Washington, Sep 14, 2021 (AFP) – The top US military commander was so alarmed in January by Donald Trump’s mental health that he took covert measures to prevent the then-US president from waging war with China, reveals a new book .
General Mark Milley, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, ordered his collaborators not to act immediately if Trump took any steps to use the nuclear arsenal, and contacted a Chinese general to reassure Beijing, report journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa in a forthcoming book.
The Washington Post newspaper, where they both work, and the CNN TV network on Tuesday released excerpts from “Peril”, which show Milley organizing the Pentagon and the intelligence community to resist any eventual move by Trump with the aim to heighten tension with China after its defeat in the November 2020 presidential election.
Milley telephoned her Chinese counterpart, General Li Zuocheng twice: on Oct. 30, days before the election, and on Nov. 8, two days after Trump supporters stormed the US Congress. In these calls, Milley sought to assure China that Trump’s rhetoric would not lead to military action.
– Nuclear concern –
Two months later, Milley turned to the secret channel with Li, amid Washington and Beijing’s concern over Trump’s emotional instability. To calm the Chinese, Milley even got the Indo-Pacific Command to postpone military exercises that Beijing might consider a threat.
Separately, Milley told key members of his team that they should inform him first if Trump sought to exercise his power to order a nuclear attack.
Milley also spoke with other high-ranking officials such as CIA Director Gina Haspel and National Security Agency head Paul Nakasone about the need for them to remain vigilant in the face of the possibility of Trump acting irrationally.
“Some could argue that Milley has extrapolated her authority and given herself extraordinary power,” journalists say. But he believed that he was doing the right thing “to ensure that there was no historic break in the international order, nor an accidental war with China or others, nor the use of nuclear weapons,” they note.
The Pentagon declined to comment on the matter.
– ‘You’re crazy’ –
Milley made the second call to Li after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi contacted him to discuss Trump’s mental health and his refusal to recognize Joe Biden’s election victory.
Two days earlier, encouraged by Trump, hundreds of supporters of the then president had invaded Congress. Woodward and Costa obtained a transcript of Pelosi’s call.
“What precautions are available to prevent an unstable president from starting military hostilities or accessing launch codes and ordering a nuclear attack?” asked the mayor. “If they couldn’t stop him from invading the Capitol, who knows what else he can do?” he asked. “He’s mad, you know he is, and what he did yesterday is further proof of his madness.”
The system has “too many controls” to prevent the president’s extreme behavior, Milley responded, adding, “I agree with you on everything.”
Republican congressmen were quick to attack Milley, and Senator Marco Rubio urged President Joe Biden to remove the general.
Trump’s supporter Rubio claimed that Milley “worked to actively undermine the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces and contemplated a treacherous leak to the Chinese Communist Party of classified information. These actions by General Milley show a clear lack of goodness sense and I ask them to fire him immediately,” says the senator in a letter to the president.