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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Veterans who will not accept Trump as commander-in-chief

Shortly after the November election, I began to receive requests to join a group of veterans who are organizing to oppose the presidency of Donald Trump.  I am wary of veteran's organizations, because many of them are scams.  I recently signed on to an organization that presented itself as a social forum on which you could register your name and the unit in which you served in order to find old military friends.  After I registered,  I received daily e-mails offering lifetime memberships for a fee, which covered no services, and advertisements for all manner of tee shirts, caps, and other veteran-related items that exploited the pride and the memories of veterans, but did not by any means honor them. It perceives veterans as a market that can be manipulated into buying junk.  I quickly revoked my registration.

However, there are veterans organizations which advocate for veterans and monitor their treatment by agencies that are supposed to attend to their welfare.  And there are ones which advocate for policies in line with those matters of freedom equality, and justice that veterans served to protect and advance.    The recent anti-Trump organization is in that latter category.  Its view of Trump as commander-in-chief is that he has already conducted himself in a manner unbecoming of an officer and is disqualified from commanding troops. 

In an e-mail forum maintained by the organization,  some knowledgeable old warriors define the problems of Donald Trump with an understanding of what a predicament he puts soldiers into.  One military historian says Trump forces the military to make the kind of decision it has not been confronted with since the Civil War: 

"At the  onset of the Civil War,  the country  divided itself into two nations:  one that supported slavery and one that was against it.  Almost a third of the U.S. Army officers resigned their commissions and pledged their service to the Confederacy.  That included 182 out of 184 West Point graduates.  Trump's election to president has defined just such a divided nation:  one that believes in the advances in equality, liberty, and justice America has made over the decades, and one that rejects it.  By accepting Trump as a commander-in-chief,  a soldier is faced with the moral dilemma of serving a country that no longer adheres to the standards expressed in the U.S. military  Code of Conduct: "I will never forget that I am an American, fighting for freedom, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which made my country free. I will trust in my God and in the United States of America."  Trump's words and actions are a refutation of those principles and people who voted for him have effectually endorsed that refutation.  The soldier is now faced with pledging allegiance to a country that rejects the principles that enlistees vowed to serve with their lives."
Another veteran raised the issue of how the principles of Trump conflict with the oath all military personnel take:  

When we enter the service, we take this oath: "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."    
Trump in his denigration and discriminatory threats against people of differing races and creeds has declared himself a domestic enemy of the Constitution.  In his case, how does a soldier defend the Constitution?  How does a soldier respond to a commander who engages in unconstitutional conduct and conflicts of interest with the requirements of command without seeming to commit mutiny?  The answer may be in presenting evidence to inspectors general and Congress, as provided for in Amendment 25, of Trump's unfitness for command as demonstrated in his words and actions in violation of Constitutional principles.  To pledge allegiance to a country that has adopted principles contrary to its Constitutional principles makes a soldier an enemy of the Constitution he/she is sworn to support and defend.  The military staffs need to relieve a commander who vows to violate the Constitution of his command.  
Military law has established that officers in the discharge of their duties are subject to the laws that govern conflicts of interest for all Department of Defense employees.  While there are no Constitutional rules or statutes that specifically address conflicts of interest for the president,  there is a phalanx of laws that apply to military officers and commanders and their behavior.   With the president being Constitutionally designated as commander-in-chief,  now may be the time to determine how Trump's military obligations apply to his behavior.  Our military is owed a clear statement of whether they must follow orders that are in conflict with the principles is is sworn to obey and protect.  It all boils down to the question of whether Trump,  especially in his allegiance to anti-constitional principles and foreign governments,  is fit to command.

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States