"...do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic..."

"For the good of the Air Force, for the good of the armed services and for the good of our country, I urge you to reject convention and careerism..."
- Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Maxwell AFB, April 21, 2008

"You will need to challenge conventional wisdom and call things like you see them to subordinates and superiors alike."
- Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, United States Air Force Academy, March 4, 2011

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day Salute to a Dead Marine

Jose Manuel Guerena (November 23, 1984 - May 5, 2011)
RIP Marine

This Memorial Day, as we remember those who have risked and given their lives for our freedom, let's remember that a great deal of work still needs to be done to make the "land of the free" a reality. We can best honor them at home by valuing our rights codified in our sacred Constitution and remembering the words of Thomas Paine, "Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigues of supporting it."

We may not all have the opportunity to charge a hill or storm the beaches of Normandy. But we all have the opportunity to risk some small measure of our comfort to slow or halt grave threats to our country and our way of life. It starts with caring about something above yourself and truly appreciating the sacrifices of great Americans who before us labored for the freedom so many of us now take for granted.

Happy Memorial Day.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Stars and Stripes Interested in Your Thoughts

I was recently contacted by a reporter from Stars and Stripes. Here is the relevant portion of her inquiry.
My name is Jennifer Svan and I’m a reporter with Stars and Stripes in Kaiserslautern, Germany, and I cover Air Force/USAFE issues. I’m doing a story about the projected shortage of Air Force fighter pilots, per Gen. Welsh’s email asking for feedback from pilots as to why they’re getting out of the Air Force.

I’m trying to find some current and/or retired pilots to ask them about their personal experiences in the Air Force: What is/was the job like, what are their future plans or why did they choose to get out, why do they think the Air Force may be losing so many pilots, etc. I’m also wondering what sorts of job opportunities are out there for fighter pilots. What will they do when they get out, and is it a difficult decision to give up flying a fighter jet in exchange for a civilian job?
If you're interested in providing your thoughts, she can be contacted at svanj@estripes.osd.mil and I'm sure would appreciate your input. Hopefully this is another way in which leadership can take a temperature reading. If she gets responses from those who are choosing to continue their service, along with those who have decided to pull chocks, this might prove valuable.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Constitution and Assassinating Americans

In at outstanding article, Reason magazine recently interviewed Stewart Rhodes, founder of the Oath Keepers. In this article, entitled Constitutional Refuseniks, Mr. Rhodes made some important observations. Full disclosure, I am a member of Oath Keepers (ETA: I used to be a member of Oath Keepers). When asked the purpose of the Oath Keepers, Mr. Rhodes responded:
The mission of Oath Keepers is to persuade the guys with the guns not to violate the Constitution. I look at it as constitutional triage. I worked for a congressman; I've worked with judges. And it seems clear to me that judges and politicians don't really care about our rights that the Constitution is supposed to protect. So I'm focusing on the guys with the guns, the ones who ultimately enforce the laws, on educating them about the Constitution. I think most of them are honorable people, but there's an ethos, especially in the officer corps in the military, that focuses on following orders. It's almost as if they're taking the oath to uphold the Constitution to mean that you should categorically defer to the president. Now I think civilian authority is important, but if the president asks the military to do something that isn't constitutional, their loyalty is to the Constitution, not the president.
The oath Mr. Rhodes refers to is required by the very Constitution itself. Article 6 of the U.S. Constitution states, "...all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution..." The oath established is the one military officers today take, right hand raised, when they swear before God:
I, [name], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.
The oath of a military officer differs slightly from the oath taken by enlisted members of the armed services. While both take oaths to support the Constitution, the enlisted oath also contains an oath to obey the President of the United States, "according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice." Notably, the oath of the commissioned officer contains only the oath to the Constitution, and makes no mention of obedience to the President.

All military serviceman, however, are required by Article 92 of the UCMJ to obey the lawful orders of those appointed above them, which most certainly includes the President. The key here is the word "lawful." Likewise, they are required to disobey all unlawful orders and may be punished if they comply with illegal orders. The Constitution is the highest law of the land. It trumps all other laws made throughout the nation. While its text is certainly debatable in many areas, in other sections it is quite clear. If Stewart Rhodes' view on the ethos of the military officer corps is to be believed, military officers may tend to place obeying orders over their duty to support and defend the document that anchors the character of America to day to day reality.

Marjorie Cohn, professor at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law, has the following to offer in the introduction to her book, Rules of Disengagement: The Politics and Honor of Military Dissent:
When the government at the highest levels ignores these rules, when the conduct of a war and the war itself violate the law...soldiers are forced into a legal and ethical dilemma. They must decide whether to abide by law and conscience--knowing the government does not--or to follow orders without regard to the law.
If Mr. Rhodes' observation on the ethos of the military officer is correct, we must ask ourselves why that is the case. Why do officers who have taken an oath to support the Constitution, rather than obey orders, choose to place obedience to orders above their oaths in face of UCMJ action for failing to disobey unlawful orders that violate that Constitution?

Perhaps it is a matter of knowledge, that officers take the oath to a document they have not read and do not understand. That would appear to be the hope of Mr. Rhodes as his Oath Keepers organization seeks to educate government employees who wield lethality. Perhaps it is a matter of character, that officers take the oath insincerely, instead of taking the obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion. Or perhaps Mr. Rhodes is incorrect in his interpretation of the Constitution and therefore errs in his estimation of commissioned military officers.

A concrete example might help illuminate the discussion. In the same article, Mr. Rhodes observes:
But now you have Obama, who has not only not renounced those powers but has expanded them. He also now claims the power to assassinate American citizens his administration deems enemy combatants with no oversight. That's just frightening.
Is the government assassination of American citizens wherever they may be, even off the battlefield, perhaps while dining with their family a violation of the Constitution? What does the Constitution have to say about such action? Thankfully, this issue is one of the clear sections of the document. It defines Americans who make war on America.

Article 3, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution states:
Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.
Citizens deemed enemy combatants are those who levy war against the United States, adhere to the enemy, and give aid and comfort. The Constitution has spoken on this group of Americans. Not only does it define them as traitors, it also provides guidance on how they are to be dealt with.

Article 3, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution continues:
No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court. The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason...
The Constitution mentions treason in other sections, as well. Article 1, Section 6 of the U.S. Constitution states:
The Senators and Representatives shall receive a Compensation for their Services, to be ascertained by Law, and paid out of the Treasury of the United States. They shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses,....
Article 2, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution states:
The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.
Article 4, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution states:
A Person charged in any State with Treason, Felony, or other Crime, who shall flee from Justice, and be found in another State, shall on Demand of the executive Authority of the State from which he fled, be delivered up, to be removed to the State having Jurisdiction of the Crime.
The Constitution also speaks to the rights of Americans more broadly. Article 2, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution states:
The Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment; shall be by Jury; and such Trial shall be held in the State where the said Crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any State, the Trial shall be at such Place or Places as the Congress may by Law have directed.
The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states:
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury...nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
This amendment bears repeating. Citizens will not "be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law..." The due process for treason is stated in the Constitution itself in Article 3, Section 3. The federal government cannot take the life of a suspected traitor, without the due process guaranteed to Americans who commit treason.

The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states:
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed; which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defence...
Borrowing on language from the Fifth Amendment (which bounds the federal government), the Constitution also binds the states in the Fourteenth Amendment. It states:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
And finally, the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states:
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
Nowhere in the Constitution is there found the power of the federal government to assassinate American citizens. The Tenth Amendment makes it clear then, that since such a power is not delegated to the federal government, it does not have the power. Likewise, other sections of the Constitution make it clear that American citizens, even Traitors who make war on the United States, have the right to be captured, tried, convicted, and sentenced to the punishment mandated by Congress.

If Mr. Rhodes' observation of the military officer ethos is correct, then the reason well paid commissioned officers would choose to obey an unlawful order over their oaths to the Constitution is a matter of a lack of education, or a lack of character. For the sake of our nation, I hope it's the former. At least that can be corrected. Stewart Rhodes is a former Army paratrooper, Ron Paul staffer, graduate of Yale Law School (the top law school in the nation), and a former clerk of the Arizona Supreme Court.

It's my hope he has great success before his organization, and others, find themselves on a secret hit list that makes McCarthy's bookkeeping appear moderate. Regardless, military officers are required by their oaths, by the laws of our nation, indeed by military law to refuse to carry out unlawful orders no matter where they come from or how many around them obey. I only hope they have the character and integrity to do so despite the personal risks. As Stewart Rhodes said:

It doesn't always turn out well. But when you take an oath you're not saying, "I'll abide by this oath only if it turns out well for me." You're saying that the oath is important enough that you'll abide by it no matter how things turn out.