In The Washington Post, all ten of this nation’s living former secretaries of defense have written an opinion column uniformly opposing any military involvement in Republicans’ ongoing attempts to overthrow the results of November’s presidential elections. Among the signers are Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Leon Panetta, Robert Gates, Mark Esper, and James Mattis.
“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.”
The letter also explicitly dismisses the idea of challenging the election results at all, with military assistance or without it: “The time for questioning the results has passed; the time for the formal counting of the electoral college votes, as prescribed in the Constitution and statute, has arrived.”
They also call upon acting defense secretary Christopher Miller, by name, to carry out the transition from Trump to Biden administrations “fully, cooperatively and transparently,” noting that he is “bound by oath, law and precedent” to do so. This appears to be a direct reference to Joe Biden singling out the Defense Department as one of the departments that has not provided full cooperation with the transition.
It is an extraordinary letter, not for its contents but for the spectacle of all former secretaries of defense uniting to reject the notion that the military would participate in a violent coup—which has been among the options contemplated by a delusional and treasonous Donald Trump and his allies. It is clearly intended to signal to current military leaders that they would stand on solid ground in resisting such “criminal” orders.
That is was felt to be necessary, by all signatories, is a shocking reflection of how close even top past military officials believe the nation to be to a potentially violent coup—one backed by a majority of House Republican, and at least a dozen in the Senate.
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