This week, under questioning from Matt Gaetz, perhaps the least ethical member of Congress right now (and wow, that is a hard title to get!), the Joint Chiefs Chairman, Army General Mark Milley, fought back at the pervy congressman’s whine about the military being woke.
"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."
Later, Gaetz had the gall to tweet about Milley: "With Generals like this it’s no wonder we’ve fought considerably more wars than we’ve won." Gaetz wouldn't last 10 minutes at West Point.
Never in American history has a political party gone after the U.S. military. The military is sacrosanct. It is revered. It protects our freedom, our democracy. It is the envy of the world.
Gaetz and his bigoted lot are trying to ignite shitstorms over being "woke" and the teaching of critical race theory. These are attempts to score political points with the racist Trump base, and they are using the venerable U.S. military as the whipping post for their lies and slander.
This is the same Republican party that wrapped itself in knots for years over trying to label itself as vanguards of the armed forces. But now the party follows someone like Gaetz's lead on how to untie itself from the military. The old Grand Old Party, now renamed as the Grotesquely Obnoxious Perjurers, are falsely accusing the military of being weak and disgustingly lambasting it for supporting equality.
Gaetz tried the same line of "woke" questioning about critical race theory earlier in this hearing on yet another army officer, former general and now Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who like Miley, set Gaetz straight in no uncertain terms.
"We do 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."
The Far Right went nuts over the testimonies of Milley and Austin, and their defense of the army and U.S. military that they love with a passion. The anti-American tandem of Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham cheered on the despicable Gaetz on Fox News, the network now known as the most vocal supporters of The Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.
Their anti-American blabber knows no bounds, and their crusade against the military is heinous. Carlson has even gone so far as to say that one of the military's top worries is about whether their solidiers are entitled to gender confirmation surgeries.
Does he really think the base believes that? They most certainly do and that's frightening.
These are just the latest in a continuing series of salvos by Republicans attempting to debase the army. Recently, you had Senator Ted Cruz implying that our army isn’t as masculine and strong as the Russian Army. What is that perilous statement supposed to accomplish for U.S. security? He and Carlson should just Zoom in from Moscow.
Similarly, you had a retired Army General, Mike Flynn, who basically worked for the Russians during Trump’s 2016 campaign, and briefly in Trump’s White House, recently calling for a military coup in the U.S. What kind of an absurd message does that send to our allies around the world?
As we all have probably known by now, wretched Cruz tore into a United States Army Tik-Tok recruiting video that featured an animated female soldier, raised by two mothers, who decides to join the army. First, Cruz maliciously tweeted, “Holy Crap, Perhaps a woke, emasculated military wasn’t the best idea.”
I’m guessing that if the video depicted a mother – and a father – teaching their daughter to sneak away to the Shangri-La of Cancun during a natural disaster, he would deem that as very masculine. After Cruz opened his big mouth, Jimmy Kimmel brilliantly lampooned him by renaming the video, “Army. Be all you Cancun be,” that riffs on the famous army tagline.
In response, Cruz tweeted, “We have the greatest military on earth, but Dem politicians & woke media are trying to turn them into pansies.”
Speaking of so-called pansies, the army has produced many LGBTQ “firsts” in the military. Staff Sergeant Patricia King became the first infantryman in the U.S. Army to come out as transgender. Army Major General Randy Taylor is, currently, the highest-ranking openly gay soldier in the U.S. military. And Eric Fanning was the first LGBTQ+ person to be confirmed by the Senate as Secretary of the Army.
I reached out to former Secretary Fanning and get his take on these awful takes by Gaetz, Flynn, and Cruz.
First about Cruz’s comments about the army’s recruiting video. What gives? “I just don’t understand how someone’s parents have anything to do with someone’s ability to be a soldier,” Fanning said. “In this day and age, the fact that she has two moms is a non-starter. She put on a uniform for the U.S. Army and that is to be celebrated and is the only thing that matters.”
I had to ask Fanning about the pansy reference. “Well, it stuck out for me as being out of touch with the times,” Fanning correctly surmised. “No one makes comments like that in public anymore, or at least they shouldn’t. If you ask me, it just shows a lack of creativity on his part. Was pansy the only reference he could come up with?”
Fanning was quick to rebut the ill-fitting and grossly outdated reference. “We have unquestionably the strongest fighting force in the world. Add to that, that we make sure to recruit the very best, which is so critical in maintaining our strong force. And we have taken steps to strive for a more diverse force because that’s what’s best for the country. Not only do recruits and personnel need to be strong, but they need to be smart. We need a smarter force. And why? Because the military isn’t fighting a lot of hand to hand combat, and there’s more technology involved. We need to be strong and smart.”
What did Fanning think when he heard Flynn’s traitorous comments? “He is an anomaly, and he’s always been one, even when he was still serving, he was not well liked. There was that famous incident about then-President Obama telling Donald Trump not to hire this guy. It’s hard to overstate how serious saying something like that is. There are so many urgent matters an outgoing president must hand over to an incoming president, and for that to be one of them, just shows you how dangerous Flynn was.
“Here’s what I thought about when I heard him endorse the idea of a coup. When you’re up for a security clearance, there is a field investigation that requires acquaintances of the candidate to answer a series of questions. Those questions have been the same for 30 years. The final question goes along the lines of ‘have you ever heard this person espouse the violent overthrow of the U.S. government.’”
Fanning said that for the first time in his career, he knew someone where the answer to that question would be yes. “I’m assuming he doesn’t have a security clearance anymore,” Fanning added.
Fanning was quick to say that the army, and the rest of the military, aren’t affected by these well-reported comments, and that they will continue to do their best to help each other and defend our country.
“All of the military branches deserve credit. They strive to do their very best. The leadership understands that it needs a diverse community, with different skill sets, and soldiers dedicated to the Constitution of the United States. Persons in uniform take care of one another and learn from each other, and that’s really what’s most important to remember.”
John Casey is editor at large for The Advocate.