The real reason why Donald Trump wants Gen. Milley to be killed

Donald Trump’s fascist death threats against Gen. Milley: The rot goes much deeper

By Chauncey DeVega

Senior Writer

Published September 27, 2023 5:45AM (EDT)

Former President Donald Trump | Gen. Mark Milley (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Former President Donald Trump | Gen. Mark Milley (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

Donald Trump is continuing to threaten the lives of his "enemies" and all others who oppose him. Trump has been doing this publicly and without contrition, pause or any apparent fear of repercussions or negative consequences. His behavior is a function of his depraved character, damaged personality, and diseased mind.

Despite how too many among the news media and political class, even after seven years of experience to the contrary, would like to believe, Trump is not going to pivot. Moreover, there are no "responsible" senior members of today's Republican Party who are going to place country over party to finally stop Trump and his neofascist MAGA movement.

Trump's threats of violence and acts of intimidation are so great that the Department of Justice is seeking a gag order in an attempt to protect the safety of the jurors, witnesses, and members of law enforcement who will be involved in the ex-president's upcoming criminal trials, as Salon's Areeba Shah reports:

Threats against law enforcement, judges and elected officials are on the rise as Donald Trump's prosecutions gain momentum, The New York Times reported on Monday.

FBI agents have raised alarms about harassment and threats targeting their families. These concerns have amplified amid complaints by Trump supporters and many Republicans that the Justice Department has been "weaponized" — a narrative the former president has extensively promoted on social media. 

"Trump's pattern of lashing out at anyone who opposes him has been dangerously emulated by his supporters," V. James DeSimone, a California civil rights attorney, told Salon. "Now that he is facing four indictments, his most dangerous supporters view law enforcement and our judicial system as the enemy. So the risk is there for increased violence."

The FBI has witnessed a substantial surge in threats against its personnel and facilities following the August 2022 search of Mar-a-Lago Trump's Florida residence and private club, according to the Times. This led the agency to establish a dedicated unit to address these threats. 

One federal official told the Times that threats have increased by more than 300 percent since then, partly because FBI agents' identities and personal information has been spread on social media by Trump supporters. 

Who is the target of Trump's latest threats of murderous violence? Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Mark Milley.

Here is what Trump said in a Friday post on his Truth Social disinformation propaganda website:

Mark Milley, who led perhaps the most embarrassing moment in American history with his grossly incompetent implementation of the withdrawal from Afghanistan, costing many lives, leaving behind hundreds of American citizens, and handing over BILLIONS of dollars of the finest military equipment ever made, will be leaving the military next week.

This will be a time for all citizens of the USA to celebrate!" he continued. "This guy turned out to be a Woke train wreck who, if the Fake News reporting is correct, was actually dealing with China to give them a heads up on the thinking of the President of the United States. This is an act so egregious that, in times gone by, the punishment would have been DEATH!

Of course, Trump is lying about these events. So what is the real reason why Donald Trump wants Gen. Milley to be killed?

Trump is enraged that Gen. Milley attempted to stop his coup and other attacks on democracy and civil society. Milley, as a responsible military officer, places loyalty to the Constitution and democracy and the American people over personal loyalty to the person who happens to occupy the White House. This was antithetical to Trump's attempts, and now future plans, to be America's first dictator.

The most immediate reason why Donald Trump is now threatening Gen. Milley's life is in response to a recent Atlantic profile by Jeffrey Goldberg, which confirms, again, that the ex-president is an enemy of democracy and a neofascist, who possesses deep contempt for America's soldiers.

Others have speculated that Gen. Milley may be a witness against the ex-president in the upcoming classified documents trial, which may also explain the disgraced president's murderous rage towards him.

What is the real reason why Donald Trump wants Gen. Milley to be killed?

Army Captain Luis Avila was grievously wounded during his five combat tours in Afghanistan. Gen. Milley invited Captain Avila to sing at an Armed Forces Welcome Ceremony that took place in September 2019. Trump reportedly told Gen. Milley, "Why do you bring people like that here? No one wants to see that, the wounded." Trump reportedly also told Gen. Milley to never let Captain Avila make an official public appearance again. As summarized by Goldberg in his Atlantic profile, "Trump's attitude toward the uniformed services seemed superficial, callous, and, at the deepest human level, repugnant."

Trump's disdain towards Captain Avila, is also representative of a larger pattern of hostility towards disabled people by the ex-president, as Eric Garcia explains at MSNBC:

But there's enough evidence of Trump deriding military heroes and deriding people who are disabled to believe he has little regard for people who are disabled military heroes. For example, in what counts as one of the most deplorable displays by a candidate for U.S. president, in 2015 Trump mocked Pulitzer-Prize winning New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski, who has arthrogryposis, a congenital joint condition that limits movement in his arms.

During that same presidential campaign, Trump said the late Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who became disabled while a prisoner of war in Vietnam, was "not a war hero" because "he was captured." And The Wall Street Journal reported in 2019, before Trump's visit Japan that year, that a U.S. Indo-Pacific Command official sent U.S. Navy and Air Force officials an email including the directive that while Trump was there, the "USS John McCain needs to be out of sight."

 Trump denied having made a request that the ship be kept out of sight but described whoever made the request as "well meaning" "because they thought I didn't like" McCain.

In one of the most deplorable displays by a candidate for president, Trump mocked reporter Serge Kovaleski, who has arthrogryposis, a congenital joint condition that limits movement in his arms.

Like other white supremacists, eugenicists, and racial authoritarians, Trump is very proud of his "good genes", believes that human beings can be bred like horses, and is contemptuous towards for those he views as being somehow inferior to his "superior" racial stock.

In a post on Twitter/X, political analyst and author David Rothkopf, correctly described Trump's recent death threats against Gen. Milley in the following way:

Trump this weekend indicated military leaders who opposed his policies should be put to death and media that presented views he did not like are traitors and will be prosecuted. He is a monster, an aspiring dictator, the greatest threat America faces.

At the Atlantic, political scientist Brian Klaas, who is an expert on authoritarianism, sounded this alarm about Trump's most recent death threats and how they have been responded to by the news media and public:

Trump's rhetoric is dangerous, not just because it is the exact sort that incites violence against public officials but also because it shows just how numb the country has grown toward threats more typical of broken, authoritarian regimes. The United States is not just careening toward a significant risk of political violence around the 2024 presidential election. It's also mostly oblivious to where it's headed…

Bombarded by a constant stream of deranged authoritarian extremism from a man who might soon return to the presidency, we've lost all sense of scale and perspective. But neither the American press nor the public can afford to be lulled. The man who, as president, incited a violent attack on the U.S. Capitol in order to overturn an election is again openly fomenting political violence while explicitly endorsing authoritarian strategies should he return to power. That is the story of the 2024 election. Everything else is just window dressing.

Trump's death threats against Gen. Milley are being echoed by other Republicans in Congress. 

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Focusing on the specific dangers embodied by Donald Trump in his role as leader of the neofascist MAGA movement, ex-president, coup plotter, and Republican frontrunner in the 2024 Election (who is now leading President Biden in at least one national poll) is critical if America's democracy is to survive. Trump must be defeated both at the polls and in court. However, Trump's pattern of threats and violence against his "enemies" is a problem that is much larger than any one person or leader or party. 

The United States is the richest country on the planet, but experts estimate that hundreds of thousands of people die here each year from poverty. These are largely preventable deaths and a type of choice by the country's elites and policy makers. More than 1 million Americans have died from the coronavirus. President Trump and his regime and other Republican Party leaders engaged in an act of democide through their willful negligence and decisions to make "the economy" more important than saving lives during the pandemic.

Trump's pattern of threats and violence against his "enemies" is a problem that is much larger than any one person or leader or party.

The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world.  

The United States is structured by racism, white supremacy, sexism, classism, and other forms of social inequality. As social scientists and other experts have repeatedly demonstrated, social inequality is a type of structural and institutional violence.

The United States – especially Republicans and the "conservative" movement – refuse to enact the necessary policies to slow down global climate disaster. To that point, in a much-discussed 2017 interview on Democracy Now!, Noam Chomsky powerfully explained how today's Republican Party and "conservative" movement are antihuman and an enemy of human civilization:

[H]as there ever been an organization in human history that is dedicated, with such commitment, to the destruction of organized human life on Earth? Not that I'm aware of. Is the Republican organization—I hesitate to call it a party—committed to that? Overwhelmingly. There isn't even any question about it.

In an excellent new essay at Truthout, social theorist and cultural critic Henry Giroux locates Trump's threats of violence and destruction within America's larger culture of cruelty, violence, and neofascism.

Giroux's essay merits being quoted at length:

The lies embraced by demagogues such as Trump do more than distort meaning, turn truth to ashes and spread misinformation. As Ariel Dorfman observes, they also "exhibit a toxic mix of ignorance and mendacity," while legitimizing and reproducing a vocabulary and culture that revels in unrestricted power, cruelty, terror and "homicidal extremes." This is a language through which power is enacted; a language in which agency is made manifest "as an act with [often deadly] consequences." This is a rhetoric that emerges from living corpses whose mouths are filled with blood.

Trump's lies cannot be separated from the language of violence and its ongoing attempts to instill fear, promote threats against alleged opponents and inspire violence from his MAGA followers. His lies are inseparable from the creation of a language that promotes a lethal formative culture that wallows in the blood of those viewed as disposable, and that produces deranged anger and unchecked despair. Trump's use of an inflammatory violent rhetoric to obtain political power feeds the GOP call for civil war and accelerates the arming of political extremists such as the Proud Boys, the Patriot movement and a heavily militarized police force.

Giroux continues:

Trump's embrace of lies and violence have produced an unrelenting series of shocks to the body politic and its democratic ideals. Violence that was once considered inconceivable and relegated to the margins of society now passes for normal. As Trump's violent rhetoric accelerates, actual acts of violence "have become a steady reality of American life, affecting school board officials, election workers, flight attendants, librarians and even members of Congress, often with few headlines and little reaction from politicians."..

In Trump's worldview, the opposition is not to be debated, it is to be destroyed, eliminated. This friend/enemy distinction reinforces the notion that a pledge of loyalty to Trump is comparable to becoming part of a militarized army engaged in war. In this discourse, violence is equated with power, and brutality becomes a measure of loyalty. Reason is now replaced with loyalty, and loyalty becomes the medium to "deploy sadism by bullying and humiliating others."

National security experts have concluded that there are more than ten million Trump MAGA people and other members of the Republican fascist party and right-wing who support using violence to remove President Biden and the Democrats from power. Of those many millions, there are perhaps only a "few" hundred thousand who are willing to actually engage in direct acts of violence.

For those Trumpists and other neofascists who are unwilling (or unable) to take up arms or otherwise participate in direct acts of political violence, Trump and his MAGA movement represents a type of idea and permission function.

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Trumpism is a way for them to engage in the fantasy and ideation of violence as a way of getting power and "getting even" with their "enemies", those Black and brown people, gays and lesbians, transgendered people, "liberals", "the left", "political correctness", "Black Lives Matter", "Woke", "Critical Race Theory", "illegal immigrants", criminals, "intellectuals", "socialists", "feminists", "Muslims", or whoever in their minds has somehow "oppressed" "real Americans" like them by not staying in their place as a second class citizens who are to be subservient and obedient to White "Christian" Americans. 

Ideation and fantasy and wish fulfillment of committing acts of violence against "the enemy" are well-documented steps in a process through which political violence up to and including genocide and eliminationism is normalized.

In an email to me, Giroux warned about where Trump and the "conservative" movement's embrace of fascism and other forms of violence will almost inevitably lead the country.

Violence has a long legacy in the United States, but Trump has used the threat of violence with hurricane force against his proposed enemies, going so far recently to issue a death threat against a high-profile figure such as Gen. Mark Milley, the Chairman of the Joint chiefs of Staff. There is nothing shocking about this threat because Trump has accelerated both his lies and threats of violence for years. What is disturbing, if not dangerous, is how the mainstream press refuses to analyze such threats and Trump's addiction to violence as a central element of fascist and authoritarian politics. We know from the study of history that such threats led to executions, torture, imprisonment, and death camps—think of Pinochet, Pol Pot, Nazi Germany, Stalin's trials, Mussolini's fascist regime, among others. Yet the mainstream media simply reports the violence issued by Trump and his lackeys as mere description, uncivilized rhetoric, and undignified.  Silence on this issue is a form of complicity, and the mainstream press is further legitimating such violence through their tone-deaf reporting. There is more at stake here than a lack of journalistic responsibility, there is a refusal to imagine what the end of democracy, if not humanity might look like if this culture of lies and violence continues unabated and unaccountable.

The potential and reality of right-wing political violence in America as part of a plan to end multiracial pluralistic democracy is not some type of unknown unknown or mystery. The immediate question is, what to do about it?

As I and others have repeatedly implored, Democrats, liberals, progressives, Black and brown people, women, the LGBTQI community, and all others who believe in real democracy must vote and organize and resist like their lives and freedom literally depend upon it – because it does.

By Chauncey DeVega

Chauncey DeVega is a senior politics writer for Salon. His essays can also be found at He also hosts a weekly podcast, The Chauncey DeVega Show. Chauncey can be followed on Twitter and Facebook.

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