During a recent Congressional hearing in which GOP members of Congress including Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) attempted to nitpick the military’s handling of extremism in the wake of the deadly January riot at the Capitol, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley expertly dismantled Republican criticisms, asking what’s so “wrong with understanding, having some situational understanding about the country for which we are here to defend.” Before Milley’s comments, Rep. Mike Waltz (R-Fla.) had asked about a West Point seminar called “Understanding Whiteness and White Rage.” Reacting to video of Milley on Twitter, ret. Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman went after what he referred to as the “madness of the extreme right.”
Republicans have complained about rigorous efforts within the military to address potential (and actual) extremism, but dealing with ideologies like what led to the January attack on the Capitol is not somehow antithetical to the aims of the Armed Forces. Vindman commented as follows:
‘What the extreme right considers “woke” we of honor consider principled. The madness of the extreme right must come to an end before more people are hurt.’
— Alexander S. Vindman (@AVindman) June 24, 2021
As Milley put it in his original remarks, addressing Republican criticism:
‘It is important that we train and we understand. And I want to understand white rage. And I’m white. And I want to understand it. So what is it that caused thousands of people to assault this building and try to overturn the Constitution of the United States of America? What caused that? I want to find that out. I want to maintain an open mind here, and I do want to analyze it. It’s important that we understand that.’
Republicans have cast their opposition to even a basic accounting of problems associated with extremism in the United States as some kind of ploy for unity. For instance, when impeachment proceedings against then-President Donald Trump on a charge of incitement of insurrection got rolling after the Capitol riot, Republicans trotted out the argument that impeachment wasn’t unifying enough. GOP cowardice — no matter how self-important — doesn’t erase the reality, though.