Retired Navy general James Mattis, who held one of the most important posts in the Donald Trump administration, broke the silence and on Wednesday criticized the US president's stance on the protests against George Floyd's death, saying that instead of uniting the Americans, Trump tries to divide the population. It is the first time that the former American Defense Secretary talks about the government after resigning in late 2018.
Mattis said he was "angry and shocked" by Trump's response. The president promised that he would mobilize the military, through the Insurrection Law, if mayors and governors did not put an end to the violence seen in various acts of mobilization in recent days.
“The words 'Justice in Equality before the Law' are engraved on the pediment of the United States Supreme Court. This is exactly what the protesters rightly demand. It is a healthy and unifying demand – one that we should all be able to meet. We should not be distracted by a small number of lawbreakers. Protests are defined by tens of thousands of conscientious people who insist that we live up to our values - our values as people and our values as a nation, ”wrote Mattis in a statement.
And he continues: “Donald Trump is the first president since I was born who doesn't try to unite the American people – he doesn't 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 it, taking advantage of the forces inherent in our civil society. This will not be easy, as the last few days have shown, but we owe it to our fellow citizens; to past generations that bled to defend our promise; and our children ”.
Mattis left the government because he did not agree with Trump's efforts to withdraw American troops from Syria. His statement comes on the same day that the current American Defense Secretary, Mark Esper, revealed that he opposes the use of military forces to suppress protests against the death of George Floyd.
"The option to use active military forces to enforce the law should be used only as a last resort, and only in the worst and most urgent situations. We are not in this scenario right now. I do not support the use of the Law of Insurrection," said Esper at a Pentagon press conference. "I have always believed and continue to believe that the National Guard is better suited to provide internal support to civil authorities in these situations."
Mattis also criticized the president's decision to visit St. John's historic Episcopal Church moments after the federal police had removed protesters from Lafayette Square with tear gas bombs. He called Trump's decision an "abuse of executive authority."
"When I joined the army about 50 years ago, I vowed to support and defend the Constitution," said Mattis. "I never dreamed that troops who took the same oath would, under any circumstances, be violated by the constitutional rights of their fellow citizens – much less to provide a bizarre photo of the elected opponent-in-chief, with military leadership on the side."
Mattis's text was published by The Atlantic magazine. Last year he released a book, but refrained from criticizing Trump. In an interview with the same publication in October 2019, the former Defense Secretary said that “when you leave a government with clear differences in policy, you need to give people who are still there as many opportunities as possible to defend the country”, but he promised not to make silence “eternal”.
President Donald Trump commented on Mattis's message on Wednesday night. He said that he fired Mattis, it felt good to do so and that he didn't like his leadership style.
“Probably the only thing that Barack Obama and I have in common is that we both had the honor of firing Jim Mattis, the most overrated general in the world. I asked for your resignation letter and I felt very good about it ”, tweeted Trump.
"His main strength was not military, but personal public relations. I gave him a new life, things to do and battles to win, but he was rarely successful. I didn't like his 'leadership' style or anything else about him , and many others agree. I'm glad he's gone! "