opinion

COLUMN: Trump is running a military junta



The United States no longer has a civilian government. The veneer of non-military control of our institutions, in eight short months, has been swept away by the bumbling new president, a mix of the Hamburgler and Rodney Dangerfield’s character in “Caddyshack.” 

This American military junta, which oversees the critical levers of power and policy within the executive branch, consists of four generals: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Joseph Dunford, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster and new Chief of Staff John Kelly. 

Furthermore, it is Kelly and Sec. Mattis who have demonstrated through their past and present actions to be unquestioning of both the United States war machine and Trump’s style of politics. 

The two men were once two of the highest generals in the U.S. military’s global presence. As head of U.S. Central Command, Sec. Mattis oversaw military operations in the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia, while at U.S. Southern Command, Kelly ran military operations in Latin America. 

Sec. Mattis, who, once referring to his time in Afghanistan, said, “It’s quite fun to shoot them… It’s a hell of a hoot. It’s fun to shoot some people,” also commanded U.S. forces in Fallujah, Iraq, in 2004. 

The two sieges of the city that year involved the massacre of civilians by U.S. snipers, along with the use of white phosphorus, a banned chemical weapon that burns skin to the bone. 

This use of white phosphorus and reports of mass civilian casualties in Trump’s current anti-ISIS war seem to suggest Mattis has not retired from the “fun” of chemical warfare against Iraqi civilians. 

Kelly’s tenure at SOUTHCOM proves no less violent. Plan Colombia, the bulk of which occurred prior to Kelly’s arrival, was a mass-murder campaign directed by SOUTHCOM in the 2000s that pumped billions into Colombian paramilitary death squads, which killed around 3,000 poor peasants between 2002 and 2008. 

Though Colombia now has an internally displaced population higher than Syria’s, Kelly nonetheless praised the achievements of Plan Colombia in a 2016 Miami Herald op-ed

With his brief stint as Homeland Security chief, Kelly executed Trump’s landmark immigration agenda. Under Kelly, Homeland Security, a labyrinthian, post-9/11 government bureaucracy, transformed into the main vehicle for Trump’s anti-immigration policy. 

Kelly endorsed the Middle East travel ban, set loose Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids across Latino communities and considered separating children from their mothers at the border, all the while expanding privatized immigrant detention centers. 

Though the Washington Post recently referred to Kelly as “apolitical,” it is a centrist fantasy to view Trump’s military men as a moderating force in his administration. 

The entrance of these generals into traditionally civilian roles and their support for Trump’s agenda are blatant political actions. These generals are clearly legitimizing the Trump administration.

America’s admiration for its military is widely known, and an attack on these men can be easily spun as an attack on the armed forces at large. 

If an aim of this American junta is to make any criticism an attack on the military and to snatch away civilian control of the government, a basic component of any democracy, then it is already well on its way to mimicking the military juntas of the past. 

Breaking up the power accumulated by the generals once Trump leaves office could become impossible, and this power centralization must stop before it becomes irreversible.  

luwrobin@indiana.edu
@lucas__robinson

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