“At ease, Marines, and be seated” orders the gruff Gunnery Sergeant. “Now turn to Chapter 8 in your Military Constitutional Law text,” he continues. “Today we discuss the appropriate conditions for shooting a colonel who is issuing an order which would violate the Constitutional rights of American citizens. Our first scenario involves gun seizures…”
Absurd, isn’t it, to think that this sort of education is conducted among our armed forces? Yet, millions of citizens indulge this unspoken fantasy each time they imagine that the military exists to preserve our freedoms.
When I was at the Naval Academy in the mid-80s, and a Marine officer in the late 1980s and early 1990s, discussion of such issues was considered taboo. One fellow junior officer even scoffed that “Congress can change that Constitution any time they like.” This isn’t to say that there wasn’t an undercurrent among most of the war fighters that issues such as gun control and preservation freedom of speech might one day pose a crisis of command. Yet this undercurrent was kept carefully concealed, and tended to become a more and more uncomfortable subject as the ranks of one’s company became more elevated. Fortunately, with the Soviets and the threat of global thermonuclear war, these issues seemed far removed and safe from serious discussion.
Not so today. In the aftermath of Katrina, armed and uniformed soldiers patrolled the streets and disarmed Americans. Some uniformed soldiers were captured on film lamenting that “I can’t believe that we’re doing this to Americans.” Yet, they did it anyway, lamentations notwithstanding. But why?
To answer that, we need to understand the principles of military command and education. For veterans, this discussion is unnecessary. For the vast number of non-veterans, especially those who harbor that most dangerous and ill-advised fantasy of a Constitutionally-aware military, this discussion is essential to survival.
American military education is one of the most finely tuned and adapted mechanisms in the world for instilling knowledge into its students. No other school or university can come close to the efficiency at which military knowledge is imparted to novices. There are even courses, such as Principles of Military Instruction, for how to teach military courses. These courses even teach how to develop such courses from scratch. The famous John Saxon math courses, popular among home-schoolers, exhibit these techniques, courtesy of that former Air Force officer and academy instructor. Military courses developed along these lines tend to be highly effective at teaching motivated students. Students motivated to learn how to do things such as extinguish fires or shoot missiles. Or shoot you.
As a result, if it is worth teaching to soldiers, sailors, airmen or Marines, it is worth embodying in a course. Captured as a course or in official manuals, such instruction is available to all for review and comment to make sure that the correct instruction is given, and given correctly. Conversely, if it doesn’t exist as a course, it isn’t being taught. And if it isn’t being taught, it isn’t even on the radar of the military mind. At least not the minds of those in command. Good luck finding a course such as “When to Shoot the Colonels” in a military instruction catalog.
Even basics such as reading and writing and math are available as courses. But not shooting colonels. What colonel would even authorize such a thing? Only a colonel who realizes that one day he might have to shoot a general, of course. But that would require a separate course for command grades, entitled “When to Shoot the Generals.” And who would authorize that? We can keep climbing this chain all the way up, if we like, but at some point the absurdity makes its point. No one in a position of command or power is going to surrender that power for something as irrelevant as your rights.
And what if a particular soldier scored highly on such a course? What colonel would hand out high efficiency reports on his potential executioner?
Another aspect of this problem that needs to be clearly understood is that all modern American military officers are political appointees. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. As a practical exercise ask one to read his commission document to you. Pay particular attention to the “follow lawful orders” part, along with the “serve at the pleasure of the President” phrase. Oath of office notwithstanding, nothing in that document says anything about what to do about unlawful orders. Or even lawful orders, such as “seize all guns because Congress authorized it,” which haven’t yet stood the test of the judicial branch to adjudge Constitutionality. And like that 1stLt said, enough Congressmen can get together and change that Constitution. The Constitution itself says so.
Besides, if some uppity colonel out there decided to start authorizing instruction about when to shoot the colonels, you can bet that pretty quick the President would no longer be pleased. Because he or she would know where that path must ultimately lead. Which is why uppity colonels don’t stay colonels for very long. Political appointees, my friends. That vision you have in your head of the noble military protecting your rights is just a dangerous fantasy. A fantasy you have to get rid of right now, before it gets you killed.
“But wait,” you say, “I know Sgt. So-and-so, and he would never go along with a gun seizure.” Maybe not, but then again, you might be surprised. To “not go along” would mean that he has to violate orders. This violation would at the very least be a career-killer, or possibly get him shot in an extreme situation. Shot by who? By all the other sergeants who don’t want to get shot, of course. After all, the colonel only needs a handful of sergeants who are in it for a career, and a raft of lieutenants, captains and majors who one day want to be colonels. For you to have your rights protected would require that a sufficient number of each of these decide, simultaneously, to put on the brakes. It is easier just to shoot you for resisting and go about their day. Say it again, “political appointees.”
Besides, if all of these people decide in unison to protect you, and in so doing put their own careers, freedoms and life on the line, who is going to protect them? You? And if so, how? You needed them to protect you in the first place. And if Sgt. So-and-so gets shot protecting your rights, what about his family? Retribution aside, who takes care of them with him out of the picture? Worse, after Sgt. So-and-so gets shot, some corporal will be there ready to pin on those chevrons. And you can bet that to that guy, you are a minor inconvenience in his day. You wouldn’t get lucky enough to get a chain of noble soldiers to protect you. When the day arrives, all of those political appointees will have scrubbed the ranks of those pesky Oath Keepers anyway. Those Oath Keepers who remain hidden in ranks will be in an impossible situation.
And we haven’t even discussed the false-flagging of dressing foreign troops in American uniforms to capitalize on the unwillingness of Americans to kill “our boys.” I’ll save that one for later.
So if the military doesn’t exist to protect our rights and freedoms, why does it exist? The answer is simple. It exists to back our national will with force. Most of the time, that is a good thing, particularly when our national will is to not be attacked by jackasses who threaten us. But when the national will turns to taking your guns away, you will be the jackass who threatens “us.” Then the military will execute that national will with cold, unthinking and bureaucratic efficiency. And wrap itself in the flag while doing so.
Want to have some fun? Walk up to any active duty serviceman you wish, shake his hand and thank him for his service. Then, before you release his hand, pull him toward you slightly, look into his eyes and tell him, “now when the time comes, don’t forget what your oath really means.” Do this ten times, and the reactions of that little informal poll will tell you everything you need to know. Having divested yourself of that little fantasy, maybe you will have a chance to survive that gun seizure for the real battle later. At the very least you will have looked into the eyes of some of the enemy, constituted of complacency and obedience, you may one day face.
Tom Baugh is the author of Starving the Monkeys.