Former SecDefs Sign off on an Extraordinary Message
On the op/ed page of WaPo, the 10 living former U.S. secretaries of defense say things that shouldn't have to be said.
In addition to the Washington Post reporting on a certain phone call between the current occupant of the White House and the Secretary of State of Georgia, it was also publishing this: All 10 living former defense secretaries: Involving the military in election disputes would cross into dangerous territory.
In this piece, the 10 former Secretaries (not counting “actings”) make what should be an anodyne observation: “American elections and the peaceful transfers of power that result are hallmarks of our democracy.” However, when this has to be pointed out, and by the former civilian heads of the US military, it makes one sit up a bit and take notice.
It underscores the degree to which the current administration is corrupting our democracy that such an observation needs to be made, but it is even worse when they feel the need to say the following:
As senior Defense Department leaders have noted, “there’s no role for the U.S. military in determining the outcome of a U.S. election.” Efforts to involve the U.S. armed forces in resolving election disputes would take us into dangerous, unlawful and unconstitutional territory. Civilian and military officials who direct or carry out such measures would be accountable, including potentially facing criminal penalties, for the grave consequences of their actions on our republic.
And worse when they feel the need to conclude as follows:
Given these factors, particularly at a time when U.S. forces are engaged in active operations around the world, it is all the more imperative that the transition at the Defense Department be carried out fully, cooperatively and transparently. Acting defense secretary Christopher C. Miller and his subordinates — political appointees, officers and civil servants — are each bound by oath, law and precedent to facilitate the entry into office of the incoming administration, and to do so wholeheartedly. They must also refrain from any political actions that undermine the results of the election or hinder the success of the new team.
We call upon them, in the strongest terms, to do as so many generations of Americans have done before them. This final action is in keeping with the highest traditions and professionalism of the U.S. armed forces, and the history of democratic transition in our great country.
None of this should be things that anyone should have to be reminded of, and yet here we are.
The best-case scenario is that they are warning about a poorly executed transition from one administration to the next. The worst is that they are warning about the military engaging in political actions to support the current president’s desires to stay in power.
The very existence of this document is an indictment against the sitting president and his corrosive influence over the professionalism of the military. (And likely speaks to a longer-term problem if we could get to this place in a mere four years).
Here is the list of signatories to the essay:
- Ashton Carter (Obama)
- Dick Cheney (George H. W. Bush)
- William Cohen (Clinton)
- Mark Esper (Trump)
- Robert Gates (George W. Bush/Obama)
- Chuck Hagel (Obama)
- James Mattis (Trump)
- Leon Panetta (Obama)
- William Perry (Clinton)
- Donald Rumsfeld (George W. Bush)
This is a bipartisan, multi-decade list that includes a former Vice-President and two former Trump appointees.