Gen. Mark Milley used his final speech as Joint Chiefs chair on Friday to emphasize that troops take an oath to the Constitution and not to a “wannabe dictator,” days after former President Donald Trump suggested the nation’s top officer should be put to death.
In an impassioned speech during his retirement ceremony at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in Arlington, Va., Milley spoke of the continued bravery of American service members and underscored that the oath they take to protect the Constitution encompasses “all enemies, foreign and domestic,” emphasizing “all” and “and.”
“We don’t take an oath to a king, or a queen, or to a tyrant or dictator, and we don’t take an oath to a wannabe dictator,” Milley said. “We don’t take an oath to an individual. We take an oath to the Constitution, and we take an oath to the idea that is America, and we’re willing to die to protect it.”
“Every soldier, sailor, airman, Marine, guardian and Coast Guardsman, each of us commits our very life to protect and defend that document, regardless of personal price,” Milley continued. “And we are not easily intimidated.”
The Trump campaign did not immediately return a request for comment.
Though the general did not mention Trump by name, the sharp rebuke came one week after Trump lashed out at Milley on social media over reports that the general had contacted his Chinese counterpart during the Trump administration to assure them the U.S. was not preparing to attack.
Trump last Friday called Milley “a Woke train wreck who, if the Fake News reporting is correct, was actually dealing with China to give them a heads up on the thinking of the President of the United States.”
“This is an act so egregious that, in times gone by, the punishment would have been DEATH!” Trump continued.
Trump’s rivals for the 2024 Republican nomination called the former president’s comments “reprehensible” and “inexcusable”.
In an interview with CBS News’ Norah O’Donnell this week, Milley confirmed he was taking “adequate safety precautions,” when asked about Trump’s comments.
“I wish those comments had not been made, and I’ll take appropriate measures to ensure my safety and the safety of my family,” Milley said.
Milley was not the only speaker at the ceremony to address the country’s political challenges. President Joe Biden, who spoke before Milley and his replacement, Gen. C.Q. Brown, slammed “a single senator” for holding up confirmation votes for more than 300 military leaders.
Biden was referring to Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), who is blocking the confirmations of flag and general officers in protest of the Pentagon’s abortion travel policy.
“It’s totally unacceptable that more than 300 military officers and reservists are held in limbo,” Biden said. “It’s an insult.”
Although the Senate this month confirmed Brown, along with the chiefs of the Army and Marine Corps, the nominees to take over the Navy and Air Force are still subject to the hold.
Biden also criticized House Republicans for failing to pass legislation that would fund the government, saying a possible government shutdown on track for this weekend will hurt service members.
“You can’t be playing politics while our troops stand in the breach,” Biden said.
Matt Berg contributed to this report.