US military leaders slam Capitol riot as 'sedition' in rare memo to troops, remind them to follow lawful orders

The memo came after several of the rioters were identified as former and current members of the armed forces

                            US military leaders slam Capitol riot as 'sedition' in rare memo to troops, remind them to follow lawful orders
Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, Capitol Hill riot (Getty Images)

After the domestic political class and international fraternity, the January 6 violence at Capitol Hill has also caught the eyes of America’s top military officers who on Tuesday, January 12, condemned the “sedition and insurrection” in which many former and active members of the armed forces took part. 

Thousands of supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the seat of the US Congress last week to protest the results of the 2020 presidential election that Democrat Joe Biden won. The Congress sat on the same day to count the Electoral College votes that affirmed Biden as the president-elect. The mob breached security cover and the lawmakers present in the building came very close to being exposed to the intruders. The incident was harshly condemned by all quarters and Trump faced severe backlash, including from his own party, for allegedly instigating his supporters. He was banned by major social media platforms, including Twitter and Facebook. 

Protesters gather inside the US Capitol Building on January 6, 2021, in Washington, DC (Getty Images)

Coming back to the military leaders’ condemnation of the riot, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley penned in a memo sent to the force: “We witnessed actions inside the Capitol building that were inconsistent with the rule of law. The rights of freedom of speech and assembly do not give anyone the right to resort to violence, sedition and insurrection.”


The one-page memo was also signed by Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley, Vice Chairman General John Hyten and the chiefs of the army, navy, Marines Corps, air force, space force and National Guard. It also recalled the death of two police officers in connection to the violence. While Brian Sicknick died of injuries he sustained during the clashes, Howard Liebengood was confirmed to have committed suicide days after the ugly event.

The memo, which also said that Biden will be inaugurated as the 46th president of the US on January 20, came almost a week after the violence which forced the lawmakers, staff members and journalists to run for cover. More than 50 policemen were injured in the clashes. 

Military spoke out after ex-armed forces members were found among rioters

The military generally avoids commenting on anything that might make it look like the armed forces’ politicization, but it could not ignore the violence in Washington DC marking the lowest point in the world’s premier democracy. It also became necessary for the military to come up with a statement since the identification of a number of former members of the armed forces among the rioters raised questions over the extent of radicalism present in the forces.

Ashli Babbitt, the woman who was fatally shot by the cops while trying to breach the entry to the Speaker’s Lobby was found to be an air force veteran while a retired air force lieutenant colonel was arrested last weekend after being photographed on the Senate floor, sporting a tactical gear and carrying plastic zip ties used by the law-enforcement agents as handcuffs. Another person was identified as a navy veteran. It has also been reported that an active-duty service member — an army psychological operations officer — was being probed by the military for her involvement in the rally that took place before the riot, even though she claimed that she did not enter the Capitol during the riot.

It's still not clear how many current and retired veterans took part in the riot and the extent of the involvement of military members is being probed.

In the memo, the Joint Chiefs reminded the service members that they are committed to the oath to uphold the Constitution. “As service members, we must embody the values and ideals of the nation. We support and defend the Constitution. Any act to disrupt the Constitutional process is not only against our traditions, values and oath; it is against the law,” they wrote. 

“To our men and women deployed and at home, safeguard our country — stay ready, keep your eyes on the horizon, and remain focused on the mission. We honor your continued service in defense of every American,” the memo read in its conclusion.

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