Gen. George Washington was well aware of European history, and he was determined that we would not make the same mistakes Europe made. Therefore, one of his first tasks was to include in the 1775 military laws an offense if a military person made “disrespectful comments” concerning any military or government official. If this happened, they would be tried by court martial. That law, in some form, has remained in our congressional laws ever since, including in the major rewrite that took place in 1950. More than 155 individuals have been tried by court martial over those years.
Our military forces are no longer a “citizen army.” Current and recent-past generals and admirals have come to believe that they know best what the country really needs — not only militarily, but politically as well. Exactly what Washington was concerned about has been happening.
Current law says, “Officers retired on pay continue to be subject to Military Law.” A four-star officer retiring with 40 years of service receives an annual pension of $240,226, or $1 million every four years and two months. Article 88 of that law says that “commissioned military officers who use contemptuous words against the president shall be punished by court-martial.” The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled a number of times that this is not a violation of the officers’ First Amendment rights.
So how have there been multiple (27, by my count) four-star, retired officers who have totally ignored the laws by uttering openly contemptuous words against the president not been challenged by Congress? Perhaps Congress is now afraid of what might happen if they attempt to enforced Washington’s law.
BRIG. GEN. A.E. BREWSTER
U.S. Marine Corps (retired)