After a 44-year military career, Mark Milley, the outgoing Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, used his retirement ceremony as an opportunity to take a swipe at former President Donald Trump. In his speech at the ceremony in Arlington, Virginia, Milley referred to Trump as a “wannabe dictator,” suggesting that the ex-president has authoritarian tendencies. The comments were widely interpreted as a reference to Trump, with whom Milley has had a contentious relationship.
Milley emphasized the unique nature of the US military, stating, “We don’t take an oath to a country, we don’t take an oath to a tribe, we don’t take an oath to a religion. We don’t take an oath to a king, or a queen, or a tyrant or a dictator, and we don’t take an oath to a wannabe dictator.” His remarks highlighted the allegiance of the military to the Constitution and the idea of America, rather than to any individual leader.
While Milley’s comments appeared to criticize Trump, he took the opportunity to praise current President Joe Biden for his leadership and thanked him for his unwavering support. Milley described Biden as a man of integrity and character, and he expressed confidence in Biden’s ability to strengthen the US military.
Milley’s relationship with Trump has been a subject of public attention in recent days. In interviews following his retirement, Milley discussed his conflicts with Trump, including concerns about the former president seeking vengeance if he were reelected in 2024. Milley told the Atlantic that he believed he would be on the top of Trump’s list if he were to win another term.
In response, Trump accused Milley of treason, alleging that the general had made secret calls to his Chinese counterpart during his final months in office. Trump claimed that such actions were punishable by death in the past. Milley, in a CBS News interview, acknowledged taking extra security precautions due to Trump’s criticism and argued that the former president’s attack was not only aimed at him but also at the entire US military.
The strained relationship between Milley and Trump dates back to 2020 when Milley apologized for appearing with Trump as he walked to a church near the White House damaged by Black Lives Matter protests. As Trump’s presidency came to an end, Milley reassured foreign military leaders, including the Chinese General Li Zuocheng, that the US would not instigate a war. He also assured Congress that safeguards were in place to prevent Trump from launching a nuclear attack.
Overall, Milley’s retirement ceremony highlighted his concerns about Trump’s authoritarian tendencies and his dedication to the principles and values of the US military. While his comments were seen as critical of Trump, he emphasized the military’s allegiance to the Constitution and the foundations of American democracy.