As a US naval officer, I took an oath to serve all Americans and support and defend the US Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. An oath to the rule of law and country, not to an individual or political party. That oath doesn’t expire. For more than twenty-five years, on multiple occasions, I went into harm’s way and into hostile territory to pursue those who were deemed a threat to our nation, our freedom, our democracy.
During my time as a US naval officer and aviator I operated in and around failed states in the Middle East, the Balkans, and Latin America. But, I never imagined seeing the US Capitol desecrated and under siege and a US President and fellow Americans as the greatest threat to our nation and its democracy. As the Joint session of the US Congress convened to certify the Electoral Votes of the 2020 election, President Trump hosted what was billed as the “Save America Rally” on the White House Ellipse, an hour-long rant of his repeated conspiracy theories laced with insults against Democrats and Republicans who had the courage to say "no" to his desire to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
In stating the election was stolen and that he will never concede, the President’s words “we’re going to try and give our Republicans, the weak ones, because the strong ones don’t need any of our help, we’re going to try and give them the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country” fueled the violence and destruction at the US Capitol that followed.
I am in disbelief as I view the disturbing scenes flashing before me of the US Capitol under siege, our democracy under assault. January 6th, 2021 will be remembered as one of the darkest days in US history, a day that zealots, led by US President Donald Trump, who refused to accept defeat in the 2020 US Presidential election, stormed and breached the US Capitol, the US citadel of democracy. As a great friend and mentor stated best, “this is like watching foreign television right now – some foreign, unstable government struggling with democracy.” President Donald Trump owns this shameful act of lawlessness.
The President and his unruly mob have forfeited America’s moral authority in championing the cause of democracy around the world. A London Business School classmate from Nigeria sent me a note asking “Where do we go from here? This has just set us (Africa) back 100 years. The US will be the new reference and excuse for our already bad leadership situation.” Are the images the world saw today the way we "make America great again?"
The voters, the courts, and the states have all spoken, the votes have been counted and re-counted, the courts have rejected the claims, including judges appointed by the President himself, but US President Donald Trump and his zealous followers want the US Congress to take a step that has never been taken in American history. He wants the US Vice President and the US Congress to overrule the voters and overturn the 2020 US presidential election against the will of the people. A shameful rejection of the rule of law, a callous disrespect for the oath he took, and a blatant act of disrespect for our nation.
During the next twenty-four hours, the US Government needs to demonstrate its commitment to preserving our democracy and its institutions. Our leaders must show their ability to honor their oaths of service, stand against a subversive influence at the highest level, and follow the rule of law. The US Capitol needs to be cleared as peacefully as possible, the Joint Session of Congress needs to reconvene and complete the counting of the Electoral Votes, and Impeachment proceedings, were it not impractical should be initiated in the House of Representatives immediately following the count.
Americans should be united, no matter which side of the aisle they lean towards, in condemning the unacceptable siege and desecration of the US Capitol. If President Donald Trump is truly the “law and order President” he claims to be, he needs to better demonstrate his respect for the US Constitution and try to put “America First” during his final days in office.
Commander Demetries Grimes is a former US naval officer and aviator. He has served as Naval Attaché to Greece and Israel, Deputy Commander of the US base in Crete, and Advisor to NATO’s Maritime Commander in London.