The Pentagon has just announced the U.S. has reduced troop levels in Afghanistan to 2,500, the lowest number since 2001.
At the same time, the Pentagon has authorized 10 times as many – 25,000 – servicemembers to protect the nation’s capital ahead of the 59th presidential inauguration.
Almost 207 years ago, when British forces attacked our nation’s capital and invaded, captured and burned the Capitol building, 5,500 troops – “most local militia: farmers and tradesmen with minimal training” – were “called to meet the invaders and defend the capital.”
Wikipedia has been quick to update our nation’s historical timeline: “This was the only time that the Capitol was raided until the 2021 storming of the United States Capitol.”
At the height of U.S. military operations in Syria, less than five years ago, approximately 2,000 U.S, troops were fighting the Islamic State and other terrorists.
Today, January 14, 2021, the number of U.S. troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria combined is less than 6,000.
Also today, after the violent insurrection of January 6 and in preparation for the inauguration of the 46th president of the United States, up to 20,000 troops could be amassed in our nation’s capital to prevent a reoccurrence of the events of the most recent day that will live in infamy.
“National Guard troops stationed in and around the Capitol have been approved to carry their service firearms, M4 carbines and M9 pistols…”
“…7-foot, non-scalable fencing has been erected around the [Capitol] for protection…” in addition to physical barriers and concrete barricades.
Checkpoints are being set up, streets closed, aerial surveillance conducted…
National Guard units are being told to prepare for the possibility that improvised explosive devices (IEDs) will be used by individuals plotting to attack the Capitol in the days surrounding the Inauguration. Also, pipe bombs, Molotov cocktails.
In addition to the IED threat, the Guardsmen are being briefed that protesters could be heavily armed.
In “The perilous state of American democracy, in one photo,” Alex Ward comments on the now-famous photos of National Guard members sleeping on the hard floors of the US Capitol “getting some shuteye near Lincoln’s bust and a neighboring plaque.”
“The plaque,” Ward continues, “is worth dwelling on for a moment: It commemorates the volunteers who stayed over at the Capitol at Lincoln’s request on April 15, 1861. That was three days after the attack on Fort Sumter — the opening battle of the Civil War.”
The big difference between 1861 and 2021, Ward points out, is that Lincoln appealed “to all loyal citizens to favor, facilitate, and aid this effort to maintain the honor, the integrity, and the existence of our National Union.”
Trump did not.
“[He] was too busy watching the Capitol insurrection violently unfold on TV to help quell it…[He] was described as mesmerized by footage of his followers storming the Capitol and, perhaps, reluctant to turn away from the screen,” according to Business Insider.
Certainly this and the “war zone” that is not only the nation’s capital but the entire country will be Trump’s stained legacy.
Perhaps it should be no surprise to see reported that The Pentagon, “in a break with recent tradition, will not host an Armed Forces Farewell tribute to President Donald Trump.”
Trump has broken much more than tradition.
CODA: My sincere thanks to our servicemen and servicewomen who –- tonight and the next five nights — are standing guard in our nation’s capital to make sure their commander in chief’s words and deeds will not bring additional shame to our democracy.
The author is a retired U.S. Air Force officer and a writer.