We already knew that US military chief Mark Milley had told his associates, as he observed the build-up to Donald Trump’s 6 January Capitol riot, that he feared Trump was seeking a “Reichstag moment” (after the fire at the German parliament in 1933 which Hitler used as leverage to complete Nazi control).
“They’re not going to succeed”, Milley told his military colleagues. His argument: “you can’t do this without the military... the CIA... the FBI. We’re the guys with the guns”. He would block moves by Trump to bring troops onto the streets.
We also knew that between November 2020 and January 2021 Trump wanted to sack Milley, but was too uncoordinated to push it through.
Now we find that Milley privately phoned China’s military chief Li Zuocheng on 8 January to tell him, general to general, that he, Milley, would block it if Trump tried starting a war to save his position.
A new book by Carl Bernstein and Robert Costa also reports that Milley convened a meeting with top commanders to remind them that nuclear weapons could not be launched just on Trump’s say-so, without Milley’s ok.
Trump has declared outrage, but president Biden has reaffirmed confidence in Milley.
Trump is still strong in the Republican Party, may control a majority in Congress after 2022, and looks intent on running for president in 2024. By then, he, or others around him with more competence and coherence, may be able to replace Milley and his allies.
Organising to defeat the Trumpist far right, both on the streets and in the political thinking of a section of the US working class, remains an urgent task for the US left. We can’t rely on the scruples of generals to save democracy or avoid war, and Biden is unlikely to make the dangers go away.