A number of United States military service members concerned about the possibility of being ordered by President Donald Trump to suppress uprisings in cities across the country are looking into ways they can personally abstain from such actions.
Dissent within the military was first detailed in reporting from Truthout senior editor/staff reporter Candice Bernd earlier this month.
An anonymous member of the National Guard explained to Bernd that responding to and acting against Americans taking part in uprisings went counter to what they had signed up for — especially when they themselves agreed with what was being protested against.
“I feel that I cannot be complicit in any way when I’ve seen so many examples of soldiers and police acting in bad faith,” the Guardsman told Truthout.
A separate anonymous Guardsman, who serves as a medic, expressed similar discomposure to Truthout.
“I can’t do it,” they said. “Even looking at my uniform is making me feel sick that I’m associated with this, especially after [the National Guard unit] shot that man who owned that barbecue shop [in Louisville, Kentucky].”
If service members do indeed attempt to conscientiously abstain from orders to march into U.S. cities, it’s unclear whether they would be charged with various offenses, including desertion, absent without leave (AWOL), and misconduct or receive other-than-honorable discharge.
Trump has promised to “deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem” of protest across the country in order to end demonstrations that have sprung up following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis more than two weeks ago.
On June 1, Trump explained his rationale.
“As we speak, I am dispatching thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel and law enforcement officers to stop the rioting, looting, vandalism, assaults and the wanton destruction of property,” Trump said.
Truthout’s reporting from earlier this month on dissenting service members was confirmed this week in separate reporting from New York Magazine, which also detailed how many in the armed forces are feeling conflicted over possibly being ordered to restore “order” against citizens of the United States.
Organizations that provide advice and information to soldiers on becoming conscientious objectors or dissidents while in service, speaking to that publication, confirmed they’ve been receiving an influx of calls from military service members in the wake of Trump’s promise.
“There are a lot of concerns, and there’s a lot of personal conflict and moral crisis that service members are experiencing right now,” Garett Reppenhagen, executive director of Veterans for Peace, said to New York Magazine. “In the last 15 years, we’ve seen our foreign conflicts escalating all over the world. But I don’t think that folks thought that the global war on terror would be fought here in our country against Americans.”
The GI Rights Hotline and About Face: Veterans Against the War also confirmed they had received messages from service members about refusing such orders from the president.
“Essentially, the events of the last week sort of catalyzed in me a realization in my heart that I cannot continue to engage in violence or be complicit in it,” one anonymous member of the National Guard told the publication.
Not everyone can pay for the news. But if you can, we need your support.
Truthout is widely read among people with lower incomes and among young people who are mired in debt. Our site is read at public libraries, among people without internet access of their own. People print out our articles and send them to family members in prison — we receive letters from behind bars regularly thanking us for our coverage. Our stories are emailed and shared around communities, sparking grassroots mobilization.
We’re committed to keeping all Truthout articles free and available to the public. But in order to do that, we need those who can afford to contribute to our work to do so.
We’ll never require you to give, but we can ask you from the bottom of our hearts: Will you donate what you can, so we can continue providing journalism in the service of justice and truth?