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Military Loyalty and Duty In Terms Of Free Speech

The Issue Of Open Communication For The Welfare Of American Troops And Our Nation

By Roy D. Follendore III

Copyright (c) 2003 by RDFollendoreIII

It is true that when human beings put their life on the line trying to do what they think is good in dangerous situations, they will eventually make terrible mistakes. Too many missiles and bombs have flown in Iraq and Afghanistan for it to be otherwise. There is also no doubt that American citizens, who ultimately have every right to choose their destiny have been hearing of our victories and not about those mistakes. There are signs that military commanders and their organizations are doing their best to cover up and prevent Americans from knowing what has been happening over there. The problem is not just that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, the problem is that this attitude is the same as the decades of failed military leadership during the Vietnam era.  It is both inevitable that the truth of what is continuing to happen to our troops is uncovered so that their dangerous situation can change. Since social and political mindsets can not be changed by military forces without resorting to the sins of genocide, Americans must begin to speak out about the implications of pulling our sword from the belly of our chosen wounded enemy.  


August 13, 2003

Much is said about the need for military secrecy. "Loose lips sink ships" was the motto of our navy in WWII.  No one wants to die because of someone who gives away secret plans.  But the reasons for secrecy can be both critically important as well as self defeating. The underlying reasons for secrecy that win battles can also can lose wars. Rigidity is the enemy of success.  In war, plans change because critical issues change. The battle plans that worked so well in planning an attack can be the same ones that defeat you when you attempt to hold the ground that you have successfully taken. When we begin to take these ideas into consideration,  we must also reach the conclusion that no one wants to die because of a rigid philosophy but that is exactly what inevitably happens to the losers in war. 

It is therefore quite appropriate that we Americans do not hold to brittle political positions with respect to the welfare of our troops.  It is important to the welfare of our troops that Americans freely speak out about the issues that our soldiers face in harms way.  Ultimately the political choices that put and keep our soldiers in danger rightfully belong to the American citizen.  This means that the right to debate the welfare and needs of our troops placed in combat situations is not the privileged domain of Generals. This public concern has been what has made American armies successful and it is what has prevented our armies from being blind sided and defeated by the narrow military agenda of duty.   

U.S. current 'administrator' in Iraq Paul Bremer is dead wrong.  We are trying to hide secrets in Iraq but they are open secrets.  Every day, one, two, three Americans are being picked off.  On top of that, how many of our troops are being wounded and crippled?  Mr. Bremer says that nothing can be done about any of that.  That is just another way of saying that the number of causalities are 'acceptable.'  Acceptable for Paul maybe.  This is not acceptable to the American people.

It has recently been reported that the Federal Government has been putting pressure on military families to shut up about the situation and conditions in Iraq.  Although the Mothers, Fathers, Wives, Sons and Daughters are not under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the Pentagon somehow believes that that it is within their jurisdiction put an end to instances of freedom of speech.  It is one thing to prevent the enemy from knowing tactical information but entirely another thing to prevent American citizens from stating public knowledge that something is seriously wrong with our military and their leadership.  

For the citizen families of our military the questions are simple. Are there leadership problems within Iraq, that concern the basic welfare of our troops?  Are those problems being both ignored and unreported? Is individual and unit moral so fragile and such a dark a thing that it is better kept away from their civilian family and sponsors the general American public?  Has our military and political leaders become so fearful of accountability and failure that they would jeopardize the welfare of American troops?        

The problems with our military leadership and its structure should be obvious by the fact that one, two and three American soldiers are consistently killed each day since the occupation.  Our massive forces designed to fight the European war has become hamstrung by the duty to put the preverbal ' Humpty Dumpty' of a shattered country back together again.  It should be obvious that our soldiers are placed in desperate and deprived situations and the people who say that they are "for our troops" are not standing by them in their time of need.  If our troops are going to be maintained in harms way overseas then we citizens at least owe it to them to represent their needs and be their voice.  These are citizens who can't speak for themselves because by law they are not being allowed to.   If there are problems then more of our military families need the courage to speak out.   

Our military problems in Iraq do not lay with our technical ability to kill our enemies. America controls the most expensive and sophisticated weapons of mass destruction system known in the history of man.  We Americans are simply superb at the lethal sciences of modern one to one combat.  Modern technological battles like those our troops have trained for do not produce battlefields of longevity. Our enemies are not cheap because our leaders do not intend for them to last very long within our deadly environments.  This quick kill strategy has meant that modern wars are won or lost before the first weapon is fired.  The philosophy of this doctrine is rooted in the idea that successful American warfare exists in the planning, and in execution of warfare, not the dieing.  General George S. Patton deeply believed in this philosophy, and since his time all of the military contractors constantly explain and resell the doctrine.  

There are counter prevailing philosophies involved in the justifications for such war preparations.  A fundamental doctrine of military science that has held true through the test of time is that the successful war is always the one that can be successfully avoided through peaceful means.  This is because the essence of war is not glory but a desperate act of social failure.  Failure in war is always based upon the fundamental inability to communicate and more often caused by those who see truth as the enemy of their desires. Instead of war preparations acting as a means of deterrent, it can become a means of expediency.  The enemy of our expediency to make war is not our enemy; it is reason.

Propaganda becomes necessary to sustain the idea that the execution of war is a good thing. This means that the root origins for the execution of war always involves increasingly amplified requirements for censorship.  It becomes important that the efficient elimination of our dangerous enemy becomes the focus of everything to the exclusion of the citizens right to explore the rational truth.   The concept that the end justifies the means means that these false justifications are to be protected by the faulty premise that civilized history is recorded by the victors.  In the military mind that truth is that the surviving leadership in control dictates history.  The problem is this concept in our modern age of the World Wide Internet is that this is simply no longer true.  Civilized history is constantly being written and stored by the collective conscience of the globally "wired." Our American military leaders simply do not get the implications of this. The educated people of this country should wonder why this is so. 

Perhaps the Pentagon's ignorance has been so rooted within their deepest fears.  They may have been frightened by  the cultural, ethnic, religious and environmental reasons why modern wars are fought.  Maybe their knowledge of social needs were simply not necessary to be empathic to wage the direct wars with the tools we have chosen. The weapons that our warriors have chosen and are prepared to use are the most lethal, but it is not lethality that makes positive changes within the remaining hearts and minds of men, women and children.  It certainly is not the dead whose rationality we the 'victors' must eventually appeal.  It is also not our men and women who must live within the seemingly perpetual environmental aftermath of artificial peace. 

Our American administration has said that the Iraqi people are not our enemies.  By ignoring the social will of Iraqi citizens, our leaders have forgotten why our founding fathers resented the militarily enforced edicts of government. Our war of independence was not about taxes as much as it was about the fact that right or wrong.  We Americans simply had to choose our own form of Government.  Any occupying force would have been resented and expelled by force.  Should we truly expect that our invasion and occupation of the Iraqi culture will result in the American democratic changes that we might desire?  The answer is no, yet this is what our soldiers were been told to expect. 

Regardless of whether the justifications for the overthrow of foreign state of Iraq was based on military and political propaganda, there are a greater issues that our leaders are discovering.  With all of the effort and expense of winning wars quickly, it has been a foolish mistake for our leaders to have supported a military invasion while completely ignoring the far reaching and far more complex problem of helping people and its government recover. We have essentially stripped a ancient civilization bare of dignity and what little order it once enjoyed and left it fester in a state of anarchy.  We were not willing to accept as a fundamental premise within our doctrine of warfare that as victors we become immediately responsible for the enormous expense and welfare of the Iraqi population. Instead, what we have been doing in Iraq since the fall of the Saddam regime has been creating mass animosity. 

Some of the questions that our military families are now asking are these; 

  • Why are our combat  troops put into positions of civil responsibilities where they are unprepared and unable to defend themselves from the angry population they were are trying to help? 
  • Does our military have the right leadership for this plan?  
  • Have our troops been given the right tools to do the job? 
  • How long should our American troops be subjected to these dangers?  
  • Is what we are doing in Iraq now really worth the risk and loss to American families? 
  • Were the principles for we have invaded valid?  
  • Is the act of occupying Iraq for years a waste of American as well as Iraqi lives? 
  • Were our troops told the truth?  
  • Are our troops going to be coming home angry?  

The assessment of our military situation in Iraq is not uncertain.  On the contrary, it is simple to understand. Our troops are unable to do the job that is being asked of them without taking a constant number of causalities. Our men and women are living in substandard conditions.  They are existing in fearsome conditions in the hostile desert climate where they are both fatigued and overextended.  Reinforcements and rotations from such a place does not provide a solution, it just ties up more of our troops. Iraq is and always was a desert quagmire and the question we must ask is if we are occupying it or it is occupying us.  

From the pure military perspective, the reasons for taking and holding Iraq were simple.  Commanding officers were ordered to do it.  Carrying out the orders of their commander and chief is their duty.  The root of their problem now is not the orders but the fact that the force structure that our military leaders saw as necessary for conducting this invasion are not the same as the support now needed to successfully reconstruct the civilization.  While the questions of military families revolve around the issues of personal concern, the real question continues to be why our military leaders have not understood the social implications of what they are doing?  

Are our military leaders too focused on their military arts of annihilation that they were unable to realize the values and issues of civilian reconstruction? If this was their mindset that blinded them, then one has to reason that there must be a real problem with their philosophy.  History is being written that we our army destroyed the armies of our enemy but in the end we were not prepared for this kind of war.

 Maybe it isn't just that the military academics didn't get it.  Blind loyalty is also part of our problem. Perhaps professional brotherhood of warriors just could not get it because they have been so thoroughly indoctrinated. The current internal cabal of the Pentagon promotion system promotes "Spartan group think" about strategies and tactical matters.  That kind of loyalty blinds military leadership and sets our military planning up for failure.  Before we act we should better understand the enormous social complexity of what we choose to do with our military forces.  

At the very least, our 'modern' military commanders should have been taught the social concerns for "group think" and how it works against them and our country in the planning cycle.  The professors of our military academies must become sensitive to their exclusive culture of loyalty.  To be successful in this age of globalization they must begin to better appreciate that what has been happening in Iraq is a problem that has been founded on the absence of inclusive planning. It is not just the superior act of killing that our troops should be concerned about, it is our military mindset that ignores the consequences of poor contingency planning.  It is the dangers of what happens if we are successful.  It is therefore foolish for our military leaders to think that the families of our troops would be unaware of and unconcerned about the dangers of 'mission creep.'

With respect to military planning and leadership, the needs of our country must be accepted and held to a higher regard .  The true standard of loyalty is far more than loyalties to the unit flag, commander or military school.  Some say that since these things stand for our nation, and therefore are in effect the same thing.  But in fact, they are not the same because the reality of our nation takes precedence over that symbolism.  Ultimately, the Officers of the United States Military exist for the realistic protection of our nation, not for symbolic institutions or their careers.  Honor to our nation in this age requires that our military leaders not only be able to destroy our enemy, but to acknowledge and recover from consequences of myopic failure.  Ultimately it also means that they should expect to be held accountable to the American public for their actions.  

As you read this, our troops exist in hot nasty climates continue to do their best with the terrible situation that has been imposed upon them.  They are faced by 'conquered" and desperate people who are rioting for basic needs.   From the Iraqi perspective, our civilian political leadership created this situation through unilateral acts of war and it is our soldiers who must face the unfortunate consequence.  This brings us back to the American family.  The military autocracy does not have a right to hush the cries of civilian families.  

American citizens not only have every right to protect our country by speaking our minds about the welfare of our troops, they have the privilege.  But the privilege of free speech is a duty as well as a Constitutional right.  The trouble is that free speech is part of a powerful social reform process that builds and threatens the status quo that the military wants so much to protect.  The Pentagon's measures of enforced silence with regard to truth is systematically undermining and destroying the fabric of unit loyalties and individual faith that supports it.  

The fact is that the opinions of our soldiers in Iraq will not and can not be indefinitely held in check.  History tells us that the issue of freedom of speech from within the military ranks force distinctions to be drawn between the relationships of loyalty to unit or to country. Troops must be rotated home because to do otherwise is unacceptable.  Our soldiers are already coming home and speaking their minds. The individual bubbles of silence has already begun to burst and the dam will break.  As our senior military leaders will soon begin to understand this and they are now forced to deal with the political fallout rather than stonewalling that is destroying individual lives, moral and combat effectiveness of our troops.  As time passes they too will be required to decide to speak to the true nature of their loyalty and duty to our nation.





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