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Why They Wait For Retirement

If you are wondering why the generals don’t say anything until after they retire:

Article 88 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice

Any commissioned officer who uses contemptuous words against the President, the Vice President, Congress, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of a military department, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or the Governor or legislature of any State, Territory, Commonwealth, or possession in which he is on duty or present shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.

This is something that people have to keep in mind – you can’t bitch about the boss when you are an officer or you will be subject to a court martial. Remember, active duty officers, by military law, can only give you the good news, which makes their testimony rather worthless.


1 Mustang Bobby { 10.15.07 at 2:22 pm }

Somewhere in the UCMJ they must define what the code means by “contemptuous.” Accusing the President, etc. of indecent conduct with barnyard creatures is one thing, but saying that a policy or action is dangerous or misguided sounds like a professional opinion based on experience and circumstance and could be that the officer is warning his superior against an action that might be unnecessarily dangerous.

2 Bryan { 10.15.07 at 2:46 pm }

You file a report through the chain of command giving your opinion. If you are given an order that is not illegal or immoral, you obey. They concept of civilian control is drilled into officers.

Under the Rumsfeld rules, anything that didn’t slavishly follow the party line was contempt, and was punished. Go along or get out are your only options as an officer.

3 Jack K. { 10.15.07 at 6:02 pm }

…my bigger concern – about General Sanchez, at least – isn’t so much that he didn’t go public with his reservations at the time he was in charge (you can’t even really get away with that in my outfit; there aren’t criminal penalties, but you might well find yourself in Thorne Bay, Alaska, when it’s all said and done), but that it’s a couple of years after retirement that he is sharing his thoughts about how things went. It’s nice to know that he had concerns at the time, but the passage of time since his retirement makes it just seem like factoids…

…on the other hand, maybe I’m just being grumpy…

4 Bryan { 10.15.07 at 7:37 pm }

I think Sanchez was waiting to see if he going to get his fourth star after Abu Ghraib was investigated, but there has been no real investigation. He’s probably further PO’ed at being bad mouthed by people more responsible for the disaster than he was.

He may have decided that if he didn’t speak up people would decide he had something to hide.

5 hipparchia { 10.15.07 at 8:28 pm }

Somewhere in the UCMJ they must define what the code means by “contemptuous.”

apparently not. a search for “contemptuous” brings up just the one article, and a search for “contempt” brings up a total of these four references, all of which seem to leave the definition rather open-ended.

6 Bryan { 10.15.07 at 9:35 pm }

There’s always “conduct unbecoming an officer” which means just about anything your superior doesn’t like. There’s a lot of that vagueness in the UCMJ.

7 hipparchia { 10.15.07 at 11:09 pm }

i was a bit surprised to see this actually. i’ve never been an officer, but i suppose i could pull off being gentlemanly if the occasion demanded it.

8 Bryan { 10.16.07 at 12:25 am }

The court gets to decide what is appropriate on a case by case basis with laws any Federal court would find unconstitutionally vague.