Retired US Army four-star general Stanley McChrystal gave a diplomatic answer to a question about President Donald Trump’s controversial “Salute to America” Fourth of July military parade.
Asked by CNN host Jake Tapper about whether he would have chosen to be a part of the parade if he was still in the military, McChrystal demurred on Tuesday with a response befitting of an officer serving on active duty.
“If my soldiers were forced to come on a holiday and stand in the sun to do an event, I’d want to be there alongside them,” McChrystal said.
McChrystal, who commanded the coalition forces in Afghanistan before his resignation in the wake of a scandal, questioned whether the US military was a necessary addition for a Fourth of July celebration in Washington, DC. The “Salute to America” event is expected to consist of at least 300 service members, fighter-jet flyovers, helicopters, and armored vehicles — including two M1 Abrams tanks.
“When I think of the Fourth of July, I think of the celebration of the concept of nation,” McChrystal said. “Nothing’s more central … than the concept of citizenship and serving the nation.”
“I do think it’s fine to honor people who serve the nation,” McChrystal said, but added that the military’s arsenal is merely “things.”
“They’re not the sinew of the nation,” McChrystal said.
McChrystal also echoed the view of former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who views the celebration as an over-the-top display of military might — similar to that of the US’s foreign adversaries.
“We proved that on the battlefield. We proved that around the world,” McChrystal said. “I don’t think we need to bring them on to the National Mall to justify their effectiveness.”
While McChrystal’s views about Trump’s parade may have been partly muted, he has been an outspoken critic throughout the president’s tenure. A feud ensued between the two after McChrystal questioned Trump’s morals and leadership in scathing interviews and opinion columns.
“I don’t think he tells the truth,” McChrystal said of Trump during an ABC interview in December.
In a separate CNN interview in November, McChrystal scrutinized Trump’s criticism of retired Adm. William McRaven, the Navy SEAL commander who orchestrated the raid against al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in 2011.
“The President is simply wrong,” McChrystal said at the time. “He’s uninformed and he is pushing an idea that is not helpful.”
McChrystal led the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan and the Joint Special Operations Command during his 34-year career in the armed forces. He resigned in 2010, following a critical Rolling Stone article that portrayed his staff demeaning then-President Barack Obama. He has since written a memoir and sits on various boards for think-tanks.