General Milley promising to tip off China in advance if America planned to attack: OPSEC violation?

Perhaps, but for those with the need to know who find the order manifestly unjust the war crimes statute gives them cover to refuse.


You may want to check up more on how the U.S. military works, the Joint Chiefs have a limited role in operations like the Afghan withdrawal, they are not even in the military chain of command, do not issue orders to the combatant commands, do not plan the operations of the combatant commands etc.

We have fired military officers for fuck ups, the person who would normally be fired in this scenario would likely be General Kenneth McKenzie as an example. As a matter of policy firing random members of the Joint Chiefs for operational decisions they were not involved in would rank as a “stupid, bad” policy idea.

You’re speaking inaccurately here. We had a thread about strategic bombings awhile back that covered this–actually a thread dealing with the Israel/Gaza conflict but the legality of strategic bombing was discussed [ Israel vs Gaza 2021… wtf? - Politics & Elections - Straight Dope Message Board], but the two atomic bombings would fall under the same aegis. Bombardment and the laws of war, during WWII, were operating under the Hague Conventions of 1907 concerning the bombardment of occupied towns by Land and by Sea. Specifically: Laws of War: Laws and Customs of War on Land (Hague IV); 18 October 1907 and Laws of War: Bombardment by Naval Forces in Time of War (Hague IX); 18 October 1907. While it has been an opinion by some internationalists that these laws forbid things like strategic bombing, that has never been sustained by any legal action, nor does it meet the plain reading of those actual treaties.

The reality is aerial bombardment was ill-covered by existing laws of war. While deliberate targeting of civilians by any means was well covered by existing laws of war, under those same laws incidental killing of even extremely large numbers of civilians, could still be perfectly legal if you could ascertain a valid military target. Both Japanese cities contained valid military targets. Additionally, Geneva Protocal I, which was signed in 1977 (but not by the United States), attempted to fill some of the gaps on aerial bombardment. That protocol actually specified that if a belligerent intermeshes their civilian and military infrastructure, then the military infrastructure can still be targeted by other belligerents. The ensuing and guaranteed civilian deaths then actually get ascribed to the defending belligerent for blame, because it was a violation of the laws of war to commingle their civilian and military infrastructure.

Japan did this as a matter of routine in response to strategic bombing. It broke lots of factories up into small shops that would operate in small wood frame buildings all throughout Japanese cities. This was cited as a specific justification for firebombing of Japanese cities.

This is a common thing said, quite stupidly, by people who do not know what war crimes are, and who confuse them for “things that make me cry.”

Now as for Milley–he didn’t leak classified information, technically did not violate the chain of command, he likely has a formal liaison job with this Chinese general, meaning it is appropriate and acceptable for him to speak with that general on policy matters. He’s covered so far. But some of the specific things he says, if reported correctly, likely qualify as him “going into business for himself” in terms of foreign policy. It doesn’t quite break the concept of civilian control of the military, but it violates the spirit and intent of positions on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which is to serve in high level advisory capacity to the President and other special policy assignments as necessary. It would be akin to a Deputy Secretary of State meeting a high-ranking diplomat of a foreign country, and going specifically against the policy dictates of the current administration. Not a crime, but not proper. Certainly, justifies a sacking. But it’s also a matter of diplomatic policy, so it would be up to the President to exercise his discretion on the matter. It appears thus far Biden has decided it isn’t a firing offense.

I read a goodly amount of military history, and that tells me it would be foolish to have such faith, regarding suicidal, or near-suicidal, orders at any level of military leadership.

Most likely, Milley was doing what recently terminated (Trump’s word) Secretary of Defense Mark Esper wanted him to do. This conceivably gives Milley a little cover, although there was no confirmed sec def at the time.

Biden would now be in his rights to relieve Milley. And he can rightly decide to keep him.

Since near-suicidal orders are indeed sometimes carried out, no single person should have nuclear launch authority.

I cited a case which explicitly held that the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki violated the Hague Conventions; although, I would not argue that particular case could be construed so broadly as to declare all strategic bombing in violation of the Hague Conventions.


No, I’m not “confused”, and your just-barely-not-a-personal-insult characterization of what I “quite stupidly” wrote ad hominem aside, the United States has engaged in wide scale bombing campaigns in undeclared wars; financial and war materiel support for repressive dictatorships and insurgencies that openly committed rape, kidnapping, torture, and mass murder; assassination (attempted and successful) of foreign heads of state, and of course the more recent complete fabrication of evidence of a non-existent nuclear weapons program and fictitious support for Al-Qaeda to justify the almost unilateral invasion of Iraq and crimes stemming from the practice of “extraordinary rendition” and treatment of “enemy combatants” detained at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere. These are all actual war crimes under 18 U.S. Code § 2441, various Hague and Geneva Conventions to which the United States is a signatory, as well as the general dereliction of responsibility in informing elected representatives and the citizenry what the government is doing on their behalf, not out of genuine concerns over security but because it has often acted in ways that it that are entirely contrary to the stated principles of “democracy” and “liberty”.


For one, that particular law was enacted by President Clinton and so doesn’t apply to anything before 1996. I don’t believe it has ever actually been used to criminally prosecute an American, although it had significant effects on the Bush administration’s approach to Guantanimo Bay.


Was this a serious post or is this a joke? I assume it must be a joke, because the case you cited was Ryuichi Shimoda, et al v. The State, a case filed in the District Court of Tokyo alleging that the U.S. atomic bombings were illegal under the laws of war, and that by waiving any rights to reparations under international law the Japanese government owed them damages. This case was dismissed under Japanese law. Further its holdings would have had no bearing on international law, hence my questioning as to whether your post is a joke or an actual post intended to have been taken seriously. If it was a joke it wasn’t very funny. If it was a serious post it shows a grave and manifestly bad education in matters of international law.

This is a nice laundry list of allegations never litigated and thus lacking in any real evidence as to their illegality under international law. There is also factual evidence that calls into serious question that you’d be able to prove we “fabricated evidence non-existent nuclear weapons programs” to any sort of judicial standard. I understand you are still really upset that George Bush was elected (twice) and there was nothing you could do about it then, and there’s no argument you can put forward clearly demonstrating illegality now, either. What you can do is bitterly complain about policies you disagreed with, but since international law is formed by treaties and agreements, and significant portions of your allegations are not actual violations of things we have signed, you’re out of luck. “Wide scale bombing campaigns” have never been illegal, even under Geneva I (which we aren’t signatory to), and while some bombing campaigns could be illegal in some circumstances under Geneva I, even if you could demonstrate such, we never signed Geneva I, so there is that. Treaties we have not signed do not bind us and are not part of international laws to which we are subject.

“Supporting dictatorships” that do bad things is also not a violation of international law, or literally every country on earth would be in perpetual violation of said laws. Please show me even a hint of a treaty suggesting that economic dealings, financial aid etc for “dictatorships that do bad things” raises specific criminal claims under any international treaty that could be brought in any court. Actually don’t bother–I know you can’t do that because you can’t produce things that do not exist.

As I said–war crimes aren’t just things @Stranger_On_A_Train on a train “strongly dislikes.” International law is a real actual thing, not just nonsense that you spew out based on your political opinions.

Note I am not saying the United States has never committed any war crimes. In fact we have actually prosecuted war criminals and obtained convictions, so we know at least some have occurred. What I was saying is liberal crying about “big bad America” and our overseas dealings have been stupidly called “war crimes” for years. Anything a Republican does that you don’t like is a either “unconstitutional” if it involves domestic law or a “war crime” if it involves foreign policy. It is no surprise at all that Trump was all but immune to criticism within the GOP for his actual unconstitutional acts–you people have been hyperbolic and saying every Republican for 70 years is a war criminal or a dictator so unsurprisingly when you get the real thing, people don’t notice that this time you cried wolf there is actually a wolf. That’s the problem with crying wolf.

Degree matters.

(My bolding.)



(And just as wrong as Nixon’s own formulation, of course.)

Excellent and relevant reminders.

What is most aggravating here is the cynical pretense by several Republicans that they, supposedly, believe Milley was saying to the Chinese official ’I’ll let you know ahead of time that we’re launching missiles so that you can get your missiles in the air first.'

Which of course would be treasonous in any state of war. But the Republicans saying that this is what they believe Milley did do not actually believe this is what Milley did. They are spouting this ugly accusation for what they hope will be political advantage.

What we all know is that what Milley was actually saying to his Chinese counterpart was 'you know and I know and the whole world knows that Donald Trump is dangerously irresponsible and might commit any act of world-wide destruction if he thought it would be to his advantage. BUT I am assuring you now that there ARE responsible people here, and unless there is so tense a state of affairs between us that I would naturally be talking to you, there will NOT be an out-of -the-blue strike against China.'

Clearly Milley wasn’t saying “I promise to give you the chance to get your missiles up first,”------------------- he was saying “I would be talking to you if there were actually any chance of things being so genuinely bad between us that we might plausibly be using nukes.”

There are real questions to be worked out concerning all these matters. Republicans trying to gum up the works with their nasty fantasies need to go soak their heads in iodine.

Well, you’re clearly doing your best seining for outrage with the straw-manning on top of inflammatory and insulting language but it doesn’t change the fact that undeclared saturation bombing campaigns that make no effort to avoid civilian causal ties (Laos, Cambodia); the use of chemical agents to create ‘scorched earth’ with willful indifference to health hazards to civilians (the use of Agent Orange as a defoliant in Vietnam); abducting, torturing, and holding indefinitely without legal counsel (Gitmo and the various deniable “black site” prisons in Eastern Europe), assassinating foreign heads of state outside of declared state of war (Patrice Lumumba, Fidel Castro, Muammar Gaddafi) are all war crimes, as arguably are drone strikes in sovereign nations with which the US has not given any declaration of hostilities. That a lot of the people so targeted are genuinely bad actors who would best serve this world by leaving it doesn’t alter the fact that the United States has routinely acted in ways contrary to international law when it suits, and has protected people accused of war crimes such as Henry Kissinger from prosecution.


I don’t disagree, but frankly as a nation we should be asking more of our leaders. It is one thing to observe that it is difficult to hold the office of President and all of the myriad of obligations and demands it entails, but then that is why we should expect the office holder to be an exceptional person who can balance pragmatism with morality and not be inclined to carnal distractions or grandiose policies that actually undermine the fundamental principles that speechwriters espouse with great eloquence.

Trump, of course, is the antithesis of this. If there was some way to be more venal, scandalous, repellant, and infantile, he would find it. He is a marais-savant.


I’m afraid it’s the right who are the primary abusers of the term “unconstitutional”, by which they (sorry - “you people”) seem to mean “anything I don’t like”. This has even on occasion led to claims that sections of the Constitution were “unconstitutional”.

I agree that the term “war crimes” is thrown around way too loosely, but the fact remains that there have been a lot of wolves, and somewhat more on the Republican side. Not all immoral wars launched on dubious premises meet the definition of war crimes, but wanting accountability for them is understandable even if the language used to call for it is hyperbolic and emotional.

Ironically, the reason Democrats have not gotten as much high profile criticism for their questionable military adventures in recent years is precisely because the right have wolf sirens blaring 24/7. For example, Obama was criticized by the left for his drone strikes but we didn’t hear so much of that because it was buried under “TAN SUIT! BENGHAZI! COFFEE SALUTE! MORE BENGHAZI! UMBRELLAGATE! BENGHAZI: THIS TIME WE’LL GET HIM! etc”. It’s hard to have a serious discussion of actual issues with that noise going on constantly.

It took until nearly the end of Trump’s term to finally find an “adult in the room,” but Gen. Milley appears to fit that description, unlike so many of the other disappointments.

I believe, I could be wrong, but strategic nuclear forces ar a different breed from conventional forces in that the Chairman does have operational authority…

Wow a post from the 70s with someone complaining about Henry Kissinger. As I said–and as you’ve confirmed, you just have a long list of rambling claims that have never been adjudicated or found to actually be violations of any treaties to which the United States is subject; i.e. the corpus of international law. These are simply your political opinions, and restating them or hyperbolizing them doesn’t elevate your political preferences and opinions into legal facts.

Nope, not according to the Washington Post

What is the role of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff? - The Washington Post

(see point 1, bottom of first paragraph).

Basically the commander of US Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) is one of those Combatant Commanders mentioned before, and they are the person in operational command of the nation’s strategic arsenal, be it Air Force or Navy. So that guy gets his orders from the Secretary of Defense, and then issues his own orders to the various commands that actually do the fighting, like Fleet Forces Command or Air Force Global Strike Command, to actually engage the enemy.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff and their Chairman are basically an advisory body that advises the President and top government figures on strategy, etc… and in their own right are the Chiefs of Staff of the various services (they do have various titles for the same job; Commandant, Chief of Naval Operations, etc…)

Think Admirals Leahy and King, and General Marshall in WWII, versus Nimitz, Eisenhower and MacArthur.

It was a serious post. :slightly_frowning_face:


Indeed, and the wonder of it all is the speed with which a supposedly-respectable political party embraced an obvious swamp-creature.

Given that they did, it’s not a surprise that they would move on to cynically attempting to vilify Milley, who clearly was not acting for personal gain, but out of patriotic conviction. (And again, the entire nuclear-launch system and who can lawfully do what in regard to it needs to be more clearly laid out.)

Miley did the right thing. If he did the legal thing is something I’ll leave to others. As an aside, I suggest that this sort of action be called the “Dead Zone Protocol”.

If the strategic decision wasn’t made for a sneak attack on China than I don’t see any problem making sure that there is no misunderstanding. Now, will the Chinese perceive lack of phone calls as a signal in the future? Don’t know.

Wait - the definition of ‘war crime’ you’re using is that which has already been adjudicated and found to be a war crime? What a bizarrely narrow, Bricker-esque definition.