I’m sure that you have been following the letter from the resistance, USMA grads that wrote a letter to the class of 2020. Here is a response. I agree with this letter written in opposition to the recent letter written by the group calling themselves “Concerned Members of the Long Gray Line”. How dare you use your position as graduates to influence newly commissioned officers against their Commander-in-Chief. Shame on you!
On June 11, 2020 a group calling themselves “Concerned Members of the Long Gray Line,” published an essay titled “A Letter to the West Point Class of 2020, From Fellow Members of the Long Gray Line” (the Letter) here. According to a note appended to the Letter, over 1,000 graduates have “signed” it, their identities, class years, and locations purportedly listed here. Elements of the Letter are untrue and dangerous, so much so that any available corrective action is warranted and should be taken. They are also an affront to the legacy inherited by all USMA graduates. A rebuttal letter (pasted below), while appropriate, is insufficient to remedy the harm.
WPAOG should publicly repudiate the Letter’s inaccurate content and censure its signatories, as more specifically explained below.
This statement, on which much of the Letter is based, is categorically false: “Sadly, the government has threatened to use the Army in which you serve as a weapon against fellow Americans engaging in these legitimate protests.”
President Trump, on June 1, after expressly deploring the death of Mr. Floyd, and while explicitly recognizing multiple times the proper and legitimate role of protest, said that he would use military forces to quell violence and to restore order amid the rioting, burning and looting in our cities if state and local authorities did not do so. He did not“threaten to use the Army” as a “weapon” against Americans engaged in “legitimate protests.” He said, in part:
“I am mobilizing all available federal resources, civilian and military, to stop the rioting and looting, to end the destruction and arson, and to protect the rights of law-abiding Americans,” Trump said. “Today I have strongly recommended to every governor to deploy the National Guard in sufficient numbers that we dominate the streets. Mayors and governors must establish an overwhelming law enforcement presence until the violence has been quelled. If a city or state refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them.”
His complete statement (6:45) is here.
The president made clear his focus was “protect[ing] the rights of law abiding Americans,” quelling “violence,” and stopping “rioting, looting, vandalism, arson and the wanton destruction of property.” Nowhere did the president say or imply that any military forces would be used as “weapons” against “legitimate protests.”
The Letter’s use of this undeniably false statement, joined contextually with a confused criticism of a “Faustian bargain” of “loyalty over duty,” has every appearance of a falsely predicated, thinly veiled attempt to erode the authority of the president in his role as Commander in Chief (CIC) and the loyalty due him by members of the military. It is thus a dangerous assault on our CIC’s military authority and our professional culture. The CIC’s authority over the military is complete. Loyalty and duty owed to the chain of command do not end at the Pentagon. They extend, fully, also to the White House, regardless of who is president, whether he/she is liked or disliked, or political preference. The Letter’s implicit, and falsely predicated, suggestion to the contrary ignores our government’s essential framework as mandated by the constitution.7:00 PMAs with any other member of the chain of command, the only limitation on the CIC’s authority is that his orders be lawful. Unless an order is unlawful, there is an unqualified duty to obey it. In this sense the oath of office for commissioned officers is more than just “aspirational,” contrary to the Letter’s further, erroneous claim. Far from being merely aspirational or ceremonial, one’s making that oath is an essential factual and legal predicate for the obligation, the legal duty, to obey a superior’s lawful order. Violation of that duty would be a criminal offense (Articles 90, 92 and 134, UCMJ), and for good reason.
The invocation of the Insurrection Act of 1807 for the purpose of quelling violence and the destruction of property, where state and local authorities do not do so, would be unquestionably lawful. An order issued to carry out such a mission under such circumstances would be lawful. As the rebuttal letter points out, the Act has been invoked well over a dozen times by eleven presidents throughout our history. Neither would the invocation of that Act under such circumstances amount to “politicization of the Armed Forces,” as the Letter further erroneously claims.
The Letter’s signatories have openly (in the Letter’s title) used their status as USMA graduates as a platform to enhance the credibility of their message. Regrettably, they resorted to material falsehood and misrepresentation as part of the medium for that message. The government, here the president, did not threaten to use the Army as a weapon against legitimate protesters. In falsely asserting that he had, or that his words politicized the Armed Forces, or that an officer’s oath is merely aspirational, their message goes beyond the realm of political rhetoric, beyond hyperbole, and instead publicly uses an undeniably false characterization of statements made by the president in a manner that could only have been intended to erode his authority as CIC and the loyalty due him by recently commissioned, West Point graduates serving on active duty.
These aspects of the Letter are unprecedented and unacceptable. They cannot and should not be tolerated by other graduates who value the bedrock principles of Duty, Honor, Country and the implicit obligation to be truthful. Free speech and vigorous debate among all citizens are hallmarks of American democracy. Limitations on that speech, or condemnation of abuses of the right of free speech, constitutionally are few and should occur only sparingly. Falsely predicated speech to active military members that urges the erosion of their loyalty to any member of the chain of command is corrosive to our ethical culture and the effectiveness of our military. It must be repudiated and condemned as incorrect, unacceptable and unrepresentative of the group whose identity was invoked to lend it credibility (“Fellow Members of the Long Gray Line”). Even if constitutionally permitted, such false and corrosive speech should not be condoned by those whose common association was employed in an effort to bolster its acceptance. To the contrary, the organization which singularly represents USMA graduates (who are unavoidably injured by such false and corrosive speech), should actively repudiate and condemn it. Such condemnation, to be effective, should be timely, i.e., while attention remains focused on the unacceptable speech itself.
Members of the Long Gray Line are stewards of a critically important legacy. With that stewardship comes the important responsibility to maintain its integrity. WPAOG, the only organization nominally in a position to do so, should right this wrong, however sensitive and difficult the task.
I respectfully urge WPAOG to repudiate the Letter’s inaccurate content and to censure its signatories, publicly, that it do so in writing, promptly, with full explanation, and that such repudiation and censure be published prominently both on the WPAOG website and in the next issues of its online and primary hardcopy publications. This is not an invitation for WPAOG to engage in partisan, political debate. Indeed, it is the reverse, a request that the only organization that can speak for all graduates communicate to the class of 2020 and the public uneqivocally (i) that public political debate, however characterized, has no place in our professional military ethic, (ii) that an officer’s duty to obey lawful orders is not qualified by a subjective evaluation of the merit of the CIC’s policy positions, and (iii) that those who invoke their being a graduate of USMA as a platform from which to advocate publicly as “Fellow Members of the Long Gray Line” about such weighty military ethical matters must do so honestly and accurately, absent which censure from WPAOG will follow.
Claude M. McQuarrie III
USMA 19727:01 PMJUST NOWF