We, the human race, have a very limited opportunity to avoid the death of many or possibly all of us as we destroy the capacity of the earth to support our lives. If you still have doubts, see the prior articles at Voices of the Water and dig deeper before proceeding here.
Within my immediate family, my extended family, and my friends, the greatest resistance to acknowledging the climate emergency, let alone allowing any public response to defend ourselves, is from people with military experience, at least those who have not dealt with the trauma of combat.
To defend themselves, their fellow soldiers, and society, their fighting reactions must be automatic, not delayed by a head full of questions. Civil society on the other hand must ask questions to keep our leaders honest, serving the people, and only sending our troops into combat for defensible reasons. We must be aware and not let training for military block the responsibilities of societal oversight of government and leaders.
Our members of the military who are lucky enough to survive combat, often suffer trauma and commit suicide. Every day 22 active and retired members of the United States military commit suicide. When society stops questioning the actions of their leaders, we betray the members of our military (read more).
If society fails to take action to reduce the severity of climate changes, our members of the military will be dealing with the realization that rather than defending us, they were defending the privileges of our leaders as they took us to our deaths. Suicide rates for everyone will soar.
I will start by presenting a member of my family as an example of the many people whom we greatly respect for their military experience. Most are very good people whom we trust. We view them as protecting us. Also because they are within the government, we too often extend our trust in them to our government. We may think “How could someone we trust, who is making great sacrifice to defend us, not be aware and defend us from dangers from our own government?” I will then discuss the military oath of enlistment and oath of office. A better understanding of these oaths can help us resolve this barrier to actually defending “we the people”, which is their oath.
I am not a writer or anyone special. All I have are my personal experiences to share in hopes that you may also help save our children. It is with deep sadness and risks that I share personal details of myself and family, but after much soul searching it is very clear that if I do not follow every opportunity to help engage people in this struggle, I will greatly regret it as I watch the future unfold, knowing that I could have done more.
We Started Life with the Military and Washington D.C.
On December 27, 1954 my parents married. My father had just returned from or was heading to San Antonio, Texas for Air Force basic training. I was born the following October in Charleston, South Carolina where he was stationed, deployed as a pharmacist. Earlier in the day, a base doctor sent my mother home saying she was not ready to deliver. It was ahead of the expected date, but I did not listen and was born in the car returning to the base hospital. My dad’s uncle Al, a fire chief, was driving at 100 MPH with police in chase while I was born in the back seat. The police were stopped at the base gate. My next younger brother, Bob was born while dad was stationed in Richmond, Virginia. Our first years of life were with the military and in Washington, D.C.
In 1973 I turned 18, registered for the draft, and hoped that I would not be sent to kill people in Vietnam. The draft was winding down and I was lucky. Despite my many concerns about the Vietnam war, I did not doubt my country and actually assumed that our leaders would learn from the Vietnam fiasco, at least not repeating the same mistakes for many years. I had no guidance from anyone. No one talked about the issues. I was totally on my own.
In the Spring of 1975 I was finishing my first two years of engineering at Illinois Valley Community College and was preparing to transfer to the University of Illinois in Champagne/Urbana to complete my degree. I was working night shift at a truck stop on I-80 to put myself through college and needed a new source of income to finish my degree. I was contacted by US Marine Corps recruiters and made plans to enter the Platoon Leaders Corps, going to Quantico, Virginia for basic training before continuing my education, the Marines subsidizing my last two years of engineering, and me serving a few years in the Marine Corps, starting as a 2nd Lieutenant after receiving my engineering degree. I was from a very small rural town at that time and thought the discipline and worldly exposure would be very good for me and an engineering career.
I had an appointment and train tickets to Chicago for my physical. Very fortunately, the recruiter called me a couple days before this appointment to clarify that I would be sent overseas and Marines do not send spouses and family. At the same time that I was making plans to finance my education, my girlfriend was concerned that she might loose me when I went away to the university and entered the Marine Corps. We engaged with plans to marry that May and move together. I had shared this with the recruiter and he was nice enough to tell me the implications. This would not be a good start of a marriage. One of the plans needed to change. I did not enter the Marine Corps.
My Younger Brother Bob is Our Image of Our Government
That May as I changed plans, my younger brother Bob turned 18 and surprised all of us by directly enlisting in the Marine Corps along with a high school friend. All of this was within days of the fall of Saigon and end of the Vietnam war. My lifespan matched the war. The US Department of Defense set November 1, 1955 as the start of the Vietnam war, exactly 2 weeks after my birth.
After completing basic training and scoring well, Bob applied, passed security screening and was accepted for training and deployment as a US Embassy guard. From roughly 1977 through 1979 he was a US Marine Corps guard in US Embassies in the Ivory Coast, Mauritius, and Spain. He then was accepted on a path to become an officer, earning a degree in general engineering from Purdue University in the process (see also Censorship of Howard Zinn by President of Purdue).
At Purdue he met and married Michelle. He was deployed to Honolulu, Hawaii, renting a home between then famous actor Tom Selleck and Gilligan’s Island. I do not know why Gilligan was never rescued. They were right next the US Marine base. I believe that Bob was in artillery and went on at least one float, crossing the Pacific. Subsequently he was stationed in Twentynine Palms California, in charge of a group of drone pilot trainees. Tragically for him, his marriage ended, when they resolved that Michelle never wanted to have children.
Bob later achieved a Master’s degree in aeronautical engineering from the Naval Post-Graduate School in Monterrey, California and subsequently went on to teach aeronautical engineering at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis Maryland. There he met Patty, a Navy flight surgeon, a doctor with enough guts to examine the Navy/Marine pilots and ground them if needed. They were married in the Naval Academy chapel with an honor guard from four branches of military. Bob later lead development of the Pioneer drone and possibly others. We did not discuss whether he was still in the military or with a contractor but he was still at the Patuxant River Navy Air Base and had an office in the Pentagon.
While raising children Patty went into private medical practice, later obtained a degree in public health, working in Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA), for a while the director, and then returning to medical practice, this time at the Naval Air Base. Bob retired recently but could have retired in 1995 with his 20 years.
Bob has lifelong state department friends from his time at the embassies. When President Reagan spoke to the cadets at the Naval Academy, Bob, in an administrative assignment, was the first at the podium in the chain of introducing the President and was at the podium while everyone assembled. He joked that the entire speech was in front of him on the teleprompter and he could have saved a lot of time if he directly read Reagan’s speech for him. Between his work and Patty’s they have enjoyed events at the White House, like 4th of July fireworks. They were guests at George Bush’s ranch for an engagement celebration of one of Patty’s OSHA staff with a member of the White House staff. He said a George Bush impersonator arrived at the celebration from a helicopter ladder. I do not believe Bush actually attended.
Bob has never been in combat but has been affected by threats. He said that he and the embassy guards were very well trained and heavily armed behind the desk but that President Jimmy Carter gave orders not to fire if attacked. He felt vulnerable and was very happy when Reagan was elected, his favorite president, at least before Trump. While he was guarding embassies, a friend, along with a pair of glasses that Bob gave him, was in the US Embassy in Iran when it was overrun in the 1979 revolution. There was a bomb threat while he was at the Ivory Coast embassy. He was captured in the jungle by the Bolivian army while he was a civilian leader of university students on a research assignment in Bolivia, under a program named Sir Walter Raleigh Expedition. This was an approved absence from the Marines but extra risk if they discovered he was the leader and was in the US Marines. Bob had an office in the Pentagon when it was hit on the 9/11 attack. Fortunately he was away at the time.
The Ivory Coast had gained independence from France but still had strong ties and was a tourist destination. Bob started scuba diving and snorkeling, continuing through Mauritius and Hawaii. He is credited with discover of a fish species. I believe it was diving near Mauritius with the president of the international scuba association, when a young female diver nearby died and the president abruptly left to avoid association with the death.
While at Purdue, Bob started sky diving, obtained his private pilot license and bought an old Cessna 140, 4 passenger, tail dragger. Several times he flew from Purdue in Lafayette, Indiana to Peoria, Illinois, where I was an engineer with Caterpillar, to visit us and take my children up in his plane. He sold this plane when transferred to Hawaii but later bought an RV4 while in Twentynine Palms, California. This plane is a small 2-seater for/aft, also a tail dragger, but could do loops and rolls. During visits to us or to him, he would take me or one of my children up, fly out of sight of their mother, and let them use the controls in their seat to do a roll. He has had adventures from coast to coast with this little plane. On one short trip into Mexico with friends in another RV4, while quickly returning alone at low altitude, he was flanked by two US military helicopters. Playfully he did a loop, only to see that another military plane was behind and below in his blind spot. On landing he was surrounded with automatic weapons aimed at him before he could even open the cockpit. They were not happy to learn he also was military and not a drug runner. Near Vegas while flying with brother Bill, a downdraft was so abrupt it set off his crash homing device. While flying over the Rocky Mountains in Colorado the engine developed a manifold leak. The only place he could put down to check it was on I-80. After lengthy discussions with State Police, insisting that he disassemble the plane and transport it by truck, they agreed to block traffic and let him take off from the interstate. On one visit to my aunt Carleen’s farm in central Illinois, he decided to directly land on the gravel county road by their farm. As he descended for landing, they pulled out in a car from the farmyard to go meet him the airport as arranged. I believe he aborted until clear and then landed at the farm. His wife Michelle was working toward her glider pilot license. They both enjoyed glider flights in Hawaii and Twentynine Palms.
A couple years ago Bob retired, bought a second plane, a SeaRey, two-seat, single-engine, amphibious flying boat and bought a house on a dirt landing strip in Eastern Maryland. Both planes and a new custom camper are in his private hanger behind his house on the landing strip. It is a modest home in what had been a summer home community for Washington D.C. families in times before air conditioning. Aviation continues to be important in his retirement and his annual fall coast to coast camping trips often connect aviation events. Two years ago he stopped in Wisconsin to visit me and the Oshkosh air museum. He had started attending the annual Oshkosh Air Show after returning from Africa and Spain to study engineering at Purdue. This September he visited me and a daughter and her family in Tennessee on his way to a week event of remote piloted aircraft in North Carolina. His flying buddies are in constant communication with him coordinating events.
Bob started windsurfing in Hawaii and Michelle worked for Windsurfing Hawaii where we both bought windsurfing gear. A few days before his wedding with Patty in Annapolis, he took our families out on one of the Naval Academy’s custom designed sailing yachts. At least one summer he sailed down to the Caribbean with the cadets as one of the staff volunteers.
Bob is a dedicate family man but has met many woman through these adventures. From his time in Africa and Spain he seemed to know a girl in every European country. He went skydiving with the female marine who was expelled after posing for Playboy as Bambi. He was dating Laurie, a Navy test pilot when she was in Cosmopolitan magazine as one of the first women to land on an aircraft carrier.
In addition to my brother Bob’s intelligence and amazing adventures, he is an extraordinarily caring person, giving very high priority to family. He, unique among all of us, has traveled far for every family event, sometimes with only a few days notice. He and his family traveled from the East Coast to Colorado at least twice a year to visit our parents and brothers, typically for Christmas and 4th of July. Once, when he accompanied an embassy staff for medical evacuation from Africa to the States, he squeezed in a visit with me and my family in upstate New York where I was working for General Electric. In 1995, a few weeks before my 40th birthday, and shortly after my divorce with the mother of my children, he flew his RV4 from Eastern Maryland to pick me up in Illinois and visit our parents in Colorado for Labor Day weekend. Without any acclimation to the elevation, we hiked 17.5 miles over the continental divide. When I had a back injury from snowboarding, he drove from Maryland to Illinois to deliver a book on Rolfing, a process that has helped him for most of his life dealing with back pain.
I also want to acknowledge by brother Bob’s exceptional loyalty to maintain connection with me as my life diverged, creating risks for his and his family’s careers. Since the Arab Spring of 2011, when my illusions fractured (read more), my investigations and actions have likely often put me on government lists for surveillance, at minimum. Bob and other family members have reported problems with their phones and computers after communication with me. Back in 1976 when Bob went through security clearance to be an embassy guard the interviews with neighbors and teachers were incredible. His subsequent career would have been observed with even greater scrutiny. I greatly appreciate that he never stopped meeting or communicating with me as our paths became incompatible. As I traveled to Washington D.C. for actions, it would be sad not to offer to visit my brother Bob. Thankfully I was always welcome. He just reasonably insisted that the visit and my actions do not overlap. There must be a clean break.
For me the transition was like night and day. Everyone around him were active military in so many aspects of daily life. We would be talking about their lives but I could not say anything about my experiences. Once after picking me up in Washington, he drove past the Marine Headquarters, stuck his head out the window, and gave a loud grunt to the guards. I believe he had asked me to obscure my Veterans for Peace shirt or hat after getting in his car and this act was to emphasis my necessary transition to his world. I said nothing, but was aware of the current sexual abuse scandal of female Marines at the headquarters.
Most of my friends and colleagues are military veterans but combat or state department events transformed them (read more).
Of my children, they either have military experience or over half their immediate family have military experience. My nephew and niece are either active military or 100% of their immediate family have military experience. Like my brother Bob, all of my family with military experience are very good people as are all of their many military friends that I have met.
To conclude this section, I shared all of these details as an example demonstrating the respect and authority that we have for family and friends with military experience. We often extend our respect and trust of them, to our government. But our government is clearly taking a path that will kill most or all of us. What is the impact of military life on them and their influence on society, in particular, on our ability to respond to the climate emergency?
I will Obey the Orders of the President of the United States and the Orders of the Officers Appointed Over Me
In early 2012, in my participation in the Occupy movement in Peoria, IL., we brought the “Eyes Wide Open” exhibit of the American Friends (Quaker) to the Bradley University campus. We arranged over 200 boots in the center of campus, each with a name of US military from Illinois who died in Iraq or Afghanistan. We set up a movie viewing and discussion led by Staff Sergeant Camilo Mejia. Staff Sergeant Camilo, with eight years of service, after a few months of combat in Iraq he refused to return to his unit. His claim to conscientious objector status was rejected and in 2004 he was court-martialed. At the time he gave this talk he was on the board of directors of Veterans For Peace.
The film was from West Point, showing how the military used scientific methods to develop training that increased their ability to train a person to kill another person. They showed their training improvements through wars, from 90% shooting in the air in World War I through approaching near 100% shooting the designated enemy in current engagements. They showed their success in overcoming what they described as a strong natural human inhibition to killing another person.
During the subsequent discussion, Camilo shared one event in Iraq. He was on the roof of a building with orders to shoot anyone entering within a specified buffer zone around the building. He said he remembered a very young boy approaching to throw rocks and hoping he would not enter the zone. His subsequent conscious moment he saw the boy lying dead in a pool of blood and cartridges near him that had been fired from his weapon. The trauma was so great that he has not been able to recall a memory of shooting the young boy.
My brother Bob has not been in combat but in all of my interactions with him, he has a 100% solid record of never participating in any questions of our US leaders or military actions throughout history, with one exception, he expressed concerns of President Jimmy Carter’s willingness to fight.
Although my mother’s father and uncles were extremely active in politics (see Deception on the Right – I’m a Son of a Birch), my parents never talked about politics or any other events in the world. This continued between myself and four younger brothers until I have slowly attempted to start the conversation during the last few years. My parents were deceased before I started attempting to talk about this with family. All of my brothers are very nice people but I can not talk about these issues with any of them. The youngest, Dave, now a high school math teacher, was also an engineer and studied Russian language in the army reserves. Many of his closest friends were army. For years he has stated that his goal is to be ignorant of all problems. He envies ignorant people. The middle two, Bill and Tom say the world is hopelessly messed up, ignore it, have fun. Until now, I mostly avoided attempting to talk with Bob to reduce risk for his career.
I started to have some concerns with the invasion of Afghanistan and later Iraq, that Vietnam was not an anomaly, but did not take much time to think or talk about it. After I entered Gaza with a peace delegation in 2012 at the tail of Israeli bombing and killing of 1200 Palestinians and going to Colombia on annual human rights delegations starting in 2013, I offered to share my experiences but Bob was not receptive. I once tried to discuss some of the revelations from Wikileaks but he shut it down immediately telling me that he had been clearly warned that military members would be severely prosecuted if they read any of these classified government documents.
At the family reunion in August of 2015 I learned that Bob’s daughter Tara had dropped college plans and was a week from enlisting in the US Marine Corps. With my involvement with Veterans For Peace I was very concerned about suicides and a day later decided that I would greatly regret if she ultimately committed suicide and I had not warned her, even if my brother ended all connection with me. By that point we were far apart so I sent her the following brief Facebook message:
There are reasons why 22 veterans commit suicide every day. I walked with Jacob George as he threw his medals back to NATO in 2012. He committed suicide a year ago when Obama redeployed troops to Iraq. http://www.operationawareness.org/
This link is no longer his website. An attached link to his song, “A Soldier’s Heart” has since been removed (read more about Jacob George). She never replied. We have never subsequently mentioned this topic. Several months later through communication with Bob I learned that she had not entered. Nothing more said. About a year later, the next time face-to-face with my brother, he told me that Tara was in the Marines and he told me to “never mess with my children.” When we met last September, four years later, I told him how I had only communicated my concern for her about the high rate of suicide. He had not talked to Tara nor I about this and had no idea what I had said back then. He did not talk this time either. Let this sink in. The military training is so effective that Bob, a very caring person, could not even talk to his own brother about the risk of suicide for his own daughter. I was correct in my prior assessment that I could not warn her through my brother.
In 2016 Bob took me in his SeaRey to a birthday party within an environmental organization working on recovery of the bay. As I listened to the speakers talking about their work and progress, I took Bob aside and explained that I had traveled to Washington to join my friends in talking to members of Congress as they were voting on fast tracking approval of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). This trade agreement from Obama, like NAFTA from Bill Clinton included investor protection rights that allowed corporations to be awarded government funds for any estimated loss of profit from any regulation, like protecting the environment. I asked him to please make them aware of this risk to their environmental work that was being voted on within days. He told me not to trouble them. They wanted to celebrate, not be disturbed. They were his friends so I let him silence me. Later that evening at dinner he told Patty how proud he was that I had kept my mouth shut. I explained that I have never felt more ashamed and only remained silent for him. I did not at all agree with keeping people ignorant of threats to something very important to them. For me, that is not being a good friend.
In November 2017 I invited Bob to join our human rights delegation to Colombia and was shocked by how firmly he rejected the idea, like it was crazy to even suggest it. He travels the world for fun and frequently makes special effort to visit us in the US but would never consider personally visiting us in Colombia, let alone join a delegation.
In the Fall of 2018, my wife and I had an enjoyable visit with Bob, including the Oshkosh Air Museum, except that I had chest pains looking at the Fat Man nuclear bomb thinking of the instant murder of so many. When home my anger with our US aggressions, after meeting so many victims, spilled out for the first time. It was rough for Bob. He really is a compassionate person but could not talk about this.
Last September, 2019, I happened to be in the United States and planned to travel to New York City to participate in several important climate events around the United Nations Climate Action Summit 2019 (Greta Thunberg speaking). Nearly all of my colleagues would be there and it was important to maintain these connections. A couple weeks before the events, Bob contacted me offering to visit that same weekend as he started his fall trip. I accepted without telling him about the conflict. I chose to try my best to give him a chance to respond to the climate emergency and if possible, clear the way to better inform my children and our relatives, rather than give them conflicting messages.
In preparing for the climate meetings and reviewing the latest data, I finally realized the magnitude of the catastrophe and how extremely little time we have. With this new awareness, I copied two key documents to possibly share with Bob. But with only a few words exchanged, I quickly learned he was not at all receptive and I did not even mention these documents.
In fact he stated that the right is under violent attack by the left. Bob does not acknowledge any of the incitement of hate, threats or violence from the right and expressed very strong opinions against the left, particularly Antifa (anti-fascist collective defensive actions). I personally do not agree with some actions of Antifa and see them as counter-productive, but they unite to defend us from very real and deadly threats, attacks often backed by the police and our government. At this point I asked Bob’s perspective of James Alex Fields Jr, who at the 2017 “Unite the Right Rally” in Charlottesville, Virginia, drove his car into the counter-protesters, injuring 19 and killing a young woman, Heather Heyer. Despite the trial and court conviction with the jury recommending life in prison plus 419 years, Bob told me that James was the victim trying to escape a violent crowd.
Bob said that he had a similar experience and would do the same thing. While he was a US Embassy guard in Madrid Spain (about 1979), taking some time off to drive the Spanish countryside in a Fiat with a girlfriend, shots were fired in a small town, crowds blocked roads and I believe over-turned and burned some vehicles. He was justified to be fearful and drive away at high speed, but he also said he would have driven through any of the people to escape, just as he said that James did in Charlottesville.
We did not discuss any context of his experience in Spain, but I know that this was just a few years after the 1975 death of General and Dictator Franco. His hand-picked successors have dominating the Spanish government up through a couple of weeks ago. I am not justifying all actions of the left in Spain, but they have suffered great horrors from the Spanish Inquisition starting in 1492 through the defeat of the Monarchy and creation of the Republic in 1931, the military coup and civil war led by General Franco starting in 1936 and his dictatorship from 1939. The US was officially neutral but secretly aided fascist General Franco (also aided by fascist Italy, fascist Germany and the Soviet Union). Perhaps Bob, as military from a country that had backed Franco, was in danger, but he does not at all appear interested in understanding the context before stating that he would have run them over, as he chooses not to acknowledge the threats and violence from the right in the US and would run us over.
I Will Support and Defend the Constitution of the United States Against All Enemies, Foreign and Domestic
All United States military officers are required to take the “United States Uniformed Services Oath of Office”, swearing “that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”
All United States enlisted service members are required to take the “United States Armed Forces Oath of Enlistment” which in addition to defending the Constitution they swear “and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.”
“The difference between Oath of Office, Oath of Enlistment” By 2nd Lt. Marco Valenzuela, Marine Corps Base Quantico, July 30, 2015 purports to explain the difference. Here is an excerpt:
The obligation and responsibility to act against unlawful orders is not exclusive to officers. Article 90 of the UCMJ states that service members are only obligated to obey lawful orders. This gives authority to small unit leaders and even riflemen to use their judgment to serve honorably and disobey orders when they do not uphold the moral standards of our service. Not only does this act as a safeguard to corruption and abuse of power, but it also develops a sense of responsibility and leadership at all levels of command.
If this is the case, however, then why is the distinction made between the two oaths when both enlisted and officers are not obligated to follow unlawful orders according to the UCMJ?
Officers, especially at higher ranks, have a unique position of authority and influence within the organization that could be taken advantage of for political gain. Swearing loyalty to the Constitution instead of the president or any other person means that officials cannot manipulate officers in order to gain control over the military and become dictators.
The intent is to ensure our military fights in defense of the people and their way of life instead of being misused for political gain. Article 90 of the UCMJ allows for legal disobedience of unlawful orders for both enlisted and officers.
The officer’s oath acts as another safeguard against power corruption by not swearing obedience to the president or other officials, but rather to the Constitution.
The important question, neither asked or answered, is why the enlisted must swear to obey the orders of the President and officers, if, after reading the fine print within “according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice” the oaths are equivalent. Neither officers nor enlisted are required to obey unlawful orders. This Marine Corps explanation fails to discuss why the enlisted oath is different in the first place.
As a side note, when I attended Bob’s promotion at Purdue to Marine Corps officer, I recall him swearing to obey the President. Ronald Reagan was President at the time and I was concerned by his oath. So even with the above Marine Corps justification for the different oath for officers, the oath that day did not seem to reflect it.
On one visit to Bob while he was teaching at the Naval Academy, he asked me if I knew the meaning of MARINE. I didn’t have clue and he told me “Muscles Are Required, Intelligence Not Essential.” I found it offensive and was surprised that he mentioned it. Now I realized it supports the military indoctrination and the reason for the difference in oaths.
Following orders must be automatic and rarely questioned, particularly in combat. If I remember correctly, the key to increasing the effectiveness of training to kill the designated enemy was making it an automatic reaction without thought (read more). For a goal of combat, training to make it automatic, like riding a bike, makes them more effective in killing, both to defeat the enemy and protect their own troops. I would not want to go into combat if my fellow soldiers were not going to effectively fight.
This training for combat must suppress their thinking about the bigger picture, their questioning, all gray. Everything must be black and white and in briefings they will be told how the colors are being applied that day. They are the same person in combat and back in society. If they are thinking and questioning back in society, it will return to combat with them and interfere with the automatic reactions. Similarly, they need to reinforce this behavior within the military community and they can not easily behave differently in civil society, in fact, except while deployed to combat, their military community is in civil society.
The above referenced Marine Corps explanation for the different oaths gives the example: “Warrant Officer Hugh Thompson willingly disobeyed a commander’s orders and even threatened to open fire on American troops when he saved the lives of at least 10 Vietnamese civilians during the My Lai Massacre. Not only was Thompson never punished for disobeying orders, but he was later awarded the Soldier’s Medal for his courageous actions.”
My veteran colleagues say that the My Lai Massacre was only an exception in getting public visibility and, with that visibility, accepting Hugh Thompson’s disobeying an order. Horrors like My Lai were and are normal. Brutal attacks on anyone stepping out of line is normal, both while they are in the military and following them into civilian life. Their life is hell and intentionally hell if they speak up. Unquestioning obedience is rewarded while questions and disobedience are severely punished. Reporting abuse and violations of laws is a great personal risk and rarely resolves the violations.
Some veterans, in their struggle with post-traumatic stress syndrome or failure to reconcile some event, open a crack through the deception. They are driven to learn more. They see the world and the US government in a new way (read more). They see that in all of our wars, the few who initiated them gained more wealth, while the designated “enemy”, the US servicemen, society and democracy were all sacrificed. The US aggressions created a world ripe for blow-back against Americans. They feel shame that they had been deceived to serve a “national interest” that was the wealth of a few and harm of the general public. They reject when someone says “Thank you for your service.” They in no way feel that they served the US public. They view use of the words “service” and “servicemen” as reinforcing the deception.
Many then look closely at the oath that they took. They look beyond the daily indoctrination and extra words in the enlisted oath to obey the President and officers. They look at the Article 90 of the UCMJ which allows for legal disobedience of unlawful orders for both enlisted and officers. They look at the leaked or declassified documents that directly show the actual discussion of our leaders planning the wars. They learn that likely all of our wars have violated international laws, sometime US laws and always total hypocrisy of defending freedom, democracy and religious values.
They look at the unconditional words of all US military oaths, “I Will Support and Defend the Constitution of the United States Against All Enemies, Foreign and Domestic.” They read the constitution. The very first words are “We the People of the United States”. Yes, the founders had a very restricted perspective of the people, but the Supreme Court and Amendments have throughout our history moved to include all of us, making the constitution more consistent with the opening words.
Some of you are purists and want to revert to the founding days when “We the People” only included white males. Be careful, it was further restricted to landowners and land is rapidly being hoarded by only a few people. Divisiveness is a very dangerous path, ultimately excluding nearly everyone. With climate collapse, the people in power have no intention to share limited water and food with you no matter how much you have helped them.
Last September Bob shared another event in his life. Shortly after enlisting someone spit in his face and called him a baby killer. This was just after the end of the Vietnam War. Although I feel the same anger for the brutal and illegal actions of our government and sending us to prison if we do not support these crimes, attacking our brothers and sisters in the military is an attack on the victims. They have been tricked, and we, all of civil society, bear responsibility for allowing these deceptions and cruel actions. As an aside, spitting on servicemen is not effective. From then through now, Bob did not reflect on the message. The shock did not open his eyes.
There is perhaps nothing more cruel than the betrayal of those in our military, those risking their very lives with intention to protect others. There were many problems with the Roman empire, but at lease the emperor had won the throne by proving himself in battle. They were also honest about their imperial ambitions. Today we allow cowards to send us into battle to enrich themselves and with the lies that they are defending and spreading democracy. Why do we allow them to sacrifice our children? Why do people see the deception of one political party without seeing the same deceptions in their own?
Our economic/political/cultural system created a military trap. We have been taught that to even question a war is to create risk for our troops and that the people who planned the war sent our youth into battle for the most noble of reasons, not the classified records of their planning for profits. There is not likely a person without justified fear of even asking a question. They face verbal and physical attack, loss of work, loss of security clearance, loss of connection to family and friends, and possible financial destruction, imprisonment or death at the hands of our government.
We, the human race, have a very limited opportunity to avoid the death of many or possibly all of us as we destroy the capacity of the earth to support our lives. We do not have time to ignore the deceptions and actions of our government. It is understandably extremely difficult for active military, ex-military, family and friends of military, to question the actions of our leaders. But our leaders, and more specifically, our economic/political/cultural system, is taking us to our deaths. This system is our enemy. We need the courage to risk everything, to have a possibility of a future for our children.