The military duty to disobey

There is a well-known requirement in the United States armed forces that all who serve in it are required to obey the orders of their superior officers. This is only common sense. No military organization could long survive if those in it could choose which orders they would obey, and which to ignore.

There is, however, an exception to this rule of obedience, and it has significant ramifications: no one is required to obey an illegal order, such as an order to clearly break the law. Indeed, there is an unofficial doctrine called the “duty to disobey.” This also is common sense. No military organization could long survive if its commanders decided which laws to follow.

Of course, in civilian employment, the employee has a contractual duty to obey his employer, but this is of a very different nature than in the military. The worst that the employer can do is to fire the employee. The employee has the option to walk away. In the armed forces, disobedience can result in court martial, with incarceration in a federal prison, up to a life sentence. In the extreme, the death penalty could be imposed. XYZ company has no such authority, of course.

One thing in common, both in the military and civilian environments, is that obedience to an illegal order can—again, common sense—subject the subordinate to the same penalty as if he had broken the law of his own accord. The most iconic example of this is the Nuremberg war crimes trials, involving genocide, in which the defendants infamously relied on the defense that they were only obeying orders. The prosecution claimed, successfully, that the defendants had a duty to disobey illegal orders. Some were put to death. The precedent has stood ever since, putting despots on notice worldwide.

As stated earlier, the duty to disobey has significant ramifications. It places on the subordinate the responsibility of making legalistic judgment calls, that is, the evaluation of an order as to its lawfulness. Rarely is this evaluation difficult. Nearly all orders are clearly legal. Even those that are illegal are usually too minor to reach the level of criminal liability, at least to the low-level subordinate.

There are, however, difficult cases, requiring the subordinate to undertake the heavy responsibility of evaluating whether an order is seriously illegal. There are potentially major penalties for evaluating incorrectly.

One such case has resulted in more than three thousand members of the armed forces being dismissed from active service for refusing to allow themselves to be injected with the so-called Covid-19 vaccine. They were, essentially, fired with cause. While the discharges have not (so far) resulted in the denial of earned veteran’s benefits, there are nevertheless significant impacts to the lives of those dismissed. Those who had been supporting their families with military pay, and utilizing such benefits as medical care, suddenly lost that asset. Those who had hoped to complete a career and retire with a pension, no longer can do that. As to whether they will be able to obtain civilian employment in federal agencies or defense industries, that is questionable.  Those who refused the vaccine are indeed paying a price.

This case is not the same as if the subordinates had been ordered to commit the kind of illegal act we would normally associate with unlawful orders. No one was commanded to violate someone else’s rights. They were, however, ordered to surrender their own rights, under circumstances that are not the same as being ordered to accept routine vaccinations. There is significant dissent among medical experts, including immunologists, concerning the safety and efficacy of the Covid-19 shot, with some experts stating that the injection is not actually a vaccine, but an experimental genetic therapy, inferior to other, more conventional therapies, and with unknown long-term dangers to health.

There are even wider implications than that. If the armed forces members can be ordered to surrender their own rights in this case, how many other rights come next? Religious liberty is one. Many of our warriors resisted taking the vaccine on grounds of sincere religious beliefs. Many of them capitulated, extorted with the threat of adverse impacts to their families, as described earlier. Many were discharged, and some of them are appealing through the courts.

While it can be argued that the enlistees knew what they were getting into beforehand, this is not true of the Covid-19 shot. The circumstances, as we said, are substantially different. Medical dissent was silenced, sometimes by threats to the experts, including loss of livelihood.

The issue lacks finality. It is not a black-and-white case of who is right or wrong, but some guilt has to be placed on those who ordered the pharmaceutical “vaccination” program in the first place. It was seriously ill-advised, since there was never a threat to military preparedness from Covid. Enlistees are far healthier, and more resistant to disease, than the typical elderly citizens who became seriously ill. Even when infected, nearly all military persons have few or no symptoms.

It can be said that tobacco exacts a greater toll on military preparedness than does Covid, and there have been no mass dismissals of troops for smoking.

Orders for our warrior servants to submit to clinical trials of Big Pharma drugs opened Pandora’s Box — do we really think those in charge won’t order additional surrenders of personal freedoms? 

Image: Free image, Pixabay license, no attribution required.

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