WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is insisting its top leadership is not refusing to appear before a House committee next week, despite top officials from that committee signaling that last week.
The Pentagon rephrasing comes as new reports suggest that top Army officials were among the ones that gave a general order that resulted in medical helicopters hovering low over demonstrators in Washington, DC, Monday night as a means to disperse the crowd.
On late Friday, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy told reporters in a hastily called press conference that an investigation was underway to determine the cause for using the medical helicopter in the war zone manner. He failed to mention or even suggest that he was one of two Army officials who gave the order that resulted in the helicopter conducting the dangerous maneuver, as the New York Times reported Saturday.
The downward pressure of the blades snapped a small tree, with debris flung at demonstrators, A second helicopter, a Lakota, painted with a red-and-white cross announcing its medical affiliation, hovered over the crowd at rooftop level, blowing debris and sending protesters scattering as part of the “persistent presence order,” the Times reported.
McCarthy canceled a meeting with Pentagon reporters that had been planned for today.
An informal briefing by McCarthy to members of the House Armed Services Committee, scheduled for Friday, was also canceled.
Smarting from the dichotomy of photos showing U.S. troops and the June 6, 1944, D-Day landing that captioned “they were fighting fascists,” to photos with U.S. troops joining unmarked, unidentified security elements to counter U.S. civilians demonstrating, the Pentagon is trying to draw distinctions between its missions on U.S. streets this week.
Because of the visible role of National Guard troops in helping control demonstrations and the threat to use active-duty troops against demonstrators, the chair of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., asked Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Gen. Mark Milley, chair of Joint Chiefs of Staff, to appear before his committee this week.
Both men declined, committee officials said then.
On Saturday, the Pentagon sent out two statements to clarify the positions of Esper and Milley.
“Secretary of Defense Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Milley have not “refused” to testify before the HASC as some are reporting. The DOD legislative affairs team remains in discussion with the HASC on this request. In the meantime, DOD has committed to provide Army Secretary McCarthy, Army Chief of Staff Gen. McConville, and DC National Guard Commanding General Maj. Gen. Walker to brief the committee next week on the presence of the National Guard in Washington, D.C. this past week,” the final statement, attributed to Jonathan Hoffman, Pentagon spokesperson, read.