(USA Features) Rep. Matt Gaetz railed at Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Wednesday as they both appeared with the head of U.S. Central Command, Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, over the turbulent, disastrous, and deadly withdrawal from Afghanistan last month.
The firebrand Florida Republican was all business right out of the gate, sparing no feelings and taking no prisoners.
“February 26, 2020, House Armed Services Committee, General Mark Milley. ‘We know we’re not going to defeat the Taliban militarily and they’re not going to defeat the government of Afghanistan militarily.’ You really blew that call didn’t you general?” Gaetz alleged.
“You spent more time with Bob Woodward on this book than you spent analyzing the very likely prospect that the Afghanistan government was going to fall immediately to the Taliban, didn’t you?” he continued, holding up a copy of the book “Peril,” which was co-written with Washington Post reporter Robert Costas.
BREAKING: Rep. Matt Gaetz SLAMS Woke Generals Mark Milley, Lloyd Austin, and Kenneth McKenzie for Their Total Failure as the Leaders of the Armed Forces
"If we didn't have a president that was so addled, you all would be fired. Because that is what you deserve." pic.twitter.com/09CSv3k5Rv
— Rep. Matt Gaetz (@RepMattGaetz) September 29, 2021
The book makes a number of claims about Milley around the time of last year’s election and during then-President Donald Trump’s lame-duck period in which he appeared to undermine Trump’s authority by talking to Chinese military officials reportedly without the commander-in-chief’s knowledge. Milley, in previous testimony, has denied doing anything wrong, just as he denied spending too much time with Woodward.
“Oh really? ‘Cause you said right after Kabul fell that no one could have anticipated the immediate fall of the Ghani government,” Gaetz pressed.
“When did you become aware that Joe Biden tried to get Ghani to lie about the conditions in Afghanistan? He did that in July. Did you know about that right away?” he asked Milley.
The four-star general appeared to demur and then deny again.
Turning his attention to Austin, Gaetz asked the former defense contractor employee if he could accurately assess someone’s will to fight — a reference to the Afghan National Army, most likely, which crumbled and faded away ahead of the advance of Taliban militants.
After Austin said he could not, the Florida lawmaker offered that he was disappointing in a military sense, noting failures in both Syria and Afghanistan before calling into question the SECDEF’s overall leadership capabilities.
“It seems like you are chronically bad at this,” Gaetz said. “When people in the military like Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller stand up and demand accountability… when they say you all screwed up and they point out that General Milley’s statement, ‘The government of Afghanistan is not going to get defeated by the Taliban,’ he ends up in the brig and you all end up in front of us and your former employer Raytheon ends up with a lot of money and we have poured cash and blood and credibility into [an Afghan] government that was a mirage.”
“It fell immediately. While the guy sitting next to you was off talking to Phil Rucker and was off doing his thing with Bob Woodward, we were buying into the big lie… the big lie that this was ever going to be successful and we could ever rely on the Afghanistan government for anything at all,” Gaetz railed on.
Redirecting to Milley, Gaetz added:
You said yesterday that you weren’t going to resign when senators asked you this question. I believe that you guys probably won’t resign. You seem to be very happy failing up over there. But if we didn’t have a President that was so addled, you all would be fired. Because that is what you deserve. You’ve let down people who wear the uniform in my district and all around the country, and you are far more interested in what your perception is and how people think about you in insider Washington books than you care about winning.