No sir, it's wrong

No sir, it's wrong
Dr Michael Blockey
March 2017

This post is about a junior military officer questioning and then disobeying the orders of his commanding officer because he believes it is wrong. It is prompted by my last post that described the actions of Senator Jim Molan when he commanded  the Coalition forces in the 2nd Battle of Fallujah in 2004. He ordered the 300,000 residents to leave the city. Some 60,000 remained. The Geneva Convention states that civilians must be protected in a conflict. Despite this, he rained 6,500 shells and rockets on the city, razing it to the ground and killing 4000 civilians.  It gets worse! The shells and rockets were coated with depleted uranium (DU). When the shells explode, very fine particles of DU are released. They are breathed in and alter one's genetic code. The result is horrifying congenital birth defects and cancer.

All of this was known as early as 1994. Molan and his officers would have known it before the Battle of Fallujah.  Yet they used these DU-coated shells and rockets anyway. The result was the highest incidence of congenital birth defects and cancers ever seen, surpassing what was seen in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

It could have been so different. Had the artillery commander and the rocket launching commander confided their fears to one another and confronted Molan saying 'No sir, it's wrong, it's wrong to shell civilians and terribly wrong to use DU-coated shells', Molan may have changed his approach.

Junior officers are permitted to disobey a command if they think it is unlawful. But it is a court martial that decides whether a command is unlawful. And guess what? A court martial generally decides that a command is lawful! And in the case of these two 'mythical men', they would have been nailed to the wall for disobeying Molan, the reason being that the US Army did not recognise the horrifying effects of DU on people in 2004, and still doesn't. 

The military trains its people not to question, to simply obey orders. It defends that approach by saying that in the heat of battle, it can't have soldiers discussing the order. But so many orders are unlawful, so many orders cause unnecessary harm to civilians and soldiers. Cannot military training include a spirited discussion of what actions are lawful and what are unlawful? Can the military give some encouragement to those who disobey unlawful orders instead of always slapping them down?

At the Battle of Fallujah, we had an intersection of blind obedience to Molan's unlawful order and blind denial of the horrific effects of DU on people.

It reminds me that we human beings are blind to most things!

Ngara InstituteComment