The Huns are knocking on the gates of Rome. The emperor threatens to call up his legions. But we are slightly more civilized today. Our legions can, or should, do the right thing.

In basic training in 1966, they pounded into our noggins the part of the Universal Code of Military Justice (UCMJ-1951) which gave the right and even responsibility to every soldier to refuse and report illegal and/or dangerous orders by their higher-ups. A test of courage to chance some retribution, but still the law. Though the solution to countermanding some wild-eyed gung ho officer in Nam was simply “fragging.”

So why is the right to second guess someone up the command chain so important? Well, 1951 was only a few years after the Nuremberg Trials where Nazi after Nazi got on the stand and said they did war crimes only because they were following orders. No longer an excuse today.


In 1968, after Nam, while twiddling my thumbs in Fort Hood, the military was called up to quell race riots in LA. Because of the UCMJ, and I suspect political optics, Blacks were given the choice to opt out of going.

Disobeying orders in the military is a real no-no. And any soldier can attest to following more than a few stupid and marginal orders.

Fortunately, four-star generals are now speaking up, remembering the UCMJ. And the Constitution.