Former US Secretary of Defence under Donald Trump’s administration, James Mattis, has scathingly denounced the American president’s handling of the ongoing protests throughout the country, questioning Trump’s maturity and saying that he only tries to divide Americans, rather than unite them.
Mattis, who resigned from his position in December 2018 in protest of Trump’s policy with regards to the Syrian Civil War, wrote an open-letter that has been published in The Atlantic, where he criticises the president’s threats of using military force on his own people.
“I have watched this week’s unfolding events, angry and appalled,” he wrote. “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.
“We must reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution. 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.
“We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership.”
Mattis even went as far as to contrast Trump’s actions with those of Nazi Germany.
“Instructions given by the military departments to our troops before the Normandy invasion reminded soldiers that ‘The Nazi slogan for destroying us … was “Divide and Conquer.” Our American answer is “In Union there is Strength.” We must summon that unity to surmount this crisis—confident that we are better than our politics,” he adds.
Mattis, who previously said that he would not speak out against the Trump administration while the president is still in office, out of respect for the military’s apolitical nature, has said that he feels he has had to comment due to the outrage he felt over Trump’s recent actions. These included included orders for the military to release smoke bombs outside of a church, so that he could walk there from the White House for a photo opportunity.
“When you leave an administration over clear policy differences, you need to give the people who are still there as much opportunity as possible to defend the country. They still have the responsibility of protecting this great big experiment of ours,” he said in a previous interview with The Atlantic, but also added that “there is a period in which I owe my silence. It’s not eternal. It’s not going to be forever.”
Now, he says, “I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution. 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.”
The United States has been protesting in solidarity with the #BlackLivesMatter movement after George Floyd’s death at the hands of police officers for nine days now. Similar protests have been occurring all over the world. The officer who killed him by pressing his neck to the ground with his knee, Derek Chauvin is now facing second degree murder charges (which have escalated from third degree murder), as well as second degree manslaughter charges.
Furthermore, the three officers that were present while Floyd was killed have now also been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter.