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After your additional comments and analysis, I’m even more concerned that the “Oath Department” at the Pentagon is asleep at the switch. If innocents like my old high school friend, you and I can detect these obvious incongruities, one wonders how we can trust the military to know whether the next drone target to kill is going to be a terrorist militant or a school marm. Obviously, we can’t! Our technological capabilities seem to be over-reaching our human ethics and intelligence capacity, and we are breeding the next generation of America-haters among the collateral damage.


From a friend: I’ve been doing too much proof-reading lately.

Actually, the two oaths are completely different. Officers indicate their rank in the first line, enlisted only their name. Then they are different again after the phrase “true faith and allegiance to the same”, with even more implications than you imputed, although I agree with your thoughts. Both swear to support and defend, but officers take the oath without reservation and will “well and faithfully discharge” their duties. Enlisted personnel have no such obligation. They only agree to obey orders. They can be shirkers, evaders, draftees, in short: cannon fodder. At least they both agree to do it with God’s help at the end.

The variance seems to me to imply a completely different world-view. The officer’s oath is about mind-set and belief and ability; there is no mention of following orders or even agreeing with them. The enlisted is about following orders, no thought desired. We could both go on at length about the implications of that.

I checked the military oaths for enlisted and commissioned members of the military (Google them), and found that they  have an important difference. I took both of these in the Army, as an enlisted Private and then as a commissioned officer, Second Lieutenant. I don’t see anywhere that one oath supersedes the other, nor are they additive, and in fact some people enter service as an officer, and therefore might not take the enlisted oath.
It is very interesting that the enlisted oath requires them to “obey the orders of the President of the United States and the officer’s appointed over me,” as well as follow the Constitution, while the officer’s oath has no mention of following the orders of the President of the United States or the officers appointed over them. This strikes me as a very odd and disturbing inconsistency. It can only be interpreted as meaning officers only have an obligation to “support and defend the Constitution,” and the interpretation of how to do so is left up to them individually.

I also note that each oath stipulates the obligation to protect “against all enemies, foreign or DOMESTIC.” In light of the current furor over new documents regulating decisions to make drone strikes that indicate the U.S. can kill suspected enemies, including U.S. citizens, without any legal evidence, but just the suspicion they are dangerous to the U.S. The presence of “domestic enemies” in the military oaths that have been around so long is interesting in light of these new documents, just revealed in the news media today.

These newly revealed documents only add to my increasing concern about the apparent vagueness and  weakening of judiciary standards and checks and balances in the decision-making and relationships between our elected civilian government, the intelligence community, the military and the judiciary. The greatest victim in all this may be the degree of public transparency necessary to the survival of this or any constitutional democracy.

January 2023

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