A top military adviser to Donald Trump expressed qualified support for Trump’s proposal to kill terrorists’ families on Thursday, telling Al Jazeera that it would depend on the “circumstances of the situation.”
The statement from Gen. Michael Flynn, former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency from 2012 to 2014, reignited a debate about whether the military in a Trump presidency could be counted on to refuse blatantly illegal orders.
CIA directors past and present have asserted that Trump’s proposal to bring back torture methods “a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding” was meaningless, because CIA officers would refuse to carry out such orders.
Trump insisted during a Republican debate in March that “they won’t refuse. They’re not going to refuse me. Believe me.”
Flynn, who was appointed by President Obama, is one of the few credentialed military officials in Trump’s inner circle. But when Al Jazeera’s Mehdi Hasan asked Flynn directly “Would you kill the family of a terror suspect, yes or no?” Flynn replied that he would have to “see what the circumstances of that situation was.” Watch an excerpt and the entire interview.
Hasan responded, astonished: “Are you kidding me? What circumstances would justify the killing of a family – a wife and a child?”
Flynn answered by weaving a hypothetical about a former ISIS commander using human shields: “The circumstances could be – it could be something like an Omar Al-Bagdadi, let’s say he’s still alive, and we find him in a place where its very difficult to get into, and he is actually using children to protect himself, what do we do? How do we actually go get him if killing him is better than capturing him?
Hasan pointed out that Flynn was describing “collateral damage,” not intentionally targeting children.
Flynn acknowledged that troops have a duty to disobey illegal orders, but refused to say whether he would, remarking only that “these are difficult political decisions…” and that “he would advise differently.”
During the interview, Flynn also defended his tweet that “fear of Muslims is rational:”
Flynn said “I’m not saying to be fearful of all Muslims,” telling Hasan, “otherwise you and I would be wrestling right now.”
Hasan cheekily responded “and you’d probably win, which is why I should be afraid of you.”