Thursday, June 4, 2020

Support, Don't 'Dominate,' Protesters Seeking 'Equal Justice Under the Law,' Writes Former Defense Secretary Mattis

By Elizabeth Nolan Brown - June 04, 2020 at 09:30AM

Militarized cops and Trump photo op are too much for former Marine general. Former Secretary of Defense James Mattis—the first of four people to occupy that position under Trump, if you count acting heads—is strongly condemning the president's response to the last week of Black Lives Matter protests.

"I have watched this week's unfolding events, angry and appalled," Mattis wrote in a Wednesday statement that harshly condemned the government's militarized response to the protests and accused Trump of trying "to divide us."

Some will wave off the former general's condemnations as sour grapes stemming from his time in the administration. But Mattis has hardly been a Trump critic in the 15 months since he left his position. In fact, Mattis "had refrained from publicly criticizing his former boss since resigning," notes Axios.

In his new statement, provided to The Atlantic, Mattis stuck up for protesters coming out to condemn the killing of George Floyd and the pattern of police brutality in America.

Protesters are "rightly demanding" a country that commits to "equal justice under the law," wrote Mattis, who urged people not to be distracted by "a small number of lawbreakers" compared to the "tens of thousands of people of conscience" making this "wholesome and unifying demand."

Fundamentally, these protests are about "insisting that we live up to our values—our values as people and our values as a nation," said Mattis. He goes on:

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 must reject any thinking of our cities as a "battlespace" that our uniformed military is called upon to "dominate." At home, we should use our military only when requested to do so, on very rare occasions, by state governors. Militarizing our response, as we witnessed in Washington, D.C., sets up a conflict—a false conflict—between the military and civilian society. It erodes the moral ground that ensures a trusted bond between men and women in uniform and the society they are sworn to protect, and of which they themselves are a part. Keeping public order rests with civilian state and local leaders who best understand their communities and are answerable to them.

James Madison wrote in Federalist 14 that "America united with a handful of troops, or without a single soldier, exhibits a more forbidding posture to foreign ambition than America disunited, with a hundred thousand veterans ready for combat." 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.

Instructions given by the military departments to our troops before the Normandy invasion reminded soldiers that "The Nazi slogan for destroying us…was 'Divide and Conquer.' Our American answer is 'In Union there is Strength.'" We must summon that unity to surmount this crisis—confident that we are better than our politics.

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.

We can come through this trying time stronger, and with a renewed sense of purpose and respect for one another. The pandemic has shown us that it is not only our troops who are willing to offer the ultimate sacrifice for the safety of the community. Americans in hospitals, grocery stores, post offices, and elsewhere have put their lives on the line in order to serve their fellow citizens and their country. We know that we are better than the abuse of executive authority that we witnessed in Lafayette Square. We must reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution. At the same time, we must remember Lincoln's "better angels," and listen to them, as we work to unite.

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.


PROTEST UPDATES

Protests and memorials went down peacefully in Washington, D.C., and many other parts of the country last night.

But protesters (and medics) in New York City were once again greeted with arrests and physical abuse by the NYPD.

More than 10,000 people nationwide have now been arrested during the protests, the Associated Press reports.


FREE MINDS

Suspended for tweeting like Trump:


FREE MARKETS

No more "interracial" porn. A lot of brands have been working overtime to try and position themselves on the right side of conflicts around police brutality and U.S. racism—and the changes have even hit hookup apps and pornography. Adult Video News (AVN) announced this week that it would end news and awards categories for "interracial" porn:

Meanwhile, gay dating and hookup app Grindr announced that it will stop letting users sort potential partners by ethnicity.


QUICK HITS

• The latest in unemployment claims: 1.9 million new claims filed last week. "The jobless claims figure, reported each week, comes ahead of Friday's release of the unemployment rate for May," notes Politico. "Economists expect that figure will show nearly one in five Americans were out of work in the middle of last month."

• Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D–Mass.) is co-sponsoring a proposal (with Michigan Libertarian Rep. Justin Amash) to end qualified immunity.

• A new study on COVID-19 susceptibility finds that "variations at two spots in the human genome are associated with an increased risk of respiratory failure in patients with Covid-19," reports The New York Times. "Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study."

• Actor Zachary Levi spent the day on Twitter yesterday defending libertarianism and third-party voting.

• The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is suing Minneapolis police.

• "Drug enforcement agents should not be conducting covert surveillance of protests and First Amendment protected speech," said Hugh Handeyside, a senior attorney for the ACLU. And yet…

• Even the National Inquirer wouldn't run with Trump's Joe Scarborough conspiracy.

• Aerosolized chemical agents like pepper spray could spread COVID-19 at protests, health experts warn.

• People are very, very unhappy about The New York Times publishing this op-ed from Sen. Tom Cotton (R–Ark.) that calls for using the U.S. military against American protesters.


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