Beijing and Washington Started a New Book

September 16, 2021

Following revelations that he spoke with his Chinese counterpart twice amid concerns about the President Donald Trump’s mental state, US President Joe Biden expressed “complete confidence” in the US’ top general. In October and January, Biden pushed back against Republican calls to fire Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley for allegedly undermining civilian control of the military, as Trump refused to accept his election loss to the Democrat.

“The president has complete confidence in his leadership, patriotism, and fidelity to our constitution,” said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki. Milley insisted that his phone calls to Chinese General Li Zuocheng, which were revealed on Tuesday in excerpts from a new book by Washington investigative reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, were routine. Milley’s spokesman, Colonel Dave Butler, said in a statement, “The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs regularly communicates with Chiefs of Defence around the world, including with China and Russia.”

“In keeping with these duties and responsibilities, his calls with the Chinese and others in October and January conveyed reassurance in order to maintain strategic stability.” The Woodward-Costa book, “Peril,” details Milley and other top national security officials’ concerns between October of last year and January 20 that Trump, enraged by his defeat, would start a war with China or Iran. It also claims that Pentagon officials were aware that China feared a US attack and might misinterpret US actions such as a planned military exercise as preparations for one.

According to the book, unknown to Trump, Milley called Li to reassure him that the US was not planning any action, and that the political turmoil was simply the “sloppy” face of democracy. Nonetheless, the book claims that as tensions in Washington grew over Trump’s attempts to retain power in early January, Milley summoned his deputies and instructed them to keep him informed if the president attempted to launch a nuclear weapon.

In response to Republican accusations that Milley was seizing the president’s authority over the US nuclear arsenal, Butler stated that the meeting was simply “to remind uniformed leaders in the Pentagon of the long-established and robust procedures” on nuclear weapons. Butler stated, “General Milley continues to act and advise within his authority in the lawful tradition of civilian control of the military and his oath to the Constitution.”

Following the publication of excerpts from the book, senior Republican Senator Marco Rubio demanded in a letter that Biden fire the general. Milley allegedly “worked to actively undermine the sitting Commander in Chief of the United States Armed Forces and envisioned a dissident leak of classified information to the Chinese Communist Party,” according to Rubio. “General Milley’s actions show a clear lack of sound judgment, and I urge you to dismiss him immediately”.

Trump reacted angrily on Tuesday, calling Milley a slur and blaming him for the shambolic US withdrawal from Afghanistan in August. “I assume he would be tried for treason for dealing with his Chinese counterpart behind the president’s back,” Trump said in a statement.

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