To Blindly Obey … or Not

The fictional Ohio class nuclear-powered U.S. ballistic missile submarine Colorado picks up a Seal Team leaving Pakistan after a secret mission there. One of the Seals has been shot. Then the sub receives questionable orders through an old cold war network out of Alaska to nuke Pakistan. During the cold war, this backup was there in case Washington DC was hit and the federal government wiped out.

A quick check by the sub reveals that Washington DC is okay, and there is no sign that the United States is under attack, so the Captain and his XO ask for confirmation through the proper Strategic Command network based in Nebraska. The reply is an immediate attack on their sub by another U.S. Navy ship that received orders from the president of the United States to destroy the Colorado.

The Colorado did not refuse to fire and kill almost 5 million people in two Pakistani cities. All they did was ask for confirmation through the proper network.

The fictional Colorado survives the first attempt to destroy it, but all kinds of challenges and problems beset Captain Marcus Chaplin and his XO Sam Kendal as they struggle to make it out of this mess alive.

This TV series begs a question. How obedient should our military forces be to the President of the United States when he gives them an order?

Because Captain Marcus and his XO refused to blindly follow a presidential order, they are labeled traitors by the U.S. government and the president sends a kill order to destroy the sub and its entire crew, and there is no shortage of other U.S. Navy ships and their captains that are willing to follow that order without question.

During the series, an ignorant crew member accuses the Captain to his face that he is a traitor because he didn’t blindly obey the president. The captain tells the sailor, and everyone else listening to this confrontation, that the oath for U.S. Military officers says nothing about blindly obeying an order from the president.

To make his point, Marcus recites the oath he took when he became a midshipmen: “Having been appointed a midshipman in the United States navy, do you solemnly swear (or affirm that you will support and defend the  Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that you will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that you take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that you will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which you are about to enter, so help you God.”

The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) also makes it clear that military personnel need to obey the “lawful command of his superior officer,” In each case, military personnel have an obligation and a duty to only obey Lawful orders and indeed have an obligation to disobey Unlawful orders, including orders by the president that do not comply with the UCMJ. The moral and legal obligation is to the U.S. Constitution and not to those who would issue unlawful orders, especially if those orders are in direct violation of the Constitution and the UCMJ.

In fact, President Donald Trump took a similar oath before he officially became president and he has already broken that oath repeatedly.  For instance, instead of defending the 1st Amendment, he attacks the credibility of the free press every chance he gets.

It’s also obvious that there are too many real-life American citizens that do not know about these oaths and laws that exist to protect our country and its citizens from corrupt leaders.

We now live in dangerous times with a real president that has more than once demonstrated that he wants total obedience and loyalty from everyone in his administration, but Donald Trump is having a hard time getting what he wants and this helps explain why he keeps firing people.

Last Resort is worth watching to understand what is at stake in the world we currently live in. How can anyone be a traitor to the United States by questioning and then disobeying what was an allegedly unlawful order? The worst that should have happened was a court-martial to determine if the order that was not carried out was in fact, unlawful.

And Captain Marcus does demand a court-martial several times, but the fictional U.S. President in this TV series doesn’t want that. Instead, that fictional president and his administration only wants to destroy the sub and its crew.

This is eerily similar to what our current President Donald Trump wants to do with the investigation that special counsel Robert Mueller is conducting over the 2016 election interference by Russia, as Trump repeatedly attacks Mueller’s investigation.

In these dangerous times, we can only hope that our military will refuse any allegedly unlawful orders that Donald Trump gives them or any future U.S. President if there is a future.


Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine, Vietnam Veteran, retired public school teacher, journalist, and award-winning author.

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5 thoughts on “To Blindly Obey … or Not

  1. Thanks for this. Living in Thailand I don’t keep up with stateside TV shows. Sounds a lot like “The Last Ship” series. I took the enlisted oath and I’ve stood by it every since. Through jail, fbi harassment, local police harassment, lost jobs, etc. I spoke truth to the power about Vietnam and tricky dicky didn’t like it. I remain true to my oath to this day and always will.

    Thanks for “Running With the Enemy”. I finally was able to read it after cataract surgery (this getting old just ain’t no fun). Good book, reminded me of a fellow Marines story in Vietnam where he wasn’t as successful. He came “home” in VN to find his Vietnamese lady murdered by our people. She was “suspected” of being a spy.

    • I’ve been watching “The Last Ship” series too. What year were you in the military? For the Vietnam War, the year is important. In the early years, most if not all of us had no idea that the war was based on deliberate lies so the private sector, for-profit industry could make lots of money.

      And that is still going on. G. W. Bush lied about WMDs in Iraq and started a war in that country that should have never happened leading to the destabilization of the Middle East. What’s happening in Syria. The birth of violent fundamentalist Islamic sects was caused by the American weapons industry. What happened in Iran to radicalize it was caused by the CIA assassinating a democratically elected leader in that country because he was too much of a socialist and would have led Iran away from a pure, greed-driven capitalist society where only the few benefit and the many suffer. And right now, the Koch brothers and their Kochtapus and ALEC organization are subverting the U.S. Constitution and turning the U.S. into a libertarian kleptocracy where only the ruthless and untrustworthy get rich (Trump is a perfect example of that autocratic fraudulent upper class) and they are going to mask it all in a fake theocracy.

  2. “Hot topic”, Lloyd! Very HOT!!! I could go on and on. In fact, I commented on a March 9th post of yours, AFTER reading this one.

    There’s just too much to say about all that you are saying. And all these loaded words – “oath, law, duty, moral, swear, code, allegiance, true, legal, solemn, order, obligation, justice, OBEY…”.
    You’re the “military man”, though “former”, not active or inactive.

    Your question is with reference to a TV series: “How obedient should our military forces be to the President of the United States when he gives them an order?”.

    How obedient were YOU?
    You don’t have to pretend you are on TV or in a movie. You’ve been there and done that.

    Art has been giving us many answers to these questions.

    I agree with you that we live in dangerous times.

    But haven’t we Americans always? Even if we didn’t know it? Isn’t that what life is all about? Figuring out the meaning of it through learning?

    • How obedient was I when I was in uniform?

      I was an enlisted man — not an officer. When I was discharged in 1968, I was a corporate, an E4. That is pretty close to the bottom, but an E4 outranked all E1 to E3s.

      Our oath was different than the officers, but I didn’t pay much attention to it. In fact, I forgot what it said as soon as I finished taking it. But not wanting to end up in a military prison followed by a dishonorable discharge, I did what the non-coms and officers told us to do. No questions. In the military, you don’t question authority for a very good reason. If you do, you can and probably will get shot on the spot. If you’re fortunate, you will end up in a military prison and if you ever get out it will be with a dishonorable discharge. That can mess up your life seriously with jobs and a lot more.

      It isn’t up to the troops to be defiant and disobey an order from the president. That decision is up to the officers. But I did disobey one lieutenant and stood up to him because he asked me to do something that was not legal according to the Military Code of Justice. That was the only time you stand a chance to get away with it.

      That green (he was a recent arrival to Vietnam and he was a total jerk) lieutenant wrote me up and I ended up being called in front of the company commander, a major, who asked me what I had done. The lieutenant had not gone into much detail in his report.

      I told the major what the lieutenant wanted me to do and the major tore up the paperwork the lieutenant and filled out to get me in trouble, and he said he’d talk to the lieutenant and fix it. I imagine the lieutenant got a dressing down. What he asked me to do could have gotten some of us killed, maybe a lot of us. Maybe even him. I was a radio operator and we were not allowed to use our radios for personal reasons. That was what the lieutenant “ordered” me to do for him. It was raining and he wanted to know what was being served in the mess tent. The Vietcong used radio signals to pinpoint targets they’d hit with mortars and rockets. I explained why I couldn’t make that call and volunteered to go find out. The lieutenant was shouting at me because I wouldn’t do what he’d ordered. I refused to make that radio call and offered again to make the trek to the mess tent through the rain and find out.

      Coming out of high school, my view of the world was limited. My parents didn’t vote. The only opinion my dad had about politics was that politicians were all crooks and you couldn’t trust them. My mother’s focus was on God, her religion, and the Bible. My dad was a gambler, a womanizer (according to my older brother, dad had a lot of woman even one of our mother’s best friends). He was also a smoker and an alcoholic except for the last 20 years of his life because he managed to stop drinking.

      The only thing I read in the newspaper was the comics. I didn’t read any of the other section. That came later during and after college after the military when I learned how to think for myself and start to ask questions and seek answers for them. Earning a BA in journalism taught me how to ask and answer.

      What did I read before the marines and while I was a Marine? Lots of science fiction, fantasy and historical fiction, hundreds of books if not thousands. I joined the Marines to prove I could do it and to escape poverty wage paying jobs — all that was available for me out of high school. At 15, I was working nights and weekends thirty hours a week washing dishes in a coffee shop.

      I didn’t join the Marines out of patriotism. I did it to prove something to myself and to escape jobs like washing dishes for minimum wage with no benefits. I didn’t know when I joined about all the benefits that came with it if you survived and left with an honorable discharge. I didn’t know about the GI Bill, VA loans for houses, and all the other benefits until later. In some cases, decades later.

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