The United States military has been undergoing a transformation. Evidence shows it to be an entity in transition, shifting in character from a national defense organization to a world intervention force. According to Newswatch Magazine, the United States is currently sending peacekeeping troops into one-hundred nations. With the nature of the changes taking place within the military establishment, its current policies have come into conflict with the convictions of some military personnel. In contradiction to the Army's motto, BE ALL THAT YOU CAN BE (fulfill your highest potential), it has increasingly come to reflect the repressive doctrine of an authoritarian organization that rules by might rather than right.
One of the more widely publicized cases of THE ARMY versus THE CONSCIENCE has been that of Army Specialist Michael New. At issue was an order from his superiors which was in conflict with his personal convictions and United States law. It involved the wearing of the United Nations uniform as well as the UN insignia on his U.S. Army uniform. Specialist New interprets the wearing of these emblems to be a symbol of allegiance to the authority it represents.
It would also be a violation of the oath he took when entering the Army which states, "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same."
The controversy, which includes the deployment of United States troops under UN command, actually encompasses the larger issue of national sovereignty. Addressing these considerations on September 25, 1997, Congresswoman Helen Chenoweth introduced a resolution in Congress aimed at correcting some of these coercive policies toward military servicemen in this country .
Condemning the deployment of United States military personnel in the service of the United Nations in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
Whereas President Clinton has deployed United States military personnel to this battle-torn region and such personnel have been ordered to assume the additional office of 'U.N. soldier';
Whereas the UNITED NATIONS has been construed to be a 'FOREIGN GOVERNMENT' under section 7342 of title 5, United States Code.
Whereas all officers who command United Nations forces, take the following oath of EXCLUSIVE LOYALTY TO THE UNITED NATIONS: 'I solemnly affirm to exercise in all loyalty, discretion and conscience the functions entrusted to me as a member of the international service of the United Nations, to discharge those functions and regulate my conduct WITH THE INTEREST OF THE UNITED NATIONS ONLY in view, and not to seek or accept instructions in respect to the performance of my duties from any government or other authority external to the organization';
Whereas it is the inherent right of every United States citizen to maintain a singular loyalty to this Nation;
Whereas... it is a GRAVE VIOLATION OF THE RIGHTS OF A CITIZEN-SOLDIER to COERCE that soldier to become a member of any military other than that of the United States;
Now, therefore, be it Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That the Congress--
(1) condemns the deployment of United States military personnel in the service of the United Nations in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia as A VIOLATION OF BOTH THE CONSTITUTION AND THE LAWS OF THE UNITED STATES;
(2) calls upon the President to perform his constitutional duty as Commander-in-Chief by forthwith taking total command of all United States military personnel participating in United Nations operations, to take the appropriate steps to ensure that United States military personnel wear only the uniform of the United States without any items from the United Nations, and to carry military identity cards issued by the United States only and not by the United Nations; and
(3) calls upon the President to take expeditiously all steps necessary to resolve all existing conflicts with United States military personnel WHO HAVE BRAVELY STOOD FOR THE RIGHT TO BE EXCLUSIVELY LOYAL TO THIS NATION and who have refused to serve under foreign commanders in foreign uniforms consistent with the constitutional and principles of this resolution. (abbreviated, with emphasis added).
Specialist Michael New was an American soldier, not a UN mercenary. When he asked his superiors for written explanation regarding the UN uniform order, the response was, "the President says so, therefore it is." It may as well be stated, whatever the President says is justified. When relating to the question, why UN insignia must be worn, the answer was "because they look fabulous." He volunteered to serve anywhere the Army wanted to send him provided he could wear the United States Army uniform. That offer was refused. The Army broke its covenant by arbitrarily changing the agreement with Mr. New once he had signed his enlistment papers.
New reasoned that if the Army could force him to wear the UN blue beret in Europe, they could force him to wear it in America. It is a question of authority; "if they can force me to do it anywhere, they can force me to do it everywhere. I don't like the idea of UN soldiers being deployed in the U.S. I don't want to serve in the UN against my country, but theoretically it's possible."
Subsequently, Michael New was court-martialed for refusal to obey the order to wear the UN uniform. Legal counsel assured him that his position "carried the weight of law and that the Army's position seemed to rest not on the law, but was driven by raw political power, constitutional manipulation and sheer intimidation." (Col. Ron Ray). The Army's insistence on pursuing a bad conduct discharge against Specialist New, in spite of his offer to quietly withdraw to another unit, seemed to indicate a desire to make an example of this case.
Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice says soldiers are under a duty to obey lawful orders of senior officers over them. The same article states that "patently illegal orders are not to be obeyed." New's legal counsel, Col. Ron Ray said, "the principle that comes down through military law that was codified in the Nuremberg trial, is that soldiers have a duty to disobey illegal orders. It is no defense to say I was ordered by senior officers to do this illegal act."
Historically, there has never been a court-martial of an American soldier for having refused to wear the uniform of a foreign government. The order given by the Army, when viewed according to constitutional law, is without question, illegal. United States law expressly forbids the wearing of foreign insignia, emblems, or uniforms by U.S. military personnel. "Michael New has clear regulatory, statutory, and constitutional grounds for his contention that the order to require him to alter his U.S. uniform to demonstrate allegiance to a foreign power was unlawful. He stands firmly within the intent of the Founding Fathers. No other conclusion is legally possible. The order to wear the U.N. uniform was illegal per se." (United States vs. Michael New, Motion to Dismiss).
When the Army admitted that the UN uniform was unauthorized by Congress, it was clear that they knew their soldier had not disobeyed a lawful order. Yet, the most shocking aspect of the court-martial trial was the military judge's ruling that none of the evidence of the illegality of the order could be presented at the trial. No less shocking was the judge's instruction to the military jury that they could not entertain the idea that the order was illegal.
Specialist New was convicted by the military panel and given a bad conduct discharge. But that is not the end of this story.
When a Green Beret Army Sergeant with twelve years of service heard of this, he was very disturbed. He indicated it is the responsibility of Specialist New's Sergeant to attend to the interests of his enlisted men, to stand up for them in situations like this. This man, stationed at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina was incensed with the Army's handling of the case.
He took matters into his own hands, writing a letter to Senator Jesse Helms and sending copies to the White House and the Pentagon expressing his outrage at the injustice being dealt to this young serviceman who had taken a courageous stand for principle. He shared the letter with friends in the military for their evaluation and they wanted to sign it too. He said, "now wait a minute guys, I'm risking my career doing this." Irrespective of the consequences, ten senior non-commissioned officers signed the letter with this Sergeant.
In January, 1997, this man was called into the office of his Sergeant Major who said, "I'm going to have to ask for your resignation." He was astonished, saying, "I'm an enlisted man, I can't resign, I'd have to wait until my term is up." The Sergeant Major said, "Let me put it like this. When I get a visit of two men from the White House who tell me that 'the Commander-in-Chief would be pleased to accept your resignation', you can resign."
Michael New has said he would rather have a clear conscience and be punished than to "get off scot free and be guilty." He also said regarding the unlawful order given to him, "I felt it was very wrong, therefore, I couldn't do it."
The President has introduced a policy in the military which he calls "don't ask - don't tell." It is directed at homosexuals within the Armed Forces who, according to longstanding policy, would be discharged from service if discovered. But the President is offering to shield them from the dishonor of expulsion by means of this protection. Yet, when a man refuses to compromise principle and resolutely takes a position from integrity, he is court-martialed, convicted and given a bad conduct discharge.
Today we hear the hypocritical slogan, teach tolerance, honor diversity, etc., etc., but there is no tolerance permitted for integrity. There is no honor given one who is sensitive to wrong. Principled diversity in a morally corrupt atmosphere receives condemnation rather than honor. The world has no place for freedom of conscience, no room for personal convictions, no concession for incorruptibility.
When a man is punished by his Commander-in-Chief for standing in the honor and defense of his country; when those in positions of trust and responsibility betray the innocent and condemn the just; when truth and righteousness are scorned and persecuted we can know with certainty that nation's end has come.
"No one calls for justice, nor do any plead for truth: they trust in vanity, and speak lies; they conceive mischief, and bring forth evil. ...Therefore is judgment far from us, neither does justice overtake us: we wait for light, but behold obscurity; for brightness, but we walk in darkness. ...And judgment is turned away backward, and justice stands far away: for truth is fallen in the street, and fairness cannot enter." Isa 59:4,9,14
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