Dozens of Retired Military Officers Express Support for Trump’s Action Against Riots

(INSET: Federal agents in Portland, Oregon) Retired Gen. William Boykin, left, and Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, right, listen as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a town hall with the Retired American Warriors, Monday, Oct. 3, 2016, in Herndon, Va. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
Evan Vucci, Noah Berger/AP

Forty-six retired flag-rank officers in the United States military have signed an open letter that was published on Wednesday in the Washington Times expressing support for “President Trump’s authority to stop the ongoing rioting and lawlessness in America’s cities.”

The signatories include 42 Army officers, four Air Force officers, and one retired Navy officer, according the Family Research Council. Family Research Council Executive Vice President Lt. Gen. (Ret.) William G. Boykin (pictured, left) is one of the signatories.

The letter comes as debate heats up across the country about how to quell violent protests and an ongoing crime wave that has swept the country following the death of George Floyd, a black man who died while in custody of the Minneapolis police in May.

What started as peaceful protests have devolved into ongoing riots and criminal acts, including more than 50 nights of violence in Portland, Oregon, where additional federal police have been deployed to support federal police already on the ground, tasked under federal law with protecting federal courthouses and other federal property.

The letter states:

We are retired flag-rank officers who support President Trump’s recent declarations that the tolerance of widespread rioting and lawlessness by various U.S. state and local political authorities is unacceptable.

Furthermore, we write in opposition to the criticism by those who have claimed or implied that the deployment of the military to quell unchecked urban rioting would be an authoritarian departure from American history. Such claims are ill-informed and dangerous. To be clear, none of us want to see the active military used in a civil law enforcement/civil unrest role unless all other options have been exhausted.

As members of the military we have seen the effects that war, killing and violence have upon civilian populations. The predations and crimes visited upon the innocent when law and order have vanished are horrible. That is true whether it be in Mogadishu, Mosul, Benghazi, or New York City.

If the political leadership of a state and municipality refuses to stop an outbreak of violence or an insurrection that endangers the lives of American citizens, the president has been empowered to act by the Constitution1 and Congress through the Insurrection Act of 1807 to use the military to restore order. With respect to the use of the “military” we include both the National Guard (“the Guard”) and Active Duty military units.

State governors are empowered to deploy the Guard – as the governor of Minnesota did recently. The Guard is trained to operate effectively in such environments as a last resort when local police and sheriffs are overwhelmed by rioting. However, if State and local governments do not act, the president may federalize the National Guard and deploy them.

There may even be rare circumstances in which the Guard may not be sufficient to handle a large-scale crisis. For example, Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy both deployed regular military forces during several desegregation emergencies without State consent. The refusal of State and local authorities to stop the destruction of a city by riots should provide the emergency authority necessary to take such an extraordinary measure of last resort.

We fervently hope and pray that state and local authorities will promptly restore law and order should there be further outbreaks of rioting. But if not, President Trump has the authority to take extraordinary measures under such circumstances.

We concur that the use of active duty military units should be a last resort, but we know that eleven presidents have invoked the Insurrection Act of 1807 on twenty occasions.

Notwithstanding the non-stop hostility of the news media, President Trump has established a record of being cautious and restrained when using military power. We are confident that he will be extremely prudent in deploying the military domestically in such circumstances as may arise. We believe our President will do what is necessary to support and defend the Constitution and preserve this Constitutional Republic. Although we realize there are other military officers who disagree we stand with the President at this difficult time.

Although the Department of Homeland Security has confirmed that additional federal police officers have only been deployed so far to Portland Oregon, President Donald Trump has signaled he has the authority to do the same in other U.S. cities if necessary.

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