Diridon: Trump’s military dictatorship foiled by top military leaders
Military police and others on horseback take a stand during a Black Lives Matter protest in Washington, D.C., in June. (Courtesy photo)

Any crackpot, Third World dictator could have told President Trump the military was needed for a successful coup d’état.

Looking back, Trump’s administration removed the USS Theodore Roosevelt’s courageous Capt. Brett Crozier for standing up for his COVID-19 ravaged crew. Trump incessantly and crudely, criticized war hero and distinguished statesman John McCain even while the senator was on his deathbed. Trump made serving the nation so uncomfortable that Marine Gens. John Kelly and James Mattis, both proven top administrators and honorable men, found it necessary to resign their Cabinet-level posts.

He went from bad to worse. Trump denigrated our fallen WWII heroes as “suckers and losers” when he refused to visit the D-Day ceremony at the French military cemetery for the 1,800 Marines killed while holding the line that saved Paris during WWI at Belleau Wood. Then the military’s official investigation of Capt. Crozier recommended that he be reinstated to his command. But after checking with Trump, his Secretary of Defense required another investigation terminating the captain’s reinstatement.

Then Trump mobilized the national military to take over Washington, D.C., and Portland, Oregon, and threatened the same with other Democrat-led cities during recent Black Lives Matter demonstrations. That unprecedented use of the national military against primarily peacefully demonstrating U.S. citizens, without the consent of local authorities, is unconstitutional.

That prompted four of the country’s most respected retired military leaders and hundreds of others to condemn the president for trampling on the constitutional prohibition of the use of our national military for anything but foreign wars, unless in the most dire circumstances.

Generals Kelly and Mattis (both former Trump appointees), Navy Adm. Michael Mullen (one of the most respected former chairs of the Joint Chiefs), and former Secretary of State, Gen. Colin Powell, all reminded the president in very direct terms that the U.S. Constitution prohibited the use of the U.S. military against peaceful U.S. citizens. That applies certainly in the case of peaceful demonstrations, even though an element of lawlessness was active in some areas. That lawlessness is what local police and state guards are to control, not the U.S. military.

Those four nonpartisans, honor-bound, top military leaders, all having served in Republican administrations, also reminded that no president is allowed to use the U.S. military for campaign purposes. Furthermore, that it was not only unconstitutional, but immoral to order the U.S. military to forcibly clear peacefully demonstrating citizens to create a path for an impromptu photo opportunity for the president in front of a church adjacent to the White House. Trump’s own Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, criticized that political use of the military and was fired with only a few weeks left in his term.

America has our firm military ethic to thank for reminding the president of his wrongdoings. By their courageous public condemnations and refusal to support the assault on the U.S. Capitol, the Constitution of the United States of America has once again been protected from ever being superseded by a military dictatorship.

Every currently serving or retired veteran, who is true to our sacred oath when we were sworn into service, must join in the condemnation of this president’s callous disregard for honor and country. Now, let us proceed with the transition to President-elect Joe Biden and a more honorable future.

Rod Diridon Sr. is the past chair of the Transit Cooperative Research Board of the National Research Council, past chair of the national Council of University Transportation Centers and past chair of the American Public Transportation Association. He is also an honor-bound old ex-US Navy officer who remembers his oath to defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies foreign and domestic.

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