My friend Pete at WRSA first posted this essay a couple of days ago. I in turn sent it out for comments from my current-serving military friends. The commenter whose intellect I respect the most and whose observations are folded, ad seriatim, in Baugh's piece below, is a former airborne Ranger and full-time US Army Reserve Officer (LTC), with 25 years service (20-plus on active duty) and a graduate of the United States Military Academy, the Infantry Officer Basic and Advanced Courses, as well as the Command and General Staff College. He is, by avocation, a constitutional and military historian. I will have more commentary myself after the piece.
When to Shoot the Colonels
by Tom Baugh
"At ease, Marines, and be seated" orders the gruff Gunnery Sergeant. "Now turn to Chapter 8 in your Military Constitutional Law text," he continues. "Today we discuss the appropriate conditions for shooting a colonel who is issuing an order which would violate the Constitutional rights of American citizens. Our first scenario involves gun seizures..."
Absurd, isn't it, to think that this sort of education is conducted among our armed forces? Yet, millions of citizens indulge this unspoken fantasy each time they imagine that the military exists to preserve our freedoms.
[Sad to say, but Mr. Baugh is correct in this. The military has no mechanism to actualize fidelity to one’s oath; we discuss and teach what to do, even how to disobey ‘illegal and/or ‘immoral’ orders that violate the Laws of War; we do not have an equivalent mechanism to do so for questions of constitutional excess Orders are presumed to be legitimate, and therefore constitutional.]
When I was at the Naval Academy in the mid-80s, and a Marine officer in the late 1980s and early 1990s, discussion of such issues was considered taboo. One fellow junior officer even scoffed that "Congress can change that Constitution any time they like." This isn't to say that there wasn't an undercurrent among most of the warfighters that issues such as gun control and preservation freedom of speech might one day pose a crisis of command. Yet this undercurrent was kept carefully concealed, and tended to become a more and more uncomfortable subject as the ranks of one's company became more elevated.
[My experience was similar. The one time it came up directly, in the face of an order to “secure” a sergeant’s private firearm collection from his quarters (residence on base) and store them in the unit arms room, the battalion commander looked this officer in the eye and stated: “And Captain, I don’t want any argument from you about the Second Amendment, either!” Understand that most officers, and even more of the troops, are completely a-political, and while we may think questions of Constitutional merit are worth hypothetical exercise, the majority do not, and therefore do not presume to question orders from the chain-of-command.]
Fortunately, with the Soviets and the threat of global thermonuclear war, these issues seemed far removed and safe from serious discussion.
Not so today. In the aftermath of Katrina, armed and uniformed soldiers patrolled the streets and disarmed Americans. Some uniformed soldiers were captured on film lamenting that "I can't believe that we're doing this to Americans." Yet, they did it anyway, lamentations notwithstanding. But why?
To answer that, we need to understand the principles of military command and education. For veterans, this discussion is unnecessary. For the vast number of non-veterans, especially those who harbor that most dangerous and ill-advised fantasy of a Constitutionally-aware military, this discussion is essential to survival.
American military education is one of the most finely tuned and adapted mechanisms in the world for instilling knowledge into its students. No other school or university can come close to the efficiency at which military knowledge is imparted to novices. There are even courses, such as Principles of Military Instruction, for how to teach military courses. These courses even teach how to develop such courses from scratch. The famous John Saxon math courses, popular among homeschoolers, exhibit these techniques, courtesy of that former Air Force officer and academy instructor. Military courses developed along these lines tend to be highly effective at teaching motivated students. Students motivated to learn how to do things such as extinguish fires or shoot missiles. Or shoot you.
As a result, if it is worth teaching to soldiers, sailors, airmen or Marines, it is worth embodying in a course. Captured as a course or in official manuals, such instruction is available to all for review and comment to make sure that the correct instruction is given, and given correctly. Conversely, if it doesn't exist as a course, it isn't being taught. And if it isn't being taught, it isn't even on the radar of the military mind. At least not the minds of those in command. Good luck finding a course such as "When to Shoot the Colonels" in a military instruction catalogue.
[I would like to add emphasis to the two statements above: “…if it is worth teaching to soldiers, sailors, airmen or Marines, it is worth embodying in a course”, and “…if it doesn't exist as a course, it isn't being taught.”]
Even basics such as reading and writing and math are available as courses. But not shooting colonels. What colonel would even authorize such a thing? Only a colonel who realizes that one day he might have to shoot a general, of course. But that would require a separate course for command grades, entitled "When to Shoot the Generals." And who would authorize that? We can keep climbing this chain all the way up, if we like, but at some point the absurdity makes its point. No one in a position of command or power is going to surrender that power for something as irrelevant as your rights.
[Tongue-in-cheek examples, aside, my active-duty experience bears this out. The military is a community of tyrants; the only watchword is whether it supports good order and discipline.]
And what if a particular soldier scored highly on such a course? What colonel would hand out high efficiency reports on his potential executioner?
Another aspect of this problem that needs to be clearly understood is that all modern American military officers are political appointees.
[True, but misleading. We are not political appointees in the sense of patronage, of party politics, appointed as Democrat or as Republican. We are appointed by the President – in his role as the National Command Authority, and confirmed by the Senate, as Federal Officials.]
Surprised? You shouldn't be. As a practical exercise ask one to read his commission document to you. Pay particular attention to the "follow lawful orders" part, along with the "serve at the pleasure of the President" phrase. Oath of office notwithstanding, nothing in that document says anything about what to do about unlawful orders.
[Troubling, sad, problematic – but all too true!]
Or even lawful orders, such as "seize all guns because Congress authorized it," which haven't yet stood the test of the judicial branch to adjudge Constitutionality. And like that 1stLt said, enough Congressmen can get together and change that Constitution. The Constitution itself says so.
[I will note, however, that the officer’s oath, as an appointed official, differs from the oath of enlistment taken by an enlisted member. And nowhere in that officer’s oath is the phrase “obey the orders of the President and of the officers appointed over me”, which one finds in the enlisted oath. (See discussion regarding “Oaths of Enlistment and Oaths of Office” at http://www.history.army.mil/faq/oaths.htm )]
Besides, if some uppity colonel out there decided to start authorizing instruction about when to shoot the colonels, you can bet that pretty quick the President would no longer be pleased. Because he or she would know where that path must ultimately lead. Which is why uppity colonels don't stay colonels for very long. Political appointees, my friends.
[While I have commented on the author’s [mis]characterization of all officer appointments are essentially ‘political’, this is, in fact, very true at the general officer level. A solid, hard-charging, results-oriented colonel might make brigadier general, but unless he is politically savvy, adept at the nuances of political correctness and skilled at telling the senior hierarchy what they want to hear, he won’t stay long and most definitely won’t see two or more stars. The occasional exception is very much the exception!]
That vision you have in your head of the noble military protecting your rights is just a dangerous fantasy.
[Sadly, I agree.]
A fantasy you have to get rid of right now, before it gets you killed.
"But wait," you say, "I know Sgt. Soandso, and he would never go along with a gun seizure." Maybe not, but then again, you might be surprised. To "not go along" would mean that he has to violate orders. This violation would at the very least be a career-killer, or possibly get him shot in an extreme situation. Shot by who? By all the other sergeants who don't want to get shot, of course. After all, the colonel only needs a handful of sergeants who are in it for a career, and a raft of lieutenants, captains and majors who one day want to be colonels. For you to have your rights protected would require that a sufficient number of each of these decide, simultaneously, to put on the brakes. It is easier just to shoot you for resisting and go about their day. Say it again, "political appointees."
[The author posits the extreme case, which is shooting the malcontents, in this case, the ardent Constitutionalists and Patriots. What is much more likely is that they will be dismissed from their positions of authority, shunted off to make-work jobs, overlooked for promotion and favorable assignments consideration, and forced out of the service long before their ‘extreme’ views play out in overt, resistant action. And if it should come to that, they would be disarmed and locked up, tried by courts-martial, convicted and imprisoned for violation of any number of UCMJ provisions, but premised on dereliction of duty or disobedience to lawful orders. One stands true to one’s conscience at one’s peril.]
Besides, if all of these people decide in unison to protect you, and in so doing put their own careers, freedoms and life on the line, who is going to protect them? You? And if so, how? You needed them to protect you in the first place. And if Sgt. Soandso gets shot protecting your rights, what about his family? Retribution aside, who takes care of them with him out of the picture? Worse, after Sgt. Soandso gets shot, some corporal will be there ready to pin on those chevrons. And you can bet that to that guy, you are a minor inconvenience in his day. You wouldn't get lucky enough to get a chain of noble soldiers to protect you. When the day arrives, all of those political appointees will have scrubbed the ranks of those pesky oathkeepers anyway. Those oathkeepers who remain hidden in ranks will be in an impossible situation.
[The grim end-state of the author’s scenario will play out, if allowed to reach is logical conclusion. Which is why it is imperative for informed Patriots, inside and outside the service, to raise the issue as to when it is appropriate, and indeed morally required, to disobey ‘lawful orders’ from the national command authority and/or the military hierarchy – when such orders violate the Constitution. Disobedience to such orders is an imperative if one is to be true to one’s oath to support and defend the Constitution. But what does that phrae mean? Oathkeepers does a tremendous service to the nation by raising awareness of the issue and positing certain definitive scenarios that require disobedience to orders in order to maintain fidelity to one’s oath.]
And we haven't even discussed the false-flagging of dressing foreign troops in American uniforms to capitalize on the unwillingness of Americans to kill "our boys." I'll save that one for later.
So if the military doesn't exist to protect our rights and freedoms, why does it exist? The answer is simple. It exists to back our national will with force.
[I hate to say it, but he is right about this.]
Most of the time, that is a good thing, particularly when our national will is to not be attacked by jackasses who threaten us. But when the national will turns to taking your guns away, you will be the jackass who threatens "us." Then the military will execute that national will with cold, unthinking and bureaucratic efficiency.
[Most of them.]
And wrap itself in the flag while doing so.
Want to have some fun? Walk up to any active duty serviceman you wish, shake his hand and thank him for his service. Then, before you release his hand, pull him toward you slightly, look into his eyes and tell him, "now when the time comes, don't forget what your oath really means." Do this ten times, and the reactions of that little informal poll will tell you everything you need to know. Having divested yourself of that little fantasy, maybe you will have a chance to survive that gun seizure for the real battle later. At the very least you will have looked into the eyes of some of the enemy, constituted of complacency and obedience, you may one day face.
[Grim as the author’s scenario is, and I, as noted above, generally agree with his assessment, I think it a mistake to assume that everyone in uniform will blindly follow orders – particularly if an active and vocal minority resist, in whatever ways are situationally appropriate, the imposition of unconstitutional orders. In the face of such unconstitutional actions on the part of the government, all it takes is for a vocal, active minority to sway the opinions and actions of their fellow service-members, if not to positive counteraction, at least perhaps to sway into hesitance and inaction. Our task is to ensure that constitutionally informed service-members know that there are others like-minded, military Patriots who will support their actions.]
MBV: OK, so far, so good, but this is only half of the story. There are, and will be, oath breakers. There are, and will be, Oath Keepers. Here's the rub --
If you treat a man like an enemy, if you presume him to be so, he will oblige you by being your enemy. To do otherwise would be foolish on his part.
I happen to know that despite Baugh's ominous presentation there are in fact many Oath Keepers in the military and police. As a matter of strategy, as well as simple civility - I want to win over as many people in our military as I possibly can. Needlessly insulting them and presuming they are all simply obedient Nazis will only make that supposed "truth" all the more true.
I have heard Stewart Rhodes, the founder of Oath Keepers, make this observation before: "Sometimes people become what you expect them to be, and are as you treat them. If I treat them as if they are courageous, patriotic men of conscience who will refuse to follow evil and unconstitutional orders, they are more likely to be thus."
I refer you again to the Ranger's last comment above. It is not too late to cause that affect. THAT is what Oath Keepers is about.
We are in a war for the hearts and minds of our military with unconstitutional elements within our own government. Our task should be easier than theirs because, although they brandish the big stick of the National Command Authority, in an unconstitutional grab for power, they will be asking our soldiers to enforce the NCA's will upon their own brothers, fathers, cousins, sisters, friends and neighbors within our own borders.
While Baugh's warning is correct, it should not be seen as a reason to write off as likely enemies our own flesh and blood who are soldiers and police.
Rather, we should look at it as underlining the necessity of winning the hearts and minds of people who are predisposed to be won over. From the tyrannical-tending NCA-of-the-future's point of view, we are encouraging the loss of "unit cohesion, good order and discipline." Indeed, this was the hook upon which LTC Cunningham hung the necessity for his 29 Palms survey -- that subordinating Marines to UN control or giving them unconstitutional missions such as arms seizures would destroy unit cohesion.
Or, if you want to be absolutely cold-blooded about it, Oath Keepers is infiltrating the ranks of the formations the tyrant intends to warp to his purpose, undermining the conditioning of his otherwise obedient muscle, and causing strategic uncertainty in the tyrant's mind.
It is classic Fourth Generation warfare, attacking your enemy at the moral level.