Former Secretary of Defense James Mattis criticized President Donald Trump for his behavior in response to the protests that erupted after the death of George Floyd, saying he is “the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people.”
Trump “does not even pretend to try. Instead he tries to divide us,” Mattis said.
“We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership,” he continued. “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.”
Mattis also had harsh words for current Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s use of the word “battlespace” in reference to American cities. Esper’s comments came as Trump mused about “dominating” and crushing the protests.
“We must reject any thinking of our cities as a ‘battlespace’ that our uniformed military is called upon to ‘dominate,’ ” Mattis said. “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.”
He added: “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.”