When Military Officers Say No: Defiance In Five Acts
(June 6, 2020) — In case you missed it, by telling Americans in uniform to disobey an unlawful order from their commander in chief, last week’s soft coup by America’s top military officials effectively ended a presidency that has inflicted so much suffering on Americans, and so much needless trauma, death, ruin and displacement in distant neighborhoods. Mostly among children under the age of 15.
Let’s start with excerpts from what CNN last week called the “jaw-dropping” statements of a four-star general. (Click on links for their full remarks.)
Former Secretary of Defense, USMC General (Ret.) James Mattis on June 4, 2020:
I have watched this week’s unfolding events, angry and appalled. The words “Equal Justice Under Law” are carved in the pediment of the United States Supreme Court. This is precisely what protesters are rightly demanding. It is a wholesome and unifying demand — one that all of us should be able to get behind . . .
When I joined the military, some 50 years ago, I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution. Never did I dream that troops taking that same oath would be ordered under any circumstance to violate the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens — much less to provide a bizarre photo op for the elected commander-in-chief, with military leadership standing alongside . . .
After pointedly condemning the Nazi tactic of divide-and-conquer, Gen. Mattis disavowed the commander in chief, saying:
We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership. We can unite without him, drawing on the strengths inherent in our civil society . . .
We must reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution.
Gen. Mattis concluded his appeal with words many Americans have been yearning to hear for a very long time:
Only by adopting a new path — which means, in truth, returning to the original path of our founding ideals — will we again be a country admired and respected at home and abroad.
The previous evening, former commander of the NATO International Security Assistance Force and all US Forces in Afghanistan and four-star General John Allen (Ret.) said this:
Donald Trump expressed only the barest of condolences at the murder of George Floyd, but he also said nothing about the fundamental and underlying reasons for the unrest: systemic racism and inequality, a historic absence of respect, and a denial of justice. All of these factors are centuries old and deeply engrained in an American society that systematically delivers white privilege at the expense of people of color . . .
While there may be some very accomplished criminals on both sides of the riots, the truth is that they are minuscule in numbers. The vast majority of the people protesting in the streets are justifiably furious at the murder of George Floyd, but they’re even angrier over pervasive injustice, mass incarceration, frequent false arrests, and an institutionalized devaluation of black lives and property.
After condemning white supremacists, Allen added:
There is no precedent in modern US history for a president to wield federal troops in a state or municipality over the objections of the respective governor. Right now, the last thing the country needs — and, frankly, the US military needs — is the appearance of US soldiers carrying out the president’s intent by descending on American citizens . . .
Allen also slammed Trump’s ill-advised photo-op in Lafayette Park, where fully equipped riot police and troops violently, and without provocation, set upon the peaceful demonstrators [who] had done nothing to warrant such an attack . . .
Perhaps sensing this moment as an opportunity for an easy victory after his appalling leadership failure in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, the president came down hard: hard on the governors and mayors he’d labeled as weak, the same ones he’d left to fend for themselves during the pandemic, and hard on the Americans in the streets against whom he is preparing to dispatch “thousands upon thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel, and law enforcement.”
The retired general reserved his strongest contempt for a vicious and feckless pretender:
The president stood in front of St. John’s, holding a Bible aloft, and expropriated the image of the church, the Holy Bible, and the Christian faith as the backdrop and basis for his words and deeds in dealing with this crisis.
Allen asked Americans to listen to Terrence Floyd’s advice from the scene of his brother’s murder. “Vote . . . Educate yourselves . . . There’s a lot of us.”
This could be the beginning of the change of American democracy not to illiberalism, but to enlightenment, Allen concluded. But it will have to come from the bottom up. For at the White House, there is no one home.
During a June 3 press conference in the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Mark Esper refused to sign off on Trump’s threat to use active duty troops to “quickly solve the problem” and “dominate the streets.”
“I do not support invoking the Insurrection Act that circumvents clear rules against the military’s policing its fellow citizens,” Esper emphasized, as active duty troops assembled outside the D.C. city limits.
Dozens more GIs are seeking legal advice as they weigh the moral dilemma of disobeying an unconstitutional orders or, in the words of Truthout’s Candice Bernd, “brutalizing their own communities.” Worried troops protest that they have received no training in riot control, de-escalation, or non-lethal weaponry, which can permanently disable and even kill at close range.
“People who stay in need to very much think about what side of history they want to be on. They really need to sit down and think about what they’re willing to do for an oath that means trampling on their neighbors,” suggests Veterans for Peace Executive Director, Garett Reppenhagen.
The former sniper and Army Cavalry scout adds that when an “armed occupation comes to any place in the world, it invites violent resistance against it because people don’t like to see an oppressive force in their community and will do almost anything to get rid of it because of the humiliation and the threat that it presents.”
Brittany DeBarros is a captain in the US Army Reserve. Called up on two-week assignment in 2018, DeBarros began tweeting. Every day . . .
Dept. of ‘Defence’ is the largest oil consumer worldwide. The violence unleashed directly is horrific, but it also has massive spillover impacts. When I was deploying to Afghanistan in 2012, I was shocked by how many ppl responded- Wait didn’t we leave Afghanistan?
In a June 23 speech in Washington, DC, at a Poor People’s Campaign rally, DeBarros said, I carry a grave conviction in my core that there can be no true economic, racial, gender liberation without addressing the militarism that is strangling the morality and empathy out of our society.
We begrudge the poor for the pennies we give them to eat and survive but cheer for the nearly $US600 billion annually we spend on defence. The military industrial complex is literally corporate greed weaponised.
Now fielding a GI hotline, About Face Organizing Director, DeBarros advises: “I can say from experience that the moral cost, the cost to your soul of following an order that you wish that you hadn’t, is far greater and far more sustained than whatever the military can do to you in the short run.”
“There’s a lot of capacity for moral trauma in this and for people to end up doing things that they couldn’t live with if they did do,” agrees Siri Margerin, a counselor with the GI Rights Hotline.
If you are an American in uniform, know your rights: Call GI RIGHTS HOTLINE: 1-877-447-4487
I know these soldiers of conscience are right because during the Vietnam War, after I signed up to “defend my country” (and before the Pentagon Papers revealed the Gulf of Tonkin scam), this US Navy officer-in-training found himself at the same crossroads. On the eve of reporting for flight training at Pensacola and fulfilling a lifelong dream, I realized that no matter how keenly I wanted to fly jets off carriers, there was no way I could napalm children and their families in a distant country who had never threatened my own.
Even though I grew increasingly conflicted as my anti-war organizing continued on the Marquette University campus, resigning my commission was the most difficult decision I ever made. A half-century later, I daily bless the best decision I ever made.
To all Americans in uniform, I say think again before putting yourself in a situation where, in perceived defense of your fellow soldiers, you may have to fire on your fellow-Americans. Or on any family in any land occupied by US troops. If you have any remaining questions on whom and for what you are serving, go online and look up the words of much-decorated Major General Smedley Butler USMC.
Don’t let your own awakening come too late.
The Dark Side Of “Mad Dog” Mattis
William Thomas / William Thomas Online
James “Mad Dog” Mattis earned his sobriquet after ordering the first horrific attack on the residents of Fallujah.
Initially arguing against an all-out marine assault as collective reprisal for the brutal killing of four Blackwater USA mercenaries — whose buddies enjoyed loud rock music while randomly firing randomly into Iraqi cars — Gen. Mattis ordered an all-out bombardment and street-by-street advance that “indiscriminately killed men, women, children, the elderly and disabled alike.
Civilians waving white flags of surrender were cut down by snipers, who also targeted ambulances carrying the wounded and dying to the few functioning clinics not destroyed by US bombs,” reported Aaron Glantz..
“Falujah was primarily a terror operation against 275,000 innocent civilians living in the city. More than 200,000 civilians were displaced from their homes during the November siege, and over 75% of the city was destroyed,” Thomas Müller reported.
American reporter, Dahr Jamail, told Glantz that he’d “personally witnessed women, children, elderly people and ambulances being targeted by US snipers under Mattis’ command.” Jamail described “witnessing of an endless stream of women and children who had been shot by the US soldiers” — including “an 18-year-old girl” shot through the neck, her 10-year-old brother shot in his head by a Marine sniper, another small child also shot by a sniper, and his grandmother, “shot as she was attempting to carry children from their home.” Jamail relates how “she lay on a bed dying, still clutching a bloodied white surrender flag” during what was supposedly a cease-fire.
“When you see a child, 5 years old with no head, what (can you) say?” demanded Dr. Salam Ismael, head of Iraq’s young doctors association. So many civilians were killed that a local soccer stadium was turned into a makeshift graveyard. Many other victims “were left to rot in the streets where they were killed because Marine snipers would shoot relatives or others who tried to retrieve the bodies,” Glabtz also learned.
“More than 12 years later, I still remember the smell of bodies left to rot in the streets for weeks because they could be buried only after the Marines withdrew. Iraqi doctors told me that when they tried to bury bodies during breaks in the fighting, American snipers on rooftops would shoot at them,” Aaron Glantz recalls .
“The Iraqi army refused to fight alongside Mattis’ Marines, while members of the hand-picked Iraqi Governing Council threatened to quit. The U.N.’s envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, threatened to resign, saying, “Collective punishment is certainly unacceptable and the siege of the city is absolutely unacceptable.”
At least 600 civilians were killed during Operation Vigilant Resolve. Mattis’ top deputy, Lt. Col. Brennan Byrne boasted to reporters, “The fact that there are 600 goes back to the fact that the Marines are very good at what they do.”
But Gabor Rona, an international law professor at Columbia University in New York, says these atrocities “are war crimes. Applying the doctrine of command responsibility, Gen. Mattis would be responsible.”
Before Mattis left Iraq, he personally authorized an air strike on a wedding party near the Syrian border. The May 19, 2004 attack killed 42 civilians, including 13 children. Survivor Haleema Shihab recounts how American warplanes acting on Mattis’ orders targeted the celebrants “one by one” — and how she had to leave two of her dead sons behind — one of them decapitated by shrapnel.
Despite a verified home video showing a dozen white pickup trucks escorting a bridal car decorated with colorful ribbons, and the bride wearing white dress and veil ushered into the house by a group of women — where they would soon be killed — Mattis insisted that all the victims of his airstrike were “military-age” males. The general later told military historian Bing West that it had taken him less than 30 seconds to deliberate whether to wipe out that location.
As if to clarify matters, in widely-reported remarks on February 1, 2005, Mattis told a forum in San Diego: “Actually, it’s a lot of fun to fight. You know, it’s a hell of a hoot. It’s fun to shoot some people.”
On November 19 that same year, Marine occupation forces reacted to the roadside-bombing death of a popular lance corporal by executing 24 men, women and children — aged 1 to 76 — in Haditha. Due to Mattis’ personal intervention what was clearly a war crime under domestic and international law, not a single Marine who participated in the “My Lai massacre of the Iraq War” was jailed, Brett Wilkins reported.
Mattis later granted clemency to three Marines convicted of conspiracy to commit the premeditated kidnapping and murder of a disabled civilian in Hamdania, after shooting 52-year-old Hashim Ibrahim Awad four-times in the head while his hands and feet were bound — before planting a weapon and shovel on their innocent victim in a botched attempt to set up the disabled man as a roadside bomber.
Mattis retired as Commander of US Central Command under Obama in March 2013 after his commander in chief opposed Mattis’ call for another “surge” of US forces in Afghanistan.
Trump called Mattis back. But after strongly objecting to the president’s sudden decision to withdraw all US troops from Syria and draw down forces in Afghanistan without consulting any of his advisers, Gen. Mattis resigned again, effective February 28, 2019.
Trump fired him for insubordination on January 1st.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.