On April 5, 2012, after a daylong hearing at Camp Pendleton, a Marine Corps administrative board recommended the other-than-honorable dismissal of Sgt. Gary Stein for openly criticizing his commander in chief Barack Obama on a Facebook page.
Meanwhile, yet another U.S. soldier, Air Force Technical Sgt. Joel Thomson, is doing what Sgt. Stein had done, criticizing Obama on his Facebook page. Reportedly, Thomson calls Obama a Muslim and the son of Satan. I tried to access Thomson’s Facebook page, but got the message that “The page you requested was not found”.
Stein and Thomson are not alone. In fact, according to a recent Marine Corps Times article, anti-Obama sentiments reportedly are rising in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Stein and Thomson are lending a face to the knotty problem of soldiers and their Constitutional rights. Do Americans forfeit their First Amendment right to free speech when they enlist or are drafted into the U.S. military?
Brandon Smith has a thoughtful take on this matter. Smith maintains that soldiers should not be denied their right to free speech, and for government to deny them that right is to render soldiers into political slaves.
The essay below is excerpted from Smith’s longer piece for Alt-Market.com, “Understanding the Slave Mentality,” April 2, 2012.
I was recently looking into the divisive issue of U.S. Marine Sgt. Gary Stein, whose position has come under threat due to his criticisms of Barack Obama and his founding of the ‘Armed Forces Tea Party Facebook Page’. What I discovered was a large number of Americans in support of Stein’s right to speak as a citizen (even under Marine regulations) against the unconstitutional actions of any president or presidential candidate. I also discovered a considerable number who wanted to see the soldier dishonorably discharged, or even set upon a noose as punishment.
Now, we all know that the Department of Defense monitors web news and social networking activity, and they have been caught red handed in the past posing as regular citizens with strangely militant pro-authoritarian views (look into their organized propaganda attacks on websites dealing with the levee failures during Katrina, for instance). It is by no means a stretch to suggest that they would also troll the comments sections of mainstream news articles in an attempt to engineer a fraudulent consensus that Sgt. Stein’s actions have been negatively received by the majority of Americans. But that aside, the underlings at the DOD are still Americans, and the views they espouse are still expressions of a subsection of this country (a small elitist one). Also, sadly, there are plenty of non-government-paid people out there who believe exactly as they do.
Surely, we can debate over the details of Marine regulations until our ears bleed, and I could point out several facts that the mainstream media did not cover in their hit pieces on Stein (like the fact that he went to his superiors and asked them to advise him in the handling of his political position long before the present charges against him were ever formulated, and the fact that he followed many of their suggestions…), but ultimately, the regulations of the Marines or the Federal Government are irrelevant. Such laws are transitory, and are usually written so broadly that the authorities of the day can execute them however they wish to fit their needs at the moment. The real question here is one of principle, moral compass, and Constitutionality (a document which is a reflection of eternal natural law). We have to set aside the pointless legalese of defense standards in the case of Sgt. Stein and ask ourselves an important question; do U.S. troops have a right to free speech?
If you believe so, then their rights are not limited or exclusive. They are free to say whatever any other American has a right to say. If you believe they do not, then you have relegated the troops to the position of second class citizens, or even property of the state. There is NO in-between. Discipline and military coherence be damned. Either these men and women have First Amendment protections and are full citizens or they are mechanisms of the government whose civil liberties have been erased.
Even though I understand the psychology behind it, I am still shaken with raw electrical astonishment when confronted by those who support the latter notion that American soldiers are indeed property of the state, that their actions must be dictated by the president and not the Constitution, and that this is required for the military to function.
Very few of these absurd multitudes ever ask what “function” such a military, populated by ethical robots who are blindly subservient to the dictates of a single man, would actually serve?
What good is an unprincipled military? An unprincipled government? An unprincipled society? What reason is there for these constructs to exist? The Nuremberg Trials solidified the reality that soldiers will be held accountable for following criminal orders, and still, there are some who claim that our troops must adopt a shoot first pay later methodology.
I bring up the circumstances of Sgt. Stein to illustrate the situation our nation is currently facing; we are on the threshold of total despotism, where the naysayers who shrugged off the threat of rogue government yesterday suddenly embrace it and support it today. When Stewart Rhodes first formed the Oath Keepers organization, the same talking point was consistently used in an attempt to derail it; “The orders you would refuse to obey could never occur in this country…” And yet, many of the warnings of Oath Keepers have come to pass, including the unlawful disarming of peaceful U.S. citizens during the disaster in New Orleans, the institution of government directed assassination programs of U.S. citizens under Bush and Obama, the passing of NDAA legislation which includes provisions for indefinite detainment of Americans without trial, warrantless wiretapping, surveillance, and even home invasion by authorities is becoming common, and the Obama Administration has put into place several executive orders (including the The National Defense Resources Preparedness EO) which pave the way for Martial Law to be declared.
[…] What I have seen in a number of the reactions to the honest activism of Sgt. Gary Stein is a knee-jerk bias that reeks of the slave mentality, but it offers us a window in gauging the leanings of the general public. Now that the once theoretical dangers of federal fascism are breaking the surface of the water and circling the American sinking ship, the great test is to watch closely where the masses place their priorities. Will they take the path of the individual, admit to the laboratory mutation that our government has become, and try to make things right again? Or, will they take the path of the slave, forget their past follies and empty arguments, and jump on the totalitarian bandwagon? Certainly, it is not as if the cheerleaders of the state usually get out of the tumult with all their limbs intact. In most cases, they are lucky to get out alive once the smoke clears. One might think that the lessons of history would be guide enough, but then again, the average slave has taken every conceivable measure to ensure that his particular fantasy land is magical enough to withstand substantial examination. The system is their drug, and the upheaval that free thought brings is such a buzz-kill…
The cold hard reality is, the Oath Keepers were right, and Sgt. Stein is right.