The military isasking chaplains not to read the letter from Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio that has stirred up such a little ruckus recently. The reasoning?
“The Chief of Chaplains was concerned that one line in the 456-word letter could be misinterpreted as a call to civil disobedience within our nation’s military ranks,” the statement said.
A senior Army official separately confirmed that the offending line stated: “We cannot — we will not — comply with this unjust law.” The official confirmed that “there was a worry that would be a call for civil obedience.”
So is our military saying that they would comply with an unjust law?
Let’s say that our Congressthings decided to pass a law calling for all left-handed redheads to be rounded up and incarcerated. Let’s say, just for grins and giggles, that the President signed it, and all the court challenges failed. I think it would be fair to say that most of us would still view this as an unjust law. Even if the reason it was passed in the first place was new science that proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that left-handed redheads were twice a prone to commit crimes as any other group, I think that most people would view it as unjust to round them all up and throw them in jail.
Let’s say that, in the spirit of indefinite detention, the military was ordered out to pick up all these ner-do-wells. After all, the police being so busy keeping order in Occupy encampments and all, they can’t get to it.
Do we really expect–do we really want–our military to be a bunch of drones, who follow whatever orders they are given with zero critical thought? Even outlandish orders? I know that when I was in, we got a lot of training on “illegal orders”, and what we were supposed to do about them. (And yes, I understand the risk any soldier would take in saying an order was illegal and refusing to follow it.)
So I ask again–do we really want our military to check its collective brain at the door and enforce any order that comes down the chain–no matter how far out there the order is?
The reason I ask is that, back in the last century, the military of a certain European country obeyed their national law and the orders of their superiors, and rounded up Jews, gypsies, gays, the retarded and every other sort of “undesirable” that could be thought of, and sent them to concentration camps.
Nuremberg showed that the “I was following orders” bit wasn’t going to wash.
Me, I want my soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines to think. I don’t want them to disobey a legal order because they disagree with it, but at the same time I want them to know and understand that they, like everyone else, have a moral duty to obey unjust laws.