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Are retired military officers violating the UCMJ?

When you see some nut case birther with a military title ranting against Obama on the Internet, you will see a little “(ret.)” after their title, to indicate that they are retired. Military law demands that officers respect the country and its leaders. What about retired officers?

The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) does not only apply to those actively serving in the armed forces, but also to “Retired members of a regular component of the armed forces who are entitled to pay.” Article 88 of the UCMJ further states:

ART. 88 – CONTEMPT TOWARD OFFICIALS

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 Transportation, 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 topic received some attention in 2006 in the context of criticism of Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld by 6 retired generals. Fred Kaplan argued in a Slate.com article, “Could Rumsfeld Court-Martial the Retired Generals?” that the answer to that question is “yes.” There is no exemption for someone who claims to be speaking as a private citizen. Limited criticism in the context of a political debate is permitted, as indicated by the Manual for Courts-Martial:

If not personally contemptuous, adverse criticism of one of the officials or legislatures named in the article in the course of a political discussion, even though emphatically expressed, may not be charged as a violation of the article.

This brings us to shocking remarks recently made by Maj. Gen. Paul Vallely (ret.) at the Surprise Tea Party in Arizona, as reported by several web sites including Raw Story that includes a video link for the appearance.

“I had a call this afternoon from Idaho, the gentleman said, ‘If I give you 250,000 Marines to go to Washington, will you lead them?’” Vallely said as the group laughed and gasped. “I said, ‘Yes, I will, I’ll surround the White House and I’ll surround the Capitol building, but it’s going to take physical presence to do things.”

I was looking for something that one could label contemptuous. Certainly the call for the resignation of the top members of the government (Obama, Biden, Reid, McConnell, Boehner and Pelosi) borders on contempt, as does his comment: Obama is “intentionally weakening and gutting our military, Pentagon and reducing the U.S. as a superpower….” Vallely wrote in an email to supporters: “I have already achieved a level of ‘no confidence’ in Obama as a leader.”

All of this said, prosecutions under Article 88 are extremely rare, and unlikely to impact Vallely, but it does point out the lack of respect he shows towards the military.

Birther airman discharged: exact reason unclear

Air Force Staff Sergeant Daryn Moran is being discharged from the Air Force rather than tried for being AWOL or for making disparaging remarks about the President. Moran had made a YouTube video in which he, in uniform, described President Obama as “the enemy of the entire country.”

 

According to Stars and Stripes, Air Force spokesperson Mike Kucharek wrote:

We can confirm that Staff Sgt. Moran is not being discharged because of his recent public comments that have appeared on various Web sites

The Air Force further indicated that he wasn’t being discharged for his views on the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Citing privacy concerns, the Air Force wouldn’t go further into the case, not even to the point of indicating whether the discharge was honorable, or dishonorable – although Moran claims it was honorable. His refusal to report for duty came apparently after his discharge was approved. The discharge may be related to religions harassment of fellow co-workers in the office where he worked.

According to Stars and Stripes:

Moran said he started doing research online about Obama after he was put on leave and after two airmen were killed in March in a shooting in Frankfurt, Germany.

Moran also appeared in a radio interview with Pastor James David Manning.

Learn more:


This article has been updated to remove a discussion about provisions of the UCMJ that only apply to commissioned officers.

Lakin withdraws appeal

In breaking news, LTC Terry Lakin, the Army doctor that was convicted of disobeying orders in a quixotic attempt to resolve questions about Barack Obama’s birthplace, has withdrawn the appeal of his sentence, clearing the way for his complete discharge from the Army. The court said:

Appellant, after consultation with his appellate defense counsel, requests withdrawal of his case from appellate review.

NOW, THEREFORE, IT IS ORDERED:

That withdrawal of this appeal pursuant to Article 61 ( b ), Uniform Code of Military Justice, is granted. The record of trial is returned to  The Judge Advocate General for action pursuant to Rule for Courts-Martial 1112 [hyperlink to Rule].

Recall that as long as Terry Lakin is in the Army, he is severely limited by the UCMJ in regards to making disparaging remarks about Barack Obama, and in particular pursuing a new career as an anti-Obama celebrity and a star attraction at the Birther Summit next March. If Lakin had continued his appeal, he probably would not have been out in time for the Summit.

H/t to Phil Cave.

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