Trump calls on Mark Milley to resign after top US military officer thrust into ‘critical race theory’ debate

Former president amplifies right-wing rage over what has become catch-all term for studying racism and diversity

Alex Woodward
New York
Wednesday 30 June 2021 19:24 BST
Related video: Trump criticises ‘woke’ generals in ‘critical race theory’ right-wing culture war

Donald Trump has called for the resignation of Mark Milley as the nation’s top military official, a position that the former president appointed him to, after the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff offered a rebuke to right-wing culture war attacks on “critical race theory” that broadly encompass any examination of systemic racism.

In a statement, the former president falsely claimed that Mr Milley “went to Congress and actually defended Critical Race Theory being shoved down the throats of our soldiers”.

Mr Trump said that Mr Milley must resign and “be replaced with someone who is actually willing to defend our Military from the Leftist Radicals who hate our Country and our Flag”.

The statement issued from his Save America group follows Mr Milley’s testimony to the House Armed Services Committee, where US Rep Matt Gaetz asked how the Pentagon will “think about critical race theory”, an academic theory that seeks to critically examine the role of institutional racism that Republicans and right-wing media have used as a catch-all term for discussing racism, slavery, diversity, gender and other civil rights issues.

A coordinated campaign among special interest groups in local schools has been amplified by right-wing media and aided by dozens of newly formed local and national groups, conservative think tanks, law firms and GOP lawmakers weaponising unfocused rage around “critical race theory” into a political tool ahead of 2022 elections.

Mr Milley said that the US Department of Defence does “not teach critical race theory.”

“We don’t embrace critical race theory, and I think that’s a spurious conversation,” he said. “We are focused on extremist behaviors and not ideology – not people’s thoughts, not people’s political orientation. Behaviors is what we’re focused on.”

US Rep Michael Waltz also referenced a seminar at West Point about “understanding whiteness and white rage”.

“I want to understand white rage, and I’m white, and I want to understand it,” Mr Milley said, pointing to the insurrection at the US Capitol on 6 January, fuelled by Mr Trump’s false “stolen election” narrative.

“So what is it that caused thousands of people to assault this building and try to overturn the Constitution of the United States of America? What caused that? I want to find that out,” he said.

“I’ve read Mao Zedong. I’ve read Karl Marx. I’ve read Lenin. That doesn’t make me a communist,” he said. “So what is wrong with ... having some situational understanding about the country for which we are here to defend?”

He continued brusquely: “And I personally find it offensive that we are accusing the United States military, our general officers, our commissioned, noncommissioned officers of being, quote, ‘woke’ or something else, because we’re studying some theories that are out there.”

In his statement, Mr Trump said that Mr Milley’s “greatest fear is upsetting the woke mob”.

He claimed that Mr Milley issued “an embarrassing and groveling apology” after walking alongside the former president to a photo op at a church after protesters were cleared from Lafayette Park.

Mr Milley reportedly exploded at Mr Trump over the former president’s response to racial justice uprisings, according to The Wall Street Journal’s Michael Bender in his forthcoming book Frankly, We Did Win This Election.

In his statement, Mr Trump called the anecdote “fake news”.

The day before Juneteenth, after Joe Biden declared the day commemorating the abolition of slavery as a federal holiday, Mr Trump issued a lengthy column earlier raging against what he believes is “critical race theory” and blaming his successor for “extreme ideas” and “divisive messages” that are “brainwashing” American children.

He claimed Mr Biden is “indoctrinating America’s schoolchildren with some of the most toxic and anti-American theories ever conceived”.

“Instead of helping young people discover that America is the greatest, most tolerant, and most generous nation in history,” Mr Trump said in RealClearPolitics, “it teaches them that America is systemically evil and that the hearts of our people are full of hatred and malice.”

He called it a “program for national suicide”.

An analysis from NBC News found that virtually all school districts targeted by right-wing activists are not reaching “critical race theory”.

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