The Malignant Nature of the Oath Keeper Movement

Truly malignant ideas crop up in a democracy with the frequency of toadstools after a summer rain storm. Most of these ideas are dismissed by the great majority of citizens after public debate in one fashion or another. Some of the ideas hang on despite evidence to the contrary (sorry Texas was readmitted to the Union and the Income Tax was ratified by the requisite number of states) but attract no real following.

Truly pernicious ideas, however, seem benign at first glance but in truth strike at the heart of our system of government. The “Oath Keeper” movement is one of those ideas.

At first blush, who can object to the 10 orders they say they will not obey. Until you start examining each of them in detail (we’ll put aside for now the mindboggling assertion in Lexington/Concord was precipitated by an attempt to “disarm” Americans).

1. We will NOT obey any order to disarm the American people.

2. We will NOT obey any order to conduct warrantless searches of the American people, their homes, vehicles, papers, or effects — such as warrantless house-to house searches for weapons or persons.

3. We will NOT obey any order to detain American citizens as “unlawful enemy combatants” or to subject them to trial by military tribunal.

4. We will NOT obey orders to impose martial law or a “state of emergency” on a state, or to enter with force into a state, without the express consent and invitation of that state’s legislature and governor.

5. We will NOT obey orders to invade and subjugate any state that asserts its sovereignty and declares the national government to be in violation of the compact by which that state entered the Union.

6. We will NOT obey any order to blockade American cities, thus turning them into giant concentration camps.

7. We will NOT obey any order to force American citizens into any form of detention camps under any pretext.

8. We will NOT obey orders to assist or support the use of any foreign troops on U.S. soil against the American people to “keep the peace” or to “maintain control” during any emergency, or under any other pretext. We will consider such use of foreign troops against our people to be an invasion and an act of war.

9. We will NOT obey any orders to confiscate the property of the American people, including food and other essential supplies, under any emergency pretext whatsoever.

10. We will NOT obey any orders which infringe on the right of the people to free speech, to peaceably assemble, and to petition their government for a redress of grievances.

In the case of a smallpox, or similar, outbreak it would not be unreasonable for any government to direct that a municipality or geographic area be put under quarantine. I would think most everyone would agree that would be a good thing. If there was an armed insurrection in some area of the country, I’d find it hard to object to warrantless searches of homes and the disarming of persons in the area of operations. We need look no farther than the actions of Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to see the utter imbecility of the federal government waiting for a state governor to declare an emergency before intervening. The nonsense purveyed by this group would have prevented Lincoln from opposing Secession and, more recently, it would have prevented Eisenhower from integrating public schools in Little Rock.

These principles, if they deserve to be called that, are nonsense and against the American tradition of government as it has been understood since the Whiskey Rebellion was suppressed by George Washington.

Were flogging bad history the only issue at hand, I wouldn’t be writing this. I’d be encouraging them to get a degree in education and teach civics in junior high. But it isn’t. On one hand the oath these people take is meaningless as they seem to be people who aren’t currently bound by an oath anyway. But as a career infantry officer I am gravely offended that they could be encouraging some number of military members to break rather than keep their oath of office. As a conservative I am offended that anyone on my side of the political spectrum would support such un-American nonsense.

When you take the oath of office as a member of the Armed Forces you do not take on the character of a freelance constitutional scholar.

As a commissioned officer you are appointed by the President, with the advice and consent of the Senate (yes, this is true for even second lieutenants), and you serve at the pleasure of the President.

Your oath reads:

“I, _____ (SSAN), having been appointed an officer in the Army of the United States, as indicated above in the grade of _____ do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservations or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter; So help me God.”

Read the oath carefully. There is not an Obama Exception to the oath. There isn’t a proviso that this oath is subsidiary to some grander more important oath you’ve taken. You agree to “well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office.” To men of honor and integrity — which, in an ideal world, should be the minimum requirement to hold a commission — your word is your bond, if you’ve taken this oath with mental reservations about the intentions of the President, you’ve already violated your oath. So you aren’t an “oath keeper” but an “oath breaker.”

For enlisted men the rules are even more clear.

“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; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”

Read it again, slowly and carefully:

I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me

You’ll note there aren’t ten exceptions here. The Uniform Code of Military Justice places a significant burden off proof on anyone who disobeys an order on the grounds that the order wasn’t lawful. And once you’ve made the effort, the system doesn’t treat full-time soldiers and part-time constitutional scholars like Michael New with great deal of respect.

As a conservative I’m truly offended by this nonsense. This type organization, seemingly equal parts Walter Mitty and the black helicopter crowd, enables the left to lump all opponents of Obama together into a lunatic fringe that will then be studiously ignored. The Tea Parties were taken seriously by lots of members of Congress precisely because they were not lunatics. Polls show we are winning people over to our ideas. Why would anyone opposed to the Obama regime think this organization is a good idea?

In 1783, we were at a critical point in our struggle for nationhood. We had won independence but the form of government which would succeed the British monarchy was clearly up for grabs. There were calls for General George Washington to lead the nation either as a monarch or military dictator. In response, Washington went before the Continental Congress on December 23, 1783 and resigned his commission. That action, captured in a painting by John Turnbull on display in the Capitol Rotunda, paved the way for our republican system of government and our tradition of the civil supremacy in civil-military relations.

My advice to the “oath keepers” is just that. Keep your oath. If you want to make political decisions about how the military and police are used in this country, resign your position and agitate to your heart’s content. If you remain in uniform your oath binds you to the government and absent clear reason to the contrary, and none of the ten reasons set forward by the Oath Keeper organization meet that standard, you have a legal and moral obligation to faithfully carry out the duties given to you.

We are in a tough fight with this administration for very high stakes. The stakes, however, do not justify us checking our brain and our sanity at the door and signing onto truly bizarre and un-American ideas like those set out by the Oath Keepers.