PortandTerminal.com, June 3, 2020
Pentagon chief Mark Esper quickly reverses decision to send D.C. troops home after told that Trump would fire him if he didn’t toe the line.
WASHINGTON – “As of right now, Secretary Esper is still Secretary Esper.” Whitehouse spokesperson Kayleigh McEnany said today when asked if the president had lost faith in Mark Esper.
But is he really?
Defense Secretary Mark Esper tried for a very brief moment to do the right thing today but, in the end, lost his nerve and reversed his decision to send home active-duty troops in Washington, D.C.
History will not remember Mr Esper kindly today.
On Monday, President Trump threatened to send active-duty military forces to cities and states that fail to quell violence spiralling from protests over the murder of George Floyd in police custody.
Esper, speaking to reporters at the Pentagon on Wednesday, said the use of active-duty military forces to perform law enforcement within the U.S. is “a matter of last resort” and that the National Guard is better-suited to the job.
Department of Defense personnel have taken an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States. I myself have taken it many times in my military and civilian careers, and believe strongly in it. As part of that oath, we commit to protecting the American people’s right to freedom of speech and to peaceful assembly.MEMORANDUM FOR ALL DOD PERSONNEL, DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE SECRETARY, MARK ESPER (03 JUN 2020)
Breaking with President Donald Trump, Esper said that he did NOT support using the military to quell civilian protests triggered by the murder of George Floyd.
“I don’t think they need to be used,” Esper told NBC News earlier in an interview Tuesday night. “We have more than enough National Guard capacity out there.”
Esper expanded on those remarks in his press briefing on Wednesday.
“I say this not only as Secretary of Defense but also as a former soldier and a former member of the National Guard,” Esper said. “The option to use active-duty forces in a law enforcement role should only be used as a matter of last resort and only in the most urgent and dire situations,” Esper said.
That upset the president who has repeatedly advocated sending in military troops to put down civilian protests on US soil. Esper was now off message and was making the president look bad. Several Trump aides who asked not to be identified said Esper should have moderated his comments to draw less of a distinction with the president.
Esper was now out on a shaky career limb.
Earlier, he had notified the U.S. Army on Wednesday morning that it had the all-clear to let about 200 soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division return home from a deployment near the capital, reasoning the National Guard and local authorities can alone quell the violence that has erupted amid protests over the police killing of George Floyd.
“We do not need to militarize our response to protests. We need to unite around a common purpose,”Former Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis (June 3, 2020)
But after being threatened with a humiliating Apprentice TV show like firing Esper caved.
Just a few hours after his initial call releasing the 200 soldiers, Esper reversed his order to send the active-duty U.S. soldiers home from Washington. He called back, told them to stay put and then tucked his tail firmly between his legs.
And that is where things sit right now. Washington, DC still has 200 active-duty military troops at the ready to do President Trump’s bidding and Mark Esper has made it clear that he will not stand in our President’s way.
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