Former defense secretary Jim Mattis on Wednesday denounced President Donald Trump’s heavy-handed use of military force to quell protests near the White House and said his former boss was setting up a “false conflict” between the military and civilian society.
“I have watched this week’s unfolding events, angry and appalled,” Mattis wrote.
The criticism was all the more remarkable because Mattis has generally kept a low profile since retiring as defense secretary in December 2018 to protest Trump’s Syria policy. He had declined to speak out against Trump, saying he owed the nation public silence while his former boss remained in office.
“Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people — does not even pretend to try,” Mattis wrote in a blistering statement posted online by The Atlantic.
“Instead, he tries to divide us,” added the retired Marine Corps General .
“We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership,” he stated.
Mr. Mattis described himself as “angry and appalled” after witnessing events of the last week.
Mr. Mattis wrote that the protesters’ call for equal justice was a “wholesome and unifying demand.”
He slammed the decision to use force to clear peaceful protesters from near the White House on Monday to allow Mr. Trump to pose for photographs at a damaged church, calling it an “abuse of executive authority.”
Mattis called on Americans to unite without Trump. “This will not be easy, as the past few days have shown, but we owe it to our fellow citizens; to past generations that bled to defend our promise; and to our children,” he wrote.
Mattis said of the protesters that Americans should not be distracted by a small number of lawbreakers. He said they are rightly demanding that the country follow the words of “Equal Justice Under Law” that are on display at the U.S. Supreme Court.
“The protests are defined by tens of thousands of people of conscience who are insisting that we live up to our values — our values as people and our values as a nation,” Mattis said.