The top uniformed officer hit back at allegations that the U.S. military is being indoctrinated with so-called critical race theory and seminars about White anger after two Florida Republicans argued that anti-extremism and anti-racist teachings could be detrimental to the troops.
“I personally find it offensive that we are accusing the United States military, our general officers, our non-commissioned officers, of being called ‘woke’ or something else, because we are studying some theories that are out there,” Mark Milley, the four-star general who was tapped by then-President Donald Trump as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Wednesday during a U.S. House Armed Services Committee hearing.
Milley and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, the nation’s first Black Pentagon chief, found themselves at the hearing called to discuss the department’s budget request having to dismiss questions about whether efforts to root out extremists in the military ranks meant going after soldiers’ political views.
Milley’s impassioned retort came after Representatives Matt Gaetz and Michael Waltz, a Green Beret veteran, brought up concerns that critical race theory is detrimental to the U.S. military. Waltz held up a seminar handout from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point on “Understanding Whiteness and White Rage” that he said 100 cadets were taught.
Referring to the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by extremist supporters of former President Donald Trump, Milley said: “I want to understand White rage, and I am White and I want to understand it. What is it that caused thousands of people to assault this building and try and overturn the Constitution of the United States of America, what caused that?”
His uniform decorated with medals representing service in war zones from Afghanistan to Somalia, Milley went on to say “I’ve read Mao Tse-tung, I’ve read Karl Marx, I’ve read Lenin; that doesn’t make me a Communist. So what is wrong with understanding, having some situational understanding, about the country for which we are here to defend?”
Critical race theory, an academic doctrine developed in the 1970s, emphasizes the impact of racial disparities in the U.S. The issue has become part of a broader debate over “culture wars” in the U.S., with many GOP officials at the state and federal level calling for bans on teaching the subject in schools. They call the doctrine part of an effort by minority groups to rewrite American history.
As president, Trump instructed federal agencies to halt racial sensitivity training with a White House memo that condemned such initiatives as contrary to the nation’s “fundamental beliefs.”
In his testimony, Austin told Waltz that “this is not something that the U.S. military is embracing and pushing, and causing people to subscribe to.”
Austin earlier got into a heated exchange with Gaetz, who gave examples of how he said anti-extremist training is damaging to the military. Austin had ordered stand downs, or training days, after the Capitol attack on Jan. 6.
“That is a spurious argument,” Austin told Gaetz. “Thanks for that anecdotal input.”
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