"...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

Friday, November 18, 2011

Occupy Bagram

Just saw this today. Not exactly sure what to think of it, and I'm not talking about the protestors and their merits or lack thereof. I'm just wondering if something hasn't fundamentally changed with our military when those in uniform are making public statements to citizens like this, while in uniform and armed. Is it appropriate for government servants to be making such statements about their fellow citizens who employ them? Like the protestors or not, they employ you, and they are exercising the very rights they pay you to defend. Certainly those in the service have free speech rights too, but there are limits and I wonder if this doesn't approach one of them. With army soldiers rapping about using violence against a citizen, and officers discussing dropping bombs on protestors, to this picture of armed public servants telling their civilian bosses to quit bitchin', I have to wonder if there isn't a problem with military servants knowing their role in this thing we call democracy.

So does it seem odd to anybody else that employees are telling their bosses who pay their salaries to quit bitching, while their bosses' bitching consists of exercising a freedom that they actually pay these troops to support and defend? Or is it just me?


  1. Your premise is flawed. The OWS ilk are not my bosses. There are seven people between me and the Commander in Chief. Not one them is an OWS protestor, or any other Joe Taxpayer for that matter. I'm not employed by them. Go read your commission.

    And given the choice, the OWS mouthbreathers wouldn't pay you at all.

  2. Seven between you and the CinC. Who does the CinC work for? Are you suggesting that the military does not work for the civilian taxpayer? Or do you define employer and boss differently?

    I'm not arguing for or against the OWS folks.

  3. And Neal, do you think this is appropriate?

  4. I define employer and boss this way, at is most simplistic: my boss tells me to do something, I do it. If it's not one of those seven people, the answer is go pound sand.

    If joe Taxpayer "gives you an order" because be "pays your salary", what are you going to to? I pay taxes too...what does that make me?

  5. Right, the taxpayers as a whole have to be translated into somebody who can give orders. I get that. If they don't like who gives you your orders, they can elect other officials.

    But is it appropriate for military members in uniform to make such public statements about citizens, in uniform? Is that professional?

  6. And as for the Commander in Chief also working for the people...

    How's the been working out for you?

    As for if the picture/sentiment is appropriate, it doesn't really bother me. I'll be perfectly honest and say that that has a lot to do with me agreeing wholeheartedly with their sentiment to begin with. But is it appropriate? Probably not, but on the scale of things to be worried about, this ranks pretty low in my book.

  7. The People elect the POTUS, he hires you. Both of you work for the People. How that works in practice is that both of you follow the laws of Congress where required, to execute those laws and the duties of the POTUS. Both of you work for the People who pay your salaries.

    I agree this isn't high ranking on the scale of things to worry about by itself. But it seems to me the "attitude" of many in the military may have shifted over time. It seems to me we have some challenges with our folks understanding that they are not paid to, while in uniform, weigh in on how their employers utilize their rights, and that they are simply paid to defend them. I don't know if this is part of the larger loss of civic understanding in this country or what, but I agree with you that it's not appropriate. And as employees who wield incredible violence, it seems particularly important that those in the military never give the civilians any doubt that they might have their roles mixed up regarding civilian control of the military.

  8. I'm going to be pragmatic about this. A not insignificant portion of the military forces returning from Vietnam were utterly disrespected by their so-called "employers" when they returned from overseas. My dad was one of the lucky ones. I'm not going to lose an ounce of sleep if some current military members are going to gently remind this generation's group of spoiled, over-privileged brats of how misguided their complaints are.

    A couple of enlisted dudes taking a picture of a sign on their lunch break is hardly the beginnings of some fissure in the civilian/military relationship.

  9. Maybe I should stop wearing the flag on my uniform Neal, just in case it sends the wrong message to those "bosses" of mine who hate it.

  10. Sorry... that last post was directed at PickYourBattles.Net, not Neal.

  11. @Neal, you're not overly worried about this reminder to a current generation of taxpayers, because some in a previous generation disrespected a previous generation of military folks? I think perhaps the people in question are different. I don't know much about the OWS people, but I do see veterans marching with them. I suppose some did during Vietnam too. But I haven't seen any of these protestors spitting on troops.

    It seems to me that a lot of the anger from the occupy people (and they're not all kids, there are plenty of older people in the footage I've seen), are angry because their government isn't doing what they pay it to do, particularly when it comes to resisting the temptations of corporate money. I think they've got a legitimate complaint on that point.

    I don't think it's healthy for the government to demonize these folks. In so doing, they're just making that one particular complaint resonate more.

    @Martigan, I'm not sure what you are saying exactly. The flag has many meanings to people, perhaps most centrally it actually represents our People, to include the protestors. Regardless, some messages are appropriate (like testimony before Congress on what is required to defend the country). Not all messages, however, are appropriate. If the People don't pay you provide the message, it's probably not an appropriate message.

  12. I'm reminded of the parody "America F*ck Yeah" youtube video.

    And, offense intended, PYB, but it is my opinion that those men in the picture (apparently over in Bagram) are not defending my right to free speech. What they are doing is serving an ever-growing US Code-issuing freedom-sucking authoritarian crony corporatist police state.

    I can thank whomever Neal considers his direct chain of command or his "bosses" for that. And I can thank Neal and his bosses for all the times they failed to uphold their oaths to honor the Rule of Law in this nation and live within the confines and be guided by of the US Constitution. Congress included. They take the oath, too.

    Oh, and I forgot to thank the military industrial complex. And the fear mongering interventionists who have driven a interventionist US foreign policy for the past 100 years. Thank you to those whose decision it is to put US troops in harm's way for "humanitarian reasons" and "world policing" throughout the globe. And thank you to the people who could put a stop to it, but do not.

    And before anyone's panties get bundled, I love the people of this country, I am blessed to be a citizen here, and I have no intention of leaving it. But, after 10 years, I cannot say I am any safer than before 9/11. I CAN say with absolute certainty that I have less freedoms than I did before then. All in the name of "the war on terror" (or "the war on a tactic"). Freedoms taken in exchange for safety granted is a falsehood. And I pretty much figure that after 10 years of constant troop deployments and equipment being used and abused, this country is at more risk that what it was 10 years ago.

    But what do I know? I am only a mundane. I will quit my bitching. Back to work.

  13. Thank you, PYB, for being one of the few (in the military no less) to question this picture. I'm
    'just a lieutenant' but I know this is totally inappropriate.

    "A couple of enlisted dudes taking a picture of a sign on their lunch break is hardly the beginnings of some fissure in the civilian/military relationship."

    Not the beginning, no. There's a pervasive air of 'we know best' in the military with regards to civilian opinion. The reason these guys will get away with their sign is because some people who are 'seven degrees of separation' away from the president take the stance that, "...it doesn't really bother me. I'll be perfectly honest and say that that has a lot to do with me agreeing wholeheartedly with their sentiment to begin with."

  14. @-emerson: Thanks for your comment; I basically agree although I would point out that in the military, a 'top down' mentality is de rigueur and as officers (and NCOs) we are trained and expected to lead by example.
    I think this crew is coloring outside the lines (clearly they shouldn't be in uniform and certainly not armed) because the attitude they engender is supported by many above them. The tone of a duty section is set by those in charge.

    Thank you PYB for your post/comments and your service.

  15. To actually pay the salary of those men in uniform would imply that the protesters actually held jobs and paid taxes. There are only two ways this would work, either the protesters are working but taking vacation with pay (without pay no taxes get the idea here) or they're out of work and not paying taxes which means the protesters are not paying the salary of them men fighting for their freedom. Is the price of that freedom getting put on a tab? An IOU? Common sense is the least common of all senses.

  16. Common sense suggests to me that it's unlikely that those protestors don't pay taxes. I would imagine a good many of them have jobs, and that a vast majority of those who currently don't are in between jobs like many other Americans (including many veterans). I would imagine the vast majority of them likely purchase gas and pay federal tax on it, and I'm guessing all of them get a federal income tax bill each year. I would also think quite a few of them are self employed, perhaps using the internet to earn a living while they protest.

    But above all, common sense suggests to me that the military works for the civilian population of America (even those we might not personally like) to include the increasing number of unemployed Americans.

  17. An Air force pilot would be far removed from the mentality of the enlisted troops in that picture. Referencing "common sense", and what you "would imagine" towards a situation you are not involved in nor have any solid statistical quantitative data, using ambiguous uncertain words like "most", "vast majority", posting your "medals" and citing "combat flight hours" tells me you're just a know it all who has no idea what he's talking about. How long have you lived in nyc or anywhere near the proximity of wall street for? As for the issue of professionalism displayed in that picture, I have more issue with pilots doing whatever they want and completely disregarding the AFI when it comes to, basically everything. Personally have no opinion on OWS, people will always protest and that's their right, trespassing in a private park is not. My issue with you is your tone, these kids are already dealing with enough BS as enlisted troops on the GROUND in a shithole. They are returning to a country who for the most part does not respect their "employees" (this metaphor made me laugh, had to be an usaf officer to compare military service to corporate employment). One would think a high level military superior would back his troops. But we will always eat our own for whatever selfish reason. In conclusion, had to be a field grade officer to question and find an issue with their simple message,your typical liberalism is amusing. I would cite my resume, but that would be to surprising for you and to self centered for me... Good day, sir.

  18. This comment thread is an amazing microcosm of our society today.

    On the one hand you have people calling for the rule of law and democracy. On the other you have people arguing that perhaps the people calling for such rules don't deserve it, as there might be a chance (assumed and unsubstantiated) that they are currently unemployed and, as such, would not deserve a seat at the table.

    Perhaps that issue stems from the idea that "a taxpayer pays the salary of a soldier", which, while a little flawed is true on balance - in a civilized society, for example one in which a taxpayer pays for healthcare and can draw on said healthcare regardless of whether they are earning an income that week or not. (Note: this is not true of our country at this moment).

    What we seem to be seeing here is the idea that, if you are not currently a financially productive member of society, your voting rights are null and void. Whatever opinion you may have on the way the country is managed, and how the soldiers in the field execute their orders, is of no relevance, despite paying taxes into state and federal coffers through monies spent.

    ie, money buys influence. No money, no influence. Is that about right?

    And if that's true, does that sound like the freedoms we're defending?