Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Generals Contradict President Biden

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Top military officials testified yesterday in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee. During the grilling, one thing became quite clear. The Generals and the Commander in Chief didn't agree on the Afghanistan withdrawal fiasco.

Did Gen. Mark Milley really make inappropriate phone calls to his counterpart in China?

Did he and other military leaders advise the president that the Afghanistan army and the Afghan government would collapse as the US was withdrawing?

Be informed, not misled.

About those phone calls.

During his opening statement yesterday morning General Mark Milley denied any inappropriate phone calls with the Chinese military and tried to reassure Americans he is dedicated to civilian control of the military.

He explained that "military to military communications at the highest level are critical to the security of the United States. My loyalty to this nation, its people, and the Constitution hasn't changed, and will never change, as long as I have a breath to give. My loyalty is absolute, and I will not turn my back on the fallen."

He explained his calls to his Chinese counterpart were to "deescalate a growing fear on the part of China, that the US was about to attack them."

He said a number of people listened in on each of his calls with the Chinese government.

He also addressed the call he received from Speaker Nancy Pelosi inquiring about President Trump's ability to launch a nuclear weapon. 

Milley said he informed her that while launching such a weapon requires multiple people in the chain of command, the president is the sole authority to launch an attack.

He said, 

"I  sought to assure her that nuclear launch is governed by a very specific and deliberate process." He added, "She was concerned and made various personal references characterizing the president [Trump]. I explained to her the president is the sole nuclear launch authority and he doesn't launch them alone and that I am not qualified to determine the mental health of the President of the United States."

He said he then convened a meeting with his staff to go through the process and procedures: "At no time was I trying to change or influence the process, usurp, authority or insert myself into the chain of command."

About the Afghan withdrawal.

Republican Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, himself a veteran, confronted both Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley on what President Biden had been advised to do with regard to the planned withdrawal from Afghanistan and whether he heeded any of that advice.

While they both declined to comment on actual conversations with the president, they both agreed that they had been in favor of leaving some 2500 troops on the ground.

Cotton asked about Biden's own claim that no military leader advised him to leave a small troop presence in Afghanistan.

"Is that true?" he asked Austin.

Austin proceeded to say the president is an honest and forthright man...Cotton interrupted: "It's a simple question, Secretary Austin. He said no senior military leader advised him to leave a small troop presence behind. Is it true or not? Did these officers' and Gen. Milley's recommendations get to the president for sure?"

Austin responded, "Their input was received by the president and considered by the president for sure."

Cotton: "It's shocking to me. It sounds like maybe our best military advice was never presented personally to the President of the United States about such a highly consequentially matter."

Milley explained: "So on 25 August, I was asked to make an assessment and provide the best military advice."

Cotton interrupted: "I'm sorry, my time is limited here. You gave me the answer I needed to hear. August 25?"

Milley: "Correct."

Cotton: "Kabul fell on August 15. You were not asked before August 25?"

Cotton continued, "Gen. Milley, I can only conclude that your advice wasn't sought until August 25 on staying past the August deadline. I understand that you're the principal military adviser, that you advise, you don't decide, the president decides. If all this is true, Gen. Milley, why haven't you resigned?"

Milley responded, "It would be an incredible act of political defiance for a commissioned officer to just resign because my advice was not taken."

I spent some time reading over the texts of what was said. A couple of things became clear to me. 

President Biden was following the political wind rather than the advice of the Generals...and he blew it big time.

I hope it isn't true, but it appeared the Generals may not have been on top of the actual conditions on the ground as they should have been.

And finally, the hearings seemed to produce more questions than answers, and it's pretty clear the Generals don't want to be questioned about anything having to do with the Afghanistan withdrawal disaster. 

Marine in the brig for asking too many questions.

Marine Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller is in the brig today for asking some of the questions the press should have been asking.

His father, Stuart Scheller, Sr., says his son was on the ground in Afghanistan during the "withdrawal." He began asking questions about the execution of the withdrawal, then demanding accountability for top military brass.

The dad says, "All our son did is ask the questions that everybody was asking themselves, but they were too scared to speak out loud."

"They had a gag order on him," the senior Scheller says, "and asked him not to speak. He did and they incarcerated him. They don't know what to do with him."

He had questioned the process---the execution of the withdrawal, not the withdrawal from Afghanistan.

He says, "I'm not saying we've got to be in Afghanistan forever, but I am saying: Did any of you throw your rank on the table and say 'hey, it's a bad idea to evacuate Bagram Airfield, a strategic airbase before we evacuate everyone?"

It has been confirmed that he is currently in "pre-trial confinement." They say, "The time, date and location of the proceedings have not been determined. Lt. Col. Scheller will be afforded all due process," the statement says.

But the more obvious question remains: Will anyone, who actually bore some responsibility for the failure, see any consequences for what was probably one of the most botched military operations in the history of our country?

One thing stands out in the malaise: It wasn't the troops' fault.

So if we have any more questions, I suppose we can just report directly to pre-trial confinement. 

Be Informed. Be Discerning. Be Vigilant. Be Prayerful.