By FRC Staff
When President Biden's top military advisors appeared yesterday before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Republican Senators gave them such a grilling that the smoke was palpable. Despite this, the American people are left with nearly as many unanswered questions as before.
For instance, why did America suddenly determine to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and precipitously retreat from Afghanistan? "I recommended that we maintain 2,500 troops in Afghanistan," said General Kenneth McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, in response to questioning by Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.). When Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley was asked if he agreed with that number, he said he did. McKenzie also insisted that President Biden knew their recommendation. "I was present when that discussion occurred. And I'm confident that the president heard all the recommendations and listened to him very thoughtfully."
In August, President Biden insisted his top advisors never told him to keep 2,500 troops in Afghanistan. "No, they didn't. It was split. That wasn't true. That wasn't true," he told ABC's George Stephanopoulos. When pressed, Biden doubled down. "No one said that to me that I can recall." Which is it? Did no one hold this opinion? Or were his advisors split? "This is problematic, either way. Either the president is lying or he actually doesn't recall," Lt. General (Ret.) Jerry Boykin, FRC's executive vice president said on "Washington Watch" this week. Press secretary Jen Psaki reiterated this self-contradiction, arguing President Biden "said advice was split, but consensus of top military advisors was 2,500 troops staying meant escalation." Was advice split? Or was there consensus? Do the people making decisions know what these words mean?
In response to Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Milley indicated that President Biden only asked his advice about withdrawing after August 25, by which time Americans were already evacuating and Afghan forces were crumbling before the Taliban. Cotton followed up, "if all this is true, General Milley, why haven't you resigned?" Milley responded that resigning in protest would have been a political act. "It would be an incredible act of political defiance for a commissioned officer to just resign because my advice is not taken. This country doesn't want generals figuring out what orders we are going to accept and do or not. That's not our job."
General Milley's remarks about political defiance and rogue generals deserve a second look because they also apply to another topic of questioning, whether on January 8 Milley secretly promised to give the Chinese military advance warning if then-President Trump launched an attack. "He admitted that," said Boykin. Milley didn't deny it; instead, he attempted to justify his conduct, "My task at that time was to de-escalate. My message again was consistent: stay calm, steady, and de-escalate. 'We are not going to attack you.'" But this only begs the question: would China ever call the U.S. to warn us before they launched an attack against us?
Reportedly, Milley's call with China's top military leader is mentioned in multiple new books purporting to expose the Trump White House. When Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) asked him, Milley confirmed he had spoken to the authors, but as to whether the books reported him accurately, "I haven't read any of the books so I don't know." Blackburn fired back, "Let's have you read the books and then let us know." Boykin insisted more action is needed. "Somebody's got to take that and use that as a start point for a major investigation," he said.
Perhaps more concerning was Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin's answer, or lack thereof, when asked if he was against giving dishonorable discharges to members of the military who decline to take the COVID vaccine. "We have a UCMJ [Uniform Code of Military Justice] that really addresses all of the issues in the military and gives our leadership what they need to be able to enforce standards," Austin evaded. "Taking the vaccine is a requirement, and again, I'll just leave it at that."
Non-answers, it seems, are the rule of the day amongst our nation's top military brass. It will be interesting to see if our generals will have more direct answers to offer in the future once they come to terms with an ever-shrinking fighting force with which to defend our country due to vaccine mandate discharges, "extremist" purges, CRT indoctrination sessions, and resignations from servicemembers who are sick of it all.