Often times, members of current or past military leadership do not actively criticize a sitting president. However, former defense secretary Mattis openly excoriated President Trump for dividing the country.
In an extraordinary rebuke, former defense secretary Jim Mattis on Wednesday denounced President Donald Trump’s heavy-handed use of military force to quell protests near the White House and said his former boss was setting up a “false conflict” between the military and civilian society.
“I have watched this week’s unfolding events, angry and appalled,” Mattis wrote.
The criticism was all the more remarkable because Mattis has generally kept a low profile since retiring as defense secretary in December 2018 to protest Trump’s Syria policy. He had declined to speak out against Trump, saying he owed the nation public silence while his former boss remained in office.
Mattis had a scathing description of Trump’s walk to a historic nearby church Monday to pose with a Bible after law enforcement forcibly cleared Lafayette Square of mostly peaceful protesters.
He said he never dreamed troops “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.”
“Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people —does not even pretend to try. Instead he tries to divide us,” Mattis wrote in a statement published by The Atlantic. “We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership.”
Mattis called on Americans to unite without Trump. “This will not be easy, as the past few days have shown, but we owe it to our fellow citizens; to past generations that bled to defend our promise; and to our children,” he wrote.
Mattis said of the protesters that Americans should not be distracted by a small number of lawbreakers. He said they are rightly demanding that the country follow the words of “Equal Justice Under Law” that are on display at the U.S. Supreme Court.
“The protests are defined by tens of thousands of people of conscience who are insisting that we live up to our values — our values as people and our values as a nation,” Mattis said. (source)
One can say what one wants about Mattis or not. The fact is that a consistent feature of Trump’s presidency has been the serious intensification of political fragmentation between different groups, something that is far from “making America great again”. Unfortunately, this is also fomenting division around the world, and with it nationalist sentiments that are putting countries against each other and is pushing the world to war.
For all of the talk from many Trump supporters about the evils of the “globalists”, perhaps they are not the problem, but rather those who sow divisions such as Trump that, inciting tribal, ethnic, national, racial, or other forms of pride, for they are the ones splitting people up, destroying unity, and creating such war-like conditions.
Trump has been given the chance of history to write himself in, and unfortunately, he will go down as at best an ineffective leader, and most likely as one who sowed division at a time when unity was needed more than ever, being an actor before a leader.