General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, hit back at GOP lawmakers who questioned the military’s interest in studying critical race theory on Wednesday in a tense exchange during ‘a House Armed Services Committee hearing.
Milley’s response followed a question from Representative Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., Who asked senior military officials to clarify the Defense Department’s approach to critical race theory. Gaetz and Rep. Michael Waltz, R-Fla., Expressed concern over discussions regarding critical race theory and “white rage” at the US Military Academy at West Point.
In response, Milley argued that it was important for cadets and military officers “to be open-minded and widely read” on concepts across the ideological spectrum. He also spoke of the need to study the root causes of the January 6 riot on Capitol Hill as part of a broader Defense Ministry effort to counter extremism.
“I have read Mao Zedong, I have read Karl Marx, I have read Lenin. That does not make me a communist,” Milley said. “So what is wrong with understanding, having some understanding of the situation in the country that we are here to defend for? And I find it personally offensive that we are accusing the US military, our general officers , our commission non-commissioned officers being, I quote, “awake” or whatever, because we are studying some theories that exist. “
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Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered a one-day suspension to fight extremism last February, about a month after the Capitol riot. Gaetz claimed that his military sources believed the removal was counterproductive to efforts to promote unity among military service members.
Gaetz addressed his question on critical race theory to Austin. Representative Chrissy Houlahan, D-Pa., Ceded some of her time later in the hearing so Milley could respond.
Austin also responded forcefully to Gaetz’s concerns.
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“I don’t know what the problem is with critical race theory and what the relevance is [is] here with the department. We do not teach critical race theory. We do not accept critical race theory and I think this is a spurious conversation. We focus on extremist behavior and not on ideology, nor on people’s thoughts, nor on political orientation. Behaviors are what we focus on. “
Earlier this month, Waltz sent a letter to West Point demanding that the academy stop teaching critical breed theory, which he called “a source of division.”
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