General Mark Milley, America’s top general apologised on Thursday for appearing in a photo-op with President Donald Trump during his controversial walk to a damaged church near the White House, saying his presence created a “perception of the military involved in domestic politics.”
Milley said his presence and the photographs compromised his commitment to a military divorced from politics.
“I should not have been there. My presence in that moment and in that environment created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics,” Gen Milley, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs Of Staff, said in a recorded message played at the graduation of the National Defence University.
“As a commissioned, uniformed officer, it was a mistake that I have learned from. And I sincerely hope we all can learn from it,” he said,” Gen Milley said.
The top American general was responding to the widespread criticism he is facing, including from several former decorated generals of the US, on his decision to join Trump to visit St John’s Church last week after authorities used pepper spray and flash bangs to clear the park and streets of protesters demonstrating in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death in Minnesota in police custody.
The historic church was damaged and a portion of it was burnt by angry protestors outside the White House last week.
Trump, accompanied by Defence Secretary Mark Esper, Gen Miley and several of his top Administration officials walked from the White House to the church wherein he posed for a photo with a Bible in his hand. Miley was seen in his uniform along with the President.
In his video message, Milley conceded that that the incident triggered a national conversation about the role of the US military in civil society.
Emphasising the importance of preserving the principle of a military that is not involved in politics, Gen Milley said: “We who wear the cloth of our nation come from the people of our nation and we must hold dear the principle of an apolitical military that is so deeply rooted in the essence of our republic.”
“(Floyd’s) death amplified the pain, the frustration and the fear that so many of our fellow Americans live with day in, day out,” he said and described the gruesome incident as “senseless and brutal killing”.
Milley’s comments were his first public statements about the event on June 1, which the White House has hailed as a “leadership moment” for Trump akin to Winston Churchill inspecting damage from German bombs in London during World War II.