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Trump’s pledge to deploy army over protests ‘worries’ Pentagon

Published: (Updated: ) in Australian News by .

US Defence officials have told CNN there was deep and growing discomfort among some in the Pentagon even before President Donald Trump announced he is ready to deploy the military to enforce order inside the country.

US Defence officials have told CNN there was deep and growing discomfort among some in the Pentagon even before President Donald Trump announced he is ready to deploy the military to enforce order inside the country.

As tear gas wafted through the air in Lafayette Park across from the White House, Mr Trump announced from the Rose Garden that if state or city leaders refused "to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residents," he will invoke the Insurrection Act, an 1807 law that allows a president to deploy the US military to suppress civil disorder.

But some Pentagon officials are deeply wary, several defence officials told CNN. They have tried to respond by making a strong case that the situation does not yet call for deploying active duty troops unless state governors make a clear argument such forces are needed.

President Donald Trump speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House

"There is an intense desire for local law enforcement to be in charge," a defence official said, alluding to the laws that forbid the military from performing law enforcement roles inside the United States.

There is also discomfort with the civil order mission among some National Guard troops - more of whom are now mobilised inside the US than at any previous time in history.

A military response to riots

"I believe that we in America should not get used to or accept uniformed service members of any variety having to be put in a position where they are having to secure people inside the United States of America," US Army Major General Thomas Carden, the Adjutant General of the Georgia National Guard, told reporters.

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He added that although "while we are glad to do it and honoured to do it, this is a sign of the times that we need to do better as a country."

Mr Trump is threatening to use the Insurrection Act as US cities across the country struggle to deal with protests and, at times, looting and rioting that began last week after the killing of George Floyd, a black man who was being taken into custody by police in Minneapolis.

Mr Trump, who faces a climbing death toll from the coronavirus pandemic and uncertain re-election prospects in November, is now emphasising law, order and a military response against American citizens.

READ MORE: Justine Ruszczyk's family speak out over George Floyd's death

Today, Mr Trump intensified his rhetoric about using military forces to "dominate" protesters and wished aloud there was an "occupying force" in cities across America during a call with governors where he urged a tougher response to protests.

Later, the National Guard fired tear gas and rubber bullets at a peaceful crowd outside the White House.

Washington, DC

A group comprised of service members who hold civilian jobs and train part-time, the National Guard are usually deployed in their home states by governors or the federal government who decide the length of each mission.

They can perform law enforcement actions when under the command of state governors, unlike the active military, which is forbidden by law from doing so unless the President invokes the Insurrection Act.

'The bottom of my list'

Maj Gen Carden described the mission of reinforcing local authority by saying that, "of all the things I've been asked in do in the last 34-plus years in uniform, this is on the bottom of my list".

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Speaking of his experience in Georgia, he acknowledged that the circumstances "called for it," and said that he believes the National Guard presence "had a significant deter and calming effect".

Defence Secretary Mark Esper, taking part in the call Mr Trump held with governors Monday, said there are now more than 17,000 National Guard in 29 states and the District of Columbia, surpassing the 51,000 called up for Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Another 45,000 are supporting efforts to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Another defence official described an "escalation ladder" of steps that could be taken to scale up federal, state and local enforcement, but emphasised that any use of active duty forces would be very much at the end of those options.

READ MORE: 'Bright, bubbly' young woman shot dead at US protest

But the Trump administration has already put an active duty military police battalion on a shorter response time in and around Washington on Monday, three US defence officials told CNN.

The troops, consisting of some 200 to 250 military personnel from Fort Bragg in North Carolina, are expected to provide security, but not perform law enforcement duties such as the arrest and detention of protesters, according to the defence officials.

An additional 600 to 800 National Guard members from five states have also been requested to supplement the DC National Guard responding to civil unrest and could arrive as early as Monday night, according to defence officials.

'Total domination'

Mr Trump signalled the violent political theatre that played out in Washington recently in the call with governors earlier in the day, in which he promised a demonstration of "total domination."

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"We're going to clamp down very, very strong," Mr Trump said.

"The word is 'dominate.' If you don't dominate your city and your state, they're gonna walk away with you. And we're doing it in Washington, in DC, we're going to do something that people haven't seen before ... But we're going to have total domination."

Demonstrators, who had gathered to protest the death of George Floyd, run from tear gas used by police to clear the street near the White House in Washington

In the Rose Garden, as loud bangs were heard and demonstrators ran screaming, Mr Trump said he was taking "swift and decisive action" to protect Washington by dispatching "thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel, and law enforcement officers to stop the rioting, looting, vandalism, assaults, and the wanton destruction of property."

He also said that he had "strongly recommended to every governor to deploy the National Guard in sufficient numbers that we dominate the streets."

If cities or states fail to act, Mr Trump said, "then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them".

Source: 9News https://www.9news.com.au/world/george-floyd-protests-president-donald-trump-pledge-to-deploy-us-military-worries-pentagon/15778a89-eb9c-4e9e-9033-260e26b48e1a

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