Beware the battle cry

Beware the battle cry
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Whatever name you ascribe to what happened in our Capitol on Jan. 6, the fact is that a militant crowd broke into a government building with the intention of stopping the certification of the election that Donald Trump had lost. For many of the participants that day, the violence that resulted had been planned in advance. Words used by Trump and his cohorts at the pep rally beforehand inflamed the masses to action beyond mere protest.

The language used by Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzWashington ramps up security ahead of Sept. 18 rally Police brace for Capitol rally defending Jan. 6 mob Watchdog group seeks ethics probe over McCarthy's Jan. 6 comments MORE (R-Fla.) on May 27 at one of his America First rallies apprised the crowd that they have an “obligation” to use the Second Amendment, which in his interpretation provides citizens with “the ability to maintain an armed rebellion against the government if that becomes necessary.” Gaetz repeated this on Twitter the next day. He denies that he was fomenting violence.

Words retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn used during a Memorial Day conference attended by QAnon followers in Dallas endorsed the notion of a coup in the United States of America. An audience member asked Flynn why the type of coup that happened in Myanmar recently couldn’t be duplicated here. Videotape of Flynn’s answer shows him replying “No reason – I mean, it should happen here, no reason.” Flynn, predictably, now claims his words were twisted. However, last December Flynn suggested that martial law should be declared, and new elections held in swing states.


Trump’s former lawyer, Sidney Powell, put it to the same cheering crowd: “It should be that [Trump] can simply be reinstated, that a new inauguration date is set. And Biden is told to move out of the White House and — and President TrumpDonald TrumpFormer Sen. Heller to run for Nevada governor Overnight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on right MORE should be moved back in.”

Words of the “Big Lie” being spewed by Flynn, Powell and others, including apparent assertions that Trump will be “reinstated” in August, are more than disconcerting noises from looney-tunes. The sentiments behind these words may prove deadly. It is time to take this rhetoric seriously.

The Senate blocked the establishing a national commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Will the next vote be to investigate whatever is being planned in August to effect Trump’s reinstatement? Why is the GOP allowing our country to be threatened with militias, coups, and whatever else it takes to wrest control? And why are Democrats allowing it to happen?

We are, quite literally, watching democracy die before our very eyes.

This could all lead to the very real possibility that on some unknown day in August, something violent could occur that would change the course of history. When Powell and others claim that Biden will be escorted from the White House when Trump is reinstated, that could only be accomplished with help from Trump militias or, indeed, a coup.


Many warned of violence on Jan. 6, yet we found ourselves grossly unprepared.

It’s time we stop dismissing these people and their outrageous bombast.

We need to look head-on the situation with which we are faced. The man in the Capitol wearing face paint and horns may have apologized, but he is no joke. Nor are his mates, no matter how ridiculous their appearance. They are looking to August, and this time we better be ready.

Gregory F. Treverton chaired the U.S. National Intelligence Council from 2014 to January 2017.  He is now professor of the Practice of International Relations and Spatial Sciences at Dornsife College, University of Southern California and chair of the Global TechnoPolitics Forum. He is the author of numerous books including “Dividing Divided States” (2014), “National Intelligence and Science: Beyond the Great Divide in Analysis and Policy” (2015) and “Intelligence for an Age of Terror” (2011).   

Karen Treverton is former special assistant to the president of RAND, and manager of the RAND Terrorism Database.