YOU MUST OBEY ALL ORDERS!
by Daniel New
Do you know the story of PVT Corey Clagett?
The primary reason that Corey Clagett’s name is not a household word in America is that the war in Iraq has given us so many soldiers who have been dealt with falsely by the US military that he is merely one among many miscarriages of justice. Ho, hum. “Dime a dozen.”
John Q. Public is far more interested in, and spends far more time speaking about things like an under-inflated football or whether an athlete should finally be allowed into the Hall of Fame, or worse yet, in chasing illusions called “Pokemon”! — these are the issues that grip the hearts and minds of Americans today.
Private Corey Clagett committed a war crime. There is no question as to his guilt. He admits it. In 2006 he found himself on a squad that was dropped by air onto a small island in a lake some 200 miles north of Baghdad. The mission was to clean out a terrorist training camp. The rules of engagement were clear — “Kill all military-aged males in the area.” When the squad discovered three unarmed men hiding in a house, they knew instinctively that it would be wrong to shoot them, but orders are orders.
Asking for confirmation, Clagett’s men were ordered to allow the unarmed peasants “to escape”, and to then kill them so that there would be no witnesses. They obeyed that order.
As a result, they were court-martialed and Cory Clagett spent ten years behind bars at Leavenworth, released this year on parole. He now resides in North Carolina.
The point here is not to defend the actions of PVT Clagett. There are some things which a man ought to know is wrong, and there are some orders which ought to be disobeyed.
In the Army Field Training Manuals, soldiers are told in Basic Training and forward that they are not to obey illegal orders! They were told that under General George Washington. They are taught that at West Point. It’s a fundamental premise of American military doctrine.
The Nuremburg Defense — “I was merely obeying orders,” is not supposed to be a valid defense. And rightly so. Clagett should have gone to prison, for murdering three men who may, or may not have been, innocent noncombatants.
Here’s the irony — SPC4 Michael New did what he was trained to do. He disobeyed what he perceived to be an illegal order. He did it in garrison — far less pressure than Clagett faced, for they were not under fire — and that applies to the chain of command as well. They had time to think it through, and to give him a transfer, perhaps to mop floors and peel potatoes in Antarctica, but instead they elected to make an example of him.
In his appellate trial at the Army Court of Criminal Appeals, the lawyer for the Army started her remarks by saying, “If the Army cannot expect its soldiers to obey all commands, then we cannot have a cohesive chain of command.” She was immediately challenged by one of the judges on the panel, who asked, “Excuse me, but are you saying that ALL orders must be obeyed, even illegal ones?” She waffled, he persisted, and in the end she said, “Yes, Your Honor.” He looked at her for a long moment, then said, as he shook his head,“I thought we had settled that question at Nuremburg.” (In the decision against Michael New, he cast a dissenting vote.)
The point here is that soldiers are caught between a rock and a hard place. They are “damned if they do, and damned if they don’t.” If they obey an illegal order, they do so at the risk of their career and of their freedom — they may well join men like PVT Clagett in a cell in Leavenworth.
On the other hand, if they disobey an order they are convinced is illegal, even upon council of seasoned military veterans and government officials and congressmen, they may well join men like PVT Clagett in a cell in Leavenworth!
While it is true that Mike New did not go to Leavenworth, it was not for lack of trying on the part of the government, for that is exactly what they were seeking. It was by the grace of God€¦ and the panel of “jurors” that he received instead a Bad Conduct Discharge, and now has to live his live with that stain on his record — a man willing to fight, to bleed, and to die if necessary in defense of his country — shamed by a Bad Discount Discharge.
Stripped of his rights as an honorably discharged veteran, and even of the GI Bill, for which he had sacrificed deductions for his entire enlistment, former SPC Michael New may never tell a potential employer that he served honorably in the US Army, even though he served far more honorably than did Bill Clinton, or anyone else in the chain of command, who prosecuted him for the crime of wanting to serve his own country.
And what is worse? That Michael New was not allowed to present the evidence he could have shown the court, which would have proved that the order was illegal. No, he disobeyed an order. “Why” was irrelevant to the Court and to the chain of command, all the way up to the president, the very man who issued that order!
Do you think recruits today ought to be aware of this miscarriage of justice? Two things from SPC New’s case still affect them to this day:
Vice President Al Gore once told parents of a soldier who had died in a UN military action, “You can be proud that your son died in service to the United Nations.”
As for me and my house, we do not raise our sons (or daughters) to be sacrificed on the altar of the New World Order.
If you haven’t read the book
MICHAEL NEW — Mercenary€¦ or American Solder?,
we recommend it to you and certainly to every man and woman in uniform today. His case is as relevant today as it was when it happened — 20 years ago!
You can order it for a donation of $5 or more, postage paid, from:
Michael New Action Forum (MNAF)
Or you can order from the internet at: