An article in Vanity Fair by Adam Ciralsky has laid bare some kay aspects of US president Donald Trump’s final days in office.The article sheds light on the crucial role of the US Defense Department during the weeks leading up to the inauguration of President Joe Biden.
These were remarkable and uncertain times in US history. When there is chaos and fear of insurrection, the behavior of vital people is brought to light, and they are put through a crucible of needing to make the right decisions at the right time. The article is important because it sheds light and references some key aspects of the last days of Trump.
“I sought and secured a front-row seat to what was happening inside the Department of Defense, the only institution with the reach and the tools – 2.1 million troops and weapons of every shape and size – to counter any moves to forestall or reverse the democratic process,” writes Ciralsky.
The article begins with acting secretary of defense Christopher Miller at the White House with his chief of staff, Kash Patel. “They were meeting with President Trump on ‘an Iran issue’” on January 5, the article states. We now know that the next day a massive protest in Washington would lead to attacks on the US Capitol and ransacking of offices of US senators. This was unprecedented.The article includes important insights from Miller, Patel and Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the under-secretary of defense for intelligence.
Miller came with experience from wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He had commanded an airborne Special Forces battalion. The report looks at a week in his life prior to January 19. Miller had three goals, he told the writer: “No military coup, no major war and no troops in the street,” before observing dryly, “The ‘no troops in the street’ claim changed dramatically about 14:30... So that one’s off [the list].”
It shows the extraordinary place the US was in, during the fall of 2020 after the US election, and that a “coup” was even considered. The reference to a coup is left hanging. It’s not clear what Ciralsky meant. It is known that Trump attempted to reverse the election result. US National Guard were called into Washington on January 6, and more than 20,000 have been deployed.
PATEL TOLD the writer that the US had been successful in getting things done over the last several years: “[We] ended three wars.Went to Damascus for [American journalist and hostage] Austin Tice.” Again, it is not clear what wars he is referring to. Trump sought to get out of Afghanistan and Syria. However, Syria is not really a major war today. There was largely a myth that the conflict against ISIS in Syria was an “endless war,” when in fact it was a successful operation with almost no US ground troops.
The Tice comment is more interesting. Last October, The Wall Street Journal wrote that Patel went to Damascus as a White House official for hostage talks. Tice is from Texas, and he was born in 1981. He went missing in Syria in 2012 during the Syrian civil war.A former US marine, he was a freelance journalist when he was disappeared, allegedly taken by the Syrian regime. The discussions show that the US believed they could get him back, or at least learn of his fate. The Trump administration repeatedly sought to get US hostages back, such as US pastor Andrew Brunson, who was held by Turkey.
The attempt to get information on Tice and the lengths the US went to complete this mission are clear. However, it is unclear why nothing came of it. The Syrian regime likely wanted sanctions relief. Trump could cave on that key policy.
Another part of the article touches on Miller’s comments about “the $1.5 trillion F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (a deeply flawed system I had covered at length for Vanity Fair) –a purportedly off-the-record conversation that someone in the Pentagon decided to simply post on the Defense Department’s website.”
What did this costly, badly flawed aircraft – 27 years in the making – say about the Pentagon’s spending priorities, the author notes? “Miller started laughing before letting loose: ‘I cannot wait to leave this job, believe me. Talk about a wicked problem! I wanted to take that one on. F-35 is the case study… [T]hat investment, for that capability that we’re never supposed to use… I’m like, ‘We have created a monster.’”
The remarks by Miller referenced above are shocking. According to posts online, Miller complained about the F-35 as a “case study” that should be examined. He appears to curse the aircraft in the interview. While it is an unbelievable aircraft, someone tells Miller that it is a capability the US is “never supposed to use.” It is referred to as a monster.
Of interest is that Israel may want more F-35s in the future, and the UAE is buying them from the US now. It is unclear – if the plane is such a monster and a case study in a problematic program – why so many countries are seeking it. Is it just the prestige? Countries that acquired it seem to like using it.
Overall, the important article leaves many questions about the key weeks and months leading up to the end of the Trump administration. It also leaves open questions about what the administration wanted to do and didn’t accomplish.