In rare move, US military leaders condemn racism, extremism


Washington (PTI): The United States’ top general and five of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have bluntly spoken out against white supremacy and bigotry, seen as a rare veiled criticism of President Donald Trump by the military after his controversial comments about the racist violence in Virginia.

“One by one, the US military’s most senior leaders have publicly and bluntly repudiated the racist violence that plunged Charlottesville into chaos Saturday, declaring the nation’s armed forces as being unequivocally against hatred,” The Washington Post reported on Thursday.

Trump, just completing seven months in the White House, is under fire for his response to Saturday’s clashes between far-right and counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, in which he blamed “both sides” for the violence.

The rally was in protest at the removal of a statue of Robert E Lee, a general who fought for the pro-slavery Confederacy during the US Civil War.

“You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent,” Trump said. “I thought what happened was a horrible moment for our country, but there are two sides to every story,” he said, triggering a national storm.

The backlash over his failure unequivocally to condemn racism and white supremacy, culminated in the dissolution of two key business advisory panels and an avalanche of condemnation from across the political spectrum.

Usually the US top military personnel stay out of domestic politics, American media noted.

Joining other military leaders in their condemnation of the violence in Charlottesville, General Joe Dunford, the chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff said there was no place for “racism and bigotry” in the American military.

“I can absolutely and unambiguously tell you that there’s no place for racism and bigotry in the US military or in the United States as a whole,” he told reporters during a visit to Beijing.

Dunford is in China as part of the Trump administration’s effort to drum up support for punitive actions on North Korea for its nuclear provocations.

He said that military leaders “were speaking directly to the force and to the American people… to make it clear that that kind of racism and bigotry is not going to stand inside the force… and to remind (the American people) of the values for which we stand in the US military which are reflective of what I believe to be the values of the United States.”

Earlier, the Commandant of the US Marine Corps Gen. Robert B. Neller said, “No place for racial hatred or extremism in @USMC. Our core values of Honor, Courage, and Commitment frame the way Marines live and act.”

Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson was the first to issue a tweet on the subject on Saturday, as the protests were ongoing in Charlottesville.

“Events in Charlottesville unacceptable and musn’t be tolerated @USNavy for ever stands against intolerance & hatred,” he said.

He was joined on Wednesday by Chief of Staff of the Army, Gen. Mark A. Milley, Air Force Gen. Dave Goldfein and Chief of the National Guard Bureau Joseph Lengyel.

“The Army doesn’t tolerate racism, extremism, or hatred in our ranks. It’s against our values and everything we’ve stood for since 1775,” Milley tweeted.

Milley was adamant that nothing he is saying in his tweet is aimed at being political. “That is the furthest thing from my mind. I am not involved in domestic politics. I want good order and discipline in my ranks.”

None of the statements directly mentioned Trump or his statements on the neo-Nazi marches over the weekend.

The military’s five service chiefs had issued firm, forceful statements that stand apart from remarks made by President Trump, who faces deepening criticism for his repeated attempts to evenly distribute blame for clashes between white nationalists and the anti-fascist protesters who showed up to oppose them, the Post commented.

A woman died and 19 were injured when a car, which police said was driven by 20-year-old James Alex Fields of Ohio, a suspected Nazi sympathiser, slammed into people demonstrating along a crowded, narrow street near the University of Virginia.

US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters on Monday that he was “very saddened” by what unfolded in Charlottesville.