Carronade The Yankee Sailor Carronade

The Sea is a choosy mistress. She takes the men that come to her and weighs them and measures them. The ones she adores, she keeps; the ones she hates, she destroys. The rest she casts back to land. I count myself among the adored, for I am Her willing Captive.

I've relocated to a new Yankee Sailor.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The MilBlogger Responds

For those of you not familiar with the this story let me begin with a little context. I ran across a blog yesterday, at the top of which was a picture of a United States Sailor in uniform with a biography underneath identifying him as a serving nuclear submariner. After reading the site for not too long I discovered that this Sailor had written some pretty harsh personal attacks and impugned the character of his, and my, Commander-in-Chief, that I believed took that Sailor pretty close, if not already in, shoal water. Given that the Navy policy on bloggers is pretty permissive, and I want it to stay that way, I chose to take that Sailor to task in my blog, with a very predictable result - debate.

The Sailor started out by painting this as a Right vs. Left thing:

Someone seems to dislike my views, or at least the fact that I express them so...candidly. From a fellow MilBlogger who, as I do, sports the logo that says "Free Speech from those who help make it possible", I'm a bit surprised.

Well, not really. See, most of my fellow military folks are of the right-wing variety, and in that context "Free Speech" usually only includes what they agree with. The fact that someone can be in the military and have opinions contrary to the right (and *gasp* express them) is somehow offensive.
For those of you inclined to dismiss me as a Right Wing Moonbat and Bush Administration apologist off the cuff, perhaps you should examine my opinions on the Abu Ghraib prosecutions, the civil war in Iraq or the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy first. Then, the Sailor appears to impugn my character by suggesting I'm a hypocrite and follows it by variants of the "everyone's done it" and "it was okay when Clinton was in office" arguments:

Harsh? A bit...but it is one of those things I can't stand, hypocrisy. See, in the 90's I can clearly remember loud denunciations of one William Clinton (you may remember him, he was once the President of the United States). There were senior military officers and NCOs who loudly proclaimed they wouldn't retire until Clinton was out of office, because they didn't want their retirement certificates signed by "that traitor" (I heard that quite often). Clinton's foreign policy was derided in quite insulting terms by a large portion of the brass...often in very thinly disguised "I'm not saying this, but I'm saying it" ways.
I'll let the knee-jerk accusation slide, because I'm sure it was typed in the heat of the moment, and I'll say that I well remember the comments he describes, didn't approve of them at the time, and recall that one general officer was disciplined and others were cautioned over the conduct during Mr. Clinton's tenure. Then the Sailor wrapped up the accusation portion of his post with the following:

I recently read a letter in Navy Times about servicemen attending GOP rallies in uniform (a clear violation of the regs), and how many times did Bush have folks in uniform in the backdrop while on the stump. But that's OK, as it's for the right.
Ah, tilting at windmills. The issue of a sitting President appearing with servicemembers to deliver partisan political speeches is something no one will ever stop. President Bush did and does it, but then every president since Washington has probably done it. And if there are servicemen attending GOP rallies, let's have some names and photos and get it stopped. But that's not really what this is all about.

The issue here is not political advocacy, it's making ad hominem attacks against the Commander-in-Chief and other federal elected officials, regardless of their party, with the picture of a United States Sailor attached. The Sailor wrote "[my blog] is ... an '[expression of] a personal opinion on political candidates and issues, but not as a representative of the Armed Forces'," which is, I think, an incomplete characterization. When he makes comments like that about the President, particularly with his picture attached, he's not talking about a candidate, he's talking about his boss. And that's why I think it's a good order and discipline problem and possibly even an act that brings discredit to the armed forces.

In the end, though, it's not me that would get to decide, it's the man this Sailor calls "Captain." And, considering he's wisely taken down the picture of himself in uniform on his homepage and put some safe distance between his writing and his identity as an active duty member of the Armed Forces, I think he realizes that his legal opinions on the matter are not really the opinions he has to worry about.

As for me, as I stated at the outset, I like the Navy rules the way they are, and will continue to engage, plead and confront anyone who's posts I think may put that liberal policy in danger. And hopefully Big Navy will see that we can manage problems ourselves and resist issuing rudder orders.

As a result of these changes, I've expunged the bodies of previous posts on this topic and wish that Sailor a long and rewarding career at blogging.

Update: I discussed this with a JAG, and he pointed me to another subsection of DoD Directive 1344.10 that extends prohibitions on speech to all members:


In accordance with the statutory restrictions in 10 U.S.C. 973(b) (reference (b)) and references (g) and (h), and the policies established in section 4., above, of this Directive, a member on active duty shall not:
E3.3.11. Use contemptuous words against the officeholders described in 10 U.S.C. 888...
Those officeholders are "the President, the Vice President, Congress, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of a military department, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or the Governor or legislature of any State, Territory, Commonwealth, or possession in which he is on duty or present..."

Thus, while it may not be a violation of Article 88 of the UCMJ for an enlisted member to use such terms, it may be a violation of a lawful regulation and punishable under Article 92.