Milley: Calls to China were 'perfectly' within scope of job

FILE - In this Sept. 1, 2021, file photo Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley speaks during a briefing with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon in Washington. The top U.S. military officer said Friday that calls he made to his Chinese counterpart in the final stormy months of Donald Trump's presidency were “perfectly within the duties and responsibilities” of his job.

A bombshell book by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa allege that the nation’s top military officer was so afraid of then President Donald Trump starting a war that he made calls to China’s top military leader to ensure a war would be averted.

Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made two calls to Gen. Li Zuocheng, leader of the People’s Liberation Army, reassuring the Chinese that the U.S. was not attempting to start a war, according to the book. Milley, a former III Corps and Fort Hood commander, defended those calls as completely appropriate and within his scope of duties.

Milley went so far as to promise Li that he would warn his counterpart in the event of a U.S. attack, according to the book “Peril.” Details from the book, which is set to be released next week, were first reported by The Washington Post on Tuesday.

And several retired generals in the Fort Hood area, some who have worked with Milley in the past, are inclined to give Milley the benefit of the doubt and allow him to have his say before passing judgement.

“I know Gen. Milley and I won’t pass judgement at this time,” said retired Lt. Gen. Paul Funk on Friday. “This is an author putting words in the mouth of his protagonist. I think we’ll have to see what happens at the Congressional hearing.”

Funk, a former III Corps and Fort Hood commander, said he knows how operations work at Joint Chiefs of Staff level and was willing to bet that Milley had followed all procedures he was required to.

“I think we should give him his due and get all the facts first,” he said. “I’m not inclined to believe Mr. Woodward, because I don’t think he’s given us any reason to trust him. I’m not going to prejudge him, but pretty sure it’s not how it’s been portrayed in the media.”

Retired Lt. Gen. Pete Taylor, also a former III Corps and Fort Hood commander, said Milley was a friend and he had full confidence in him and his leadership abilities.

“I haven’t talked with him recently, but I respected him greatly and I think he is a great soldier,” Taylor said. “This is not something unusual for military leaders to talk to military leaders of other countries. I completely support him based on my previous experience with him.”

Retired Lt. Gen. Dave Palmer, a Belton resident, said it was difficult to actually know what was going on as there were so many different stories in the media depending on which media was being listened to.

“I don’t feel good about (the situation). I don’t think you can believe the book, but my position is to let (Milley) go under oath before Congress and let him have his say,” Palmer said.

If Milley maliciously went behind the back of his commander in chief, he should be court-martialed, Palmer said.

“But it can easily just be the authors wanting to make some money,” he said. “We should just see what happens when he goes before Congress.”

dbryant@kdhnews.com | 254-501-7554

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