Posted on Aug 12, 2015
SPC Steven Ward
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I am curious as to how many active duty personnel if given the order to engage American civilians in a Martial Law setting would do so?
Posted in these groups: D2d98f7c OrdersImgres ConstitutionImgres Law
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LCDR Deputy Department Head
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Eh... This is going to cause all sorts of arguments and potentially problems, so I will tread lightly and stay generic.

We should not question every order we are given to the extent that some purport, but we should be wary of anything that seems out of the norm or "wrong" to us. In that situation questions need to be asked, research needs to be done.
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MCPO Roger Collins
MCPO Roger Collins
7 y
They all are until they are not. Dangerous territory until they are proven not to be. Know anyone that has won a case of what one considers an unlawful order? 
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CPT Military Police
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Edited 7 y ago
Keep in mind that following a unlawful order can get you into trouble. Make sure the order is lawful. The first recorded case of a United States Military officer using the "I was only following orders" defense is1799. During the War with France, Congress passed a law making it permissible to seize ships BOUND TO any French Port. When President John Adams wrote the order tp the U.S. Navy to do so, he wrote that Navy ships were authorized to seize any vessel BOUND FOR a French port, or TRAVELING FROM a French port. Following this Presidential order, a U.S. Navy captain seized a Danish Ship (the Flying Fish), which was en route from a French Port. The owners of the ship sued the Navy captain in U.S. maritime court for trespass. They won, and the United States Supreme Court upheld the decision. The U.S. Supreme Court held that Navy commanders "ACT AT THEIR OWN PERIL" when obeying presidential orders when such orders are illegal.

The Vietnam War presented the United States military courts with many cases of the "I was only following orders" defense. Decisions from these cases reaffirmed that following manifestly illegal orders is not a viable defense from criminal prosecution. In United States v. Keenan, the accused (Keenan) was found guilty of murder because he obeyed an order to shoot and kill an elderly Vietnamese citizen. The Court of Military Appeals held that "THE JUSTIFICATION FOR ACTS DONE PURSUANT TO ORDERS DOES NOT EXIST IF THE ORDER WAS OF SUCH A NATURE THAT A MAN OF ORDINARY SENSE AND UNDERSTANDING WOULD KNOW IT TO BE ILLEGAL" (The soldier who gave Keenan the order, Corporal Luczko, was acquitted by reason of insanity).
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Capt Seid Waddell
Capt Seid Waddell
7 y
CPT (Join to see), this example is appropriate on several levels. The My Lai complex had been declared a “free-fire zone”, meaning that there was nothing but enemy there, and a sweep of the area was being conducted to clear it out. LT Calley had initially captured a large group of prisoners and was holding them at a fork in the trail. CPT Medina asked LT Calley why he wasn’t keeping up and LT Calley informed him about the prisoners.

CPT Medina told him to “take care of them”, and LT Calley said that he would assign a detail to guard them. CPT Medina said that this was not what he meant – and to “take care of them”. LT Calley then ordered his men to mow them down, and he participated in the shooting before his unit’s joining its position in the sweep. When they entered My Lai the slaughter picked up tempo.

When CWO Thompson saw what was happening he tried to get a LT to order his men to stop. He set his chopper down between a group of Vietnamese in a bunker and the approaching American troops, and threatened to open fire on the American troops if they did not stop. He then had the Vietnamese ferried out and went to the ditch where villagers had been concentrated and gunned down to look for survivors. I only recall one young child that he rescued but there may have been others.

When LT Calley was called to Washington much later he thought he was going to get a medal, but was arrested, tried, and convicted instead; he was the only one convicted for war crimes in the incident.

CWO Thompson faced repercussions in his unit for his actions and paid a steep price for his actions for many years.

Either obeying or disobeying an illegal order can have serious consequences; your life will never be the same – even if you are in the right.

http://www.historynet.com/interview-larry-colburn-why-my-lai-hugh-thompson-matter.htm
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Capt Mark Strobl
Capt Mark Strobl
7 y
My Lai continues to be a topic at Quantico. Great example & reference, Capt Seid Waddell
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Capt Seid Waddell
Capt Seid Waddell
7 y
Capt Mark Strobl, it changed officer training at the time too - it was a massive failure of leadership. Compounding this defect was the practice of rotating troops into and out of the war zone individually rather than in units. There were usually relatively green officers and men in every unit as a result; when they learned the ropes they rotated out again leaving less experienced troops in the field.

It was also a war in which the lines between civilians and combatants were blurred at best, and the training ill-prepared young officers to make good decisions under such circumstances. Distinguishing VC from civilians was not an obvious task, and free-fire zones made that task even more difficult.

At the time of his arrest many of us (not directly involved) did not understand what he had done wrong. The details came out much later, as did the more specific training.
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SSG Daniel Deiler
SSG Daniel Deiler
>1 y
If in an austere environment or at least in the event this country fell under Marshall law, how would one know if an order was legal or illegal (due to a lack of updated information)? How would one be able to know if disarming a fellow American that posed no threat would be legal or illegal? I can see an over zealous liberal lieutenant giving the order to disarm an American. The 2nd Amendment bestows upon all American (non-felon) the right to bear arms. Hopefully common sense rules and Soldiers would know that the dis-armament of an American is illegal.
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CW4 Property Book Officer (Pbo)
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That probably means the Insurrection Act has been invoked:

http://policy.defense.gov/portals/11/Documents/hdasa/references/Insurrection_Act.pdf

There are some pretty obvious triggers, and the Posse Comitatus Act isn't applicable when the Insurrection Act is in effect.
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