Soldiers need more Free-Speech

The right to say what you want, without fear of government or societal persecution is so great of importance that our founders listed it as our very first amendment. For when ideas, whether good or evil, are suppressed, society cannot engage in a progressive evolution. When people fear to utter a word, whether it be written or spoken, the world begins to become a quiet, cold, and gray place to live in. The feeling of having your thoughts trapped inside of your head with no legal way to escape is akin to a sort of mental prison.

Many Americans falsely believe that “free speech” protects us in a way that allows us to say anything we want, so long it doesn’t involve a threat of violence. While I wish this was the case, it is not. Under the Smith Act of 1940, it is illegal for any American citizen to express sympathetic communist viewpoints. Under the National Defense Authorization Act, passed under the Obama administration, anyone who is merely “suspected” of having terrorist sympathies, can be detained without a trial. These are very vague parameters which can easily be applied to silence social dissent.

Those who serve in the military have it even worse. If you are a private citizen, and you make a Facebook post about the president being “incompetent” or “unqualified”, the FBI isn’t likely to show up at your door. However, if you are serving in the military, such a simple statement can likely have you standing before a judge in a court martial hearing. In a court martial setting under military jurisdictions, there are typically no requirements for a jury, making the case that much more difficult to fight.

You would think that those who are literally putting their lives on the line to defend our nation and carrying out the orders of congress, would have more right than anyone to criticize the commander in chief and/or the orders given to him/her. But, the reality is, soldiers are expected to follow orders, show support for the commander in chief, and to keep their mouth shut if they disagree.

Article 88 of the U.C.M.J, 10 U.S.C. 888, makes it a crime for a commissioned military officer to use contemptuous words against the President and Congress, among others. The Department of Defense has also expanded this rule to include all military enlisted personnel (DOD Directive 1344.10).

These rules have a practical rationale for the fact that a soldier’s ability to criticize a mission could destroy his unit’s morale. While this is a noteworthy rationale, it doesn’t take away from the fact that the opinions of our men and women in uniform should matter a lot more than they currently do. If we are going to limit their ability to publicly criticize a mission or leader, should we not at least require that our congress, president, and commanding officers consult with our enlisted members in regards to input on whether or not missions should be pursued? Perhaps we should hold a yearly caucus where servicemen and women can express their opinions regarding missions and operations.

Many jurisdictions have implemented an on base “public forum” that is only visible to other military personnel whereas enlisted members have the chance to fully express their thoughts without fear of punishment. This is a step in the right direction. However, when you consider that the United States has not had a properly declared war by congress since WWII, we soon realize that there is a major problem with how our soldiers are treated as mere pawns on a chess board when we should consider them as individual human lives, only sending them to war if absolutely necessary.

Our law makers need a huge reality check in terms of civilian vs military life. Unmarried soldiers are expected to live celibate lives in the barracks whereas they have no freedom of speech; Talk about having pent up rage! Perhaps its all apart of the plan to make them better fighters. Who knows!? Regardless, I will exercise my free speech by saying, its about time we start humanizing our soldiers instead of viewing them as mere pieces of flesh covered expendable “equipment”.

-Randell Stroud

Nalini-Global

It’s time we stop bullying our Veterans and LEOs

 

When it comes to veterans in our nation, there appears to be one of two attitudes held towards their presence.

  1. “We love our Veterans! We support them no matter what! “
  2. “Veterans are just tools of a war machine who deserve what they get!”

While many conservatives will never criticize the military or police no matter what, other political ideologies such as liberals, libertarians, or anarchists, will sometimes spit on the service of veterans by calling them, “tools of the government”, and other derogatory terms, — The truth is somewhere in the middle, as is in most cases of “This Vs That” issues.

Yes, there have been servicemen  and police who have acted inappropriately in their service.  The Mahmudiyah rape and killings involved the gang-rape and killing of 14-year-old Iraqi girl Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi and the murder of her family by United States Army soldiers on March 12, 2006.  In other cases, many Vietnam veterans have admitted that they killed Vietcong soldiers and wore pieces of their body parts as trophies.  And yes, it is true that many military conflicts are fought on bad intelligence or for malicious profit or gain.

However, there are also many accounts of soldiers who disobeyed orders that went against their conscious and/or later spoke out against things in their service they disagreed with. Soldiers are not mindless drones! They are usually very intelligent people.

A good example is Major General Smedley Butler, America’s most decorated marine in modern military history, who wrote the book, “War is A Racket”, which exposed the corrupt money-making schemes involved in overseas wars. Smedley, emphasized that soldiers should only be made to protect their country, not to police the world or fight on behalf of money hungry politicians.  Very brave and intellectual statements indeed!

Many liberal leaning people, often criticize our servicemen as being mindless robots for the US military, but this couldn’t be farthest from the truth. Every person who wants to serve our country is required to take an oath to the US constitution, a legal instruments that formed the foundation of our modern legal system to which the average American cannot even recite.  When our nation is threatened with an outside attack or an internal attack of gigantic proportions, the military is deployed to handle the crisis. These men and women spend their careers honing their combat, administrative, legal, and survival skills in order to protect those in their community.

While I agree that it is the duty of Americans to arm themselves and take part in the protection of their communities, our servicemen devote 100% of their time towards this effort, thus, they are experts in this field. Because we have a military, we can walk through the streets, fly through the air on our airplanes, and travel the world, knowing that there is a military force that is trained and ready to protect us from invaders.

People join the military for all kinds of reason. Sometimes those reasons are selfish other times they are purely out of duty and love for one’s country. Regardless of the reason, the soldier enlisted is employed to serve a primary duty of protecting his/her people. This rings true in all armies around the world. Without a military, in the event of an invasion, poorly trained citizens would have to band together with limited supplies to combat such a threat. While not totally impossible, the consequences would be disastrous, most likely leading towards the breakdown of their society.

When soldiers are sent off to fight and die in conflicts that appear to have little to do with our national security, please do not criticize the soldier. Criticize the policy maker who ordered their deployment! Criticize the commander in chief if you wish, criticize your state’s governor if you wish, criticize our lack of spirituality if you wish, but do not criticize the soldier.  Most soldiers that I know who are stationed in Iraq or Afghanistan want to come home, many agree that the wars have gone on far enough, they don’t want to participate in such actions.  Yet, when they are deployed and the bullets firing towards them from insurgents begin, they have no choice but to fight back, all because of a policy maker who decided that military action was necessary.

Servicemen can be seen as “tools of the government”, but only when “we the people” do not support them and speak out for them. In the 1960’s, many Americans were forced to deploy to Vietnam under Draft provisions. Anyone who refused to enter into the military under a draft order was sentenced to prison. These young men who were forced to kill, fight, and see their friends die, were spat on and ridiculed by the anti-war movement and were often called, “Baby killers”.  These men were forced to fight in an unpopular war under threat of law, yet were ridiculed for attempting to survive such a desperate situation.  These events were totally unfair towards our veterans.  This is why Vietnam Veteran Era soldiers have some of the highest incidents of PTSD.

Contrarily, because of strong opposition from the American public with displays of nearly constant protests regarding the Vietnam war, politicians felt the pressure and eventually brought home our troops after being in the area for 20 years.  Our troops now face a similar situation in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our troops have been there for 17 years . Despite early protests from the modern anti-war movement, in recent years, these wars have been mostly forgotten about by the public.

President Obama announced a supposed end to the Iraq war in 2011, yet to this date, there remains over 30,000 troops permanently stationed in the country whereas Afghanistan remains as active as ever in terms of conflict. These wars appear to have no end in sight.  But who is at fault? Our servicemen or our law makers?

Our servicemen have only a few things in mind when it comes to their service.

  1. I must protect my nation
  2. Protect my family
  3. survive

Politics are of little concern to soldiers. In fact, the “Uniform code of military justice”, a codified legal system governing enlisted soldier behavior, bars public criticism of the President and missions in order to protect moral during combat.  Perhaps every year, congress should take a vote from our soldiers who have boots on the ground, or make true congressional declarations of war; such reforms would be highly beneficial in my opinion. Regardless, there is still no merit in criticizing individual soldiers or police to the degree we have been.

Let’s say you work for Nike, Reebok, Toyota, Burger King, HCA, or any major corporation.  It is pretty safe to say that all of these corporations have probably committed some atrocious act at some point; Harming the environment, treating employees badly, using forced child labor, ect.  Because you work for a corporation that sells products using unethical means, does that mean that you yourself are evil? Probably not. You are probably just happy to have a job in order to feed your family or perhaps you really love the product but secretly wish that the company operated more fairly.

I think our soldiers and our law enforcement officers feel the same way. They are doing a JOB! A job that often includes things that they disagree with but must carry it out anyways. Occasionally, an employee may speak out or rebel, but he/she does so at risk of losing their job or even their life in some cases.  If we as a society want to reform a corporation, reform a military, or reform a government, being angry with the actions of the leaders of such an organization is a normal response. But to criticize those who carry out the functions of that organization are not always warranted and are often gray, murky, and situational.

If you truly support our Veterans or if you truly disapprove of the missions they are involved in, be a part of the solution instead of simply espousing hatred towards such an entity. Bring together your community, show solidarity, make it clearly known to policy makers how the public is feeling, boycott, get new laws passed or repealed and use diplomatic methods to reshape these institutions.

The best way to support our veterans, those who stand between us sleeping safely at night or being invaded by those who wish to do us harm, is to get involved in politics in order to prevent needless wars and to support those injured soldiers who return home from these wars.  Our servicemen and law enforcers, while not always behaving perfectly, are essential to preserving a free society. When these men and women who are trusted with keeping our lands relatively safe act out under bad leadership, we should seek to reform the system, hold individuals accountable, work aggressively towards preventative measures of a repeat incident.

While I agree that it is not healthy to worship servicemen and policemen as flawless gods, it is also not healthy to put all servicemen and policemen into the category of “corrupt”. Our servicemen and policemen are also individuals with their own opinions regarding war, politics, and society. They are serving as a collective yet still deserve to be treated as individuals. Just as it is not fair to stereotype a race or religion, it is also not fair to stereotype those who are employed in a certain profession, whether it be the lowly cashier or the badge wielding police officer.

Honor and dishonor exists in all areas of employment. Some employees will take pride in their jobs, seeking to obtain a leadership position in order to improve conditions for everyone, whereas others will do just the bare minimum because they just want survive and get by.  Unless you are living off the land living like the amish and making your own clothes by scratch, odds are, we are all somewhat guilty by association in terms of the things we buy, the places we work at, and/or the things we say to each-other.

No one is innocent. 

However, when it comes to the military, less than 1% of Americans serve.  It’s a job that is totally necessary yet less than 1% of our population is willing to do it. Some say our veterans do not deserve the benefits they get, while others say they deserve more.  I say, if its a necessary job that less than 1% of our population is willing to do, then I’d vote that they get MORE benefits.

If you hate the wars, if you hate the policies, if you hate the way things are run, start your own or seek to reform them. It is that simple! Criticism is necessary for a dialogue to occur, yet, eventually some action has to come next to create a solution. Some problems are never completely cured as problems often evolve or devolve. Regardless, someone has to care enough to do something about it and i’d bet every last cent I have that most soldiers have no desire to unnecessarily harm others, and most police officers don’t want to unnecessarily ruin people’s lives.   We must stop picking on the “foot soldies” and criticize those who are calling the shots, the law makers and the CEOs who make the final stamp on an order.

Just like in all systems or ideologies, it is the “bad apples” who give the harvest a bad name.  As a person who is interested in running for office someday as a congressman or senator, instead of bashing the actions of policemen and servicemen, I am more interested in talking to them on ways we as lawmakers can improve our system, make it more fair, make their jobs easier, and less stressful.

If we as a society are comfortable with criticizing policemen and our soldiers because of bad leadership, we should be consistent and also protest the lowly cashier who works at a fast-food restaurant which serves unhealthy food to our public.  As Jesus Christ once said,

“Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone.”

or as a great rapper once said,

“Don’t hate the player, hate the game.”

 

  • Randell Stroud
  • 2018
  • Nalini-Global