10:02 GMT22 January 2021
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    Top commanders of the US Armed Forces, including Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, are providing contradictory statements on the role of the military in confronting lawful demonstrators last week, Jeremy Kuzmarov, a professor of American history, told Sputnik’s Loud & Clear.

    “I think what you see on display is a trend toward over-militarization,” Kuzmarov, whose latest book is titled “The Russians Are Coming, Again: The First Cold War as Tragedy, the Second as Farce,” told Loud & Clear hosts John Kiriakou and Brian Becker on Thursday.

    “Look at US foreign policy - as this show has been discussing, the US has just been so quick to send in military forces anywhere in the world on the slightest pretext, and we’re seeing that now blow back at home,” he added.

    Last week, thousands of troops were deployed to Washington, DC, in response to protests against police brutality and racism after the killing of unarmed African-American man George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 25. 

    Along with the National Guard, the US Secret Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI, the Park Police, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the US Marshals, Customs and Border Protection, the Federal Protective Service, the Transportation Security Administration and Bureau of Prisons Crisis Management Teams all flooded the nation’s capital last week. In addition to refusing to identify themselves, many law enforcement officials removed their insignias or taped over them so that they were unidentifiable.

    The influx of troops and law enforcement came after hundreds of lawful protesters who had congregated Lafayette Park in front of the White House on June 1 were violently dispersed by police using chemical irritants, rubber bullets and sound cannons so that US President Donald could walk to the St. John’s Episcopal Church across the street from the White House to take pictures in front of the building with a Bible.

    However, some US military leaders are turning against the Trump administration’s support for using the military against peaceful protesters. On Thursday, General Mark A. Milley, the country’s top military official and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, apologized for participating in Trump’s stroll across Lafayette Square.

    “I should not have been there,” Milley said in a video commencement address to the National Defense University, the New York Times reported. “My presence in that moment and in that environment created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics.”

    Last week, Esper, who was also present at Trump’s photo op, told reporters he shouldn’t have been there either, saying he was opposed to Trump’s threat to invoke the Insurrection Act, Slate reported.

    “The option to use active-duty forces in a law enforcement role should only be used as a matter of last resort. And only in the most urgent and dire of situations. We are not in one of those situations now,” Esper said on June 3. 

    It’s uncommon for military leaders to speak out so openly against the president, Kuzmarov pointed out. In the past, it’s cost often cost them their jobs, as it did Gen. Douglas MacArthur in 1951, when he publicly criticized President Harry Truman for rejecting his suggestion of using nuclear weapons against China to break the Korean War stalemate.

    “I think it amazing though that military leaders of that high echelon are kind of turning against the president. That’s the kind of thing you see in revolutionary circumstances in other countries, so it’s a real unraveling of the legitimacy of the US executive branch,” Kuzmarov said.

    However, Esper’s most recent statement contradicts his comments on June 1, when he encouraged the use of troops to quell the protests and riots.

    “I think the sooner that you mass and dominate the battlespace, the quicker this dissipates and we can get back to the right normal,” Esper said during a conference call with Trump and US state governors, according to the Washington Post, which obtained an audio recording of the conversation. “We need to dominate the battlespace.”

    Kuzmarov told Sputnik the Pentagon chief’s move was “really contradictory. It is very self-serving - but again, it is remarkable that so quickly he would change his position. He doesn’t want to stir up the protesters and incite them in any way, so he’s cautious, but the fact that he turned against the president and is questioning the decision - again, you don’t find that very often in American history.”

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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