The french phrase “coup d’é·tat”, pronounced in the singular form, literally means a ‘stroke of state’ or ‘blow against the state’. A “coup d’é·tat”is the forcible removal of an existing government from power through violent means. Typically, it is an illegal, unconstitutional seizure of power by a political faction, the military, or a dictator. The concept of a coup d’état is featured in politics since antiquity.
ARTICLE II, SECTION 2, CLAUSE 1 OF THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION
“The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States … .”
THE FIRST AMENDMENT TO THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
MILITARY OATH OF OFFICE
The military oath of enlistment and re-enlistment is short and straightforward for most military personnel. It’s administered by a superior officer, and carried out like most traditional oaths, with the officer reading the oath and the person being sworn repeating it. The oath is as follows:
I, (NAME), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.
A BREATHTAKING WEEK THAT WAS SHOWING HOW THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION WORKS
On Monday, May 26, around 8 p.m., African American George Floyd, 46, was arrested in Minneapolis, Minnesota for passing a counterfeit $20 bill. The video of George Floyd being arrested is extremely difficult to watch. The video clearly shows he did not actively resist arrest. Floyd did not have a weapon on him when the arrest was made and he was handcuffed. Police Officer Derek Chauvin took Floyd to the ground and he was subdued with his stomach and face on the ground.
Officer Chauvin placed his knee on Floyd’s neck and he used his full body weight to suppress George Floyd’s head and body to the ground. The take down suppression lasted for almost a full 9 minutes, during which time George Floyd begged for his life saying at least 14 times “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe.” Paramedics were called and when they arrived, Floyd was none responsive and was dead. Police Officer Chauvin has been charged with murder and with manslaughter and arrested.
You can view the video here:
Across the country where peaceful protest over the killings by police of unarmed African Americans, started in city’s large and small. Many of the protests burst into violence with looting and vandalism. Mayors and Governors took action to deal with the protesters. As days past, the movement against systemic racism by police went global as millions took to the streets during a pandemic to protest. The protests have continued daily but by and large have turned peaceful.
TRUMP’S CALL FOR USE OF ACTIVE MILITARY TO QUELL PROTESTS
On Saturday, May 30, Trump in a series of tweets hours after hundreds of demonstrators had massed outside the White House and confronted officers in riot gear, Trump belittled them, doubted their allegiance to Floyd’s memory, and said they were only out “to cause trouble” and were “professionally managed.” He offered no evidence to back his assertions.
Trump seemed to invite supporters to make their presence felt:
“Tonight, I understand, is MAGA NIGHT AT THE WHITE HOUSE???” Trump claimed Secret Service agents were “just waiting for action” and ready to unleash “the most vicious dogs, and the most ominous weapons, I have ever seen” if protesters angered by his response to George Floyd’s death had crossed the White House’s security fence.
Soon after his telephone conference call with the country’s governors, President Trump declared himself “your president of law and order.” He went on to say:
“… If a city or state refuses to take the actions necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them. … I am mobilizing all available federal resources, civilian and military, to stop the rioting and looting to end the destruction and arson and to protect the rights of law abiding Americans, including your Second Amendment rights … .”
Trump said he would call out and mobilize “thousands and thousands “ of soldiers to keep the peace.
As Trump vowed to return order to American streets using the military, peaceful protesters just outside the White House gates were dispersed with tear gas, flash grenades and rubber bullets. Trump addressed the nation from the White House Rose Garden.
According to White House senior defense officials, between 600 and 800 National Guard members from 5 states were sent to the nations capital to provide assistance. While he was addressing the nation in the White House Rose Garden, military vehicles and military police accompanied by law enforcement, rolled unto Pennsylvania Avenue and clashed with protesters at Lafayettee Park.
THE DEFENSE SECRETARIES AND GENERALS REACT TO UPHOLD THE CONSTITUTION
From June 4 to June 12, a truly remarkable thing happened in the United States. Former Secretaries of Defense, General’s and military commanders condemned President Trump use of the active military to quell protests in the United States. It all began on June 4 with former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis.
Former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis is a retired United States Marine Corps general who was appointed by President Donald Trump to serve as the 26th US Secretary of Defense. On June 4, The Atlantic published a scathing opinion piece by Mattis regarding President Donald Trump’s leadership and his call to use active military and national guards to quell the protests over the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.
Following are excerpts from the statement:
“I have watched this week’s unfolding events, angry and appalled. The words “Equal Justice Under Law” are carved in the pediment of the United States Supreme Court. This is precisely what protesters are rightly demanding. It is a wholesome and unifying demand — one that all of us should be able to get behind. We must not be distracted by a small number of lawbreakers. The protests are defined by tens of thousands of people of conscience who are insisting that we live up to our values — our values as people and our values as a nation.
When I joined the military, some 50 years ago, I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution. Never did I dream that troops taking that same oath would be ordered under any circumstance to violate the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens — much less to provide a bizarre photo op for the elected commander-in-chief, with military leadership standing alongside.
We do not need to militarize our response to protests. We need to unite around a common purpose. And it starts by guaranteeing that all of us are equal before the law.
Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people — does not even pretend to try. Instead he tries to divide us. We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership. We can unite without him, drawing on the strengths inherent in our civil society. This will not be easy, as the past few days have shown, but we owe it to our fellow citizens; to past generations that bled to defend our promise; and to our children.
Only by adopting a new path — which means, in truth, returning to the original path of our founding ideals — will we again be a country admired and respected at home and abroad.”
The link to the full Mattis letter published in the Atlantic is here:
Former Secretary of Defense Mattis’ remarks were published soon after dissent voiced by Defense Secretary Mark Esper who told reporters that despite Trump’s remarks on use of military to quell protests, he was not in favor of President Trump invoking the Insurrection Act to use the U.S. military to quell violent protests. 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,” We are not in one of those situations now. I do not support invoking the Insurrection Act.”
TRUMP FIRE’S BACK
On June 3, Trump issued a blistering condemnation on Twitter of Mattis. He pointed out that then-President Obama removed Mattis as head of U.S. Central Command in 2013. Following is the tweet:
“Probably the only thing Barack Obama and I have in common is that we both had the honor of firing Jim Mattis, the world’s most overrated General. I asked for his letter of resignation, & felt great about it. His nickname was ‘Chaos’, which I didn’t like, & changed it to ‘Mad Dog.’ His primary strength was not military, but rather personal public relations. I gave him a new life, things to do, and battles to win, but he seldom ‘brought home the bacon’. I didn’t like his ‘leadership’ style or much else about him, and many others agree. Glad he is gone!”
FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF JOHN KELLY DEFENDS MATTIS
Former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly is also a retired U.S. Marine Corps general who had previously served as Secretary of Homeland Security in the Trump administration. On Thursday, June 4, John Kelly defended former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis calling him an “honorable man”. Kelly completely rejected Trump’s claim that he fired the retired Mattis and said:
“The president did not fire him. He did not ask for his resignation. The president has clearly forgotten how it actually happened or is confused. The president tweeted a very positive tweet about Jim until he started to see on Fox News their interpretation of his letter. Then he got nasty. … Jim Mattis is a honorable man.”
CONDEMNATION OF TRUMP BY MILITARY PILES UP
A number of retired four-star generals have also taken issue with Trump’s threat to use the active military to quell nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd.
On June 2, Air Force General Mike Hayden, Former director of the CIA and NSA under Bush and Obama said on Twitter regarding General Milley joining Trump for his walk in front of the White House after protesters were cleared said this:
“I was appalled to see him in his battle dress. Milley (he’s a general?!?) should not have walked over to the church with Trump.”
On June 2, Navy Admiral Mike Mullen, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama had this to say:
“It sickened me yesterday to see security personnel—including members of the National Guard—forcibly and violently clear a path through Lafayette Square to accommodate the president’s visit outside St. John’s Church. I have to date been reticent to speak out on issues surrounding President Trump’s leadership, but we are at an inflection point, and the events of the past few weeks have made it impossible to remain silent. Whatever Trump’s goal in conducting his visit, he laid bare his disdain for the rights of peaceful protest in this country, gave succor to the leaders of other countries who take comfort in our domestic strife, and risked further politicizing the men and women of our armed forces. There was little good in the stunt.”
On June 3, Marine Corps General John Allen, the Former commander of US forces in Afghanistan under President Barrack Obama had this to say:
“Donald Trump isn’t religious, has no need of religion, and doesn’t care about the devout, except insofar as they serve his political needs…To even the casual observer, Monday was awful for the United States and its democracy. The president’s speech was calculated to project his abject and arbitrary power, but he failed to project any of the higher emotions or leadership desperately needed in every quarter of this nation during this dire moment.”
On June 3, Navy Admiral James Stavridis, Former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, said:
“Our active duty military must remain above the fray of domestic politics, and the best way to do that is to keep that force focused on its rightful mission outside the United States. Our senior active duty military leaders must make that case forcefully and directly to national leadership, speaking truth to power in uncomfortable ways. They must do this at the risk of their career. I hope they will do so, and not allow the military to be dragged into the maelstrom that is ahead of us, and which will likely only accelerate between now and November. If they do not stand and deliver on this vital core value, I fear for the soul of our military and all of the attendant consequences.”
On June 4, Air Force General Richard Myers, Former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under George W. Bush in a CNN interview said:
“The first thing was just absolute sadness that people aren’t allowed to protest and that, as I understand it, that was a peaceful protest that was disturbed by force, and that’s not right. That should not happen in America. And so I was sad. I mean, we should all shed tears over that, that particular act. …I’m glad I don’t have to advise this President. I’m sure the senior military leadership is finding it really difficult these days to provide good, sound military advice.”
On June 4, William Perry, the Former Defense Secretary served under President Bill Clinton had this to say on Twitter:
“I am outraged at the deplorable behavior of our President and Defense Secretary Esper, threatening to use American military forces to suppress peaceful demonstrators exercising their constitutional rights. This is a deeply shameful moment for our nation.”
On June 5, Navy Adm. William McRaven, Former commander of US Special Operations Command under Obama in an interview with MSNBC had this to say:
“You’re not going to use, whether it’s the military, or the National Guard, or law enforcement, to clear peaceful American citizens for the President of the United States to do a photo op. There is nothing morally right about that.”
On June 5, Ash Carter, the Former Defense Secretary under President Obama issued the following statement:
“The Department of Defense exists to safeguard our citizens, not dominate them. I was dismayed to see DoD drawn inappropriately this week into the President’s response to protests. There is here no need, no warrant, and no excuse to bring active-duty military force into the restoration of order. I say this as a former Secretary of Defense who death with many situations where military intervention was helpful, even vital, in the homeland — past epidemics, hurricanes and floods, and so forth. Equally abhorrent to me was the inclusion of defense leaders in political theater.”
On Sunday, June 6 former Republican Secretary of State Colin Powell, a retired general who served under President George W. Bush, told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union” that President Donald Trump has “drifted away” from the Constitution and said:
“We have a Constitution. And we have to follow that Constitution. And the President has drifted away from it. … I think what we’re seeing now, is (the most) massive protest movement I have ever seen in my life, I think it suggests the country is getting wise to this and we’re not going to put up with it anymore.”
Powell said that he thinks Trump has not been an effective president and that he lies “all the time” and explained:
“What we have to do now is reach out to the whole people, watch these demonstrations, watch these protests, and rather than curse them, embrace them to see what it is we have to do to get out of the situation that we find ourselves in now” … We’re America, we’re Americans, we can do this. We have the ability to do it, and we ought to do it. Make America not just great, but strong and great for all Americans, not just a couple.”
Powell also called out Republican lawmakers for largely staying silent on Trump’s response to the national unrest over the murder of George Floyd by police saying:
“I watched the senators heading into the chamber the other day after all this broke, with the reporters saying, ‘What do you have to say? What do they you to say? … he said. They had nothing to say. They would not react.”
Powell said he’s “proud” of what a number of former generals, admirals and diplomats have said about Trump’s response last week to the widespread protests, adding that he hadn’t released a public statement denouncing Trump’s response because he felt he had demonstrated his displeasure with Trump in 2016 when he voted against him.
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell went on to announce he would be voting for former Vice President Joe Biden for President.
REGRETS FROM THE CHAIRMAN OF JOINT CHIEFS’ OF STAFF
On June 1, after protesters were cleared from the Lafayette Square area by the White House, Trump led an entourage that included Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chief’s of Staff Army Gen. Mark Milley to St. John’s Episcopal Church. Trump boldly held up a Bible for photographers, saying absolutely nothing or why he did the photo op and then returned to the White House.
On June 11, Army Gen. Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, in remarks to a National Defense University commencement ceremony said:
“I should not have been there [walking to St. John’s Episcopal Church.] My presence in that moment and in that environment created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics. As a commissioned uniformed officer, it was a mistake that I have learned from, and I sincerely hope we all can learn from it.”
Milley’s public expression of regret comes as Pentagon leaders’ relations with the White House are still tense after a disagreement last week over Trump’s threat to use federal troops to quell civil unrest triggered by the death of George Floyd.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
President Trump’s desire to use the United States military to quell protesters angry and frustrated over the racial injustice and inequities endured by African Americans at the hands of law enforcement should come as no absolutely no surprise to anyone. Trump has a well-documented history of racism years before he was elected, while he was running and since being elected President.
It would be easy to see how an outside observer would think that a coup d’é·tat is happening in the United States, but they would be seriously mistaken. Our institutions remain intact as do our constitutional rights of freedom of speech, right to assembly and freedom of the press. Trump may be the “commander in chief” of the military, but he is not a dictator with absolute control and authority over our military where he can order suppression of our constitutional rights.
The military takes an oath to preserve and protect the Constitution of the United States and not the President of the United States. Our military academies are some of the very best institutions of higher learning educating the cream of the crop of their generation. Cadets taught in our military academies learn the importance of preserving our country with the lessons learned from our civil war that ended slavery and resulted in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.
On June 12, President Trump said the following to Fox News reporter Harris Faulkner of President Abraham Lincoln:
“I think I’ve done more for the black community than any other president, and let’s take a pass on Abraham Lincoln because he did good, although it’s always questionable, you know, in other words, the end result.”
It was not clear if “end result” was referring to Lincoln’s assassination. Faulkner, who is black, interjected to say of Lincoln: “Well, we are free, Mr President, so he did pretty well.”
Trump has previously claimed that “nobody has ever done for the black community what President Trump has done”, which factcheckers rate as patently false and given his history of racism.
Trump has confirmed yet again he is totally unfit, incompetent and totally unprepared to be President by ordering the military to deal with the protests over the killing of George Floyd. Our Bone Spur “Commander in Chief” is now in a “war of words” with some of our most respected Generals who have served their country with honor and distinction. Trump is not even qualified to shine their boots, let alone be their Commander in Chief, but they still respect the Office of the President which is far more than Trump.
It clear Trump wants to order our military to turn on United States citizens to hold on to power, to suppress dissent and free speech. Trump has also repeatedly call the media “enemy of the people”. The biggest reason why this country has never had a “coup d’é·tat” is the loyalty of our military to the American people.
It is often said by elected officials and private citizens alike that the United States Military is the greatest, strongest and most powerful military in the world. The sure lethal force of our military is not what makes it so powerful. What makes it so powerful is that the men and woman of our military force know, and its ingrained in their DNA, that they serve the people of the United States. Our military protects all of our constitutional rights, including their own, that we hold dear against tyrants, even if the tyrant is our own President.
The United Sates military has done its job in resisting Trump’s assault on our institutions and our freedoms. We the people, Republicans, Democrats and Independents alike, now need to do our job and remove Trump from the White House come election day November 3.