“I, _______, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; 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. So help me God.” — U.S. Armed Forces Oath of Enlistment
This oath is administered to all entering members of the armed forces. As it clearly states, the Constitution is the object to which they are swearing or affirming allegiance. Most of us would agree that the purpose of the armed forces is to protect and defend our nation, but the Oath of Enlistment doesn’t say, “My country, right or wrong”. A soldier’s ultimate authority isn’t a political entity or the person in charge, but the Constitution. There is no obligation to obey orders that violate the Constitution.
Armed Forces Day is an appropriate time to pay tribute to those American men and woman who have chosen to serve in the military. Often, we appreciate and honor their service to our nation based on what they do, forgetting who they are. Sometimes we tend to think of those in the Armed Forces as a special “warrior class” — Rambo types who are drawn to war. We like to think of the heroes who are killed and wounded in battle as somehow different — more adventurous or daring than we are. But my experiences in the Vietnam war taught me something contrary to that notion.
The men and women of the Armed Forces are just like everyone else. They are part of our communities. They are co-workers, neighbors, friends and relatives. They come from different backgrounds, have different interests, skill sets and beliefs. The single common factor that binds them together is their commitment to serve. According to the Oath of Enlistment, the purpose of their service is to support and defend the Constitution. So, what does the Constitution say about the military?
Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution lists 17 powers of Congress. In addition to the first power, which includes the phrase, “provide for the common defense”, powers 11 through 16 further develop that idea. Read it for yourself. These powers of Congress include declaring war, raising and supporting armies, providing and maintaining a navy, making “rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces” and providing for “organizing, arming and disciplining the militia”.
Article 2, Section 2 says, “The President shall be the commander in chief of the army and navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several States, when called into actual service of the United States”. Notice that the President as commander in chief doesn’t make the rules, Congress does. The job of commander in chief is to lead the armed forces according to the dictates of Congress.
It doesn’t take a genius to see that the U.S. Constitution designs our military for purposes of national defense. But through the implementation of various international treaties, the scope of national defense has been broadened to include issues of “national interest”, used to justify sending forces into hostile situations all over the world, using U.S. troops, in U.S. uniforms, under the command of U.S. officers. Many Americans seem willing to accept this blend of military involvement and foreign policy and they think of Armed Forces personnel as a warrior class for whom armed conflict is natural or routine. They stop thinking of them as friends, neighbors and family.
In February of 1993, a young man named Michael New enlisted in the U.S. Army. In October of 1995 he was removed from his battalion formation, read his rights and told he faced a court-marshal for refusing to wear a U.N. uniform. And in July of 1996, Michael received a “Bad Conduct Discharge”. Ever since that time he has been fighting in the courts to clear his good name and to set the record straight — that a President doesn’t have the legal right to order American troops to fight under a foreign banner or under foreign officers.
Before you write this story off as the doings of some wacky malcontent, please read the detailed time-line of events of Michael New’s story at http://www.mikenew.com/thecase.html You will see that well in advance of the U.N. deployment he voiced his concerns in a reasoned and principled manner, yet was never given a legal rationale for the authorization of the order. In fact, a consistently recurring theme in this case is that citizens (remember, soldiers are citizens too) must do whatever the government says because… “We say so!” To those believers who chant the mantra, “We are to submit to those in authority over us”, I suggest you read Romans 13: The True Meaning of Submission by Timothy and Chuck Baldwin. We are never justified in doing anything illegal or immoral just because those in authority order us to.
In 1994 President Clinton issued Presidential Decision Directive 25 (PDD-25). Please remember, Congress did not produce this document, yet Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution clearly states Congress is to make “rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces”. Obama has made so many Executive Orders that many people think that’s what a President is supposed to do. But not according to the Constitution. The President is not authorized to make laws. Only Congress is.
According to J. William Snyder, Jr. in “Command” versus “Operational Control”: A Critical Review of PDD-25″, “…PDD-25 states that the President, on a case-by-case basis, may authorize the placement of U.S. troops under the operational control of a “competent UN commander for specific UN operations authorized by the Security Council.” (http://www.ibiblio.org/jwsnyder/wisdom/pdd25.html).
Michael New’s legal team was denied access to this document by bureaucratic run-arounds typical of the abuse of power we see in a federal government out of control. Bottom line, they were unable to use it as evidence. The government has done everything imaginable to prevent this citizen from having any recourse to their abusive “We Say So!” attitude. This is not constitutional government. Learn the facts at http://www.mikenew.com/index.html
Recently I received a letter from Michael New’s father, soliciting donations to his legal defense fund. It began:
When my son Michael joined the US Army, he swore an oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign AND domestic. Little did he know that the enemy he would be fighting was his Commander-in-Chief. When Bill Clinton tried to hand control of our military over to the United Nations, my son was the only man who stood up to him. Michael chose to be arrested and court-martialed, rather than become a mercenary for the United Nations…and he’s paying a heavy price for that patriotic decision. What happened to my son, Michael, can happen to any soldier. Which is why, when I’m done telling you this story, I need to know…Did my son do the right thing?
Though the Supreme Court refused to hear his case in 2007, his legal team has not given up. Since then PDD-25 has become available and now may potentially be introduced as evidence. Unfortunately this year their petition was denied in U.S. District Court, so now it is a moot point. In a recent email, Michael New’s father wrote:
“We are currently working on a series of FOIA requests to try to determine if there was “command influence” on the court-martial (we are sure there was, and it happens to be illegal). The question was how high it came from – we think it came from the White House, and our source is second hand, but reliable…Of course, we’re getting a run-around and the usual “stone wall” treatment. Six requests brought letters telling us nothing, yet sending us in fifteen new directions (no exaggeration here). In pursuing those directions, we’ve called agencies who have said, “What? We haven’t handled those requests in years!”
Their dogged determination to fight this is admirable. The Michael New story goes to the heart of who we are as a nation. Aren’t those who serve in the armed forces just like us? Are they not our very own friends and family? Are we not under the Constitution? Or are we simply beholden to whatever personality occupies the White House?
Free men don’t simply bend to the will of autocrats, bureaucrats or oligarchs. They act on principle and when they act in concert freedom wins. If you think like a free person, then the Michael New story should inspire you to live like a free person. We all should take a moment this Armed Forces Day to think about what our freedom means, how we got it and how we hope to keep it. We need more Michael News in the military if we ever hope to remain free.
You can listen to the Ballad of Michael New at http://www.mikenew.com/ballad.html
To paraphrase the end of the Oath of Enlistment, “So help us God”.