By the time a third member of the House of Representatives laid into the Pentagon’s top civilian and uniformed officials about the Defense Department’s efforts to root out extremism and promote diversity and inclusion, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff had had enough.
Earlier, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin smacked down Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., after he asserted that an Austin advisor is a “critical race theorist,” and that his sources told him Austin’s efforts to educate the force on extremism were sowing more division than unity.
And then Rep. Mike Waltz, R-Fla., a National Guard colonel and Green Beret, went off about the discussion of critical race theory at West Point, in an academic setting. He said cadets had recently attended a voluntary talk on “white rage.”
In response, Army Gen. Mark Milley delivered a monologue, colored by his meticulous enthusiasm for U.S. history, that will no doubt be etched in his legacy.
Here it is in full:
“A lot of us have to get much smarter on whatever the theory is, but I do think it’s important, actually, for those of us in uniform to be open-minded and be widely read.
The United States Military Academy is a university. And it is important that we train, and we understand ― and I want to understand white rage. And I’m white, and I want to understand it.
So, what is it that caused thousands of people to assault this building, and try to overturn the Constitution of the United States of America? What caused that? I want to find that out.
I want to maintain an open mind here, and I do want to analyze it. It’s important that we understand that because our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and guardians, they come from the American people. So it is important that the leaders, now and in the future, understand it.
I’ve read Mao Zedong. I’ve read ― I’ve read Karl Marx. I’ve read Lenin ― that doesn’t make me a communist.
So what is wrong with understanding, having some situational understanding about the country for which we are here to defend? And I personally find it offensive that we are accusing the United States military, general officers, commissioned and noncommissioned officers of being quote ‘woke,’ or something else because we’re studying some theories that are out there.
That was started at Harvard Law School, years ago. And it proposed that there were laws in the United States, antebellum laws prior to the Civil War, that led to a power differential with African-Americans, that were three-quarters of a human being, when this country was formed.
And then we had a Civil War and Emancipation Proclamation to change it. And we brought it up to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and it took another hundred years [of segregation] to change that. So look, I do want to know, and I respect your service ― and you and I are both Green Berets ― but I want to know.
And it matters to our military and the discipline, the cohesion of this military, and I thank you for the opportunity to make a comment on that.”
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members. Follow on Twitter @Meghann_MT