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Back in November, I was horrified enough by an orgy of violence at a Pro-Trump march to write a column exposing it, but never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined the horrific scenes that unfolded on television Wednesday January 6th. Millions of Americans watched in disbelief as tens of thousands of Neo Nazis, White Supremacists and other members of the extreme Right invaded the Capitol. A horrified CNN presenter asked the question that was on everyone’s mind: where is the National Guard and law enforcement? Black Lives Matter protestors asked: why was their peaceful march in Washington met by a huge National Guard and police presence, while these same forces were nowhere to be seen as violent white supremacists ran amok?
Looking at the complete lack of preparations for the violent mob which swarmed the Capitol on Wednesday, it may have seemed like bad planning. However, it’s becoming more and more obvious that the lack of security was absolutely intentional.
The attacks that took place should have surprised no one. The extensive multi-billion dollar security apparatus ignored several red flags. Plotters in on-line far-right forums explicitly discussed how to storm the building, handcuff lawmakers with zip ties and disrupt the certification of Joe Biden’s election — in what they portrayed as responding to orders from President Trump. Trump supporters exchanged detailed tactical advice about what to bring and what to do once they assembled at the Capitol to conduct “citizen’s arrests” of members of Congress. One poster said, “[expletive] zip ties. I’m bringing rope!” Online chatter was organized, in some cases, around hashtags such as #StormTheCapitol and included threats to kill congressional leaders.
The violence that occurred was orchestrated at the highest levels of the Trump administration. Trump made sure that the Pentagon would not provide necessary forces to protect the nation’s capital against the assault he was orchestrating. Shortly after losing the election in November, Trump began replacing Pentagon officials. Principled leaders were dismissed as Trump packed the Pentagon with sycophants who had demonstrated blind loyalty to him. The new appointmentss included bringing in disgraced former Gen. Anthony Tata, Islamophobic right-wing radio host Frank Wuco, and conspiracy theorist Rich Higgins. A day after positioning this trio, Trump replaced the Chief of Staff at the Pentagon with former Devin Nunes staffer Kash Patel. On the same day, he forced out the undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence
Last Wednesday’s assault on the Capitol seemed that the Government was caught unprepared, but the lack of response was carefully crafted. Trump made certain to get rid of those officials who had resisted efforts to use active military troops against Black Lives Matter protestors over the summer. When the violence started last Wednesday, Trump’s lackeys at the Pentagon blocked repeated requests from D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser for the use of the National Guard to contain Trump’s “wild” protest and continued blocking it, even as Senators and Representatives were frantically phoning from inside the besieged Capitol. This was not a spontaneous event. It was, in every way, a plotted coup and the Pentagon was part of it.
While exactly what happened still remains murky it is now clear that the Pentagon limited the Washington D.C. National Guard to managing traffic. Foreseeing violence, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser requested support in advance of Trump’s rally, but the Department of Defense said that the National Guard could not have ammunition or riot gear, interact with protesters except in self-defense, or otherwise function in a protective capacity without the explicit permission of acting Secretary Christopher Miller, whom Trump put into office shortly after the election after firing Defense Secretary Mark Esper.
When Capitol Police requested aid early Wednesday afternoon, the request was denied. Defense officials held back the National Guard for about three hours before sending it to support the Capitol Police. Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican, tried repeatedly to send his state’s National Guard, but the Pentagon would not authorize it. The National Guard of Virginia was mobilized only when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the Governor, Ralph Northam, herself.
There was also a personal angle to holding back the National Guard. Bowser was harshly critical of Trump in the summer, and the Pentagon got revenge on her by denying help when she needed it. A White House adviser told New York Magazine’s Washington correspondent Olivia Nuzzi that Trump was watching television coverage of the siege and was enthusiastic, although he didn’t like that the rioters looked “low class.” Many people called for Trump to make a statement urging his followers to desist, but for hours Trump said nothing.
As the assault on the Capitol unfolded, Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, who resigned on Thursday, made “an urgent plea” for a 200-member rapid response force to rush to the Capitol building. However, an official from the office of the Secretary of the Army replied that “wasn’t going to be possible.” As a reason, that official said the Pentagon didn’t like the “optics” of Guard members entering the Capitol—even though the building was at that point surrounded by thousands of Trump supporters who had forced their way through multiple levels of police security. It wasn’t until Trump supporters had actually stormed the building, smashed their way into the chambers of Congress, ransacked congressional offices, and prowled the halls hoping to take political leaders hostage, that the Pentagon finally approved the use of National Guard forces.
On Thursday, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy ludicrously claimed the military had “acted as quickly as possible” and that officials hadn’t anticipated the level of violence demonstrated by Trump supporters in their “wildest imagination.” If so, they were the only ones. Trump encouraged exactly this type of action, and many others warned of the potential for violence. In fact, many of the same groups that rioted in December planned another orgy of violence for the bigger event that Trump was already advertising for January 6th.
Perhaps the prime target of the Capitol rioters was Vice President Mike Pence who had refused to block the certification of Biden’s election as president. While the rioters were in the Capitol, Trump tweeted: “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify.” The Vice President had to be whisked away to a secure location to save his life. Reuters photographer Jim Bourg, who was inside the Capitol, told he overheard three rioters in “Make America Great Again” caps plotting to find Vice President Mike Pence and hang him as a “traitor”; other rioters were shouting the same.
Many of the rioters are being identified and they allegedly include police officers, elected Republican Party officials and former members of the military. Some rioters gained access to the security cordon around the Capitol supposedly by flashing badges. Some Capitol police allegedly opened barricades for the rioters and even took selfies with the mob. Five people died in the mayhem including a woman shot in the chest. Capitol Police have identified her as Ashli E. Babbitt, an Air Force veteran and Q Anon conspiracy believer from San Diego. Fifty U.S. Capitol Police and Metropolitan Police Department officers were injured in the riot and one officer died while on duty.
AMAZING NOT MORE LOSS OF LIFE
It is amazing that there was not more loss of life. An Alabama man allegedly parked a pickup truck packed with 11 homemade bombs, an assault rifle and a handgun two blocks from the US Capitol. Another man showed up with an assault rifle and hundreds of rounds of ammunition and told acquaintances that he wanted to shoot or run over House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Christopher Alberts, of Maryland, was arrested for carrying a handgun and 25 rounds of ammunition on Capitol grounds. Explosives were found in the Capitol and multiple locations around Washington.
In response to the wave of anger that spread across the country, right wingers claimed that the rioters were Antifa and Black Lives Matter activists. Speaking on the House floor only hours after the mayhem, Representative Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) expressed his anger at the perpetrators. But Gaetz wasn’t accusing fellow Trump supporters — instead, he suggested members (sic) of Antifa had secretly infiltrated the group to cause the chaos. The F.B.I subsequently refuted claims that Antifa activists took part in the attack.
Will Trump be punished for his role in the violence? If there were real justice in America, Donald Trump and his flunkies in the Pentagon who planned holding back the National Guard would face severe punishment. It is almost certain, though, that Trump will avoid paying for his criminal role in the riot, even though he has blood on his hands.