A Duty to Disobey All Unlawful Orders
DOMESTIC AND INTERNATIONAL LAW
As the United States government under George Bush gets closer to attacking the people of Iraq, there are several things that the men and women of the U.S. armed forces need to know and bear in mind as they are given orders from the Bush administration. This information is provided for the use of the members of the armed forces, their families, friends and supporters, and all who are concerned about the current direction of U.S. policy toward Iraq.
The military oath taken at the time of induction reads:
“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 the regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God”
The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) 809.ART.90 (20), makes it clear that military personnel need to obey the “lawful command of his superior officer,” 891.ART.91 (2), the “lawful order of a warrant officer”, 892.ART.92 (1) the “lawful general order”, 892.ART.92 (2) “lawful order”. In each case, military personnel have an obligation and a duty to only obey Lawful orders and indeed have an obligation to disobey Unlawful orders, including orders by the president that do not comply with the UCMJ. The moral and legal obligation is to the U.S. Constitution and not to those who would issue unlawful orders, especially if those orders are in direct violation of the Constitution and the UCMJ.
During the Iran-Contra hearings of 1987, Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, a decorated World War II veteran and hero, told Lt. Col. Oliver North that North was breaking his oath when he blindly followed the commands of Ronald Reagan. As Inouye stated, “The uniform code makes it abundantly clear that it must be the Lawful orders of a superior officer. In fact it says, ‘Members of the military have an obligation to disobey unlawful orders.’ This principle was considered so important that we-we, the government of the United States, proposed that it be internationally applied in the Nuremberg trials.” (Bill Moyers, “The Secret Government”, Seven Locks Press; also in the PBS 1987 documentary, “The Secret Government: The Constitution in Crisis”)
Senator Inouye was referring to the Nuremberg trials in the post WW II era, when the U.S. tried Nazi war criminals and did not allow them to use the reason or excuse that they were only “following orders” as a defense for their war crimes which resulted in the deaths of millions of innocent men, women, and children. “In 1953, the Department of Defense adopted the principles of the Nuremberg Code as official policy” of the United States. (Hasting Center Report, March-April 1991)
Over the past year there have been literally thousands of articles written about the impact of the coming war with Iraq. Many are based on politics and the wisdom of engaging in an international war against a country that has not attacked the U.S. and the legality of engaging in what Bush and Rumsfield call “preemptive war.” World opinion at the highest levels, and among the general population, is that a U.S. first strike on Iraq would be wrong, both politically and morally. There is also considerable evidence that Bush’s plans are fundamentally illegal, from both an international and domestic perspective. If the war is indeed illegal, members of the armed forces have a legal and moral obligation to resist illegal orders, according to their oath of induction.
The evidence from an international perspective is overwhelming. The United States Constitution makes treaties that are signed by the government equivalent to the “law of the land” itself, Article VI, para. 2. Among the international laws and treaties that a U.S. pre-emptive attack on Iraq may violate are: ? The Hague Convention on Land Warfare of 1899, which was reaffirmed by the U.S. at the 1946 Nuremberg International Military Tribunals; ? Resolution on the Non-Use of Nuclear Weapons and Prevention of Nuclear War, adopted UN General Assembly, Dec 12, 1980; ? Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide; December 9, 1948, Adopted by Resolution 260 (III) A of the UN General Assembly; ? Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, Adopted on August 12, 1949 by the Diplomatic Conference for the Establishment of International Conventions for the Protection of Victims of War; ? Convention on the Prohibition of Military or any Other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques, 1108 U.N.T.S. 151, Oct. 5, 1978; ? The Charter of the United Nations; ? The Nuremberg Principles, which define as a crime against peace, “planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression, or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements, or assurances, or participation in a common plan or conspiracy for accomplishment of any of the forgoing.” (For many of these treaties and others, see the Yale Avalon project at www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/imt/imt.htm. Also see a letter to Canadian soldiers sent by Hamilton Action for Social Change at http://www.hwcn.org/link/hasc/letter_cf.html)
As Hamilton Action for Social Change has noted “Under the Nuremberg Principles, you have an obligation NOT to follow the orders of leaders who are preparing crimes against peace and crimes against humanity. We are all bound by what U.S. Chief Prosecutor Robert K. Jackson declared in 1948: [T]he very essence of the [Nuremberg] Charter is that individuals have intentional duties which transcend the national obligations of obedience imposed by the individual state.” At the Tokyo War Crimes trial, it was further declared “[A]nyone with knowledge of illegal activity and an opportunity to do something about it is a potential criminal under international law unless the person takes affirmative measures to prevent commission of the crimes.”
The outcry about the coming war with Iraq is also overwhelming from legal experts who have studied this in great detail.
By November of 2002, 315 law professors had signed a statement entitled “A US War Against Iraq Will Violate US and International Law and Set a Dangerous Precedent for Violence That Will Endanger the American People.”
Other legal organizations such as the Lawyers’ Committee on Nuclear Policy and the Western States Legal Foundation have written more extensive reports, such as that by Andrew Lichterman and John Burroughs on “War is Not the Path to Peace; The United States, Iraq, and the Need for Stronger International Legal Standards to Prevent War.” As the report indicates “Aggressive war is one of the most serious transgressions of international law.” In fact, at the Nuremberg trials, the issue was not just individual or collective acts of atrocities or brutal actions but the starting of an aggressive war itself. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert L. Jackson stated,
“We must make clear to the Germans that the wrong for which their fallen leaders are on trial is not that they lost the war, but that they started it. And we must not allow ourselves to be drawn into a trial of the causes of the war, for our position is that no grievances or policies will justify resort to aggressive war. It is utterly renounced and condemned as an instrument of policy.” (August 12, 1945, Department of State Bulletin. )
In another report written by the same authors and also by Michael Ratner, President of the Center for Constitutional Rights, New York, and Jules Lobel, Professor of Law at the University of Pittsburgh entitled “The United Nations Charter and the Use of Force Against Iraq,” the authors note that:
“Under the UN Charter, there are only two circumstances in which the use of force is permissible: in collective or individual self-defense against an actual or imminent armed attack: and when the Security Council has directed or authorized use of force to maintain or restore international peace and security. Neither of those circumstances now exists. Absent one of them, U.S. use of force against Iraq is unlawful.”
The authors were specifically referring to Article 51 of the UN Charter on the right to self-defense. Nothing that Iraq has done would call that provision into effect. The report also states that:
“There is no basis in international law for dramatically expanding the concept of self-defense, as advocated in the Bush Administration’s September, 2002 “National Security Strategy” to authorize “preemptive”–really preventive–strikes against states based on potential threats arising from possession or development of chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons and links to terrorism. Such an expansion would destabilize the present system of UN Charter restraints on the use of force. Further, there is no claim or publicly disclosed evidence that Iraq is supplying weapons of mass destruction to terrorist.
The Bush administration’s reliance on the need for “regime change” in Iraq as a basis for use of force is barred by Article 2(4) of the UN Charter, which prohibits “the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.” Thus the rationales being given to the world, the American public, and the armed forces are illegal on their face. (For a copy of this report see www.lcnp.org/global/iraqstatement3.htm)
It is important to note that none of the authors cited thus far or to be cited have any support for Saddam Hussein or the Government of Iraq whatsoever. They and others who do not support an illegal war in Iraq believe that government of Saddam Hussein is corrupt, vile, and contemptible. So is the leadership and governments of many of our “allies,” such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan-governments that the United States may very well attack within the next decade. It is important to remember that Saddam Hussein was an important “ally” during the 1980s and that many of the weapons that may be faced by our armed forces will bear a “Made in the USA” label. The issue here is not the “evil’ of Saddam Hussein, nor the international community doing nothing, but an illegal march to war by the Bush administration.
Even former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, a very conservative Republican from Texas, has warned that an “unprovoked attack against Iraq would violate international law and undermine world support for President Bush’s goal of ousting Saddam Hussein.” Armey explicitly states “If we try to act against Saddam Hussein, as obnoxious as he is, without proper provocation, we will not have the support of other nation states who might do so. I don’t believe that America will justifiably make an unprovoked attack on another nation. It would not be consistent with what we have been as a nation or what we should be as a nation.” (Chicago Tribune, August 9, 2002, available at
In addition to the violations of international laws, which have been incorporated into U.S. law, the impending attack on Iraq is a direct violation of national law as Bush claims that he has the authority to decide whether the U.S. will go to war or not. The U.S. Constitution is very explicit on this point. Only the Congress has the authority to declare war, Article 1, section 8, Par. 11. Congress does not have the right to give that power away, or to delegate that power to the president or anyone else. The President as the “Commander in Chief” (Article 2, section 2, Par. 1) can command the armed forces in times of peace and war, but he does not have the authority to declare the war or determine if that war is to occur, especially if he is engaged in illegal conduct in violation of the Constitution itself or his oath of office. The Constitution spells out very clearly the responsibility of the President and his oath, “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” (Article 2, section 2, Par. 8). The President also has the primary duty to make sure “that the laws be faithfully executed,” (Article 2, section 3).
The vaguely worded resolution passed by the Congress in October was both illegal and an act of cowardice, as noted by Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia. Byrd’s remarks were made on the floor of the Senate on October 3, 2002. In part he said:
“The resolution before us today is not only a product of haste; it is also a product of presidential hubris. This resolution is breathtaking in its scope. It redefines the nature of defense, and reinterprets the Constitution to suit the will of the Executive Branch. It would give the President blanket authority to launch a unilateral preemptive attack on a sovereign nation that is perceived to be a threat to the United States. This is an unprecedented and unfounded interpretation of the President’s authority under the Constitution, not to mention the fact that it stands the charter of the United Nations on its head.”
The full texts of his remarks are well worth reading, not only on the illegality of the war but also the illegality of Congress in abandoning its duty under the Constitution.
MORAL CODES AND LAWS
The United States is a secular country with a great variety of religions, which are adhered to by the majority of the people. Political leaders who claim to speak in the name of God are rightfully looked upon with suspicion, whether they are foreign leaders or the president of the United States. This is especially true when the issues are those of war and peace. Nevertheless, the U.S. often blends the border on issues of Church and State, including in public oaths, such as the oath which is taken at the time of induction. This author will not claim to know the will of God, but it is valuable to examine what the religious leaders of the country are saying about this war. Virtually every major religion in the United States has come out against the Bush plans for war. Again this is not because of any support for Saddam Hussein, but rather the Bush plans do not meet any criteria for the concept of “just war.” One would expect this from the religions that are respected and pacifist, but it also true from those who have supported past U.S. wars, and even have Chaplains in the service. Below is a sample of the analysis of U.S. religious leaders:
We respectfully urge you to step back from the brink of war and help lead the world to act together to fashion an effective global response to Iraq’s threats that conforms with traditional moral limits on the use of military force. US Conference of Catholic Bishops, Letter to President Bush, Sept. 13, 2002.
The question for us now must be: what is our role in the community of nations? I believe we have the capacity within us to help lead our world into the way of justness and peace. The freedoms we enjoy as citizens of the United States oblige us to attend not only to our own welfare, but to the well-being of the world around us. A superpower, especially one that declares itself to be “under God,” must exercise the role of super servant. Our nation has an opportunity to reflect the values and ideals that we espouse by focusing upon issues of poverty, disease and despair, not only within our own nation but throughout the global community of which we are a part. The Presiding Bishop’s statement on military action against Iraq, September 6, 2002.
Jewish International cooperation is far, far better than unilateral action, and the U.S. must explore all reasonable means of attaining such support. Non-military action is always preferable to military action, and the U.S. must fully explore all options to resolve the situation through such means. If the effort to obtain international cooperation and support through the United Nations fails, the U.S. must work with other nations to obtain cooperation in any military action. Union of American Hebrew Congregations, Executive Committee Decision on Unilateral Action by the U.S. Against Iraq.
While we are fully aware of the potential threat posed by the government of Iraq and its leader, I believe it is wrong for the United States to seek to over-throw the regime of Saddam Hussein with military action. Morally, I oppose it because I know a war with Iraq will have great consequences for the people of Iraq, who have already suffered through years of war and economic sanctions. Further, I believe it is detrimental to U.S. interests to take unilateral military action when there is strong international support for weapons inspections, and when most other governments oppose military action. I also believe that U.S. military action at this time will further destabilize the region. I call upon members of our congregations to be fervent in prayer, engaged in conversation with one another and with our leaders. In the final analysis, we must stand unequivocally for peace. ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson’s Statement on Iraq Situation, August 30, 2002.
Methodist United Methodists have a particular duty to speak out against an unprovoked attack. President Bush and Vice-President Cheney are members of our denomination. Our silence now could be interpreted as tacit approval of war. Christ came to break old cycles of revenge and violence. Too often, we have said we worship and follow Jesus but have failed to change our ways. Jesus proved on the cross the failure of state-sponsored revenge. It is inconceivable that Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior and the Prince of Peace, would support this proposed attack. Secretary Jim Winkler of The United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society, August 30, 2002.
We urge Presbyterians to oppose a precipitate U.S. attack on Iraq and the Bush administration’s new doctrine of pre-emptive military action. We call upon President George W. Bush and other leaders to: Refrain from language that seems to label certain individuals and nations as “evil” and others as “good”; Oppose ethnic and religious stereotyping, Guard against a unilateralism, rooted in our unique position of political, economic and military power, that perpetuates the perception that “might makes right”; Allow United Nations weapons inspections in Iraq, without undue pressure or threats of pre-emptive, unilateral action; and End the economic sanctions against Iraq, which have been ineffectual but have done untold damage to the Iraqi people. The General Assembly Council and the staff leadership team of the Presbyterian Church (USA), September 28, 2002.
United Church of Christ With heavy hearts we hear once again the drumbeat of war against Iraq. As leaders committed to God’s reign of justice and peace in the world and to the just conduct of our nation, we firmly oppose this advance to war. While Iraq’s weapons potential is uncertain, the death that would be inflicted on all sides in a war is certain. Striking against Iraq now will not serve to prevent terrorism or defend our nation’s interests. We fear that war would only provoke greater regional instability and lead to the mass destruction it is intended to prevent. UCC leaders, September 13, 2002.
Ecumenical As Christians, we are concerned by the likely human costs of war with Iraq, particularly for civilians. We are unconvinced that the gain for humanity would be proportionate to the loss. Neither are we convinced that it has been publicly demonstrated that all reasonable alternative means of containing Iraq’s development of weapons of mass destruction have been exhausted. We call upon our governments to pursue these diplomatic means in active cooperation with the United Nations and to stop the apparent rush to war. World Council of Churches, August 30, 2002.
For a fuller elaboration of these and other comments from religious leaders, such as by the Mennonites, Quakers (Society of Friends), Unitarian Universalist, and other ecumenical groups see www.ecapc.org. Other religious and moral objections to Bush’s plans have been articulated. In September of 2002, 100 Christian Ethicists from major seminaries, divinity schools, and traditionally conservative religious schools challenged the claim that preemptive war on Iraq would be morally justified in a simply worded statement, “As Christian ethicists, we share a common moral presumption against a pre-emptive war on Iraq by the United States.” (See the Chronicle of Higher Education, September 23, 2002,)
Religious resistance to Bush’s war plans can also be found in the overwhelming vote of 228-14 by the U.S. Catholic Bishops against the war and in the unprecedented show of unity by Chicago’s top Christian, Jewish, and Muslim leaders in the first public statement on any national issue of the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago in opposing Bush’s war. (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, December 1, 2002)
It is noteworthy that the Pope John Paul II has come out very strongly against this war in unambiguous terms, “No to war!” The Pope said during his annual address to scores of diplomatic emissaries to the Vatican, an exhortation that referred in part to Iraq, a country he mentioned twice. “War is not always inevitable. It is always a defeat for humanity.” (NY Times, January 14, 2003). The Pope, a seasoned diplomat, was not just making a moral statement about peace; he referred to the legal codes discussed earlier in this article, “War is never just another means that one can choose to employ for settling differences between nations. As the Charter of the United Nations organization and international law itself reminds us, war cannot be decided upon, even when it is a matter of ensuring the common good, except as the very last option and in accordance with very strict conditions, without ignoring the consequences for the civilian population both during and after the military operations.” (See Irish Examiner, 1/13/2003)
It is also important to restate that the head of Bush’s own church has come out against this war. Jim Winkler, the general secretary of the Board of Church and Society for the United Methodist Church has come out very strongly against this war. President Bush has refused to meet with Winkler.
“The Methodist Church, he (Winkler) says, is not pacifist, but ‘rejects war as a usual means of national policy’. Methodist scriptural doctrine, he added, specifies ‘war as a last resort, primarily a defensive thing. And so far as I know, Saddam Hussein has not mobilized military forces along the borders of the United States, nor along his own border to invade a neighboring country, nor have any of these countries pleaded for our assistance, nor does he have weapons of mass destruction targeted at the United States’.” (See Observer/UK, October 20, 2002)
Individual will have to make their own decisions about the “morality” of the war but the consensus decision that has been developing among religious leaders is that this war does not constitute a “just war” by virtually anyone’s standards. The concept of “sin” is also a personal decision but again those who study these issues from the Pope to theologians to pastors to other religious leaders do not and cannot give their approval to the illegal actions that the Bush administration are going to impose on the world in general, and people of Iraq and the men and women of the U.S. armed forces in particular.
REASONS FOR THE WAR AND POSSIBLE ACTIONS
The reasons for war are not supposed to be the purview of soldiers in the field. They are just supposed to follow orders. But when a war is so blatantly illegal soldiers need to have some background to make an informed decision about how to conduct themselves. In a short space it is not possible to delineate the full reasons, but it is not about the dangers of Saddam Hussein. As indicated above, there are no credible anti-war or peace advocates that advocate any positive statements about Saddam Hussein or the Government of Iraq. The world, however, in general, does not believe that the Bush administration has any solution to the situation. In fact many believe that Bush, himself, is a significant part of the problem.
Many people have pointed out that this war is about the oil. It is, but it is much more than that. The United States does not need the oil to survive but the people in the Bush administration want to expand the hegemony that the United States government has had since the collapse of the Soviet Union. This is not a critique of U.S. foreign policy, per se, but a recognition of reality. This is essentially what Bush has been saying in his public speeches at West Point, etc., and is very explicitly saying in his “National Security Strategy (NSS), which he published in September of 2002.
The NSS is the political articulation of what the main actors of the Bush administration published in September 2000, before the elections, before they took power, and before the fateful day of September 11, 2001. That project was called “Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century“, A Report of The Project For the New American Century. These documents are essentially the blueprints for hegemony and for a word that has come back into vogue- Empire. These documents are publicly available, but not often read. All Americans and all members of the armed forces should read them. Many of the people quoted in this article have no doubt read them and understand the policies basic illegalities, and thus the conclusion that the war itself is domestically, internationally and morally indefensible.
There are many critiques of the impact of these policies-which articulate the reasons not to go to war. Some of the better ones can be found at Global Policy ; Foreign Policy in Focus or the Education for Peace in Iraq Center. There are also several other valuable research sites.
There are also many U.S. veteran groups that have seen the horrors of war up close and do not want to have another generation of young Americans suffer not only the war, but also the post traumatic stresses that emerge after war, when they discover they have been lied to, have participated in aggression, and then are abandoned by their government after the wars. This war is particularly amenable to such, since there is so much dissention, based on solid information that this war is not only unnecessary but also illegal, and may be without a foreseeable end.
Charles Sheehan Miles, is a Gulf War veteran and former President of the National Gulf War Resource Center (http://www.ngwrc.org). He also help to found the extraordinarily useful “Veterans for Common Sense” (http://www.veteransforcommonsense.org/) which has a great deal of information about the current situation. On January 16, 2003, he wrote:
“This war does nothing to protect American lives, but it will do everything to destroy the lives of many thousands of Iraqis and Americans. This war will not protect us from weapons of mass destruction, but it will make it more likely Iraq will try to use them. This war will not liberate the Iraqi people, but it will do everything to ensure they receive a new master, one ruled by corporate profits and oil to fuel more American consumption. This war isn’t worth the life of one American soldier.” (http://www.alternet.org/story.html?StoryID=14952)
The idea that those who oppose the Bush plans for war are against the troops is a fundamental lie. Support for the troops is not done by sending them off to a war which is fundamentally unnecessary-support is keeping them home. Support for the troops is not done by lying to them about the purpose and goals of the war and allowing those who will benefit and profit a free ride on the backs of the troops. Support for the troops is not done by making them complicit in an illegal and immoral war-it is done by exposing the lies and giving the troops an opportunity not to be complicit in war crimes.
A group of veterans of many different wars and eras has issued a statement that has been distributed to active duty soldiers making some of the points made in this article. Signers includes many well-known veterans such as Vietnam veteran and author Ron Kovic (Born on the 4th of July), author and film producer Michael Moore (Bowling for Columbine), and American historian Howard Zinn (A People’s History of the United States) and several hundred other veterans.
The statement “Call to Conscience from Veterans to Active Duty Troops and Reservist” reads in part:
“Many of us believed serving in the military was our duty, and our job was to defend this country. Our experiences in the military caused us to question much of what we were taught. Now we see our REAL duty is to encourage you as members of the U.S. armed forces to find out what you are being sent to fight and die for and what the consequences of your actions will be for humanity. We call upon you, the active duty and reservists, to follow your conscience and do the right thing.
In the last Gulf War, as troops, we were ordered to murder from a safe distance. We destroyed much of Iraq from the air, killing hundreds of thousands, including civilians. We remember the road to Basra — the Highway of Death — where we were ordered to kill fleeing Iraqis. We bulldozed trenches, burying people alive. The use of depleted uranium weapons left the battlefields radioactive. Massive use of pesticides, experimental drugs, burning chemical weapons depots and oil fires combined to create a toxic cocktail affecting both the Iraqi people and Gulf War veterans today. One in four Gulf War veterans is disabled.
If you choose to participate in the invasion of Iraq you will be part of an occupying army. Do you know what it is like to look into the eyes of a people that hate you to your core? You should think about what your “mission” really is. You are being sent to invade and occupy a people who, like you and me, are only trying to live their lives and raise their kids. They pose no threat to the United States even though they have a brutal dictator as their leader. Who is the U.S. to tell the Iraqi people how to run their country when many in the U.S. don’t even believe their own President was legally elected?
There is no honor in murder. This war is murder by another name. When, in an unjust war, an errant bomb dropped kills a mother and her child it is not “collateral damage,” it is murder. When, in an unjust war, a child dies of dysentery because a bomb damaged a sewage treatment plant, it is not “destroying enemy infrastructure,” it is murder. When, in an unjust war, a father dies of a heart attack because a bomb disrupted the phone lines so he could not call an ambulance, it is not “neutralizing command and control facilities,” it is murder. When, in an unjust war, a thousand poor farmer conscripts die in a trench defending a town they have lived in their whole lives, it is not victory, it is murder.
If the people of the world are ever to be free, there must come a time when being a citizen of the world takes precedence over being the soldier of a nation. Now is that time. When orders come to ship out, your response will profoundly impact the lives of millions of people in the Middle East and here at home. Your response will help set the course of our future. You will have choices all along the way. Your commanders want you to obey. We urge you to think. We urge you to make your choices based on your conscience. If you choose to resist, we will support you and stand with you because we have come to understand that our REAL duty is to the people of the world and to our common future.” (To see the full statement and view all the signatures see www.calltoconscience.net.)
The choices that those in the military and their supporters face are hard ones. Let us begin with some undisputed options. Members of the armed forces are sworn to protect the Constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic. They are also sworn to obey all LAWFUL orders and have an affirmative duty to DISOBEY all UNLAWFUL orders.
The unelected president will not tell his troops or his commanders that he is issuing unlawful orders. Few, if any, of the top commanders will tell their troops that they are issuing unlawful orders. Those on the front lines, those who fly the planes, those who target Cruise missiles and other weapons of mass destruction need to make decisions. According to International Law, Domestic Law, the Constitution, and various Moral Codes it is not enough to say or believe that one is just “doing their job” or just “following orders.” Decisions have to be made.
One should check out the sources of information presented in this article, to see if International Law still applies to America, to see if the Constitution still applies, to see if the Pope and other national and international members of the clergy are right in their moral objections to this war, to see if the legal arguments are valid against the war or for the war. One should investigate if they are being lied to by their unelected commander in chief. Members of the armed forces have a sworn and sacred duty to uphold the law and the Constitution. According to the laws, international, domestic, and moral, the interpretation of whether orders are legal are not only the responsibility of “superior officers,” but is needed each level of command, and by those who execute those commands.
Please note that the information presented here is not meant to encourage one to break the law, but rather to follow international, domestic, and moral laws. The information here is not intended to encourage one to break one’s oath but rather to be true to one’s duty and conscience and make an informed decision.
If the decision is made that the orders to begin or continue the war are illegal, then each bomb dropped will be a war crime, each bomb loaded will be a war crime, each support effort will be aiding and abetting a crime. Each death, especially that of a civilian, will be a war crime (not collateral damage). If the war itself is a crime than all efforts that aid in that effort are criminal. Given that over 50% of the people of Iraq are children under the age of 16, this will be a war against children and a crime against humanity. The decision to obey one’s oath and not follow illegal orders is no doubt a difficult one, and one that will probably result in punishment from those who issue the illegal orders. One should not take this issue lightly, just as one should not take the decision to follow an illegal order lightly. There will no doubt be consequences for those who follow their conscience. It is the duty of all who recognize the illegality of the war to support all resisters. For examples on how hundreds of thousands of GIs resisted the illegal war in Vietnam (by the U.S. Governments own admission in the Pentagon Papers) read Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States,” Chapter 18. For a personal account of a brave officer’s resistance in Vietnam and later, see “Witness to War” by Charles Clement.
I am aware that many active duty personnel and reservist already have grave doubts and reservations about the conduct of this war, just as do significant numbers of veterans and the general public and citizenry. Those who have severe doubts about the legality of what they are “ordered” to do should talk to their comrades in arms, their spiritual advisor (if they have one), and should contact one of the groups listed below and weigh their options.
There may well be some safety in numbers. Albert Einstein, the genius physicist, once stated that if 2% of the military refused to fight or participate, the wars could not continue. Time is short. Or if you are reading this after the hostilities have commenced, it is time to stop the madness and war crimes.
At the end of this article there is contact information for organizations that have historically assisted active duty personnel, reservist, or veterans of conscience who desire specific legal, political, or moral guidance in time of war. If possible, these would be good organizations to contact. As the veterans “Call to Conscience” statement notes “if you have questions or doubts about your role in the military (for any reason) or in this war, help is available. Contact one of the organizations listed below. They can discuss your situation and concerns, give you information on your legal rights, and help you sort out your possible choices.” These organizations are listed for your information and are not responsible for the contents of this article.
Also listed below are sources of information that may be useful about the current situation, in addition to the sources listed in the article.
LAWRENCE MOSQUEDA, Ph.D. teaches at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
BOOKS on foreign policy
Noam Chomsky, especially Deterring Democracy, 9/11, Rouge States
Phyllis Bennis, Before and After: U.S. Foreign Policy and the September 11 Crisis
Gilbert Achcar, The Clash of Barbarisms: September 11 and the Making of the New World Disorder
William Blum, Killing Hope
Dilip Hiro, Iraq, In the Eye of the Storm
Alternative News and analysis,
English Reports from Iraq, http://www.iraqjournal.org/jeremybio.html
ORGANIZATIONS THAT HAVE HELPED GIs IN THE PAST (Some are religious, some political, some pacifist) Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors (CCCO) The GI Rights Hotline (800) 394-9544 (215) 563-4620 Fax (510) 465-2459 630 Twentieth Street #302 Oakland, CA 94612 email@example.com http://girights.objector.org/whoweare.html
American Friends Service Committee–New England Region 2161 Massachusetts Ave. Cambridge, MA 02140 617-661-6130 firstname.lastname@example.org
Military Law Task Force of the National Lawyers Guild 1168 Union Street, Suite 200 San Diego, CA 92101 619-233-1701
Northcoast WRL / Humboldt Committee for Conscientious Objectors (NCWRL-HCCO) 1040 H Street Arcata, CA 95521 707-826-0165 HCCO-Help@sbcglobal.net
Quaker House of Fayetteville, NC 223 Hillside Ave Fayetteville, NC 28301 910-323-3912 or 919-663-7122
Seattle Draft and Military Counseling PO Box 20604 Seattle, WA 98102 206-789-2751 email@example.com
Veterans for Common Sense www.veteransforcommonsense.org
National Contacts http://www.veteransforcommonsense.org/contacts.asp
Citizen Soldier 267 Fifth Ave., Suite 901 New York, NY 10016 Phone (212) 679-2250 Fax (212) 679-2252 www.citizen-soldier.org/