US military leaders condemn racism after Charlottesville violence
In a rare move, top commanders in the US military are speaking out in the wake of the deadly violence that erupted at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend.
Five US Joint Chiefs are issuing public condemnations of white supremacist groups in the wake of the weekend’s racial unrest. President Donald Trump expanded the controversy Tuesday when he appeared to draw a moral equivalency between neo-Nazis and counter-protesters by blaming “both sides” for contributing to violence.
The statements are not directly addressing Trump’s comments but are instead presented as a message to the general public, their troops and potential recruits. But the messages are notable as US military leaders traditionally uphold an ironclad commitment to stay out of politics.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson was the first member of the military brass to weigh in on the issue, tweeting as news of the violence unfolded on Saturday.
“Events in Charlottesville unacceptable and musn’t be tolerated @USNavy for ever stands against intolerance & hatred,” the post said.
On Tuesday, Commandant of the US Marine Corps Gen. Robert B. Neller spoke out, tweeting that there was “No place for racial hatred or extremism in @USMC. Our core values of Honor, Courage, and Commitment frame the way Marines live and act.”
On Wednesday, Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark Milley posted: “The Army doesn’t tolerate racism, extremism, or hatred in our ranks. It’s against our Values and everything we’ve stood for since 1775.”
Milley’s tweet was shortly followed by a post from Air Force Gen. Dave Goldfein: “I stand with my fellow service chiefs in saying we’re always stronger together-it’s who we are as #Airmen.”
Chief of the National Guard Bureau Joseph Lengyel tweeted his support for the messages of his fellow Joint Chiefs on Wednesday afternoon.
“I stand with my fellow Joint Chiefs in condemning racism, extremism & hatred. Our diversity is our strength. #NationalGuard,” the tweet said.
Army chief Gen. Milley told CNN on Wednesday that he tweeted for one reason only: “My message is to the troops. The Army will not tolerate any form of radical behavior.”
Milley was adamant that nothing he is saying in his tweet is aimed at being political. “That is the furthest thing from my mind. I am not involved in domestic politics. I want good order and discipline in my ranks.”
By Zachary Cohen and Barbara Starr, CNN