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June 07, 2006

Unlawful orders, the proving of.

Every officer of the Armed Forces, at some time or another, signs a document affirming these words, then, in a formal ceremony somewhere, states them publicly (often times less the "having been appointed" bit, especially at multi-service commissioning cermonies):

"I, [Johnny Shavetail], having been appointed an officer in [one of the Armed Services] of the United States, as indicated above in the grade of Second Lieutenant, 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 upon which I am about to enter. So help me God. "

Usetabe we did that for every promotion, too, but that has long since fallen by the wayside. A pity. It was a useful reminder. BTW - if you are an officer and you can't recite that from memory - you aren't a professional, no matter how many times you've been promoted below the zone and what your OERs say I detest it when officers have to read the oath at ceremonies. There is simply no excuse.

Note that it doesn't say "I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter if and when I agree with what I've been asked to do."

There is, in fact, no provision for that anywhere, especially when the legal obligation to serve is a minimum of 8 years of service whether all on active duty, in the reserve, or a combination of the two. Something you know when you sign that document and stand there proudly swearing the oath.

The only way out is for the convenience of the government. Sometimes easily granted, sometimes not. Sometimes forced upon you, for performance problems, sometimes granted you because you ask, via a resignation. But for those first eight years, it is *always* at the convenience of the goverment.

And later, if you have contracted to stay on longer - those rules loosen up. Unless you're on a wartime footing, and stop-loss policies have been implemented. Then, even with 20 years in, you may not be allowed to retire or resign.

And it's something we all know. Anyone who says they didn't understand that is lying, or slept through a good chunk of their pre-commissioning process.

We're also not allowed to obey illegal orders. We are, in fact, expected to refuse to obey them - regardless of the personal, hopefully short-term, but possibly long-term, consequences.

Comes now before us 1st Lt. Ehren K. Watada, 28, assigned to a Stryker Brigade set to deploy to Iraq.

In one of the first known cases of its kind, an Army officer from Honolulu is expected to refuse to go to Iraq this month with his unit, citing what he calls the "illegal" and "immoral" basis of the war, his father confirmed.

The officer, 1st Lt. Ehren K. Watada, 28, son of former state campaign spending commission executive director Bob Watada, is believed to be one of the first military officers to publicly take steps to refuse his deployment orders.

"My son has a great deal of courage, and clearly understands what is right, and what is wrong," Bob Watada said yesterday. "He's choosing to do the right thing, which is a hard course."

On this website (www.thankyoult.com) Lieutenant Watada is quoted as saying, "I refuse to be silent any longer. I refuse to watch families torn apart, while the President tells us to 'stay the course.' ... I refuse to be party to an illegal and immoral war against people who did nothing to deserve our aggression. I wanted to be there for my fellow troops. But the best way was not to help drop artillery and cause more death and destruction. It is to help oppose this war and end it so that all soldiers can come home."

William Cole, writing for The Honolulu Advertiser says that 1LT Watada has tried to resign his commission twice since January, both times his application having been denied. Properly, I would add.

Presumably, the Lieutenant *would* have gone with his unit if they had been deploying to Afghanistan. Hopefully someone will ask that question at the press conferences scheduled for today.

Note that Watada is not seeking conscientious objector status, because he does not oppose all wars, only this particular one.

Which puts Lieutenant Watada on the horns of a dilemma.

Let us assume that Lieutenant Watada is sincere. We owe him that much.

If so, he is taking the high road. His sole defense of his actions is going to be "Refusing an illegal order." Absent a *stunning* action on the part of a Courts Martial panel, he's going to get convicted. His defense team is going to have to be miracle workers to successfully assert that the war in Iraq is illegal in terms by which it will excuse his actions - and, by extension, condemn every other serving officer as a war criminal for not having refused. Oh, there's room to maneuver in there, but when you strip it down to the essentials - that's it.

Jay, over at Stop The ACLU, has his own post on the subject, which includes this interesting snippet, which demonstrates perfectly the utter cluelessness of the anti-war crowd, and the oh-so-sophisticated members of our society when it comes to issues of civilian control of the military:

“I’ve been doing this for nearly 40 years and I’m somewhat astounded that in the context of a war that is becoming increasing unpopular that they are relatively unsophisticated in addressing these issues,” said attorney Eric Seitz from Hawaii.

Relatively unsophisticated in addressing these issues, Eric? Ah, of course, we should have all sorts of caveats and qualifiers for service in these oh-so-enlightened times. Military personnel should have a menu of options for a ala carte selection of which orders they will obey and which ones they will not. It's all about choice, and personal happiness.

Unless, of course, the worthless bastard officer chooses to not support a war I happen to support, then that slimy bastard better be in jail.

That's not the way it works. Those of us who have been entrusted to have our hands on the levers of the tools that comprise the state's right to legitimate violence do not get to pick and choose which wars we will go to. I was a serving officer during Kosovo. I didn't like Kosovo for many of the same reasons I didn't like invading Iraq. I served. If recalled and sent to Baghdad, I would go. Why?

Because I swore an oath, still binding, to defend and uphold the Constitution, not the UN Charter, or some other international body, and there is nothing yet under US law which has established that the actions the US took in invading Iraq were illegal. If I had been ordered to abuse prisoners at Abu Ghraib, there's plenty of room there for a defense of a refusal to obey that order.

Under the law applicable to the military, there is no such smoking gun over Iraq as a war.

So I would ask the anti-war crowd this: Do you *really* want we Myrmidons picking and choosing which wars we will go to? Do you *really* want us Ruthless Killers telling our civilian overlords to stuff it? Do you *really* want us Mindless Robots openly resisting the will of the Executive, as authorized by the Congress, and not hindered by the Courts?

Do you? Really? Because if you do, that way lies the Praetorian Guard, and a death spiral to fully fledged Banana Republic status, where the Generals decide who they will allow to rule.

And Lieutenant Watada, while a very small cog in this, represents a confluence of issues that lie at the core of our system of governance and control of the miltary.

Well and good. The Lieutenant disagrees with this policy. He has offered to resign his commission over it. This has been properly rejected. If he carries through today with his intention to not deploy, he is casting the die, and is going to have his day in court.

That's how it's supposed to work. Even if, as I see it, this is a symbolic self-immolation, as I don't see any grounds to acquit at this point. I'll be interested to see what serious defense his team produces.

Regardless, this is a far more honorable course than the one taken by John Kerry during Vietnam. Of course, if Kerry were to release unredacted records, we might find that John Kerry did some form of protest like this, got whacked, and then, mindful of his desire to be President, threw over his ethics to get his record expunged so he could go into politics. I don't know. In the event, it wouldn't change my mind about his fitness to be President, so I suppose there is no upside for Kerry from my perspective on that issue.

Which leaves Lieutenant Watada on the horns of a dilemma. One that will probably land him in the stockade, minimum sentence being the length of his unit's deployment.

No matter. It will be interesting to see if the Lieutenant moves into Karpinski's orbit. She could probably use an aide.