The Thinking 

How Can the Military be Saved Without Heroes?

January 29, 2013


Brigadier General Billy Mitchell

DOUGLAS writes:

You hit on something larger in your comment that the military seems to be devoid of martyrs. From what I observe daily it seems our whole society is devoid of martyrs except for lone voices on the web.

I remember during my military career reading the story of Col. Billy Mitchell and how he sacrificed his career to gain support for an official Air Force. He received a court martial over his actions. We were taught he was a hero, yet there were no heroes mentioned who stood up for constitutional values or any other values. Instead, people who did things such as refusing to wear the blue U.N. beret were described as kooks.

Laura writes:

Thank you for writing.

From the Wikipedia entry on Mitchell:

William “Billy” Mitchell (December 29, 1879 – February 19, 1936) was a United States Army general who is regarded as the father of the U.S. Air Force.[1]

Mitchell served in France during World War I and, by the conflict’s end, commanded all American air combat units in that country. After the war, he was appointed deputy director of the Air Service and began advocating increased investment in air power, believing that this would prove vital in future wars. He argued particularly for the ability of bombers to sinkbattleships and organized a series of bombing runs against stationary ships designed to test the idea.

He antagonized many people in the Army with his arguments and criticism and, in 1925, was returned to his permanent rank of Colonel. Later that year, he was court-martialed for insubordination after accusing Army and Navy leaders of an “almost treasonable administration of the national defense”[2] for investing in battleships instead of aircraft carriers. He resigned from the service shortly afterward.

Mitchell received many honors following his death, including a commission by President Franklin Roosevelt as a Major General. He is also the only individual after whom a type of American military aircraft, the North American B-25 Mitchell, is named.

— Comments —

Buck writes:

Enlisted men and women swear an oath to follow orders.

Officers 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.

There are roughly 235,000 active duty officers. How many have born true faith and allegiance to our Constitution, so help them God? How many of them have even read it or have a firm grasp of what our constitution is? Being a military officer is a career. It long ago ceased being a patriotic call to duty.

Joe Long writes:

Buck is correct, but enlisted men also take the Oath to protect the Constitution of the United States (and, for that matter, officers also take the oath to obey lawful orders).

“Billy” Mitchell was recognized as a hero in retrospect – that’s how it is the a martyred career of a military Cassandra.  Perhaps the shouted-down wise counselors resisting against our current military decline will be recognized someday; perhaps they never will, but I am certain that they exist.

Buck writes:

Joe Long is correct, enlisted men and women do swear to defend the Constitution. I didn’t mean to sound as if I was suggesting that they do not. But, there is a difference. Officers have a much higher obligation and the actual means or opportunity to do something as patriotic as actually defending our Constitution. They can make their case to their superior officer and resign.

Officers are the primary source of authority in the military. They have a higher duty. They do not swear to obey orders. They swear to discharge their duties. Enlisted are bound by the UCMJ to obey lawful orders, or they go to the brig. They sign a contract with no out clause. Officers are bound by their oath to disobey any order that violates our Constitution. They should be resigning by the thousands.

Paul writes:

Hey, don’t forget attorneys.  Here are the first lines of the oath Louisiana attorneys must take to receive a license: “I, SOLEMNLY SWEAR OR AFFIRM I will support the Constitution of the United States // and the Constitution of the State of Louisiana . . . .”

Moreover, attorneys must be introduced by a member of the bar and take the particular oath required by the federal court.  The oaths vary widely, but the following is a typical excerpt (from the Eastern District of Louisiana): “I do solemnly swear that I will demean myself as an attorney and counselor of this court uprightly and according to law, and that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States, so help me God.” [Emphasis added.]

Many people are unaware the Constitution is a document upon which every single law in America is based.  The Constitution pervades every legal specialty.  It is so fundamental that attorneys must take two semesters of Constitutional Law, and that is only a taste.  Criminal and civil procedure (other courses) are tightly controlled by the Constitution.  Each specialist has to know the specialty’s Constitutional framework.  So when liberals start talking about abandoning the Constitution, they are unknowingly talking about anarchy.

The military cannot be saved without legal heroes such as the late, brilliant Robert Bork, who subjected himself to liberal nonsense during an attempt to raise him from a federal court of appeals to the Supreme Court.  Let us not forget the lawyer Thomas Jefferson.

Terry Morris writes:

Buck wrote: “Officers are bound by their oath to disobey any order that violates the Constitution. They should be resigning by the thousands.”

And from his initial comment: “How many of them have even read it or have a firm grasp of what our Constitution is?”

I should hope that virtually all military officers have at least read the Constitution. As to the question of how many of them have a grasp of what it means, well, that is an altogether different question. I would guess relatively few in terms of percentages. More importantly, though, how many of them care enough about their duty as military officers to become serious students of the Constitution they have sworn to protect against all enemies, foreign and domestic? If they haven’t studied the Federalist Papers they can have no appreciable conception of what the Constitution means, or, by extension, of the importance, on their parts, of fidelity to its provisions in the face of blatant infidelity. As Washington said in his Farewell Address, “till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people [Article V amendment], the Constitution which exists at any time is sacredly obligatory on all.”

In presentations I have given on the topic of the importance of oath keeping, I declare that three separate items form a “matching set:” a copy of the Constitution, a copy of the Federalist, and a copy of Washington’s Farewell Address. “These,” I say, “form the basis of my political scripture as a citizen of the U.S., subject to the jurisdiction thereof.” But I haven’t given that speech in more than two years.

Enlisted personnel do have an “out,” but it comes with strings attached. When President Clinton initiated the so called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy following his first election, we were instructed from on high that we were not to ever speak disparagingly of homosexuals or homosexuality again during our respective terms of enlistment. I was not alone by a long shot in my rejection of this policy, but I was alone (within my unit at least) in my determination to take an early-out option rather than be subject to tacit acquiescence to this illicit policy. I knew what my limitations were (I could never have, in good conscience, obeyed such a rule consistently), and took the issue to my commander through the chain of command. My commander agreed to sign my discharge from active military service, in exchange for which I agreed to double my initial inactive enlistment of two years, plus the time left on my active duty enlistment.

Of course commanders have discretion in these matters to accept or reject such requests. Mine understood very well where I was coming from and graciously accepted my reasoning, and (unofficially) agreed with me.

The number of true Oath Keepers left in the U.S. military – men who put principle over their careers, their paychecks, their pensions – will be measurable in terms of how many defections result from the initiation of Obama’s radical policies, both in the officer and enlisted ranks.

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