WASHINGTON: Former Pentagon chief Jim Mattis issued a rebuke of Donald Trump, accusing the president of trying to divide America and failing to provide leadership as the country reels from days of protests.
Mattis resigned in December 2018 over Trump’s ordering of a full troop withdrawal from Syria. He also voiced support for the demonstrators whose anti-racism rallies have roiled the country.
“Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people — does not even pretend to try,” Mattis wrote in a blistering statement posted online. “Instead, he tries to divide us,” added the retired general. “We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership,” he stated.
Mattis described himself as “angry and appalled” after witnessing events of the last week, which saw Trump threaten a military crackdown on American citizens as nationwide protests turned violent in some cities.
The fury was ignited by the killing of George Floyd, a black man who suffocated beneath the knee of a white police officer, and whose agonizing death was filmed by bystanders. The demonstrations have mostly been peaceful but some have turned violent and lead to looting.
Mattis wrote that the protesters call for equal justice was a “wholesome and unifying demand.” He slammed the decision to use force to clear peaceful protesters from near the White House to allow Trump to pose for photographs at a nearby damaged church.
“When I joined the military, some 50 years ago, I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution,” Mattis stated. “Never did I dream that troops taking that same oath would be ordered under any circumstance to violate the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens — much less to provide a bizarre photo op for the elected commander-in-chief, with military leadership standing alongside.”
Trump dismissed Mattis with a tweet, rehashing his claim that he fired his Pentagon chief. “Probably the only thing Barack Obama and I have in common is that we both had the honour of firing Jim Mattis, the world’s most overrated General,” the president wrote.
Mattis was head of US Central Command when Obama fired him in 2013 over his views on Iran. Mattis resigned refused to criticise Trump publicly for months after resignation, insisting the military must remain apolitical.
He also appeared to rebuke current Pentagon chief Mark Esper, without specifically naming him. “We must reject any thinking of our cities as a ‘battlespace’ that our uniformed military is called upon to dominate,” he said.
Esper faced criticism after telling US governors that they should “dominate the battlespace” to end the protests. The Pentagon chief backtracked telling reporters that he should have used different wording.
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