A Duty to Disobey All Unlawful Orders:

[Many articles have been written on the illegality and the immorality of

Bush’s plans to attack the people of Iraq. While many of these

articles are excellent, they are not usually directed at the people who

need to read them the most — the members of the armed forces of the United

States. If you find this information useful, please forward this

article to anyone you know in the military or to websites that they

would frequent or link to it here. I couldn’t find this online anywhere else, so I posted it despite its length. Thanks, Dennis, for forwarding it to me. ]

A Duty to Disobey All Unlawful Orders

By Lawrence Mosqueda, Ph.D., Evergreen State College, Olympia, WA 98505


As the United States government under George Bush gets closer to

attacking the people of Iraq, there are several things that the men and

women of the U.S. armed forces need to know and bear in mind as they are

given orders from the Bush administration. This information is provided

for the use of the members of the armed forces, their families, friends

and supporters, and all who are concerned about the current direction of

U.S. policy toward Iraq.

The military oath taken at the time of induction reads:

“I,____________, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and

defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies,

foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the

same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United

States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to

the regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me


The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) 809.ART.90 (20), makes it

clear that military personnel need to obey the “lawful command of his

superior officer,” 891.ART.91 (2), the “lawful order of a warrant

officer”, 892.ART.92 (1) the “lawful general order”, 892.ART.92 (2)

“lawful order”. In each case, military personnel have an obligation and

a duty to only obey Lawful orders and indeed have an obligation to

disobey Unlawful orders, including orders by the president that do not

comply with the UCMJ. The moral and legal obligation is to the U.S.

Constitution and not to those who would issue unlawful orders,

especially if those orders are in direct violation of the Constitution

and the UCMJ.

During the Iran-Contra hearings of 1987, Senator Daniel Inouye of

Hawaii, a decorated World War II veteran and hero, told Lt. Col. Oliver

North that North was breaking his oath when he blindly followed the

commands of Ronald Reagan. As Inouye stated, “The uniform code makes it

abundantly clear that it must be the Lawful orders of a superior

officer. In fact it says, ‘Members of the military have an obligation

to disobey unlawful orders.’ This principle was considered so important

that we-we, the government of the United States, proposed that it be

internationally applied in the Nuremberg trials.” (Bill Moyers, The

Secret Government
, Seven Locks Press; also in the PBS 1987 documentary,

The Secret Government: The Constitution in Crisis)

Senator Inouye was referring to the Nuremberg trials in the post WW II

era, when the U.S. tried Nazi war criminals and did not allow them to

use the reason or excuse that they were only “following orders” as a

defense for their war crimes which resulted in the deaths of millions of

innocent men, women, and children. “In 1953, the Department of Defense

adopted the principles of the Nuremberg Code as official policy” of the

United States. (Hasting Center Report, March-April 1991)

Over the past year there have been literally thousands of articles

written about the impact of the coming war with Iraq. Many are based on

politics and the wisdom of engaging in an international war against a

country that has not attacked the U.S. and the legality of engaging in

what Bush and Rumsfield call “preemptive war.” World opinion at the

highest levels, and among the general population, is that a U.S. first

strike on Iraq would be wrong, both politically and morally. There is

also considerable evidence that Bush’s plans are fundamentally illegal,

from both an international and domestic perspective. If the war is

indeed illegal, members of the armed forces have a legal and moral

obligation to resist illegal orders, according to their oath of


The evidence from an international perspective is overwhelming. The

United States Constitution makes treaties that are signed by the

government equivalent to the “law of the land” itself, Article VI, para.

2. Among the international laws and treaties that a U.S. pre-emptive

attack on Iraq may violate are:

  • The Hague Convention on Land Warfare of 1899, which was reaffirmed by

    the U.S. at the 1946 Nuremberg International Military Tribunals;

  • Resolution on the Non-Use of Nuclear Weapons and Prevention of Nuclear

    , adopted UN General Assembly, Dec 12, 1980;

  • Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide;

    December 9, 1948, Adopted by Resolution 260 (III) A of the UN General


  • Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in

    Time of War
    , Adopted on August 12, 1949 by the Diplomatic Conference for

    the Establishment of International Conventions for the Protection of

    Victims of War;

  • Convention on the Prohibition of Military or any Other Hostile Use of

    Environmental Modification Techniques
    , 1108 U.N.T.S. 151, Oct. 5, 1978;

  • The Charter of the United Nations;
  • The Nuremberg Principles, which define as a crime against peace,

    “planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression, or

    a war in violation of international treaties, agreements, or assurances,

    or participation in a common plan or conspiracy for accomplishment of

    any of the forgoing.” (For many of these treaties and others, see the

    Yale Avalon project at www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/imt/imt.htm. Also see

    a letter to Canadian soldiers sent by Hamilton Action for Social Change

    at http://www.hwcn.org/link/hasc/letter_cf.html)

As Hamilton Action for Social Change has noted,

“Under the Nuremberg

Principles, you have an obligation not to follow the orders of leaders

who are preparing crimes against peace and crimes against humanity. We

are all bound by what U.S. Chief Prosecutor Robert K. Jackson declared

in 1948: [T]he very essence of the [Nuremberg] Charter is that

individuals have intentional duties which transcend the national

obligations of obedience imposed by the individual state.” At the Tokyo

War Crimes trial, it was further declared “[A]nyone with knowledge of

illegal activity and an opportunity to do something about it is a

potential criminal under international law unless the person takes

affirmative measures to prevent commission of the crimes.”

The outcry about the coming war with Iraq is also overwhelming from

legal experts who have studied this in great detail.

By November of 2002, 315 law professors had signed a statement entitled

“A US War Against Iraq Will Violate US and International Law and Set a

Dangerous Precedent for Violence That Will Endanger the American

People.” (See the full statement at


Other legal organizations such as the Lawyers’ Committee on Nuclear

Policy and the Western States Legal Foundation have written more

extensive reports, such as that by Andrew Lichterman and John Burroughs

on “War is Not the Path to Peace; The United States, Iraq, and the Need

for Stronger International Legal Standards to Prevent War.” As the

report indicates “Aggressive war is one of the most serious

transgressions of international law.” In fact, at the Nuremberg trials,

the issue was not just individual or collective acts of atrocities or

brutal actions but the starting of an aggressive war itself. U.S.

Supreme Court Justice Robert L. Jackson stated,

“We must make clear to the Germans that the wrong for which their fallen

leaders are on trial is not that they lost the war, but that they

started it. And we must not allow ourselves to be drawn into a trial of

the causes of the war, for our position is that no grievances or

policies will justify resort to aggressive war. It is utterly renounced

and condemned as an instrument of policy.” (August 12, 1945, Department

of State Bulletin
. For a copy of the Lichterman and Burroughs report

see www.lcnp.org/global/IraqLetter.htm)

In another report written by the same authors and also by Michael

Ratner, President of the Center for Constitutional Rights, New York, and

Jules Lobel, Professor of Law at the University of Pittsburgh entitled

The United Nations Charter and the Use of Force Against Iraq, the

authors note that:

“Under the UN Charter, there are only two circumstances in which the use

of force is permissible: in collective or individual self-defense

against an actual or imminent armed attack: and when the Security

Council has directed or authorized use of force to maintain or restore

international peace and security. Neither of those circumstances now

exists. Absent one of them, U.S. use of force against Iraq is


The authors were specifically referring to Article 51 of the UN Charter

on the right to self-defense. Nothing that Iraq has done would call

that provision into effect. The report also states that:

“There is no basis in international law for dramatically expanding the

concept of self-defense, as advocated in the Bush Administration’s

September, 2002 “National Security Strategy” to authorize “preemptive” –

really preventive – strikes against states based on potential threats

arising from possession or development of chemical, biological, or

nuclear weapons and links to terrorism. Such an expansion would

destabilize the present system of UN Charter restraints on the use of

force. Further, there is no claim or publicly disclosed evidence that

Iraq is supplying weapons of mass destruction to terrorist.

The Bush administration’s reliance on the need for “regime change” in

Iraq as a basis for use of force is barred by Article 2(4) of the UN

Charter, which prohibits “the threat or use of force against the

territorial integrity or political independence of any state.” Thus the

rationales being given to the world, the American public, and the armed

forces are illegal on their face. (For a copy of this report see


It is important to note that none of the authors cited thus far or to be

cited have any support for Saddam Hussein or the Government of Iraq

whatsoever. They and others who do not support an illegal war in Iraq

believe that government of Saddam Hussein is corrupt, vile, and

contemptible. So is the leadership and governments of many of our

“allies,” such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan-governments that the United

States may very well attack within the next decade. It is important to

remember that Saddam Hussein was an important “ally” during the 1980s

and that many of the weapons that may be faced by our armed forces will

bear a “Made in the USA” label. The issue here is not the “evil’ of

Saddam Hussein, nor the international community doing nothing, but an

illegal march to war by the Bush administration.

Even former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, a very conservative

Republican from Texas, has warned that an “unprovoked attack against

Iraq would violate international law and undermine world support for

President Bush’s goal of ousting Saddam Hussein.” Armey explicitly

states “If we try to act against Saddam Hussein, as obnoxious as he is,

without proper provocation, we will not have the support of other nation

states who might do so. I don’t believe that America will justifiably

make an unprovoked attack on another nation. It would not be consistent

with what we have been as a nation or what we should be as a nation.”

(Chicago Tribune, August 9, 2002, available at


Other articles demonstrating the illegality of this war can be found at

http://deoxy.org/wc/wc-ilaw.htm and at


In addition to the violations of international laws, which have been

incorporated into U.S. law, the impending attack on Iraq is a direct

violation of national law as Bush claims that he has the authority to

decide whether the U.S. will go to war or not. The U.S. Constitution is

very explicit on this point. Only the Congress has the authority to

declare war, Article 1, section 8, Par. 11. Congress does not have the

right to give that power away, or to delegate that power to the

president or anyone else. The President as the “Commander in Chief”

(Article 2, section 2, Par. 1) can command the armed forces in times of

peace and war, but he does not have the authority to declare the war or

determine if that war is to occur, especially if he is engaged in

illegal conduct in violation of the Constitution itself or his oath of

office. The Constitution spells out very clearly the responsibility of

the President and his oath, “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will

faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and

will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the

Constitution of the United States.” (Article 2, section 2, Par. 8). The

President also has the primary duty to make sure “that the laws be

faithfully executed,” (Article 2, section 3).

The vaguely worded resolution passed by the Congress in October was both

illegal and an act of cowardice, as noted by Senator Robert Byrd of West

Virginia. Byrd’s remarks were made on the floor of the Senate on

October 3, 2002. In part he said:

“The resolution before us today is not only a product of haste; it is

also a product of presidential hubris. This resolution is breathtaking

in its scope. It redefines the nature of defense, and reinterprets the

Constitution to suit the will of the Executive Branch. It would give the

President blanket authority to launch a unilateral preemptive attack on

a sovereign nation that is perceived to be a threat to the United

States. This is an unprecedented and unfounded interpretation of the

President’s authority under the Constitution, not to mention the fact

that it stands the charter of the United Nations on its head.”

The full texts of his remarks are well worth reading, not only on the

illegality of the war but also the illegality of Congress in abandoning

its duty under the Constitution. (See the text at



The United States is a secular country with a great variety of

religions, which are adhered to by the majority of the people.

Political leaders who claim to speak in the name of God are rightfully

looked upon with suspicion, whether they are foreign leaders or the

president of the United States. This is especially true when the issues

are those of war and peace. Nevertheless, the U.S. often blends the

border on issues of Church and State, including in public oaths, such as

the oath which is taken at the time of induction. This author will not

claim to know the will of God, but it is valuable to examine what the

religious leaders of the country are saying about this war. Virtually

every major religion in the United States has come out against the Bush

plans for war. Again this is not because of any support for Saddam

Hussein, but rather the Bush plans do not meet any criteria for the

concept of “just war.” One would expect this from the religions that

are respected and pacifist, but it also true from those who have

supported past U.S. wars, and even have Chaplains in the service. Below

is a sample of the analysis of U.S. religious leaders:


We respectfully urge you to step back from the brink of war and help

lead the world to act together to fashion an effective global response

to Iraq’s threats that conforms with traditional moral limits on the use

of military force. US Conference of Catholic Bishops, Letter to

President Bush
, Sept. 13, 2002.


The question for us now must be: what is our role in the community of

nations? I believe we have the capacity within us to help lead our world

into the way of justness and peace. The freedoms we enjoy as citizens of

the United States oblige us to attend not only to our own welfare, but

to the well-being of the world around us. A superpower, especially one

that declares itself to be “under God,” must exercise the role of super

servant. Our nation has an opportunity to reflect the values and ideals

that we espouse by focusing upon issues of poverty, disease and despair,

not only within our own nation but throughout the global community of

which we are a part. The Presiding Bishop’s statement on military

action against Iraq
, September 6, 2002.


International cooperation is far, far better than unilateral action, and

the U.S. must explore all reasonable means of attaining such support.

Non-military action is always preferable to military action, and the

U.S. must fully explore all options to resolve the situation through

such means. If the effort to obtain international cooperation and

support through the United Nations fails, the U.S. must work with other

nations to obtain cooperation in any military action. Union of American

Hebrew Congregations, Executive Committee Decision on Unilateral Action

by the U.S. Against Iraq


While we are fully aware of the potential threat posed by the government

of Iraq and its leader, I believe it is wrong for the United States to

seek to over-throw the regime of Saddam Hussein with military action.

Morally, I oppose it because I know a war with Iraq will have great

consequences for the people of Iraq, who have already suffered through

years of war and economic sanctions. Further, I believe it is

detrimental to U.S. interests to take unilateral military action when

there is strong international support for weapons inspections, and when

most other governments oppose military action. I also believe that U.S.

military action at this time will further destabilize the region. I

call upon members of our congregations to be fervent in prayer, engaged

in conversation

with one another and with our leaders. In the final analysis, we must

stand unequivocally for peace. ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson’s

Statement on Iraq Situation, August 30, 2002.


United Methodists have a particular duty to speak out against an

unprovoked attack. President Bush and Vice-President Cheney are members

of our denomination. Our silence now could be interpreted as tacit

approval of war. Christ came to break old cycles of revenge and

violence. Too often, we have said we worship and follow Jesus but have

failed to change our ways. Jesus proved on the cross the failure of

state-sponsored revenge. It is inconceivable that Jesus Christ, our Lord

and Savior and the Prince of Peace, would support this proposed attack.

Secretary Jim Winkler of The United Methodist Church General Board of

Church and Society, August 30, 2002.


We urge Presbyterians to oppose a precipitate U.S. attack on Iraq and

the Bush administration’s new doctrine of pre-emptive military action.

We call upon President George W. Bush and other leaders to: Refrain

from language that seems to label certain individuals and nations as

“evil” and others as “good”; Oppose ethnic and religious

stereotyping, Guard against a unilateralism, rooted in our unique

position of political, economic and military power, that perpetuates the

perception that “might makes right”; Allow United Nations weapons

inspections in Iraq, without undue pressure or threats of pre-emptive,

unilateral action; and End the economic sanctions against Iraq, which

have been ineffectual but have done untold damage to the Iraqi people.

The General Assembly

Council and the staff leadership team of the Presbyterian Church (USA),

September 28, 2002.

United Church of Christ

With heavy hearts we hear once again the drumbeat of war against Iraq.

As leaders committed to God’s reign of justice and peace in the world

and to the just conduct of our nation, we firmly oppose this advance to

war. While Iraq’s weapons potential is uncertain, the death that would

be inflicted on all sides in a war is certain. Striking

against Iraq now will not serve to prevent terrorism or defend our

nation’s interests. We fear that war would only provoke greater regional

instability and lead to the mass destruction it is intended to prevent.

UCC leaders, September 13, 2002.


As Christians, we are concerned by the likely human costs of war with

Iraq, particularly for civilians. We are unconvinced that the gain for

humanity would be proportionate to the loss. Neither are we convinced

that it has been publicly demonstrated that all reasonable alternative

means of containing Iraq’s development of weapons of mass destruction

have been exhausted. We call upon our governments to pursue these

diplomatic means in active cooperation with the United Nations and to

stop the apparent rush to war. World Council of Churches, August 30,


For a fuller elaboration of these and other comments from religious

leaders, such as by the Mennonites, Quakers (Society of Friends),

Unitarian Universalist, and other ecumenical groups see www.ecapc.org.

Other religious and moral objections to Bush’s plans have been

articulated. In September of 2002, 100 Christian Ethicists from major

seminaries, divinity schools, and traditionally conservative religious

schools challenged the claim that preemptive war on Iraq would be

morally justified in a simply worded statement, “As Christian ethicists,

we share a common moral presumption against a pre-emptive war on Iraq by

the United States.” (See the Chronicle of Higher Education, September

23, 2002, at http://chronicle.com/daily/2002/09/2002092302n.htm.)

Religious resistance to Bush’s war plans can also be found in the

overwhelming vote of 228-14 by the U.S. Catholic Bishops against the war

at http://www.commondreams.org/headlines02/1114-03.htm and in the

unprecedented show of unity by Chicago’s top Christian, Jewish, and

Muslim leaders in the first public statement on any national issue of

the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago in opposing

Bush’s war. (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, December 1, 2002)

It is noteworthy that the Pope John Paul II has come out very strongly

against this war in unambiguous terms, “No to war!” The Pope said during

his annual address to scores of diplomatic emissaries to the Vatican, an

exhortation that referred in part to Iraq, a country he mentioned

twice. “War is not always inevitable. It is always a defeat for

humanity.” (NY Times, January 14, 2003). The Pope, a seasoned

diplomat, was not just making a moral statement about peace; he referred

to the legal codes discussed earlier in this article, “War is never just

another means that one can choose to employ for settling differences

between nations. As the Charter of the United Nations organization and

international law itself reminds us, war cannot be decided upon, even

when it is a matter of ensuring the common good, except as the very last

option and in accordance with very strict conditions, without ignoring

the consequences for the civilian population both during and after the

military operations.” (See Irish Examiner, 1/13/2003)

It is also important to restate that the head of Bush’s own church has

come out against this war. Jim Winkler, the general secretary of the

Board of Church and Society for the United Methodist Church has come out

very strongly against this war. President Bush has refused to meet

with Winkler.

“The Methodist Church, he (Winkler) says, is not pacifist, but ‘rejects

war as a usual means of national policy’. Methodist scriptural doctrine,

he added, specifies ‘war as a last resort, primarily a defensive thing.

And so far as I know, Saddam Hussein has not mobilized military forces

along the borders of the United States, nor along his own border to

invade a neighboring country, nor have any of these countries pleaded

for our assistance, nor does he have weapons of mass destruction

targeted at the United States’.” (See Observer/UK, October 20, 2002 at


Individual will have to make their own decisions about the “morality” of

the war but the consensus decision that has been developing among

religious leaders is that this war does not constitute a “just war” by

virtually anyone’s standards. The concept of “sin” is also a personal

decision but again those who study these issues from the Pope to

theologians to pastors to other religious leaders do not and cannot give

their approval to the illegal actions that the Bush administration are

going to impose on the world in general, and people of Iraq and the men

and women of the U.S. armed forces in particular.


The reasons for war are not supposed to be the purview of soldiers in

the field. They are just supposed to follow orders. But when a war is

so blatantly illegal soldiers need to have some background to make an

informed decision about how to conduct themselves. In a short space it

is not possible to delineate the full reasons, but it is not about the

dangers of Saddam Hussein. As indicated above, there are no credible

anti-war or peace advocates that advocate any positive statements about

Saddam Hussein or the Government of Iraq. The world, however, in

general, does not believe that the Bush administration has any solution

to the situation. In fact many believe that Bush, himself, is a

significant part of the problem.

Many people have pointed out that this war is about the oil. It is, but

it is much more than that. The United States does not need the oil to

survive but the people in the Bush administration want to expand the

hegemony that the United States government has had since the collapse of

the Soviet Union. This is not a critique of U.S. foreign policy, per

se, but a recognition of reality. This is essentially what Bush has

been saying in his public speeches at West Point, etc., and is very

explicitly saying in his National Security Strategy (NSS), available

at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/nsc/nssall.html, which he published in

September of 2002.

The NSS is the political articulation of what the main actors of the

Bush administration published in September 2000, before the elections,

before they took power, and before the fateful day of September 11,

2001. That project was called Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy,

Forces and Resources for a New Century
, A Report of The Project For the

New American Century, available at:

http://www.newamericancentury.org/publicationsreports. These documents

are essentially the blueprints for hegemony and for a word that has come

back into vogue —

Empire. These documents are publicly available, but not often read.

All Americans and all members of the armed forces should read them.

Many of the people quoted in this article have no doubt read them and

understand the policies basic illegalities, and thus the conclusion that

the war itself is domestically, internationally and morally


There are many critiques of the impact of these policies-which

articulate the reasons not to go to war. Some of the better ones can be

found at Global Policy at www.globalpolicy.org; Foreign Policy in Focus at

http://www.foreignpolicy-infocus.org/index.html, or the Education for

Peace in Iraq Center
at http://epic-usa.org. There are also several

other valuable research sites.

There are also many U.S. veteran groups that have seen the horrors of

war up close and do not want to have another generation of young

Americans suffer not only the war, but also the post traumatic stresses

that emerge after war, when they discover they have been lied to, have

participated in aggression, and then are abandoned by their government

after the wars. This war is particularly amenable to such, since there

is so much dissention, based on solid information that this war is not

only unnecessary but also illegal, and may be without a foreseeable


Charles Sheehan Miles, is a Gulf War veteran and former President of the

National Gulf War Resource Center (http://www.ngwrc.org). He also helped

to found the extraordinarily useful “Veterans for Common Sense”

(http://www.veteransforcommonsense.org/) which has a great deal of

information about the current situation. On January 16, 2003, he


“This war does nothing to protect American lives, but it will do

everything to destroy the lives of many thousands of Iraqis and

Americans. This war will not protect us from weapons of mass

destruction, but it will make it more likely Iraq will try to use them.

This war will not liberate the Iraqi people, but it will do everything

to ensure they receive a new master, one ruled by corporate profits and

oil to fuel more American consumption.

This war isn’t worth the life of one American soldier.”


The idea that those who oppose the Bush plans for war are against the

troops is a fundamental lie. Support for the troops is not done by

sending them off to a war which is fundamentally unnecessary-support is

keeping them home. Support for the troops is not done by lying to them

about the purpose and goals of the war and allowing those who will

benefit and profit a free ride on the backs of the troops. Support for

the troops is not done by making them complicit in an illegal and

immoral war-it is done by exposing the lies and giving the troops an

opportunity not to be complicit in war crimes.

A group of veterans of many different wars and eras has issued a

statement that has been distributed to active duty soldiers making some

of the points made in this article. Signers includes many well-known

veterans such as Vietnam veteran and author Ron Kovic (Born on the 4th

of July
), author and film producer Michael Moore (Bowling for

), and American historian Howard Zinn (A People’s History of

the United States
) and several hundred other veterans.

The statement Call to Conscience from Veterans to Active Duty Troops

and Reservists
reads in part:

“…. Many of us believed serving in the military was our duty, and our

job was to defend this country. Our experiences in the military caused

us to question much of what we were taught. Now we see our REAL duty is

to encourage you as members of the U.S. armed forces to find out what

you are being sent to fight and die for and what the consequences of

your actions will be for humanity. We call upon you, the active duty and

reservists, to follow your conscience and do the right thing.

In the last Gulf War, as troops, we were ordered to murder from a safe

distance. We destroyed much of Iraq from the air, killing hundreds of

thousands, including civilians. We remember the road to Basra — the

Highway of Death — where we were ordered to kill fleeing Iraqis. We

bulldozed trenches, burying people alive. The use of depleted uranium

weapons left the battlefields radioactive. Massive use of pesticides,

experimental drugs, burning chemical weapons depots and oil fires

combined to create a toxic cocktail affecting both the Iraqi people and

Gulf War veterans today. One in four Gulf War veterans is disabled….

If you choose to participate in the invasion of Iraq you will be part of

an occupying army. Do you know what it is like to look into the eyes of

a people that hate you to your core? You should think about what your

“mission” really is. You are being sent to invade and occupy a people

who, like you and me, are only trying to live their lives and raise

their kids. They pose no threat to the United States even though they

have a brutal dictator as their leader. Who is the U.S. to tell the

Iraqi people how to run their country when many in the U.S. don’t even

believe their own President was legally elected?…

There is no honor in murder. This war is murder by another name. When,

in an unjust war, an errant bomb dropped kills a mother and her child it

is not “collateral damage,” it is murder. When, in an unjust war, a

child dies of dysentery because a bomb damaged a sewage treatment plant,

it is not “destroying enemy infrastructure,” it is murder. When, in an

unjust war, a father dies of a heart attack because a bomb disrupted the

phone lines so he could not call an ambulance, it is not “neutralizing

command and control facilities,” it is murder. When, in an unjust war, a

thousand poor farmer conscripts die in a trench defending a town they

have lived in their whole lives, it is not victory, it is murder….

If the people of the world are ever to be free, there must come a time

when being a citizen of the world takes precedence over being the

soldier of a nation. Now is that time. When orders come to ship out,

your response will profoundly impact the lives of millions of people in

the Middle East and here at home. Your response will help set the course

of our future. You will have choices all along the way. Your commanders

want you to obey. We urge you to think. We urge you to make your choices

based on your conscience. If you choose to resist, we will support you

and stand with you because we have come to understand that our REAL duty

is to the people of the world and to our common future.”

(To see the full statement and view all the signatures see


The choices that those in the military and their supporters face are

hard ones. Let us begin with some undisputed options. Members of the

armed forces are sworn to protect the Constitution from all enemies,

foreign and domestic. They are also sworn to obey all LAWFUL orders and

have an affirmative duty to DISOBEY all UNLAWFUL orders.

The unelected president will not tell his troops or his commanders that

he is issuing unlawful orders. Few, if any, of the top commanders will

tell their troops that they are issuing unlawful orders. Those on the

front lines, those who fly the planes, those who target Cruise missiles

and other weapons of mass destruction need to make decisions. According

to International Law, Domestic Law, the Constitution, and various Moral

Codes it is not enough to say or believe that one is just “doing their

job” or just “following orders.” Decisions have to be made.

One should check out the sources of information presented in this

article, to see if International Law still applies to America, to see if

the Constitution still applies, to see if the Pope and other national

and international members of the clergy are right in their moral

objections to this war, to see if the legal arguments are valid against

the war or for the war. One should investigate if they are being lied

to by their unelected commander in chief. Members of the armed forces

have a sworn and sacred duty to uphold the law and the Constitution.

According to the laws, international, domestic, and moral, the

interpretation of whether orders are legal are not only the

responsibility of “superior officers,” but is needed each level of

command, and by those who execute those commands.

Please note that the information presented here is not meant to

encourage one to break the law, but rather to follow international,

domestic, and moral laws. The information here is not intended to

encourage one to break one’s oath but rather to be true to one’s duty

and conscience and make an informed decision.

If the decision is made that the orders to begin or continue the war are

illegal, then each bomb dropped will be a war crime, each bomb loaded

will be a war crime, each support effort will be aiding and abetting a

crime. Each death, especially that of a civilian, will be a war crime

(not collateral damage). If the war itself is a crime than all efforts

that aid in that effort are criminal. Given that over 50% of the people

of Iraq are children under the age of 16, this will be a war against

children and a crime against humanity.

The decision to obey one’s oath and not follow illegal orders is no

doubt a difficult one, and one that will probably result in punishment

from those who issue the illegal orders. One should not take this issue

lightly, just as one should not take the decision to follow an illegal

order lightly. There will no doubt be consequences for those who follow

their conscience. It is the duty of all who recognize the illegality of

the war to support all resisters. For examples on how hundreds of

thousands of GIs resisted the illegal war in Vietnam (by the U.S.

Governments own admission in the Pentagon Papers) read Howard Zinn’s A

People’s History of the United States,
Chapter 18. For a personal

account of a brave officer’s resistance in Vietnam and later, see

Witness to War by Charles Clement.

I am aware that many active duty personnel and reservist already have

grave doubts and reservations about the conduct of this war, just as do

significant numbers of veterans and the general public and citizenry.

Those who have severe doubts about the legality of what they are

“ordered” to do should talk to their comrades in arms, their spiritual

advisor (if they have one), and should contact one of the groups listed

below and weigh their options.

There may well be some safety in numbers. Albert Einstein, the genius

physicist, once stated that if 2% of the military refused to fight or

participate, the wars could not continue. Time is short. Or if you are

reading this after the hostilities have commenced, it is time to stop

the madness and war crimes.

At the end of this article there is contact information for

organizations that have historically assisted active duty personnel,

reservist, or veterans of conscience who desire specific legal,

political, or moral guidance in time of war. If possible, these would

be good organizations to contact. As the veterans’ “Call to Conscience”

statement notes “if you have questions or doubts about your role in the

military (for any reason) or in this war, help is available. Contact

one of the organizations listed below. They can discuss your situation

and concerns, give you information on your legal rights, and help you

sort out your possible choices.” These organizations are listed for

your information and are not responsible for the contents of this


Also listed below are sources of information that may be useful about

the current situation, in addition to the sources listed in the



BOOKS on foreign policy

  • By Noam Chomsky, especially Deterring Democracy, 9/11, Rogue States
  • Phyllis Bennis, Before and After: U.S. Foreign Policy and the September

    11 Crisis

  • Gilbert Achcar, The Clash of Barbarisms: September 11 and the Making of

    the New World Disorder

  • William Blum, Killing Hope

  • Dilip Hiro, Iraq, In the Eye of the Storm



(Some are religious, some political, some pacifist)