Former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Michael Mullen has added to the growing chorus of voices calling for military officials to back out of active political involvement in the election cycle.
Speaking to The Washington Post, Mullen pointed to retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn and retired Marine Crops Gen. John Allen, as prime violators of political neutrality, a mandate that comes attached to their leadership positions.
For Mullen, both Flynn and Allen “have violated this principle and confused that clarity.”
“This is not about the right to speak out, it is about the disappointing lack of judgment in doing so for crass partisan purposes,” Mullen said. “This is made worse by using hyperbolic language all the while leveraging the respected title of ‘general.'”
The obligation to keep out of politics still applies to military officials when they’ve retired, according to Mullen. Anything less is a violation of the ethos that the president can trust the military to provide sound and impartial judgment.
Retired Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, also former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, argued in early August that Flynn shouldn’t have spoken at the Republican National Convention, and Allen should’ve similarly avoided the Democratic National Convention.
“It was a mistake for them to participate as they did,” Dempsey said. “It was a mistake for our presidential candidates to ask them to do so.”
In April, current chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford warned military leaders to avoid giving their opinions on political matters, even though the issues raised by candidates in this particular election cycle make participation incredibly tempting.
Flynn and Allen have both defended their participation. Allen argued certain statements from Republican nominee Donald Trump had the potential to create an absolute crisis in the military, prompting Allen to step into the public sphere.
“When someone says, ‘You’re a general, so you have to shut up, I say, ‘Do I have to stop being an American?'” Flynn asked.
Flynn is a firm supporter of Trump and has called Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, “the enemy camp.”
“This is a person who does not know the difference between a lie and the truth. . . . She is somebody who will leave Americans behind on the battlefield,” Flynn said.
Flynn has also called President Barack Obama a “liar,” and despite former military colleagues reaching out to him, he has insisted he will continue on his course of action.
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