Sgt. Gary Stein was discharged from the Marines because he created a web page critical of President Obama. Despite the fact that I agree with Sgt. Stein’s political views, I think the Marines did the right thing. One of the things that makes our military great is the fact that it is a non-partisan institution. Sure, we know that individual service members have political views — often strong ones — but the military presents itself as assiduously non-partisan. Our American military, including the individual men and women serving within it, supports America as a whole, not specific parties within America.
To address the tension between serving ones country and losing ones First Amendment speech rights within that same country, the Department of Defense came up with a fairly decent compromise: If you’re presenting yourself as a private citizen, you have full First Amendment rights. When you are actually wearing that uniform, however, you represent the American military and your powers of speech, while presenting yourself to the public as a service man or woman, must be consistent with the military mission and therefore be non-partisan.
Not all Marines, however, seem to be subject to the same scrutiny as Sgt. Stein was. The Mellow Jihadi has come across a group of Marines and other members of the Armed Forces who have actively embraced the Occupy philosophy, including creating a web page advancing the far Left occupy agenda.
The Mellow Jihadi, who takes seriously his responsibility to remain non-partisan, even as he shares with his readers interesting stuff from all over the world, asks in a polite and non-partisan way “Please tell me if this the way Marines (active-duty or not) should be treating their uniforms.” As I understand it, the answers he’s received from people associated with Occupy Marines have, apparently, been non-responsive, unless you consider obscenities and threats adequate answers to the question.
The Department of Defense Directive regarding political activities while in uniform actually provides a pretty clear answer to the Mellow Jihadi’s question:
4.1.2. A member of the Armed Forces on active duty shall not:
18.104.22.168. March or ride in a partisan political parade.
22.214.171.124. Attend partisan political events as an official representative of the Armed Forces, except as a member of a joint Armed Forces color guard at the opening ceremonies of the national conventions of the Republican, Democratic, or other political parties recognized by the Federal Elections Committee or as otherwise authorized by the Secretary concerned.
It is no defense to the conduct of the people in the Facebook page to say that OWS isn’t partisan but is, instead, a “people’s movement.” Because OWS has a clear political agenda, that in itself makes it partisan. In effect, by having clear, consistent policy goals, OWS has turned itself into a political party. As for the fact that some of the people in the photos may be former or fake service members . . . well, the former group should be ashamed of itself and the latter group is committing a fraud on the public. Neither group has anything to boast about.
My parting question: Will these protesters, assuming they are still (and actually) active duty, be subject to the same sanctions that saw Sgt. Stein discharged (not very honorably) from the Marines? Or in Obama’s America, is all political speech by men and women in uniform to be treated equally, except that some (that favorable to the Obama agenda) will be treated more equally than others?