Hollow oaths

Hollow oaths

A day after US President Donald Trump visited the Texas border wall with Mexico as a distraction from events in Washington, DC, the FBI had rounded up more than 200 rioters, with more being captured every hour. As new information emerges, the gravity of the clear and present danger President Trump poses while he remains in office becomes more evident. The president quietly called on “all Americans” through his only remaining “official US government” social media sites to help “ease tensions and calm tempers.” He added he does “not” stand for violence “of any kind” and asked Big Tech, which has blocked him from their sites in fear of him using the social media platforms to incite further violence, to join in the effort.

On Wednesday, January 13, the US Congress convened at the scene of the crime where on January 6 rioters in support of President Trump attempted to prevent the certification of the electoral votes and peaceful transition of power. Just meters away from where a US Capitol police officer, who has not even been buried yet, and a rioter were killed during the assault on the US Capitol, Americans and the world are witness to surreal scenes once again. More heavily armed US troops than currently deployed in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq combined fill the scenes of every frame and members of Congress are being subjected to airport-style security screenings in response to security concerns.

With President Trump unusually quiet, refusing to accept accountability, having no senior Republican leadership willing to serve as champion of his defense, and no Twitter to respond to the proceedings in real time, 10 of 197 Republicans broke ranks – more than ever in US history – and joined ranks with 222 Democratic congressmen to Impeach President Donald J. Trump. The president was charged with “incitement of insurrection,” citing for the record, “Donald John Trump engaged in high crimes and misdemeanors by inciting violence against the government of the United States…,” making him the first US president in American history to be impeached twice. Although under pressure to begin the trial at the soonest, the Republican-controlled Senate is scheduled to begin their trial on January 19.

The debate and statements were disappointingly predictable along partisan lines given the scenes of chaos America, the world and our adversaries witnessed at the US Capitol just a week ago. Despite Republican leadership making it clear there was no pressure to vote as a caucus, I was expecting more Republicans, in particular every Republican military veteran, to vote on principle.

It was refreshing, however, to see a senior member of Republican leadership, Congresswoman Liz Cheney (R-WY), daughter of former Republican Vice President Dick Cheney, sum up the purpose of her vote with her statement: “The president of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack. Everything that followed was his doing. None of this would have happened without the president,” she said. “The president could have immediately and forcefully intervened to stop the violence. He did not… There has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution… I will vote to impeach the president.”

As I digest the disturbing and sinister events that occurred at the US Capitol on January 6 and the reactions to them, my concern grows even deeper. I have friends, family, peers, mentors and others within the Hellenic and Philhellene community and beyond who have taken the dark road, choosing fealty to a man and political party over fidelity to our country, despite all of what transpired in just the past week alone. I am disappointed in them. I am also truly disappointed in our elected leaders who have chosen blindly or out of fear to support a president who demands absolute loyalty and gives none. 

The events surrounding the insurrection at the US Capitol are above politics and are about leadership and accountability. The light is shining on the darkness amongst us and exposing an ugliness for all to see. For those able to remove their partisan filters, it is obvious that we must demand more of both our leaders and our fellow citizens. Restoring civility, decency, integrity and respect in our communities and our government begins with our own words, our own actions, and our own courage to say no to what is unacceptable. 

As a US naval officer and aviator, I took an oath to serve all Americans and support and defend the US Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. That oath doesn’t expire. The fact that the commanders of every branch of the US Armed Forces felt compelled to release a statement to America’s active duty men and women in uniform, who have taken the same oath, to remind them of their obligation to support and defend the US Constitution, reflects the gravity of the perils America is facing.

Without accountability, our oaths are just hollow. If “incitement of insurrection” is not worthy of impeachment, what is?

Commander Demetries Grimes is a former US naval officer, aviator, secretary of defense executive fellow, and diplomat. He has served as naval attaché to Greece and Israel, deputy commander of the US base on Crete, and adviser to NATO’s maritime commander in London.

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