WORDS: 1,472 —  With the release of the Woodward-Costa book this week, Peril, we once again travel into that minefield of individual “heroic” morality rising to a point of defying a sitting president for a greater purpose… by defying the Constitution… and maybe saving the world.

It’s my acquired/evolved/learned/whatever proclivity to see a particular event beyond just the face value of it.  To me accepting face value without context is like  swatting a pesky bee thinking that his buddies are not around.  Before I get all stressed out with frustration to the point that I scream at the TV or kick the cat (not to worry.. I don’t have cats) I pretty much need to affirm within myself that being frustrated is the correct response.  I may not view all things in life from 30,000 feet but I might do it from 5,000 feet.

This brings us to explaining the title of this post.  For those that have forgotten, the sentence is the title for that letter published in the New York Times on September 5, 2018… about 18 months into the Trump administration.  That all seems a lifetime ago given everything that has transpired since.  But for me the letter concerned me from beyond it’s intended “whistleblower” style warning to the nation, if not the world.  At that point in time the nation was “learning” Trumpism… and trying to comprehend the misguided, behavioral anomalies that is Trump.  Every day was a shock & awe experience in traveling through his deficient and psychotic mind.  This letter was alleged to have been from a close insider who was passing a warning to us all.  A year later this same author wrote an entire book titled “A Warning”.   Miles Taylor, the former chief of staff to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, revealed himself as the author.  But here was the basis of my concern at the time that exists today in exploring the revelations in Peril, and the role being the subject of todays “breaking news” all over, of then (and now) Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley.

Miles Tyler, “Mr Anonymous”, with his old boss.

I am NOT a strict Constitutionalist as it might be defined in today’s political environment.  But I prefer to keep to a faith in that document rather than spending time judging whether or not others are “shredding” it, or elevating the Founders to some level akin to sainthood.  Here’s my problem with Tyler’s “Anonymous”.  Good or bad, a president is elected to serve by our expression of that democratic processing of voting.  Someone “on the inside” suggesting that there is some level of subterfuge behind the scenes to interfere  with the roll of the president as dictated in the Constitution bothers me immensely.  I do not care a tinker’s damn if that interference is well-intentioned, morally sound, or will save the nation.  It’s my opinion that if we make a single exception for matters of expediency.. then we have set a precedent of it happening again under someone else’s perception of “right & wrong”.

Our Constitution has a way of  circumventing the role of a sitting president and that is by exercising the 25th Amendment… the sitting Cabinet and the VP must all sign a letter expressing doubt in the ability of the sitting president to carry out the affairs of the office.  As difficult as that process might be (intentionally difficult) to get unanimous signatures, it remains the process in the Constitution.

Gen. Milley was there to witness Trump’s failing mental decline having lost the election…. and most specifically, Trump’s roll in the events of January 6th.  Milley was incensed as to the safety of the nuclear launch ability and that it seemed very real that Trump might attempt a “wag the dog” event to divert the nation away from his attempts to ignore the election results.

That brings us to the current expose’ from the book, Peril.  This is a segment of CNN reporting from in the book.

Gen. Milley and his former boss.

Milley worried that Trump could ‘go rogue,’ the authors write.

“You never know what a president’s trigger point is,” Milley told his senior staff, according to the book.
In response, Milley took extraordinary action, and called a secret meeting in his Pentagon office on January 8 to review the process for military action, including launching nuclear weapons. Speaking to senior military officials in charge of the National Military Command Center, the Pentagon’s war room, Milley instructed them not to take orders from anyone unless he was involved.
“No matter what you are told, you do the procedure. You do the process. And I’m part of that procedure,” Milley told the officers, according to the book. He then went around the room, looked each officer in the eye, and asked them to verbally confirm they understood.

All this behind-the-scenes intrigue to keep a watchful eye that the President doesn’t go too far is one thing.  But Gen. Milley’s alleged “plan” reminded me of the 1960’s movie “Seven Days In May” (1964, Kirk Douglas, Burt Lancaster)…

Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas as opposing generals.

Kennedy with nemesis USAF Gen. Curtis LeMay

When it was released in 1964, the movie’s chilling message about the fragility of American democracy and the danger of far-Right paranoia was underscored by a real-life backstory that was just as disturbing. Frankenheimer made Seven Days in May at the personal urging of President John F. Kennedy, who’d clashed with an Army general with extremist views early in his administration, and apparently feared such a cabal really was possible. Sadly, JFK did not live to see the film he helped bring to the screen.

As JFK aide Pierre Salinger later told journalist and author David Talbot, “Kennedy wanted Seven Days in May to be made as a warning to the generals. The President said, ‘The first thing I’m going to tell my successor is, ‘Don’t trust the military men–even on military matters.'”

Now, I make this reference not to disparage the military nor the intent of those who run the Pentagon or serve on the Joint Chiefs.  In the end they are as human as politicians and have the same foibles as us all.  I respect them, their service, and their experience.  Having said that one can only wonder the internal quandary Gen. Milley had with his own morality between doing what he thought was right.. and safe.. for the nation.. and not go too far to look like asserting his own agenda.  Sometimes when we choose take a moral stand that requires going beyond our responsibilities.. and even when that moral stand ends up being a good call for the greater good… does not necessarily remove that person from having gone beyond their responsibility.  Especially a military man.  The President was Milley’s Commander-in-Chief and he was bound to that loyalty and commitment to follow the President’s orders as it related to the limit of his responsibility.  In the strictest of term he violated that commitment.. trading it for his greater feeling that his action just might save the nation.. if not the world.  After all, let’s not suggest that this was some “simple” failure to follow orders or exceeding authority, or even planning to interfere with the office of the President..  All this was in place to remove any threat of the President to use nuclear weapons against another country given the President’s mental behavior was perceived as singularly compromised.  That most certainly has a world-wide impact regarding massive loss of life.  Honestly, if I were in Milley’s.. boots… I’d like to think I would have done exactly the same thing.    Also keep in mind that Schlesinger allegedly said similar to staff during Nixon’s final days, so there was a bit of a historical precedent.  Milley would have likely known that as well.  Yet here’s the rub.

In doing this.. regardless of his seemingly “heroic” and selflessness effort to literally save the world.. maybe… he can never be fully trusted in that same role ever again.  Any future president will always wonder if Milley might be interpreting a behavior, question a decision, to the point where he might want to try it again.  In my book, interfering in the decisions of the president is a violation of trust, if not some measurement of disloyalty.  He defied his Commandeer-in-Chief.  So, in the end we can call Milley a hero in that he sacrificed his position for a greater good that will likely garner utmost respect in that nothing bad happened to the world.  Will Biden look the other way?  Did Biden already know Milley’s role and it was ok with him?  It’s up to Biden… and personally I would defer to Biden’s choice as I am in NO position to judge a person of Milley’s… caliber.

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