When Military Officers Say No | William Thomas Online | William Thomas

When Military Officers Say No

War Is A Racket -Gen. Smedley Butler USMC


Defiance In Five Six Acts


by William Thomas USNR (Resigned)



In case you missed it, by telling Americans in uniform to disobey an unlawful order from their commander in chief, last week’s soft coup by America’s top military officials effectively ended a presidency that has inflicted so much suffering on Americans, and so much needless trauma, death, ruin and displacement in distant neighborhoods. Mostly among children under the age of 15.

Let’s start with excerpts from what CNN last week called the “jaw-dropping” statements of a four-star general. (Click on links for their full remarks.)



Former Secretary of Defense, USMC General (Ret.) James Mattis on June 4, 2020:

I have watched this week’s unfolding events, angry and appalled. The words “Equal Justice Under Law” are carved in the pediment of the United States Supreme Court. This is precisely what protesters are rightly demanding. It is a wholesome and unifying demand – one that all of us should be able to get behind…

The protests are defined by tens of thousands of people of conscience who are insisting that we live up to our values – our values as people and our values as a nation.

When I joined the military, some 50 years ago, I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution. Never did I dream that troops taking that same oath would be ordered under any circumstance to violate the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens – much less to provide a bizarre photo op for the elected commander-in-chief, with military leadership standing alongside…


After pointedly condemning the Nazi tactic of divide-and-conquer, Gen. Mattis disavowed the commander in chief, saying:

We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership. We can unite without him, drawing on the strengths inherent in our civil society…

We must reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution.


Gen. Mattis concluded his appeal with words many Americans have been yearning to hear for a very long time: 

Only by adopting a new path – which means, in truth, returning to the original path of our founding ideals – will we again be a country admired and respected at home and abroad.






The previous evening, former commander of the NATO International Security Assistance Force and all U.S. Forces in Afghanistan and four-star General John Allen (Ret.) said this:


Donald Trump expressed only the barest of condolences at the murder of George Floyd, but he also said nothing about the fundamental and underlying reasons for the unrest: systemic racism and inequality, a historic absence of respect, and a denial of justice. All of these factors are centuries old and deeply engrained in an American society that systematically delivers white privilege at the expense of people of color…


While there may be some very accomplished criminals on both sides of the riots, the truth is that they are minuscule in numbers. The vast majority of the people protesting in the streets are justifiably furious at the murder of George Floyd, but they’re even angrier over pervasive injustice, mass incarceration, frequent false arrests, and an institutionalized devaluation of black lives and property.


After condemning white supremacists, Allen added:

There is no precedent in modern U.S. history for a president to wield federal troops in a state or municipality over the objections of the respective governor. Right now, the last thing the country needs – and, frankly, the U.S. military needs – is the appearance of U.S. soldiers carrying out the president’s intent by descending on American citizens…


Allen also slammed Trump’s ill-advised photo-op in Lafayette Park, where fully equipped riot police and troops violently, and without provocation, set upon the peaceful demonstrators [who] had done nothing to warrant such an attack…

Perhaps sensing this moment as an opportunity for an easy victory after his appalling leadership failure in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, the president came down hard: hard on the governors and mayors he’d labeled as weak, the same ones he’d left to fend for themselves during the pandemic, and hard on the Americans in the streets against whom he is preparing to dispatch “thousands upon thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel, and law enforcement.”


The retired general reserved his strongest contempt for a vicious and feckless pretender:

The president stood in front of St. John’s, holding a Bible aloft, and expropriated the image of the church, the Holy Bible, and the Christian faith as the backdrop and basis for his words and deeds in dealing with this crisis.


Allen asked Americans to listen to Terrence Floyd’s advice from the scene of his brother’s murder. “Vote… Educate yourselves… There’s a lot of us.”

This could be the beginning of the change of American democracy not to illiberalism, but to enlightenment, Allen concluded. But it will have to come from the bottom up. For at the White House, there is no one home.





During a June 3 press conference in the Pentagon,  Defense Secretary Mark Esper refused to sign off on Trump’s threat to use active duty troops to “quickly solve the problem” and “dominate the streets.”


I do not support invoking the Insurrection Act that circumvents clear rules against the military's policing its fellow citizens,” Esper emphasized, as active duty troops assembled outside the D.C. city limits.


Top general joins Trump for photo flop



Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, regrets accompanying Trump across a violently-cleared Lafayette Square for a “biblical” photo op.

"I should not have been there," America’s top military chief now says. "My presence in that moment and in that environment created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics."


As Tyler Durden points out, Milley’s mutiny is the latest fissure in what the New York Times calls "the deepest civil-military divide since the Vietnam War.” 

Just days before Trump’s photo op revenge, he and his top general reportedly “got into a shouting match” over the commander in chief’s desire to put federal boots on the ground in cities burning across the USA. “I'm not doing that. That's for law enforcement, Gen. Milley maintained.

“Military leaders,” Durden adds, “are now positioning themselves firmly with those calling for change.”


During his June 11 announcement, the four-star general also publicly reiterated his opposition to his commander’s desire to deploy federal troops nationwide to quash weeks of protests and rioting.

Members of the military wearing U.S. Army Special Forces insignia block protesters near Lafayette Park and the White House on June 3, 2020

U.S. Army Special Forces block protesters near Lafayette Park on June 3, 2020



By then, more than 300 army veterans had signed an open letter by Veterans Against the War pledging that if activated, they would “stand down for Black lives.


Dozens more GIs are seeking legal advice as they weigh the moral dilemma of disobeying an unconstitutional orders or, in the words of Truthout’s Candice Bernd, “brutalizing their own communities.” Worried troops protest that they have received no training in riot control, de-escalation, or non-lethal weaponry, which can permanently disable and even kill at close range.


Veterans For Peace, Garett Reppenhagen -warriorwriters.org

“People who stay in need to very much think about what side of history they want to be on. They really need to sit down and think about what they’re willing to do for an oath that means trampling on their neighbors,” suggests Veterans for Peace Executive Director, Garett Reppenhagen. 

The former sniper and Army Cavalry scout adds that when an “armed occupation comes to any place in the world, it invites violent resistance against it because people don’t like to see an oppressive force in their community and will do almost anything to get rid of it because of the humiliation and the threat that it presents.”


Brittany DeBarros deployed in Kandahar

Brittany DeBarros is a captain in the US Army Reserve. Called up on two-week assignment in 2018, DeBarros began tweeting. Every day…

Dept. of ‘Defence’ is the largest oil consumer worldwide. The violence unleashed directly is horrific, but it also has massive spillover impacts.

When I was deploying to Afghanistan in 2012, I was shocked by how many ppl responded- Wait didn’t we leave Afghanistan?

In a June 23 speech in Washington, DC, at a Poor People’s Campaign rally, DeBarros said, I carry a grave conviction in my core that there can be no true economic, racial, gender liberation without addressing the militarism that is strangling the morality and empathy out of our society.

We begrudge the poor for the pennies we give them to eat and survive but cheer for the nearly $US600 billion annually we spend on defence. The military industrial complex is literally corporate greed weaponised.

Now fielding a GI hotline, About Face Organizing Director, DeBarros advises: “I can say from experience that the moral cost, the cost to your soul of following an order that you wish that you hadn’t, is far greater and far more sustained than whatever the military can do to you in the short run.”


“There’s a lot of capacity for moral trauma in this and for people to end up doing things that they couldn’t live with if they did do,” agrees Siri Margerin, a counselor with the GI Rights Hotline.

If you are an American in uniform, know your rights. 

GI RIGHTS HOTLINE: 1-877-447-4487


William Thomas served with an environmental emergency response team during the Eco War in Kuwait. 

photo by Michael Bailey, Earthtrust

Earthtrust in Kuwait -photo by William Thomas

Earthtrust sampling oil fire toxins -Will Thomas photo


I know these soldiers of conscience are right because during the Vietnam War, after I signed up to “defend my country” (and before the Pentagon Papers revealed the Gulf of Tonkin scam), this U.S. Navy officer-in-training found himself at the same crossroads. On the eve of reporting for flight training at Pensacola and fulfilling a lifelong dream, I realized that no matter how keenly I wanted to fly jets off carriers, there was no way I could napalm children and their families in a distant country who had never threatened my own.

Even though I grew increasingly conflicted as my anti-war organizing continued on the Marquette University campus, resigning my commission was the most difficult decision I ever made. A half-century later, I daily bless the best decision I ever made.


To all Americans in uniform, I say think again before putting yourself in a situation where, in perceived defense of your fellow soldiers, you may have to fire on your fellow-Americans. Or on any family in any land occupied by U.S. troops. If you have any remaining questions on whom and for what you are  serving, go online and look up the words of much-decorate Major General Smedley Butler USMC.

Don’t let your own awakening come too late.

William Thomas USNR (Resigned)

June 6, 2020

Alleged Insurgents killed by U.S. Marines during the assault on Fallujah lie on the ground Nov. 14, 2004, in Iraq. PHOTO- Getty

Killed by Mattis' Marines in Fallujah -Getty


Unfortunately for many families in Afghanistan and Iraq, this latest mutiny by “Mad Dog” Mattis is decades overdue. (Continue reading brief war accounts here.) 


Members of the U.S. armed forces can refuse to follow the orders of their commander-in-chief if those orders are contrary to their oath to uphold the Constitution, write two U.S. Naval Academy legal scholars. (This why I resigned my commission during the Vietnam War.)

     “Military members are not duty-bound to follow illegal orders,” write Marcus Hedahl and Bradley J. Strawser. “They are expected, and sometimes legally required, to refuse to obey them.”

     Trump’s reference to “my generals” may be premature. On June 2, Gen. Mark Milley, the highest-ranking uniformed officer in the U.S. military, issued a service-wide memo reminding troops of their oath, if an illegitimate president orders them to occupy U.S. cities.

National Guard ordered to leave DC

National Guard pulling out of DC

“RESIST MUCH, OBEY LITTLE”   发件人     William Thomas 2023