15 November 2003

For those who haven't yet figured it out, the preceding post is based on the concept that more than one party can be "at fault" in any circumstances, and particularly in political disputes. Even if the "blame" clearly attaches to one (or more) party(ies) in greater proportion than to other(s), that does not mean that the "most blameworthy" position must therefore be rejected in its entirety in favor of the "less blameworthy" position. Seventeen wrongs, however one strings them together, do not make a right, a "right" in the legal sense, or a sound conclusion.

   I realize that sounds pretty bizarre coming from a career military officer, particularly one whose career was more than most intertwined with political policy. Two words suffice in response: William Calley. A fuller response would require a somewhat longer and more involved essay—10,000 words or so, with footnotes—and reference to a number of documents not ordinarily available to the public. Nonetheless, there is a distinct parallel here beyond the question of "following orders," beyond the concept of "orders prohibited by higher law": that immediate circumstances do not and cannot justify undermining that to which one has sworn allegiance. In both Calley's case and in the case of President Bush and the Senators involved, their oath is to the Constitution. That should be enough; but it is pretty obvious that for the past several generations we have been electing individuals with all the maturity of the average third-grader to office. (Since I am no longer subject to court-martial for violating Article 88, I can say that.)