The Political General: The Chairman Of The Joint Chiefs Of Staff Oversteps His Boundaries. Again. UPDATED With Army Statement
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In attempting to dissuade a private citizen from exercising his 1st Amendment rights General Martin Dempsey, on orders or of his own volition, has crossed a very bright and important line separating the military from the people it serves.
Gen. Martin Dempsey called Terry Jones, who is known for inflammatory anti-Islamic rhetoric, to express his concerns about the film, saying it could inflame tensions and trigger violence.
U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the attack.
Dempsey spokesman Marine Col. Dave Lapan said Jones did not say whether he would limit or continue his backing of the movie, “Innocence of Muslims.” A video excerpt of the low-budget film, which portrays Islamic Prophet Muhammad as a feckless philanderer who approved of child sexual abuse, is available on YouTube.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Jones said, “He asked us not to promote or show the film … I told him that we would definitely consider that. I would first have to watch the film.”
In post update:
@drewmtips He called on own initiative over concern for possible threats to US forces around the world from violence sparked by the film.
— George Wright (@Armyspokesman) September 13, 2012
This is simply not part of the General’s job description. More troubling is the fact that it is not his first foray into a realm in which he does not belong.
Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey said the anti-Obama comments are “not useful” when asked about the documentary during an interview with Fox News while flying back to the U.S. from the Middle East.
“One of the things that marks us as a profession in a democracy – in our form of democracy – that’s most important is that we remain apolitical,” Dempsey said. “That’s how we maintain our bond of trust with the American people. The American people don’t want us to be another special interest group.”
In “Dishonorable Disclosures,” the documentary released online last week, a group of former special operations and intelligence members slam Obama for taking credit for the death of Osama bin Laden.
That’s sound advice and one the General should take to heart himself. You see the people he was talking about are retired members of the US military. Veterans, unlike an active duty General, have served their country and returned to the ranks of citizens. They, like the people they served, are absolutely entitled to speak their mind and engage in our national political discussions.
For an active duty General officer to even imply that retired service men and women do not enjoy the same rights as all private citizens is misinformed at best, political gamesmanship at worst.
You see General Dempsey had that admonition for retired servicemen who are criticizing President Obama, the man who appointed General Dempsey to his current position. It does not appear however that General Dempsey had any public admonition for Lieutenant General Claudia Kennedy (USA, Retired) when she spoke at this year’s Democratic National Convention. General Dempsey also doesn’t seem to have a problem with President Obama appointing two retired Army Generals to top administration positions (David Petraeus as CIA Director and Eric Shinseki as Secretary of Veterans Affairs).
As bad as it is for General Dempsey to involve himself in politics in these ways at all, it is most troubling that he appears to be doing so in a very partisan way.
There is simply no reason for an active duty officer like General Dempsey (or any government official) to attempt to convince citizens that they should refrain from a legitimate, if distasteful, exercise of their rights. The notion that terrorists will be enraged to attack over the actions of some “filmmaker” or pastor is ridiculous. Terrorists are attacking our troops everyday, they may offer excuse such as this video no one saw before but their motivation is ultimately because they see us as their enemy. No attempt to muzzle Americans will change that or quell their violence.
One reason society as a whole holds those who serve in our military in such high esteem is that they put our comfort ahead of theirs, they risk their safety for ours and they protect our rights while foregoing some of their own (for a time). For General Dempsey to act in such a shortsighted and seemingly partisan way does our service men and women no favors. In fact, it should make us as citizens, the people ultimately responsible for selecting their leadership, question if we are serving them well by having General Dempsey in his current position.