KC, MO- January 6, 2012: As a result of possible negative or military action to be imposed upon Jesse Thorsen for his open support of Ron Paul on national television, January 3, 2012, I wanted to share my opinions and findings on the subject.
The United States military does have guidelines for the actions of soldiers in uniform. Yes, they even have guidelines and rules pertaining to public displays of affection as well as where and when and what you may do or not do in uniform. Politics are one they take heavy aim at. I will share the guidelines as copied directly from the military sources, and then my opinion of the conflict and controversial aspects to these regulations. There are also unpublished guidelines that were brought to my attention, but not found in writing, that has become a major fear of reprimand amongst soldiers today.
The military guidelines are as follows:
Department of Defense Instruction 1334.01 generally forbids wearing a uniform while participating in any personal, professional, or political activity where an inference of official sponsorship may be drawn. Examples include giving an unofficial public speech or interview and participating in a march, picket, or any other form of public demonstration.
Directive 1344.10 specifically prohibits service members from speaking before any political gathering that promotes a partisan party, candidate, or cause.
[In a 1974 case the Supreme Court ruled:]
“The fundamental necessity for obedience, and the consequent necessity for imposition of discipline, may render permissible within the military that which would be constitutionally impermissible outside it.”
Much like any other criminal matter, commanders have a host of options when it comes to disposing of these types of cases. Options range from doing nothing to recommending a general courts-martial. The proper response likely lies somewhere in between. Commanders can always resort to letters of reprimand and poor evaluation reports to get the desired response without the crippling stigma of jail time or a federal conviction.
Regardless of the form of punishment a particular commander may choose to impose on a service member for unlawfully expressing political views, all commanders should remember to prudently balance and preserve the free speech rights of their soldiers with their own professional command obligations, ensuring one never jeopardizes the other.
Indeed it is true, that a soldier who while in uniform, must honor his oath to “uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States”, but when it comes to being able to practice and exercise it for themselves, the right is lost. Then also consider this, When any Politician or a President makes a visit to a military installation and they attend the rally, as mandated in a “formation”, they are in uniform, and applaud via social duress, is this not a conflict of that same rule? Does this not also reflect an “endorsement” of acceptance of the political stance?
A Military spokesperson, was quoted on Reuters as stating “Thorsen stands alone in his opinions regarding his political affiliation and beliefs, and his statements and beliefs in no way reflect that of the Army Reserve.”
In that same interview the statement was made, “Attending a partisan political event while clad in military garb is a violation of Defense Department rules, says the Pentagon. Although Thorsen was allowed to wear his uniform on the battlefield, doing so at Ron Paul headquarters on national television is against the rules. Now the DoD says that they are investigating the soldier as they determine how to handle the case.”
Rule of thumb from now on, while in uniform, keep your mouth shut, unless it benefits the agenda of the armed forces only.
What about the “unwritten rules”? The alleged “rules” soldiers fear? The rules that forbid their participation in taking any stance that will assist in the support or endorsement of the Constitution they must uphold and defend? These are the rules that are only spoken of when one fears no one can hear and report them for. The soldiers who are in fear of reprimand or have known other fellow soldiers to have been reprimanded for doing, go unnoticed by mainstream media.
Just as Thorsen had his past history and legal referendum exposed for all the public to see, the same vigilante tactics are rumored to be used against soldiers who participate while not in uniform and on their own free time. An anonymous source was quoted as stating, “I participated Ron Paul support rally a few weeks after a meritorious promotion in military rank, and within a month, I was found guilty of numerous false allegations by my chain of command that were Obama supporters”..
I cannot confirm or deny that alleged incident at this time and will work to find the validation of the sources statement for further writing and exposure as to its legitimacy. There have been numerous expressions of a military service member’s fear of retribution if they even comment as to their political affiliation or support of a candidate while out of uniform, by their superiors.
My personal opinion is that this is controversial, although I do understand it is a Military law, but these same Military laws also state they must defend the Constitution, which states we are allowed that specific freedom. I repeatedly see Military Officers engaging in dinner ceremonies and showing support and approval of candidates and current political entities, so where is the exception to breaking the laws extend? Is not what good for the goose also good for the gander?
~Defend America’s rights, and you have none~
From “When Soldiers Speak Out: A Survey of Provisions Limiting Freedom of Speech in the Military by JOHN LORAN KIEL, JR. 2007”
–Published in PARAMETERS – the US Army’s Senior Professional Journal, published by the US Army War College–
©United Press International,
©International Association of Press Photographers and Journalists
©National Writers Union UAW Local 1981 Mem# 93803