Enlisting in the U.S. Military comes with sacrifices from Day 1. Upon arriving at the specified base for Boot Camp or Basic Training, then enlistee recognizes that they belong to the Military and no longer have many of the basic rights afforded to civilians. Over the next eight to twelve weeks, depending on the branch, this fact is drilled into the recruits through a variety of methods. At the end of the program and upon graduation, the newest members of the U.S. Military have had discipline instilled in them to the point that they are ready to follow their command.
This includes abiding by the Uniform Military Code of Justice (UMCJ). Even though only implemented once, and even then in a case that resulted in acquittal, Article 88 of the UMCJ states that “disrespectful criticism of the President, and other specified civilian officials and institutions” may result in Court Martial, according to The Army Lawyer.
“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 prohibited as a court-martial may direct.”
Basically, as is the case in any organization with a “command” structure – whether supervisory, managerial, or other – attitudes of the “front-line” can be contagious. Someone expressing dissention can affect the entirety of the ranks and decrease effectiveness. Since military operations often involve life-and-death situations with the outcome dependent on the unit’s effectiveness, containing negative attitudes is vital.
Article 88 does not separate publicly- from privately-voiced opinions as those voiced privately among the troops can have as devastating an affect as those expressed publicly.
With the recent recall of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, a number of opinions have been developed regarding this action. Even those who agree with the pull-out have concerns about the manner in which it occurred. U.S. President Joe Biden has received criticism domestically as well as from other world leaders. Even former leaders have chimed in, with former British Prime Minister Nigel Farage stating on Fox News that the way in which the pull-out occurred has harmed relations between the two countries such that “there is no way that a British parliament right now would vote for military cooperation with America led by this administration.”
Even with such backlash from the international community, U.S. Navy Captain Danny L. Noles, Chief of Staff for the Office of Naval Intelligence, is attempting to minimize world’s opinion on the morale of naval forces. To do so, he issued a memorandum to Navy personnel reminding them of Article 88 and Department of Defense Directives that, as interpreted by The Daily Wire, “they cannot disrespect senior government leadership.”
“Namely, uniformed personnel and military retirees are prohibited from disrespecting senior government leadership (e.g. the President, Vice President, Congress, Secretary of Defense, Service Secretaries, etc.).”
While Article 88 and the UCMJ applies to uniformed personnel, Capt. Noles claims that the policy of Article 88 combined with Defense Directive 1344.10, extends to civilian personnel, as well:
“Even for civilians, you are reminded of the danger that your public comments will/could be attributed to ONI or the Department of Defense…being too vocal in criticism of, say, the President or members of the military and civilian leadership may reflect poorly on ONI.”
As this policy and “law” received rare regard during the previous administration, it seems that the U.S. Navy is embarrassed of the current administration’s actions. It is human nature to “clamp down” on negative rhetoric when the rhetoric is applicable and accurate. Capt. Noles, through this email, appears to be attempting to minimize the negative view of President Biden’s actions, even going so far as to attempt to silence civilians in their pursuit of their First Amendment rights of free speech and to redress grievances against the government.
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