Treason? Resignation Calls Follow Report of General Milley's Secret Calls to China

AP Photo/Alex Brandon

After the Afghanistan withdrawal fiasco, some said General Mark Milley should no longer be chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, so Tuesday’s Washington Post blockbuster, excerpted from Robert Costa and Bob Woodward’s new book Peril, only adds fuel to that fire.


Costa and Woodward report, “Twice in the final months of the Trump administration, the country’s top military officer was so fearful that the president’s actions might spark a war with China that he moved urgently to avert armed conflict.”

In two secret phone calls, they report, Milley assured Gen. Li Zuocheng of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army that the United States would not attack Beijing. One call allegedly took place four days before the 2020 presidential election; the second was two days after the Jan. 6 Capitol siege.

Related: New Bob Woodward Book Promises to Be the Most Anti-Trump of Them All

“Milley went so far as to pledge he would alert his counterpart in the event of a U.S. attack, stressing the rapport they’d established through a backchannel. ‘General Li, you and I have known each other for now five years. If we’re going to attack, I’m going to call you ahead of time. It’s not going to be a surprise,’” the book says. Milley did not relay the conversation to then-President Donald Trump.


In early January, the general also called on the admiral overseeing the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command to  postpone military exercises, to which the admiral complied.

Whether or not this violates the infamous Logan Act, there is no circumstance when a military officer should conduct his own covert foreign policy without informing civilian leadership.

These activities strike at the heart of our constitutional system, which places the president and Congress in charge of major foreign-policy decisions that the military then carries out.

As a friend texted me late Tuesday, “In the name of democracy, Milley should be investigated and hopefully removed. Any president who takes his oath seriously would fire him immediately.”

Normally I am not so rash, nor do I toss around words like treason, but as a historian, I realize civilian leadership is paramount.

President Harry Truman famously relieved Douglas MacArthur of his command when the popular general wanted to widen the Korean War into China and began telling this to foreign governments without involving Truman. President Abraham Lincoln removed John C. Fremont from command when the general desired faster movement on freeing slaves than Lincoln could politically manage.


If this report is true, General Milley seized authority, told the Chinese that America was bluffing, and unilaterally canceled military exercises without involving the president, secretary of Defense, or State Department.

Major media outlets, naturally, are lauding the general for undermining civil authority, and Milley doesn’t seem concerned or ashamed, since he’s proud enough of his actions to tell partisan journalists. Expect no resignations.

Late Tuesday, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) asked President Joe Biden to fire Milley.


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