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After decades of glorifying military power, portraying themselves as the only political party interested in defending the country, and supporting wars abroad, some Republicans seem to have decided that the military has finally gone too far by talking about racism.
Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who was appointed by former President Donald Trump, gave a viral response to Republican critics on Wednesday in which he defended teaching West Point cadets about institutional racism and concepts such as “white rage.”
“I want to understand white rage, and I’m white,” Milley said. “What is it that caused thousands of people to assault [the Capitol] building and try and overturn the Constitution of the United States of America?” the general said at a congressional hearing.
“It’s important that we understand that, because our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Guardians, they come from the American people. So it is important that the leaders, now and in the future, try to understand it,” Milley added.
Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, one of the Republicans Milley directed his comments to, was shown during the exchange shaking his head.
“With Generals like this it’s no wonder we’ve fought considerably more wars than we’ve won,” Gaetz tweeted later Wednesday. (The day before, Gaetz tweeted, and then immediately deleted, that “if the Democrats want to defund the police, they should start with the FBI.”)
Following Milley’s thoughtful response about race in the U.S., Fox News host Laura Ingraham went even further than Gaetz, saying she was “totally outraged” by Wednesday’s hearing during a segment featuring Republican Reps. Byron Donalds and Mike Waltz.
“We are sending our tax dollars to this military in an attempt to weed out so-called extremists, which just means conservative Evangelicals, as far as I can tell," Ingraham said. “We’re paying for that? Why is Congress not saying, ‘We’re not going to give you a penny until all of this is eradicated from the military.’”
Ingraham has gone down this road before, after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin issued a stand-down order in February, which directed commanding officers to initiate discussions with the soldiers they lead focusing on "the importance of our oath of office; a description of impermissible behaviors; and procedures for reporting suspected, or actual, extremist behaviors."
Ingraham pressed anti-Trump Republicans to “refuse to allow a single U.S. taxpayer dollar to fund this ideological and un-American purge of the military, or expect a lot of us to push for steep cuts in military spending."
The anti-CRT-in-the-military rhetoric has been building for weeks. Last month Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas introduced a bill that would prohibit the military from teaching about concepts such as white supremacy and institutional racism. “Not only will such racist ideas undermine our troops’ faith in each other, they’ll also erode their trust in our country’s guiding principles,” Cotton said in a statement at the time.
President Joe Biden sent his proposed defense budget to Congress last month, seeking $753 million in military spending—a nearly 2 percent increase over the previous year. Progressives have long pushed for actual cuts to defense spending, not because of critical race theory but because the U.S. defense budget far outpaces those of other countries while critical domestic issues continue to go unaddressed.
As of 2019, for example, the U.S. military budget was more costly than the defense budgets of the next 10 countries combined, including China and Russia, according to the conservative Peter G. Peterson Foundation.
"In the last year, the biggest threat to our nation was a global pandemic, and we were drastically unprepared for it,” Rep. Mark Pocan, a former chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said in a statement last month. “Now, we're proposing a defense spending increase that alone is 1.5 times larger than the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention's entire $8.7 billion budget."