Admiral Mike Mullen is the former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, the highest-ranking and most senior military officer in the United States Armed Forces and principal military adviser to the President, and he’s making it clear that President Donald Trump’s threats to use the U.S. military against protesters in American cities is completely unacceptable.

In an op-ed he wrote for The Atlantic, Mullen notes that Trump’s order to use tear gas and flash-bang grenades against protesters in Washington, D.C. on Monday just so the president could have a photo-op at a local church was wrong:

“It sickened me yesterday to see security personnel – including members of the National Guard – forcibly and violently clear a path through Lafayette Square to accommodate the president’s visit outside St. John’s Church.”

Mullen, who served as chairman under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, also called Trump’s photo-op at the church little more than a “stunt” which accomplished nothing:

“Whatever Trump’s goal in conducting his visit, he laid bare his disdain for the rights of peaceful protest in this country, gave succor to the leaders of other countries who take comfort in our domestic strife and risked further politicizing the men and women of our armed forces.”

The retired four-star Navy admiral also said he’s confident the troops will only obey lawful orders from any commander:

“But I am less confident in the soundness of the orders they will be given by this commander in chief. And I am not convinced that the conditions on our streets, as bad as they are, have risen to the level that justifies a heavy reliance on military troops.”

But perhaps the most powerful lines in Mullen’s op-ed appear near the end of his eloquent essay:

“We must ensure that African Americans—indeed, all Americans—are given the same rights under the Constitution, the same justice under the law, and the same consideration we give to members of our own family. Our fellow citizens are not the enemy, and must never become so.

“This is not the time for stunts. This is the time for leadership.”

While it would be nice to think that the president would heed Admiral Mullen’s words, it seems almost impossible to hope for the best from Donald Trump.

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