Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark Milley, retired on Friday with a passionate address that indirectly criticized former President Trump, asserting that the U.S. military’s allegiance isn’t pledged to a “wannabe dictator.”
In the previous week, Trump had accused Milley of “treason” for allegedly conducting back-channel reassurances with his Chinese counterpart towards the end of his tenure, even suggesting the Army general should face execution.
Milley delivered his remarks at a ceremony in Virginia, stating, “We are unique among the world’s militaries. We don’t take an oath to a country. We don’t take an oath to a tribe. We don’t take an oath to a religion. We don’t take an oath to a king, or a queen, or to a tyrant or a dictator.”
He continued, “And we don’t take an oath to a wannabe dictator. We don’t take an oath to an individual. We take an oath to the Constitution, and we take an oath to the idea that is America — and we’re willing to die to protect it.”
Appointed by Trump in 2018, Milley frequently found himself at odds with the former president, notably in the incident involving St. John’s Church in Washington, D.C., during the racial injustice protests ignited by George Floyd’s murder in June 2020.
Milley briefly appeared alongside Trump, wearing combat fatigues, as Trump walked to St. John’s for a photo opportunity. Later, the four-star general publicly apologized for creating the perception that the military was involved in domestic politics, expressing regret for his presence — a move that didn’t sit well with Trump.
During that same summer, Milley supported the initiative to rename Army bases bearing the names of Confederate generals, a position that clashed with Trump’s views.
In the run-up to the 2020 presidential election, Milley sought to ensure a peaceful transition of power when he assured his Chinese counterpart that the American government had no intentions of initiating hostilities, as documented in the book “Peril” by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa.
Following the election, with concerns of a potential coup by Trump, Milley instructed his subordinates not to follow orders from anyone unless he was involved, as reported in “Peril.”
While Trump was not directly mentioned during Friday’s ceremony at Joint Base-Myer Henderson Hall, the speakers lavished praise on Milley for his over four decades of service to the country in the military.
President Biden commended Milley’s invaluable partnership, describing him as “unwavering in the face of danger.” Biden recounted an incident where Milley had run across a bridge laden with mines to prevent two battle tanks from crossing with wounded troops.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin referred to Milley as both a scholar and a warrior, emphasizing his dedication to leading the joint military forces.
The ceremony also featured the swearing-in of the incoming Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., formerly the Air Force chief of staff.