Generals who dare
Today happens to be the feast day of St. Thomas More, declared by Pope John Paul II in 2000 as the “patron saint of politicians.” Thomas More served as Lord Chancellor of England in the 16th century under King Henry VIII. When the king sought an annulment from his queen, Catherine of Aragon, in order to marry Anne Boleyn, the Vatican refused. A furious Henry ordered a subservient parliament to pass a new law that proclaimed him head of the Church of England. A devout and faithful follower of the Church in Rome, he refused to take the new “Oath of Supremacy.” He was tried for treason and sentenced to death by decapitation at age 57. Just before execution, he declared, “I die the King’s good servant, and God’s first.”
In the Philippines, politicians do not have to take an oath of supremacy to a new dispensation. They simply move over to the winning side or coalesce with it, and life goes on just as before. Different personalities emerge but everything else remains the same.
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With the recent outbreak of nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice in the United States, a number of generals, retired and active, have come out critical of President Donald Trump’s policies on the problem.
Gen. James Mattis
Retired Marine general James Mattis who served as Trump’s first secretary of defense, recently came out swinging against his former boss, accusing him of violating the Constitution. He said, “When I joined the military some 50 years ago, I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution. Never did I dream that troops taking the same oath would be ordered under any circumstances to violate the Constitutional rights of our fellow citizens — much less to provide a bizarre photo op for the elected commander-in-chief with military leadership standing alongside… We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership.”
Mattis is a product of the Naval ROTC Program at Central Washington University in the state of Washington. Trump blasted Mattis, calling him “the world’s most overrated general.”
Gen. Colin Powell
In a TV interview, Powell revealed that “I was deeply troubled by the way in which he was going around insulting everybody, insulting Gold Star mothers, insulting John McCain, insulting immigrants — and I am the son of immigrants — insulting everybody who dared to speak against him. And that is dangerous for our democracy. It is dangerous for our country.” He called Trump “a habitual liar.”
Powell is a product of the City College of New York ROTC Program, and the first black to serve as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Trump fired back, calling him “a real stiff who was very responsible for getting us into the disastrous Middle East wars.”
Gen. John R. Allen
General Allen is a retired Marine Corps general who was former commander of the Nato International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. In an op-ed for Foreign Policy, he castigated Trump’s threats to use the military on protesters, saying that his actions “may well signal the beginning of the end of the American experiment.”
Allen graduated from the US Naval Academy and is currently president of the Brookings Institution.
Gen. Mark A. Milley
Milley is the current chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, the highest-ranking military officer in the US armed forces and the principal military adviser to the US president.
Last June 11, General Milley issued a public apology for appearing in combat uniform in a June 1 photo op with Trump. He said his participation was a “mistake,” as “it created a perception of the military being involved in domestic policies.” Images of General Milley walking alongside Trump in a visit to St. John’s Church sparked criticism from former senior military officials and lawmakers.
General Milley is a product of Princeton University’s ROTC Program.
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It is interesting to note that of the four generals mentioned, each one sporting four stars, three are products of the ROTC program, while one, General Allen, is a service academy graduate. While I am not aware of other military voices that spoke out on the same subject, it would appear that ROTC products are more inclined to openly criticize the commander in chief than their service academy colleagues. Of course, we should keep in mind that Trump is a most unusual commander in chief.
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