Will the Military Obey Unlawful Orders?

An officer's commission (here, a Continental Commission signed by President of the Con. Congress John Hancock). Enduring question: are you commissioned to obey orders, or sustain principles?

An officer’s commission (here, a Continental Commission signed by President of the Con. Congress John Hancock). Enduring question: are you commissioned to obey orders, or sustain principles?

The answer to that is, unquestionably, yes. You probably shouldn’t delude yourself on that score. Back in March, Commander Salamander noted this exchange between Brett Baier and Presidential candidate Donald Trump (exchange edited for brevity):

BAIER: [W]hat would you do, as commander-in-chief, if the U.S. military refused to carry out those orders?

TRUMP: They won’t refuse. They’re not going to refuse me. Believe me.

BAIER: But they’re illegal.

TRUMP: …They then came to me, what do you think of waterboarding? I said it’s fine. And if we want to go stronger, I’d go stronger, too, because, frankly…

(APPLAUSE)

… that’s the way I feel. ….We should go for waterboarding and we should go tougher than waterboarding. That’s my opinion.

BAIER: But targeting terrorists’ families?

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: If I say do it, they’re going to do it. That’s what leadership is all about.

This, Sal analyzes as follows:

There has been a lot of huff’n and puff’n from many who presently or once wore the uniform, including your humble blogg’r, roughly of, “We will not. No one will follow those illegal orders. We will just refuse.” The more I’ve thought about it, the more I think my initial instinct is wrong.

That might be an internal dialog, but once a senior officer looks you in the eye, and even if you make a protest says, “The JAG stated …” or “The Justice Department ruled that … “, there are very few who will resist. Anyone below 4-stars that does refuse will simply be fired and someone will step forward to execute the order in their place within minutes. That one person will have a clear conscience, but will also have a dead-end career, professional exile, and nothing will actually have changed.

In the main, orders will be followed.

This is a retired officer talking, who has held the nation’s Commission and done the nation’s duty at sea and ashore, and everything he says is 100% in line with what we observed in three decades of combined Active, Reserve and Guard service, most of it in SF with very good and very ethical officers.

He also cites an analysis by Rosa Brooks (again, edited brutally for brevity) that goes like this:

Military resistance is no safeguard against a future president — Trump or anyone else — who’s determined to have his way.

Laws can be manipulated, and they can be changed, especially when a president wants them manipulated or changed. The U.S. military has a strong rule-of-law culture, but it also has a strong commitment to civilian control of the armed forces.

If history and social psychology have taught us anything, it’s that most people, civilian and military alike, will go along with the instructions of those they perceive as authority figures…

….numerous lawyers in the armed forces have expressed private concerns about ….[it really doesn’t matter what, although she has concrete examples –Ed.]. But here again, don’t expect a mutiny or a coup.

Sal returns to the more general problem, and says (edited, for a third time, to the high points):

[T]here is nothing that our GOFO community have done in peace that would lead me to think that there would be any concerted effort to stand up and say, “No.” in times of crisis.

Amen. He does cite some rare examples, such as then-General Rick Shinseki’s resistance to the Iraq war (which was based, if you know Shinseki, on partisan politics, not integrity, but let’s roll with it and give the General the benefit of the doubt), and after that, Vice-Admiral Thomas Connolly’s falling on the proverbial sword over MacNamara’s insane TFX and its F-111B Naval offshoot. Connolly’s response to a Senatorial question about the thrust needed to get the porky jet off a carrier deck is legendary:

[Gerald E.] Miller [then a Connolly aide and later an Admiral himself] remembers vividly that Admiral Connolly swallowed hard, then declared, “There isn’t enough thrust in Christendom to fix this plane.”

Sal admitted he was out of examples, at that point; in the spirit of purple-suited late pop stars jointness, we’d like to vector him to two famous examples from Army service.

  1. Chief of Staff Matthew B. Ridgeway. A World War II hero and Korean War leader, Ridgeway resisted the Presidential and civilian national security establishment’s attempt to all but eliminate the Army and go to an all-nuclear defense posture to enable massive defense cuts. Ridgeway was prepared to fall on his sword rather than withdraw the Army from Europe . Here’s a somewhat partisan view of the thing[.pdf] by officer turned political analyst Andrew J. Bacevich (he wrote it to demean military criticism of his beloved Clinton Administration). Eisenhower pushed Ridgeway into retirement and replaced him with the model of the modern political GO/FO, Kennedy Family Made Guy Maxwell D. Taylor.  (Taylor, too, would leave angry with Ike, but would receive new high offices from his Kennedy pals).
  2. Major General John K. “Jack” Singlaub’s 1977 resistance to Carter Administration policies which favored a US withdrawal from South Korea and Korean reunification under Kim Il Sung, which led to Singlaub being fired, forced to retire, and, in an act of the pettiness for which Carter and his defense suits from Harold K. Brown on down were known, denied disability benefits. We’ve covered that previously (and linked to this paper [.pdf] on the situation).
Ancient History? (Carthage, proof that war doesn't solve anything... oh, wait).

Ancient History? (Carthage, proof that war doesn’t solve anything… oh, wait).

What brings this ancient history to the surface? And it is ancient history: Shinseki’s resistance to his lords and betters took place 13 years ago, Singlaub’s 39, Connolly’s 54 or so, and Ridgeway’s over sixty years in the past. The lesson, then, is not that officers do stand up to orders that they thought unlawful and immoral (Ridgeway’s opposition to policies that targeted enemy civilian population centers; Connolly’s to an aircraft that threw naval aviators’ lives away; Singlaub’s to Carter’s encouragement of a second Korean war and the enslavement of South Koreans) or simply unwise (Shinseki’s turned-out-correct insistence that higher force structure would be needed for a contested occupation).

One word: Martland. Martland was not persecuted directly by soldier-hating suits like Acting Secretary of the Army Patrick Murphy (a career politician) or Secretary Designee Eric “Fabulous” Fanning. Martland’s NCOER was deliberately crafted to harm him. It was prepared and signed by officers and NCOs who knew they were uttering a false instrument, knew they were rejecting the Army Way of criticizing subordinates face to face and in private, knew they were taking up arms in a political battle, and doing it on the side of falsehood, and injuring a good man who had done a good thing, because the Army had drifted off into a foamy pink froth of values that were politically constructed and inconstant. What would those people do with an unlawful order?

People who saw in their commissions, their documents of appointment of rank, their assignment to positions, not as a place to bring their own morals and character to bear, but a place where they would stake all on unthinking obedience? And rationalize it afterward?

That way? Go that way if you will. Be ready to board the boxcars. Your turn will come.

 

67 thoughts on “Will the Military Obey Unlawful Orders?

  1. Kerry

    Slooshing here with a broad brush to be sure, but if the obey orders species types, provokatus Politieas diversitics, are pushing out the uphold principles men, does not this simplify IFF?
    And to whom might I aim vitriol regarding treatment of SFC Martland?

  2. Native Baltimoron

    As a private citizen, I hope that levelheaded advisors would talk hypothetical President Trump out of killing terrorists’ families.

    I also hope that, if push came to shove, illegal orders would be disobeyed, and that the consequences would not weigh too heavily on the brave men who followed their consciences, but the latter seems less and less likely, seeing what has happened to SFC Martland.

    Moreover, given the Justice Department’s (since-rescinded) assertion that it is legally permissible to kill American citizens on American soil without trial, provided they are terrorists, I’m sure legal pretext for such orders will not be hard to come by.

    1. staghounds

      Levelheaded advisers didn’t talk Presidents Lincoln, Wilson, and Roosevelt out of killing enemy soldiers’ families with starvation (and in the last case,fire), did they?

    2. redleg

      Terrorists are by nature illegal combatants– only if you believe they are lawful combatants do civilians get special protection– and such beliefs did not Save Dresden, Tokyo or Berlin from the bombing of military targets. If they are getting military use from that area, whether it be a mosque or a hospital then it is a legitimate military target. Only our high mindedness of believing we shouldn’t attack family members holds any bearing. The moral high ground is only good for siting your artillery– it matters naught if you lose.

  3. Buckaroo

    Who gets to decide whether an order is “unlawful”? A similar question was asked a few thousand years ago: “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” No answer was ever forthcoming. It ultimately boils down to a question of legitimacy. Orders flow from the top down, but legitimacy flows from the bottom up. If you are on the bottom, and you have a problem with your orders, your options are feedback, pushback, and, ultimately, noncompliance. If feedback and pushback don’t produce desired results, and enough members fail to comply, then the organization loses effectiveness and power. Noncompliance takes many forms; profoundly illegitimate organizations create profound penalties for profound noncompliance. Stalin’s Stavka Directive No. 1919 is a fine example.

    The fact that our current military is increasingly riddled with political commissars (“Diversity Officers” being one example in the terminology of the Current Year)– whose only real job is to enforce internal compliance– demonstrates that the organization as a whole is rapidly losing legitimacy. Illegitimate organizations do illegitimate things, and when they do, its best to be well clear. In times like these, ol’ Remus said it best: “stay away from crowds!” And the military is nothing if not an extremely well-organized, well-trained, and well-equipped crowd.

  4. Badger

    Haas’ behavior in the crucifixion of SFC Martland disgusts; if the officer formerly known as “SHARK 85” wants to be reissued his man-card he should swallow the bile, step up & remove the LoR from SFC Martland’s file (besides the NCOER having been corrected). Not holding my breath, though. That guy rubs me like 200-grit on the…

  5. Loren

    The bomber crews of WWII were never ordered to kill women and kids. They were given targets that just happened to be full of women and kids. The soldiers in Nam didn’t need to torture prisoners, they handed them to the S. Viets. What’s the issue?
    The other issue is how many will obey when the targets are on US soil. Based on incidents involving Federal agents in Texas, Idaho and now Oregon I’d say most every damn one of em.
    I’m glad to hear a candidate tell it. Might be naive, but it is refreshing. Probably why he’ll get elected – if he lives.
    As to how to deal with the Muslim terrorist problem: you deal with it like you do with malaria. You don’t swat the odd mosquito, you go where they breed and drain the swamp.
    We need to drain the swamp before the dumb SOB’s get lucky and find a nuke or a really good virus.

  6. BGS

    Recent unlawful orders are things like “Special forces soldiers shouldn’t beat up child raping moslem Afghan commanders”

    When Trump gives the order, “No more being pussies with their hands tied around moslems, as in Bosnia,Kosova, Iraq, Somolia, & Kuwait” people will gladly follow through.

        1. BGS

          The sad part is when you make jokes about how “as long as one man in a dress is barred from the little girls bath room the lefts fight against the crony 0.1% can wait”, leftists think you are one of them & agree with you.

  7. Roger

    Sgt Martland should be used as an example of an honorable and ethical military person.
    How about teaching his ethics to congress and the rest of the hangers on inside the beltway.

    1. DSM

      Eventually I imagine he will. A helicopter pilot (CWO Thompson) charged out in front of the troops at My Lai and was branded as a piece of trash for trying to stop it and going on the record after the fact. Now you see the story come up in LOAC briefs from time to time when for 30 years you didn’t dare mention him. He made the service look bad and that was his true transgression.
      In time, the Army will quietly make their amends with SFC Martland. Maybe give him an after the fact promotion to raise his retirement or possibly an MSM to add to his shadow box. I suspect as a professional soldier he’ll smile, salute and shake a couple hands. Will he think bitterly about a time when he was 18-19 years old, eager to serve something bigger than himself? Or, will he have gotten so used to he doesn’t give a damn and just goes about his day?

      1. H

        CWO Thompson’s portrait is enshrined in the Hall of Fame of the Army Aviation Museum at Fort Rucker, Alabama.

          1. Hognose Post author

            Are you talking about Calley? He actually is a kind of tragic figure. I had some interesting conversations with his civilian attorney, Richard Kay. Mr Kay wanted to write a book about the trial, but could not do it without his client’s permission, which Calley would not give.

            And he participated in the massacre. He was not the highest echelon commander involved by any means, just the highest convicted. (His company commander, Ernest or Ernesto Medina, was acquitted. None of the higher echelons involved that day were charged).

        1. Mac

          I went through flight school in 1989. We were taught about CWO Thompson specifically, a man of immense inner courage.

          As to the larger issue at hand here; why? What motivates a man to forego the right thing for his personal gain? I would offer with little evidence as I have never seen a shot fired in anger that the cost of prosecuting a Martland is significantly greater than that soldier alone. Allow me to make a simple case and please disabuse me if I am wrong. That SF troop and his cohort will rotate through many battle spaces and understand the whys of battle. In his AO there will also be a whole hell of a lot of 11 Bravos that may or may not get the big picture. When they rotate back home and the big green machine pulls out prematurely, as we often do any number of those troops will wonder whether it was all worth it. They will wonder whether all the sacrifice, all the blood, all the losses were worth it. If I were that 11 bravo or anyone else in that AO and I underwent countless sleepless nights at least I could take some solace that I was part pf an mission that saved some poor kid from a nasty scumbag. I was part of a unit, whether that unit was my company, my battalion or the whole frigging group of combat and support forces in a province, that did good. I was part of a team that did right and did good. The selfish pricks that take part in a wrongful cashiering of a good man robs those troops, destroys morale and has a net effect on the margins of reducing the combat effectiveness of our fighting forces. Am I right or wrong?
          Respectfully,

          Mac

          1. Hognose Post author

            Mac, that’s a very thoughtful, morally sound position. Last I knew Thompson was still with us, and I think we know what he would have done.

            The Navy used to run ads (maybe they still do) saying it’s “A Global Force for Good,” which is, net net, why we have projected power since we started doing it in the 19th Century. If you lose your moral compass as a man in command of lethal power ranging from an M9 pistol through a helicopter, a tank, a squad or platoon or battalion or task force, or everything you command from your Pentagon easy chair, you’re no better than the 15-year-olds in Chicago with dead eyes and a Hi-Point.

            If you keep your moral compass, you can handle all that power without turning into Gollum.

        2. redleg

          Now it is. He was given a DFC as a shut up award. When he wouldn’t and it came out they converted his award to the Soldiers Medal. A good dude.

  8. Tom Stone

    Based on my experience in the corporate world if you blow the whistle or refuse to participate in clearly immoral or illegal behavior you will very shortly be out of a job and quite likely blacklisted in the industry.
    Those who go along to get along will be rewarded with $ and promotions.
    Been there, done that twice.
    It’s why I am self employed as a Realtor.
    Fuck’em with Rachel Maddow’s dick.

  9. Cattus Borealis

    For some reason this post reminds me of Carl von Clausewitz…he left Prussian service after Napoleonic domination to offer his services to Emperor/Czar Alexander I in liberating his homeland. Had Napoleon prevailed, von Clausewitz would probably hung. I think many good officers left after the recent idiocy. I worked for very immoral people and that is why I left active duty. There are no reasonable alternatives to serve elsewhere. Many people stayed in because they were afraid or for their career.

    I fear that if things get really bad it will be like the Red Army drafting leadership at gunpoint and with hostages…the infamous “military specialists” with a commissar to oversee them.

  10. Keith

    And in the contract security world were I have to work because I couldn’t find anything better there are two un-written but very true rules:

    1) If anything goes wrong it’s the security officers fault.

    2) If there is any doubt who is at fault refer to rule #1.

    I’ve been to Dauchou. It’s just one small step from blindly following orders to that reality.

    1. archy

      I’ve been to Dauchou. It’s just one small step from blindly following orders to that reality.

      It wasn’t all that far- around 50 miles- from Bad Tolz to Dachau. Which was not only a tourist attraction of a sort, but still the US Military Prison facility for USAREUR when I was stationed there. Imagine for a moment the psychological effect of a young company-grade officer telling an equally-young Jewish EM who overstayed his AWOL that he’s about to be sent to Dachau….

      But in a later day in a blue instead of green suit, I sadly had to attend a course of instruction suitable for a second-hat tasking as a unit Public Affairs Officer, and was sent of to the Ft Benjamin Harrison [not Ft William Henry Harrison a MUCH classier place!] for the PAO training. And during the course discussions, the question was raised about which poor goof of a PAO ever had the worst story to try to put out in the least damaging fashion. One guy offered his story, having been the PAO at the US military custodial facility at [surprise!] Dachau, in Germany. Both staff and inmates had been complaining without effect regarding stale and otherwise inedible bread and other baked foodstuffs being trucked in to feed them because their own food service unit had an equipment failure…of their ovens. He won.

  11. Cattus Borealis

    I wished we lived in a more civilized time…

    Many good people have already left promising careers in the service because of the immorality of their leaders. I can count them on my hands and feet. Carl von Clausewitz left Prussian service to serve Czar Alexander when his native land was dominated by the French and Napoleonic project. Unlike then, there are no great alternatives to go to. I think the best bet is to get out of the Army before it gets more evil.
    Unfortunately, I think that Uncle Scam will have a “military specialist” program complete with commissars and detention for property and family if things get much worse.

  12. James

    Fascinating topic, one I have often contemplated. A recent example at the platoon level are the LA NG soldiers who refused to carry out orders to disarm their fellow Lousianaians after Hurricane Katrina. One said something to the effect of “we just got back from Iraq a month ago where we were disarming Iraqis, ain’t gonna’ happen here, not in my State”. Unsure if they were ever punished for not obeying orders. Truth is, in the end you’re always better off following your inner moral compass. The final judgement bar is the one to fret about. Also note the now 90-year-old concentration camp guards who are getting hauled before the war crimes court, and claiming they were “just following orders”. That defense won’t work, in an earthy court or otherwise.

    1. archy

      A recent example at the platoon level are the LA NG soldiers who refused to carry out orders to disarm their fellow Lousianaians after Hurricane Katrina. One said something to the effect of “we just got back from Iraq a month ago where we were disarming Iraqis, ain’t gonna’ happen here, not in my State”. Unsure if they were ever punished for not obeying orders. Truth is, in the end you’re always better off following your inner moral compass.

      The Military Order of Maria Theresa (Militär-Maria-Theresien-Orden in German, Katonai Mária Terézia-rend in Hungarian, Vojenský řád Marie Terezie in Czech, Wojskowy Order Marii Teresy in Polish, Vojaški red Marije Terezije in Slovenian, Croatian: Vojni Red Marije Terezije was an Order of the Austro-Hungarian Empire founded on June 18, 1757, the day of the Battle of Kolin, by the Empress Maria Theresa to reward especially meritorious and valorous acts by commissioned officers, including and especially the courageous act of defeating an enemy, and thus, “serving” their monarch. It was specifically given for “successful military acts of essential impact to a campaign that were undertaken on [the officer’s] own initiative, and might have been omitted by an honorable officer without reproach.” This gave rise to a popular myth that it was awarded for (successfully) acting against an explicit order. It is considered to be the highest honor for a soldier in the Austrian armed services.

      Originally, the order had two classes: the Knight’s Cross and the Grand Cross. On October 15, 1765, Emperor Joseph II added a Commander’s Cross and a breast star to be worn by holders of the Grand Cross.

      A prospective awardee was considered only in regards to their military service record; their ethnicity, birth and rank (as long as he was a commissioned officer) were irrelevant. Knight Cross recipients were automatically ennobled with the title of Ritter in the Austrian nobility for life, and admitted to court. Upon further petition they could also claim the hereditary title of Baron (Freiherr). They were also entitled to a pension. Widows of the order’s recipients were entitled to half of their spouse’s pension during the remainder of their lives.

  13. Matt

    Of course troops will obey unlawful orders, every war since World War II has been blatantly unconstitutional since there was no Declaration of War and very few refused to participate.

  14. tom Schultz

    I have neither heard nor seen anything about the “Oath Keepers” for some time.
    Seems to me they should really be up in arms and vociferous about the Martland affair.

    Is a puzzlement!

  15. Y.

    I wonder if the Einsatzgruppen also had legal memos as cover for the mass executions of Jews, Gypsies and communists.

    Probably yes. The novel “Kindly Ones’, which is sort of an anti-Dan Brown novel whose Forrest Gump like protagonist (except morally, not intellectually) blunders all around the Final solution as a mid-ranking SS official wrote they did have legal opinions and such for what they did.

    As it is said, paper can bear anything.

    1. morokko

      From my few years of experience in justice and law enforcement circles, many functionaries will simply follow the guidelines they got from the commanders and procedural manuals written by Ministry of Justice and Police HQ legal departments. The knowledge of actual law as written by constituency is often very limited and outdated, after completing the training it vanishes quickly, and during the further service only few will have time or incentive to read the codes and legal commentaries. For the command this provides opportunity to enforce some really creative interpretations of substantive law and even the procedures tend to get misshapen in manuals and legal opinions.
      Also, displaying extensive learning of the actual letter of the law will be often looked upon by superiors and by colleagues alike – first will see it as an dangerous independence which could lead to disobedience and the latter prefer staying clear of complications and following the official guidelines which relieve them of responsibilities. Being the barrack room lawyer wont get you promotions or friends. The professional lawyers from the prosecutor office also greatly prefer obedience to the wishes of their superiors, despite their supposed knowledge and guaranteed independence. After all, being the doctor of the law did not stop Max Aue from shooting Jews – and this fictional guy was based on many real examples of highly educated members of the SS.

      1. Boat Guy

        Yet some “opted out” of the executions – not many – and their absence did not change anything for the victims.
        A chilling book; commended to one and all.
        Still the German “cop” tradition is a significantly different one from ours. I’ve spent time with cops there and here; different critters by-and-large.

  16. Kirk

    I’m going to suggest that the answer to this question is “It depends…”. And, it does: Frog-boiling, proceeding at a slow, step-by-step pace, and we’ll see the armed forces of these United States do some really unfortunate shit.

    Get out in front of that process, and demand some really egregious shit? Yeah, good luck with that one: The mid-level NCOs and troops will likely conduct a bunch of Irish mutiny actions, and might even outright mutiny.

    It all depends, my friends… The real question is, how much bullshit will the American public put up with, and where are they going to draw the line? Once they start prosecuting, on demand of the public, the men that put Martland where he is today, the bullshit will stop.

    Our real problem is that our electorate is too busy keeping up with the Kardashians, and has allowed a state of affairs to develop where the “governing elite” thinks it really is running things. We’re only a preference cascade away from a resolution that ends with most of those dumbasses hanging from lamp posts along the streets of Washington, DC…

    1. SOTM

      We all have our limits and the lines we will cross. I am reminded of Doeg the Edomite in the story of David (1 Samuel 22). A story of mutiny. “But the servants of the king were not willing to put forth their hands to attack the priests of the Lord.” Doeg on the other hand did. He murdered all 85. David dedicated a Psalm to this situation. It is a great prayer against our enemies.

  17. S

    “Truth is, in the end you’re always better off following your inner moral compass. The final judgement bar is the one to fret about.”

    Hence the great sustained effort to de-moralise as many as possible. The Greatest Generation grew up with prayer in school and at least a rudimentary knowledge of Scripture, and although the professing Church was already long since thoroughly rotten with heresies, it has at least had a moralising effect that benefits society (even though Phariseeism earns tougher judgement later).

    The army they fought bore “Gott mit uns” on their belt buckles, and while their religious milieu was even more corrupt, their culture was still significantly more moral than the generations of today in both/all our countries; and yet look what they did.

    The Meccan threat-du-jour is in some ways more moral than the “post-Christian” West: at least they have a unified code of behaviour, and in a couple of points they are not as decrepit as the West. That these points are merely stolen from Judaism and Christianity doesn’t outweigh their grosser transgressions and won’t count for anything in front of the Final Judgment; but it is kind of ironic.

    Proverbs 22:6
    Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

    Jeremiah 17:9
    The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

    1. Tom Stone

      S, I was raised as a Vedantan and I find myself unable to join any organized religion as an adult due to my early experiences.
      I do have a faith in God that came from a lot of pain and I do my best to live an ethical and honest life, imperfectly.
      When I took an Oath to “Defend the Constitution against all enemies Foreign and Domestic” I meant it. Seeing where our Country has gone saddens me and knowing where we are likely to go soon saddens me more.
      Interesting times.

      1. Stefan van der Borght

        Tom, being repelled by organised religion is a very promising sign.

        Real faith (a gift from above; salvation is Monergistic) will see you on the narrow path, with thorns and thistles aplenty. It’s worth it. Mind you, being a jerk I’ve planted a lot of those weeds myself, but when I find a clearing in my crop it’s been thoughtfully sown for me.

        I’d gladly hear your history, and your eschatology and what you’ve learned in the other facets of The Queen of Sciences: Theology; but this is Hognose’s turf and one musn’t impose. You could mail me to my Christian name at my surname in Tschermannie if you like…

    2. James

      Yes, case in point: My uncle, a B-17 bombardier shot down over the Nordsee during a raid on Bremerhaven. He finished out the war as a POW, first at Stalagluft 13 and later near Munich. As Patton’s troops liberated the camp, they were told just to hang out a few days until transportation arrived. Near starving, he organized a group of fellow allied airmen to go to a nearby Dorf to acquire food and do a little sightseeing. They knocked on doors, kindly asked for, and received some of what the populace had to share, some potatoes and a couple of chickens. Arriving back at camp they were horrified to hear of the exploits of the Soviet airmen from the camp that day. They were on the opposite side of town literally raping and pillaging the populace. The difference? The allied airmen were raised with a sense of accountability to a higher power, which when turned loose on their own, they didn’t forget.

  18. Nynemillameetuh

    Laws change all the time. Anything that conforms to the will of the powerful will be deemed legal in short order.

  19. Tom Kratman

    Ya know, it wouldn’t even be much mental exercise to construct legal arguments legitimizing torture (truth in advertising: It really doesn’t upset me much for unprivileged combatants and their aids and abettors, by the way) and taking out families. Indeed, it would be pie. And that’s the most you need for 99 and 44/00ths percent of the O’ Corps, a legal peg to hang their hat on.

    1. 11B-Mailclerk

      Essentially, Lawful = “My butt is covered”?

      You Nailed it.

      Which does not bode well for our Nation, if things continue on the present course.

  20. Dienekes

    As a history buff and now retired LEO, I have looked in vain for a case in which police agencies failed to accommodate themselves with whatever regime came to power–or at least put up even a token resistance. Most of these situations apparently came about in Europe during WWII, and from what I can tell, it happened most seamlessly in Germany and France. Beyond the general moral climate, It’s not hard to flip a regimented hierarchy by the replacing a few key people with ambitious, committed team players. Not many of the rank and file found the changes hard to live with, considering the breezes that were blowing. The New Order and all that. There doesn’t seem to be much treatment of this, and what little I’ve seen isn’t encouraging: http://www.amazon.com/Ordinary-Men-Reserve-Battalion-Solution/dp/0060995068/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1462070824&sr=1-1&keywords=ordinary+men+reserve+police+battalion+101+and+the+final+solution+in+poland

    I read this years ago, need to reread it: http://www.amazon.com/Altruistic-Personality-Rescuers-Jews-Europe/dp/0029238293/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1462071027&sr=8-1&keywords=the+altruistic+personality+rescuers+of+jews+in+nazi+europe

    The gist of it was that those that went out of their way to do the “right thing” were accustomed to doing so from childhood onward, and essentially continued to act in character. Many of them, when interviewed, did not think they had done anything particularly noteworthy.

    Postwar, in both countries, many of the police effortlessly adapted to circumstances once again and took their “well-earned” retirements.

    There had to be exceptions, but if so, that’s what they were–exceptions.

    I wish I could be certain that “It Can’t Happen Here”, but with human nature being what it is…never say never.

    (In that vein: in the late 80s I had a very minor hand in locating an SS guard from Auschwitz who had managed to enter the US postwar, by concealing his background. He finally came to the attention off DOJ’s OSI after 30 years. I found him living across the street from an American Legion post…)

    1. Hognose Post author

      One of the most interesting cases I came across was an SS man who became infatuated with a woman prisoner (shaved head and all, I guess) in Auschwitz and began saving lives and doing Resistance stuff, communicating between the prisoners and the Polish resistance. He got caught and was thrown into his own prison. I just went looking for the reference and found several Jew-saving SS men, but none that was quite the story I remember reading. Here’s another guy whose Jew-saving led to his death, somehow:

      http://www.haaretz.com/jewish/holocaust-remembrance-day/a-survivor-thanks-the-nazi-who-saved-him.premium-1.514163

      There was also a Lithuanian general who raised a regiment to fight the soviets with the cooperation of the Nazis. But when they told him congrats, you’re now in the SS, he told them to pound sand and he and his guys went underground. Amazingly, he survived the war.

  21. RICHARD MCNEIL

    If Hillary or Trump are elected and come for the guns then America WILL experience her second Civil War.

    1. jfre

      I really have my doubts. Look at what they did in the northeast with the SAFE act and all that. People ended up ignoring the law, but that is not the same as fighting it. They just keep pushing the Overton window a little further over. Do you really think everyone will melt down if the supreme court upholds a law banning “assault rifles”? Especially if there is no immediate enforcement of it? Sure, people will ignore it and now you are a felon in waiting. Then they will get someone to shoot up a mall or a hospital. With public outrage on their side they will make some very public targeted arrests and the weapons will be thrown on piles just like they did in Australia.

      One way to break down society is to make everyone a criminal. Every time you speed, change lanes without signaling or blow through a red light, and that is just getting to work in the morning.

      Examples:
      “In 1996 well-known automobile racer Bobby Unser was convicted of a federal crime and sentenced to six months in prison. Why? Because he got lost in a blizzard in Colorado for two days while snowmobiling, and was guilty of “unlawful operation of a snowmobile within a National Forest Wilderness Area.””

      “Robert Blandford, Diane Huang, David McNab and Abner Schoenwetter — three American seafood dealers and one Honduran lobster-fleet owner — had no prior records. Yet they were given hard time in 2001 for “importing lobster tails that were the wrong size and that were packaged in clear plastic bags rather than in cardboard boxes.” The three men were sentenced to eight years; Huang, the mother of two young children, was sentenced to two.”

      Source for above: http://mic.com/articles/86797/8-ways-we-regularly-commit-felonies-without-realizing-it#.0W7eYWfWy

      They have built a legal system so complex and opaque that everyone is guilty of something. Do you really think you did your taxes absolutely correctly? When the time comes, they just pull the trigger and haul you in. No one is going to stand up for you. No one is going to riot. They are going to take your liberty, wreck your life and slowly bleed you out in legal bills for your never ending defense. With the surveillance system the NSA has put in place on the net, they just need to spend a little time to figure out what sort of criminal you happen to be.

      I have little belief that anyone in America will do much of anything. There was a whole armed movement organized to stand up to Hitler in Germany in the mid 30s. Sort of like the militia movement in the US but more vocal. They were going to not let him destroy their country. But when Adolf got strong enough, he arrested the leaders on violation existing law and the whole thing fell apart. Shortly thereafter he changed the weapons laws to confiscate guns and Germany was on the shining path.

  22. H

    Everything the Nazi’s had their SS and run-of-the-mill Soldaten do to the Jews and other undesirable groups during their reign was in accordance with German law, as the Nazi’s wrote it.

    Now as to the question of the American military firing upon the American people, I wonder if the heroic actions of Phil Sheridan in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia or Sherman in his march through Georgia and South Carolina were, at the time, legal as well. But then again, the victors write the history, don’t they?

    1. Boat Guy

      Whether or not they were legal they were certainly sanctioned by the the Imperial Federal Guvmint.

      Ya know I read Sal’s stuff early on and found it depressing and the comments here don’t do much to ameliorate that; but i think we’re selling folks short merely because things haven’t gotten “…to the question of the American military firing upon the American people…” nor – as importantly – the American people shooting back. I DO think the “American people” in uniform and out are different. At least we used to be. We are not Germans of the Depression-era, least not ALL of us.
      I’d rather not have the opportunity to see whether or not our troops are willing to shoot us or we them – though I know some folks who’d likely do the latter if the former occurred on a scale exceeding an isolated incident.
      One truly cannot KNOW whether or not one will fall to the side or right or wrong unless presented with the choice. I’ve served with some MIGHTY good people and believe most of them would (will) make the moral choice when the time comes. I expect that there will be surprising exceptions to my expectations for good or ill, but till I see such things with my own eyes I’ll remain hopeful that we are still an exceptional people.

  23. Irish Right

    “Martland was not persecuted directly by soldier-hating suits like Acting Secretary of the Army Patrick Murphy (a career politician)…”

    Sorry to burst your rant, but I’m forced to. While I certainly don’t agree with most of his politics, Acting Secretary Murphy is a career politician only in the same way that Dwight Eisenhower was; i.e., after serving his country in the military he went into politics. Not to mention, you need to back off the hyperbole. He is anything but soldier hating. Misguided, perhaps. Soldier-hating, hardly.

    1. Hognose Post author

      Sorry, Murphy was a JAG, not a soldier. He was there to get his law school paid for by the taxpaying chumps, and to launch his political career. Hand signal for the staff judge advocate is arm extended, hand inverted, finger pointed; and one reason why is that there’s a bunch of Murphys there.

      Or did Eisenhower have a direct commission, four years’ active duty, and zero time actually leading soldiers, instead, just time prosecuting them?

      The attempted crucifixion of Martland has Murphy’s greasy fingerprints all over it.

      By the way, while in Congress, Murphy was a gun-banner. It was one of the factors in his 2010 defeat (and he’d actually improved on the issue in his last term. Fear focuses the mind).

  24. Docduracoat

    We are already killing terrorists’ families with our drone strikes.
    And anyone who happens to live next door and anyone walking by in the street.
    The U.S. government has admitted to “signature strikes” where we strike at a house where a terrorists car is parked out front.
    Regardless of who is in the house.
    We have struck at weddings, barbecues and other mistaken targets.
    Obama just writes a name on a piece of paper.
    As for the Army coming after Americans, I am certain that day will come.
    I will be on my way to Israel when that day comes

  25. W. Fleetwood

    Oh hell , I might as well toss in my two cents worth. If the US military are given orders to do something they really, really, don’t want to do they don’t refuse them. Rather they say “Yes Sir, Absolutely Sir, We’re on it Sir.” and then………don’t do it. If called on this they point out the problems with manning charts and equipment flow, and environmental impact statements, and so on and on and on. If they really don’t want’a do it they can delay till the next crisis, the next administration, or, on the evidence, until kingdom come.

    Sua Sponte.

  26. Tantumblogo

    Does Buzz Mosely and SECAF Wynne getting canned for opposing F-22 cancellation count? About at the same level as Connolly, anyway.

    And there have long been rumor’s Fogleman’s retirement was not about a very minor awards issue but really about profound policy disagreements with the Clintons.

    1. archy

      As well as MGEN Ken Himsel, LTGEN David McCloud and Admiral Jeremy Boorda, the first Navy admiral to have risen through the enlisted ranks to become the Chief of Naval Operations… also *eliminated* via the *disagreements about award decorations* methodology. Maybe.

  27. Mike

    I considered this very question not long ago, when I was a 1SG for a weapons company. “Gee, we’d like to comply, but 24 of 27 vehicles are deadlined and awaiting parts…” “Oops, the paperwork for ammo draw was screwed up, SGT X didn’t have his ammo handler card, we don’t have the right placards for the vehicle to pick up ammo, the vehicle we were going to use has a Class 3 leak and can’t move, etc.”

    I’d expect to see a lot of subtle noncompliance and footdragging across the force, if not outright Hell, Nos. Truthfully, I expect the midgrade NCOs and junior Officers to be more vocal about saying no than I do senior Officers and NCOs… Isn’t that a hell of a commentary in itself?

  28. S

    When the time comes where blatantly illegal orders are unavoidable, such that people’s consciences (those that have them, that is…) are sorely tried, methods will be used to keep the machine functioning.

    A domestic emergency serious enough to totally disrupt everything, plus a hard core of True Believers In Final Victory, the odd trial and execution to purge subversives and rebels, and judicious use of “gee, nice family you got back home, soldier…..be a shame if anything happened to them, wouldn’t it?”.

    It has worked for thousands of years, and abruptly weaning the smart-phone and internet generation of the instant contact drug will be a marvellous weapon to make the proven formula even more effective.

  29. Pingback: WeaponsMan: Will The Military Follow Unlawful Orders? | Western Rifle Shooters Association

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