Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey insists that Americans shouldn’t be criticizing American leadership because they once were in uniform. He seems to think that their free speech rights—appropriately curtailed (but not abrogated) along with a number of other fundamental rights while serving on active duty—become permanently lost to these men and women by dint of their military service. He says that the political activity of Americans, once having served in uniform, is “not useful.”
Dempsey had this to say, in particular, last Wednesday about a 22 minute film released by the organization Special Ops OPSEC, a group that consists of a broad range of ex-military, ex-CIA, and others no longer affiliated with the military or any Federal agency:
If someone uses the uniform, whatever uniform, for partisan politics, I am disappointed because I think it does erode that bond of trust we have with the American people[.]
I have to wonder if Gen Dempsey actually has viewed the video (presented on the organization’s Home page, as well as here). I saw no uniforms on any of the participants, and none of the participants were on active duty.
Indeed, as one participant put it, correctly (at about 16:20 of the video),
As a citizen, it is my civic duty to tell the President to stop leaking information to the enemy. It will get Americans killed.
It’s dismaying that Dempsey seems not to understand that.
There’s more: Dempsey appears to disagree with a former SecDef. Or were Robert Gates’ two years on active duty in the United States Air Force not long enough to disqualify his free speech rights in perpetuity? Gates had this to say about the ongoing leaks:
Shut the f— up.
The men and women in uniform understand that they cannot engage in political activity while in uniform as well as the legitimacy of that ban. Jamie Wilson (Col, Special Forces, Ret) noted this while making a larger point about the need to have a watchdog facility to make it harder for politicians to leak information for political gain. On telling former colleagues at a military installation about this plan, their response was (roughly 18:03):
You’ve got to do this. You’ve got to speak, because we can’t.
I have to wonder how politicized Dempsey has allowed himself to become with this blatant attempt to stifle the free speech of honorable Americans, whose only misbehavior is that they publically disagree with his boss. Dempsey’s behavior is “not useful.”