ACTION ALERT: Troops Called to Resist Trump’s Illegal Border Order

November 1st, 2018 - by admin

Courage to Resist & Christopher Fonzone /Just Security – 2018-11-01 00:14:46

Trump calls on military to deploy to the southern border

ACTION ALERT: Trump Calls on Military
To Deploy to the Southern Border

Pentagon formally approves military-hosted
immigrant concentration camps as non-military sites fill up

Courage to Resist

(October 23, 2018) — The President of the United States, Donald Trump, once again declared that active duty US military personnel need to be deployed to the southern border in order to repel, “the assault on our country.” (, October 18, 2018)

October 25, 2018 update: Defense Secretary Jim Mattis today authorized 800 active-duty troops, to bolster the roughly 2,100 National Guardsmen who have already been sent to the border.

It’s easy to attack a ragtag group of immigrants, traveling in a public caravan, seeking asylum, and this kind of rhetoric plays well to his anti-immigration base, leading up to the midterm elections. However, it’s more than just rhetoric.

This summer, the Trump Administration ordered the military to detain tens of thousands of immigrants in tent cities across the United States. Eight military installations were identified, primarily those near the southern border with unused air strips. The military agreed, and the Department of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services (HHS) got onboard.

Military brass suggested that these camps would not violate the constitutional prohibition against using the military to police and enforce domestic immigration law, based on the fact that the military has occasionally provided shelter to people during humanitarian crises, for short periods of time. Apparently, because the military helped out a bit following a hurricane then long-term immigrant concentration camps are just fine.

According to the Military Times (October 2, 2018), HHS has completed site surveys at Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene, Texas; Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas; Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas; and Little Rock Air Force Base in Arkansas. The Associated Press (July 31, 2018) noted that the “Defense Department has completed legal and environmental requirements needed to create housing at San Angelo’s Goodfellow Air Force Base for unaccompanied children.”

HHS personnel will presumably run the camps along with private security corporations. The military’s role is usually described in terms of logistical support so as to minimize the unconstitutional aspects of this entirely immoral endeavor. Here’s how we described the situation back in September:

In addition to providing the land, military personnel will construct the camps while private agencies will manage the operations. While this simplified explanation of operations seeks to minimize the military’s role, it omits the endless capacities in which the armed forces will surely be facilitating the functioning of these camps such as water, electricity, sewage, and trash.

Additional operational problems include the difficulty of housing persons in restricted access bases who legally need access to immigration and civil liberty lawyers, secure areas to discuss their cases, as well as access for advocates, relatives, news media and political activists.

Another issue is the lack of state licensing requirements, such as health and building codes, which military locations enable the government to avoid.

Faced with a few stumbling blocks to their plan — including legal rulings and local community resistance — the governmental players are, for the moment, delaying the build-out of these camps. They’re instead opting to exponentially expand HHS’s tent city in Tornillo, Texas, which is near El Paso.

Tornillo housed about 400 children this summer. It’s now expected to reach a capacity of nearly 4,000 by the end of the year. There are another 9,000 unaccompanied children currently held at smaller shelters across the country.

We need to reach the troops with this simple challenge:

Message to the Troops:
Do Not Collaborate with the Illegal Immigrant Detention Camps

What the Law of Military Obedience
Can (and Can’t) Do — What Happens
If a President’s Orders are Unlawful?

Christopher Fonzone /Just Security

(May 4, 2018) — A proposal to bring back waterboarding and a “hell of a lot worse.” The possible suggestion that members of the military should intentionally target terrorists’ civilian family members. A threat to rain “fire and fury” on North Korea.

With comments like these, President Donald Trump has turned the responsibility of members of the military to obey superior orders — long an object of study for scholars of military law — into the subject of popular headlines and editorials.

What happens, commentators have asked, “if President Trump orders Secretary of Defense Mattis to do something deeply unwise?” Would the military actually carry out such orders?

Much has been written, of course, on these important questions, which almost inevitably arise in extremely difficult situations. In order to provide those interested with the basics of what the law requires in such situations, I recently wrote an American Constitution Society Issue Brief entitled What the Military Law of Obedience Does (and Doesn’t) Do. This body of law, which has roots that date back to antiquity, makes clear that members of the military have a dual obligation to both obey “lawful” orders and disobey “manifestly” or “patently” illegal ones.

As I argue in the Issue Brief, this means, in practice, that service members must refuse to transgress clear and well-known legal rules, but that commentators should not expect military disobedience to save the nation from simply unwise or legally contested orders.

To understand why this is the case, it is important to recognize that the law of obedience sits at the intersection of two fundamental interests — the need for good order and discipline in the military, which requires service members to obey superior orders; and the supremacy of the law, which requires service members to be responsible for their illegal acts. Because these interests can conflict — a superior can issue an unlawful order — the law must mediate between them.

To that end, it is clear that neither extreme can work. On the one hand, the Nuremberg Tribunals and a large body of military jurisprudence rejects the notion that members of the military should be insulated from liability for following orders.

On the other hand, there is broad recognition that holding subordinates liable for all infractions, whether they were conducted pursuant to superior orders or not, would threaten good order and discipline by encouraging legal debate at every stage of the chain of command.

So how does the law of obedience resolve this tension? In short, by narrowing the set of orders members of the military are required to disobey to those that are “manifestly” or “patently” illegal.

Scholars of military law are clear that such orders are not difficult to discern; as one military justice scholar put it, manifestly illegal orders are precisely those orders that do not prompt a service member to “reason why” the order is unlawful. Rather, they are orders that any soldier would immediately recognize as problematic.

Which brings us back to Trump’s comments. Then-candidate Trump’s comments about waterboarding or the targeting of civilians prompted immediate and strong criticism from numerous former government officials — most prominently, former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency Michael Hayden, but also many former senior government lawyers — who all made clear that they would expect the military to disobey such orders.

Indeed, the intentional targeting of civilians (who are not participating directly in hostilities) is the paradigmatic example of an illegal order and recent changes to the law have also made clear that waterboarding is prohibited. It thus seems likely that service members would refuse to carry out such orders.

Trump’s comments about North Korea, however, are a different story. The vast majority, if not all, of the members of the military are in no position to exercise any degree of control over the jus ad bellum question of whether the United States goes to war, and the law therefore does not generally hold these members liable for such a decision.

It is thus unclear whether such service members would even have an obligation to disobey manifestly illegal orders to use force, as they would face no punishment if they carried them out.

But even if they did have such an obligation, there are few questions of constitutional law more contested than the circumstances in which the president can use force without prior congressional authorization.

Similarly, international law does not precisely define the circumstances in which a State may use force in the territory of another State. Thus, although one could, of course, imagine a manifestly illegal order to use force, it seems likely that such an order would present a question of contested legality that does not trigger an obligation to disobey.

It is important to note here that the obligation of members of the military to follow superior orders is distinct from the responsibilities of individuals, including lawyers, who advise decision-makers, such as the president, the defense secretary, and other military officers, in the first instance.

Those individuals should argue for the legal and policy positions they think are right. And, as Department of Defense doctrine contemplates, individuals in the chain of command may ask legal questions through appropriate channels or seek clarification of questionable orders.

But once an individual with appropriate authority has made a decision and any questions have been clarified, the strong presumption is that subordinates will carry out that order. This may seem unsatisfying, particularly given the rise in presidential war-making since World War II. But it is the way it should be.

Expanding the circumstances in which members of the military could disobey superior orders would not only threaten good order and discipline, but it would also reduce the incentives for senior leadership to pay careful attention to the legality of their actions and potentially have a deleterious impact on civil-military relations.

An elected president, Senate-confirmed military leadership, and strict adherence to the chain-of-command are the foundation of civilian control of the military, and being too quick to refuse orders from the president or the defense secretary threatens this bedrock tenant of American democracy.

For, in the end, it is not individual members of the armed forces who bear the primary responsibility for stopping unwise military actions. Rather, it is the responsibility of other actors in our political system — Congress, through the exercise of its war powers; civil society; and, ultimately, all of us working to make our political vision a reality.

The views expressed in this article are exclusively those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Sidley Austin LLP and its partners. This article has been prepared for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, a lawyer-client relationship. Readers should not act upon this without seeking advice from professional advisers.
*This piece was cross-published at ACSBlog.

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