By | Rachel Brooks
Staff | Telegraph Local
Above, a close up of the plaque on the wall of St. John’s Church in Washington, D.C. St. John’s Church is the place of worship that became the scene of public controversy during President Trump’s recent photo op. Photo created in 2012 by Santosdo, CC By SA 3.0 license.
A disagreement appears to have formed between United States President Donald Trump and the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Mike Milley over the controversial St. John’s Church photo op. General Mark Milley and the other members of the Joint Chiefs board have struggled to keep politics out of the military over the course of the response to the civil unrest events that followed the murder of George Floyd by former police officer Derek Chauvin. This was reported by Politico on June 11 at 6:54pm EDT.
General Milley has expressed regret for his appearance in his combat uniform in the photo. The photo was taken in front of the St. John’s Church Parish House in Washington D.C.
“I should not have been there. As a commissioned uniformed officer, it was a mistake that I have learned from, and I sincerely hope we all can learn from it,” said General Milley as he was quoted by Politico.
General Milley appeared in the photos surrounding St. John’s Church. Defense Secretary Mark Esper likewise appeared in a ground photo that included President Trump and others at the same time. The photo op commenced while local law enforcement fired tear gas and rubber bullets at crowds of protesters whose demonstrations had erupted into riots. The photos prompted outrage from members of the Armed Services, both current and retired.
The current apologies made by the Joint Chiefs chairman signal a deepening fracture between the Commander-in-Chief and the Armed Services. Over the course of the past two weeks, General James Mattis, former Defense Secretary for Donald Trump, published an op-ed piece in The Atlantic denouncing the President’s response to the civil rights protests and ensuing riots. Mattis expressed concern that Trump was a divisive figure in America as he threatened to deploy the United States military to control the protests should the State Governors and the National Guard fail to do so sufficiently. In response to the statements made by the Commander-in-Chief, General Mattis stated that he considered Mr. Trump a “threat to the Constitution.”
General Mattis’ rebuke of Mr. Trump also came in the same time span as the former National Security Advisor Colin Powell refused to endorse Mr. Trump’s reelection campaign.
Mr. Trump has not directly commented on General Milley’s public denouncement of the photo op via his Twitter, at the time of this post’s creation. He has, however, defended the ease with which the National Guard service members of Washington D.C. were able to suppress the riots.
“Our great National Guard Troops who took care of the area around the White House could hardly believe how easy it was. “A walk in the park”, one said. The protesters, agitators, anarchists (ANTIFA), and others, were handled VERY easily by the Guard, D.C. Police, & S.S. GREAT JOB!” said Trump in a tweet that was posted at 7:49 am on June 11.
This drew controversy as commenters on the post’s thread noted that Trump used the initialism “S.S.” rather than Secret Services. Some compared this initialism to the Schutzstaffel paramilitary forces of Adolf Hitler’s regime. The Schutzstaffel also used the initialism S.S. The force was led by Heinrich Himmler and is credited as the paramilitary organization that executed the Jewish Holocaust. See the Holocaust Encyclopedia of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum for more. Some were deeply offended that Mr. Trump did not notice that a distinction between the two initialisms would be made by the American public.