Bigger Than Policy


In 2009, the Department of Homeland Security issued a watch-list of potential “right-wing extremists”.  Two and a half years later in September 2011, Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen active with the al Qaeda terrorist network, was killed in a drone strike ordered by President Obama.

Recently, this article appeared on Life Site News.  I posted it on my Facebook page and commented on my status as an officer in the United States Army.  A high school classmate of mine, who later attended and graduated from West Point, commented that I shouldn’t use my status as an officer to influence policy.  At first, I considered removing or editing my comments, but soon remembered something very important: this is NOT about policy or personal politics.

False Dichotomies

This is not about liberal or conservative.  It is not about Republican or Democrat.  It is not about military or civilian.  This is not even about pro-life or pro-choice.  This isn’t even about believer or non-believer, Catholic or protestant, Christian or Muslim.  It is about DUTY.  Allow me to explain.

The US military is the most trusted institution in America, more so than clergy.  When we first join, we swear to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic”.  We have a set of values drilled into us during our training; each branch has their own way of professing these values.  Where does duty play into this?  Duty is NOT blind obedience to authority.  When you were four years old and asked your mother for a cookie and she said no, is it better for her to say “because I said so” or “we’re having dinner in half an hour”?

So let’s revisit my Facebook comments.  Yes, I am an officer in the United States Army.  Yes, I am pro-life on abortion, and yes, I did (indirectly) call out the president, but these things are not intertwined.  I repeat: this is NOT about policy or personal politics.

However, I think it’s interesting that the Obama Administration singled out “right-wing extremists”, like returning war veterans, people against ILLEGAL immigration, and pro-life Americans (seriously, what do they think we’re going to do?  Strangle an abortionist with our Rosaries and expect the staff to watch helplessly as they wait for the cops to show up?  Give…me…a…break!), but ignored that Jared Loughner, a LEFT-WING extremist, opened fire at a Democratic rally in Arizona, killing six people and wounding many more. They don’t seem to mind that in 2008, Rage Against The Machine guitarist Tom Morello said that “the Democratic Party is about ten miles to the right of my politics.”  How about the Occupy Wall Street protests, praised by liberals, demonized by conservatives, and loaded with cases of assault, vandalism, and rape?  And lest we forget the Family Research Center shooter, all because they’re against gay marriage.  And the Department of Homeland Security somehow thinks you need to be concerned about guys like me.

“But you said earlier that this isn’t about personal politics!”

Yeah, I did.  What happens if we get a conservative version of Barack Obama who decides to use a sniper against Tom Morello while he’s performing?  What if that president wants to blitzkrieg the “Occupy” protestors?  What if he orders the Navy SEALs to raid a Jared Loughner’s apartment and assassinate him?  I think it’s worth noting that Richard Nixon, a Republican often lauded by conservatives, had his own list of enemies that included Paul Newman (a committed left-winger), the Black Panthers (committed left-wingers), Barbara Streisand (a committed left-winger), and Dan Schorr (an NPR personality and, oh yeah, a left-winger).  I’m seeing a pattern here…

So why am I especially worried about all this?  Only because I’m trying to get a job as a regional coordinator with a pro-life group as my civilian occupation.  That’s right: I could potentially end up on that hit list.  Do I think anything will really happen?  I’m not holding my breath.

I will say it a third time: this is not about policy or personal politics.  This is about the lives and freedom of all Americans, even those I disagree with.  So when I, an officer in the United States Army, make the kind of comments that I made, I am faithful to my oath of office.  Even though I may not have intended to use my officership to influence policy, my classmate’s response touched on a vital issue.  Duty does not mean blindly following your leader and is no excuse to betray your values.

Before I conclude, I’ll say that the last thing I want to do is damage the chain of command.  Unity of command, whether in an army, a business, or a family, is fundamental to the well-being of those under authority.  For younger Soldiers, it’s the only reassurance that they are doing the right thing.  However, no service member can forget that while they must obey the president’s orders, they have a duty to their countrymen, and to the founding documents that lay out these duties and supervene upon anything else that could affect them.  I, for one, have not and will not forget that duty.  When I think of all the men and women who have died defending America or those who have been imprisoned and tortured, I don’t know why I should fear whatever disciplinary action that might befall me in the defense of the country I love.  While at this time, I may not pound my chest saying these things, I won’t deny them if asked.

Image coutesy Vinoth Chandar

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