An Open Letter to the New Generation of Military Officers Serving and
Protecting Our Nation
By Dr. Robert M. Bowman, Lt. Col., USAF, ret., National Commander, The
Dear Comrades in Arms,
You are facing challenges in 2007 that we of previous generations never
I'm just an old fighter pilot (101 combat missions in Vietnam ,
F-4 Phantom, Phu Cat, 1969-1970) who's now a disabled veteran with terminal
cancer from Agent Orange. Our mailing list (over 22,000) includes veterans
from all branches of the service, all political parties, and all parts of
the political spectrum. We are Republicans and Democrats, Greens and
Libertarians, Constitutionists and Reformers, and a good many Independents.
What unites us is our desire for a government that (1) follows the
Constitution, (2) honors the truth, and (3) serves the people.
We see our government going down the wrong path, all too often ignoring
military advice, and heading us toward great danger. And we look to you who
still serve as the best hope for protecting our nation from disaster.
We see the current Iraq War as having been unnecessary, entered into under
false pretenses, and horribly mismanaged by the civilian authorities.
Thousands of our brave troops have been needlessly sacrificed in a
attempt at occupation of a hostile land. Many more thousands have suffered
wounds which will change their lives forever. Tens of thousands have severe
psychological problems because of what they have seen and what they have
done. Potentially hundreds of thousands could be poisoned by depleted
uranium, with symptoms appearing years later, just as happened to us exposed
to Agent Orange. The military services are depleted and demoralized. The VA
system is under-funded and overwhelmed. The National Guard and Reserves have
been subjected to tour after tour, disrupting lives for even the lucky ones
who return intact. Jobs have been lost, marriages have been destroyed, homes
have been foreclosed, and children have been estranged. And for what? We
have lost allies, made new enemies, and created thousands of new terrorists,
further endangering the American people.
But you know all this. I'm sure you also see the enormous danger in a
possible attack on Iran , possibly with nuclear weapons. Such an event,
seriously contemplated by the Cheney faction of the Bush administration,
would make enemies of Russia and China and turn us into the number one rogue
nation on earth. The effect on our long-term national security would be
Some of us had hoped that the new Democratic Congress would end the
occupation of Iraq and take firm steps to prevent an attack on Iran ,
perhaps by impeaching Bush and Cheney. These hopes have been dashed. The
lily-livered Democrats have caved in, turning their backs on those few (like
Congressman Jack Murtha) who understand the situation. Many of us have
personally walked the halls of Congress, to no avail.
This is where you come in.
We know that many of you share our concern and our determination to protect
our republic from an arrogant, out-of-control, imperial presidency and a
compliant, namby-pamby Congress (both of which are unduly influenced by the
oil companies and other big-money interests). We know that you (like us)
wouldn't have pursued a military career unless you were idealistic and
devoted to our nation and its people. (None of us do it for the pay and
working conditions!) But we also recognize that you may not see how you can
influence these events. We in the military have always had a historic
subservience to civilian authority.
Perhaps I can help with whatever wisdom I've gathered from age (I retired in
1978, so I am ancient indeed).
Our oath of office is to "protect and defend the Constitution of the United
States against all enemies, foreign and domestic." Might I suggest that this
includes a rogue president and vice-president? Certainly we are bound to
carry out the legal orders of our superiors. But the Uniform Code of
Military Justice (UCMJ)
which binds all of us enshrines the Nuremberg
Principles which this country established after World War II (which you are
too young to remember). One of those Nuremberg Principles says that we in
the military have not only the right, but also the DUTY to refuse an illegal
order. It was on this basis that we executed Nazi officers who were "only
carrying out their orders."
The Constitution which we are sworn to uphold says that treaties entered
into by the United States
are the "highest law of the land," equivalent to
the Constitution itself. Accordingly, we in the military are sworn to uphold
treaty law, including the United Nations charter and the Geneva Convention.
Based on the above, I contend that should some civilian order you to
initiate a nuclear attack on Iran (for example), you are duty-bound to
refuse that order. I might also suggest that you should consider whether the
circumstances demand that
you arrest whoever gave the order as a war
I know for a fact that in recent history (once under Nixon and once under
Reagan), the military nuclear chain of command in the White House discussed
these things and were prepared to refuse an order to "nuke Russia ." In
effect they took the (non-existent) "button" out of the hands of the
President.. We were thus never quite as close to World War III as many
feared, no matter how irrational any president might have become. They
determined that the proper response to any such order was, "Why,
Unless there was (in their words) a "damn good answer," nothing was going to
I suggest that if you in this generation have not had such a discussion,
perhaps it is time you do. In hindsight, it's too bad such a discussion did
not take place prior to the preemptive "shock and awe" attack on Baghdad .
Many of us at the time spoke out vehemently that such an attack would be an
impeachable offense, a war crime against the people of Iraq , and treason
against the United States of America
. But our voices were drowned out and
never reached the ears of the generals in 2003. I now regret that I never
sent a letter such as this at that time, but depended on the corporate media
to carry my message. I must not make that mistake again.
Also in hindsight, President Bush could be court-martialed for abuse of
power as Commander-in-Chief. Vice President Cheney could probably be
court-martialed for his performance as Acting Commander-in-Chief in the
White House bunker the morning of September 11, 2001 .
We in the U.S. military would never consider a military coup, removing an
elected president and installing one of our own. But following our oath of
office, obeying the Nuremberg Principles, and preventing a rogue president
from committing a war crime is not a military coup. If it requires the
detention of executive branch officials, we will not impose a military
dictatorship. We will let the Constitutional succession take place. This is
what we are sworn to. This is protecting the Constitution, our highest
obligation. In 2007, this is what is meant by "Duty, Honor, Country."
Thank you all for your service to this nation. May God bless America , and
sustain us in this difficult time. And thanks for listening to the musings
of an old junior officer.
Robert M. Bowman, PhD, Lt. Col., USAF, ret.
1494 Patriot Dr , Melbourne , FL 32940
home phone (321) 752-5955; cell (321) 258-0582