"...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

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

"I Became an Enemy of the American People"

This is a fascinating video segment above from the Young Turks (notwithstanding the idiotic suggestion that trial in absentia is an option), that takes into account statements from an anonymous drone operator made to journalists Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill, along with statements from a former drone operator, Brandon Bryant.

I know Brandon Bryant from online conversations and we have several disagreements.  But I have been happy to see that post military, he has shared an important perspective about the most important topic in American history, in my view, and is adding to a conversation that should be on the front page of every newspaper, plastered on every news station, and should be the most pressing issue by far, to every single American regardless of their professed politics.

Assassinating Americans without due process of law, is a crystal clear and undeniable violation of our Constitution, and is starkly opposite the action of a free nation.  A nation that is led by a man who kills the citizens of his nation, without charge or trial, based on a secret list, is absolutely not the America that was was founded, or that was perfected through the sacrifices of veterans and civil rights protestors, and it is certainly not the America of our Constitution.  It is not debatable, and no fascist credentials or claims otherwise will change that fact any more than those credentials or claims changed the obvious truth for Ernest Janning.  I was particularly impressed by Bryant's statement in The Intercept describing his participation in a mission with the goal of assassinating an American citizen without charge or trial or any due process of law:
Unlike those who oversee the drone program, Bryant also took personal responsibility for his actions in the killing of Awlaki. “I was a drone operator for six years, active duty for six years in the U.S. Air Force, and I was party to the violations of constitutional rights of an American citizen who should have been tried under a jury,” he said. “And because I violated that constitutional right, I became an enemy of the American people.”
This is a true statement.  While apologies can never make right a sin of this magnitude, it is nonetheless an important service and sentiment, that Bryant now shares with the American people.  It is critically imperative that those of us in the business of providing air power, think very seriously and deeply about this issue, and put ourselves in the role of the person ordered to kill their neighbor in a secret assassination mission.  Military officers, especially, must pick up the mantle of professionalism rather than the lazy ethic of simply showing up to work and following orders to collect a paycheck, and they must be absolutely certain that they have the knowledge, but most importantly the courage, to refuse unlawful orders.  While it will take some professionalism and some courage, it might well prove easier than one day coming to the realization that you used the tools of war, funded by the American taxpayer, against that same American taxpayer in violation of our supreme law and your oath to support and defend the constitutional rights of the American people.

Traitors are real.  You don't want to pull your head out one day only to realize that the traitor to America was you.  That is a judgment you do not want.

And for my AETC brethren who are as far away from the tip of the dagger as they can be, you do not get a pass.  You are training the next batch of warriors.  Officership is more important now than it has ever been in our nation's history.  You see the failures of our leadership all around you.  It's one thing when that is about reflective belts or involuntary separation, or so many other things we have learned to put up with.  Do not let this failure affect you.  Do not feel insulated.  You are the leadership that is required, and you do not need a "been there, done that" story to make your point.  Do not teach your students to pick their battles, or to stay under the radar, or to hold their cards, or to never pass up the opportunity to shut up, or any other lessons on how to be a political coward rather than a courageous military officer who is ready to do the right thing when tested.  Teach them what is important, and teach them when "service" becomes something more than a cute phrase on stupid memos.

You may have never been tested, but your students will be.  You should be eager to not fail in that regard.

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