combat fatigues while accompanying Mr Trump on the short walk from the White House to the church.
According to Ms Glasser and Mr Baker, Mr Milley “sat in his office at the Pentagon, writing and rewriting drafts of a letter of resignation” after the photo-op incident, ultimately preferring a longer version in which he would have told Mr Trump: “It is my belief that you were doing great and irreparable harm to my country. I believe that you have made a concerted effort over time to politicize the United States military. I thought that I could change that. I’ve come to the realization that I cannot, and I need to step aside and let someone else try to do that.”
Mr Milley also accused Mr Trump of “using the military to create fear in the minds of the people” and said he “cannot stand idly by and participate in that attack, verbally or otherwise, on the American people”.
He also added it was “obvious” to him that the then-president did not believe the idea that “all men and women are created equal” — an idea Mr Milley said was “embodied within” the US constitution he swore to uphold.
“All men and women are created equal, no matter who you are, whether you are white or Black, Asian, Indian, no matter the color of your skin, no matter if you’re gay, straight or something in between. It doesn’t matter if you’re Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Jew, or choose not to believe. None of that matters. It doesn’t matter what country you came from, what your last name is—what matters is we’re Americans,” he wrote, adding that the colours of the US flag — the colours his parents fought for during the Second World War — “mean something around the world”.
“It’s obvious to me that you don’t think of those colors the same way I do. It’s obvious to me that you don’t hold those values dear and the cause that I serve,” he wrote.
Continuing, Mr Milley concluded by telling Mr Trump that he was also “ruining the international order, and causing significant damage to our country overseas” by disrespecting the work of the Greatest Generation that had fought that war. He concluded by suggesting that the president’s principles were closer to the Nazis who American soldiers had fought against than those of Americans.
“That generation, like every generation, has fought against that, has fought against fascism, has fought against Nazism, has fought against extremism. It’s now obvious to me that you don’t understand that world order. You don’t understand what the war was all about. In fact, you subscribe to many of the principles that we fought against,” he wrote. “And I cannot be a party to that”.
Ultimately, Mr Milley decided to remain in his role and vowed to “fight from the inside”.