by Lincoln Institute | September 30, 2021

By Colin Hanna, President, Let Freedom Ring

Most of us first learned of the extraordinary phone call between General Mark Milley, the Chairman of the Joints Chiefs of staff of the United States military and his Chinese Counterpart, General Li Zuocheng, in the advance publicity for Bob Woodward and Bob Costa’s new book, Peril. My immediate reaction was skepticism; I assumed that the PR was sensationalist, an exaggeration of what actually happened, so I got a copy of the book on its release day to see what I could learn about the context in which the call took place.

When I was sworn in as an Ensign in the Unted States Navy, I took the same oath as General Milley: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter; So help me God.”

Did General Milley’s direct contact with General Li violate that oath? Did the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Mark Milley, violate the Constitution? The left-leaning Atlantic Magazine stated its conclusion: “The answer, at least on the current available evidence, is no.”  That conclusion appears before the magazine’s characterization of the call itself, which was follows: “Milley, according to Woodward and Costa, was reaching out to General Li Zuocheng to calm jangled nerves in Beijing about the stability of the United States.”

The magazine’s defense of Milley is wrong. The call and Milley’s later discussion of the nuclear weapons authorization process provide two very specific violations of Milley’s oath and, in my opinion, are grounds for court-martialing the General. The first is that General Milley’s call, by his own admission, included this shocking statement, presented as the exact words he used: ““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.”

As no less an authority than Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu, author of the classic book “The Art of War” said that the element of surprise was the most important factor in war, General Milley basically said that he would unilaterally concede the element of surprise in the event that the United States were to initiate some kind of military strike against China. It’s hard to imagine a more egregious violation of his oath.

The second instance that I believe warrants court-martialing General Milley is his violation of the Constitutional principle of civilian control of the military. He called together the key principals in the chain of command for the authorization of the use of nuclear weapons. He basically omitted the President from that chain.

The Constitution vests the sole command authority of the United States military in one Commander in Chief, the President of the United States, while granting to the Congress the authority to fund the military. When you read the Woodward and Costa book, and General Miley’s later testimony before Congress, there can be no doubt that he proposed superseding the President and making himself the final authority with the power to decide whether to use nuclear weapons or not.

General Milley’s defense of both his commitment to unilaterally concede the element of surprise to the Chinese, and his denial that he had appointed of himself as the ultimate command authority over nuclear weapons do not ring true. Whether they constitute treason is exactly the province of a court martial. General Milley should resign or face a court martial. He must not remain as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.