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Orders To Kill

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posted on Oct, 23 2015 @ 06:50 AM
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If you were a soldier given a command to kill by a military officer, do you have to?

.. This was the question that came to my mind as I have seen many commercials on TV lately, for recruitment into the National Guard.


I came across a really great article regarding this:

Military Orders To Obey or Not to Obey?
By US Military Expert, Rod Powers

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It turns out if given a 'lawful' order - you must obey. In fact during times of war, you can be sentenced to death for disobeying a superior officer.


In fact, under Article 90, during times of war, a military member who willfully disobeys a superior commissioned officer can be sentenced to death.



Seems like pretty good motivation to obey any order you're given, right? Nope. These articles require the obedience of LAWFUL orders. An order which is unlawful not only does not need to be obeyed, but obeying such an order can result in criminal prosecution of the one who obeys it. Military courts have long held that military members are accountable for their actions even while following orders -- if the order was illegal.



"I was only following orders," has been unsuccessfully used as a legal defense in hundreds of cases (probably most notably by Nazi leaders at the Nuremberg tribunals following World War II). The defense didn't work for them, nor has it worked in hundreds of cases since.



The Vietnam War presented the United States military courts with more cases of the "I was only following orders" defense than any previous conflict. The decisions during 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 after he obeyed in 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."



Probably the most famous case of the "I was only following orders" defense was the court-martial (and conviction for premeditated murder) of First Lieutenant William Calley for his part in the My Lai Massacre on March 16, 1968. The military court rejected Calley's argument of obeying the order of his superiors. On March 29, 1971, Calley was sentenced to life in prison. Probably the most famous case of the "I was only following orders" defense was the court-martial (and conviction for premeditated murder) of First Lieutenant William Calley for his part in the My Lai Massacre on March 16, 1968. The military court rejected Calley's argument of obeying the order of his superiors. On March 29, 1971, Calley was sentenced to life in prison.


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The Mỹ Lai Massacre (Vietnamese: thảm sát Mỹ Lai) was the Vietnam War mass killing of between 347 and 504 unarmed civilians in South Vietnam on March 16, 1968. It was committed by U.S. Army soldiers from the Company C of the 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, ... Victims included men, women, children, and infants. Some of the women were gang-raped and their bodies mutilated. Twenty-six soldiers were charged with criminal offenses..

My Lai Massacre




edit on 23-10-2015 by nOraKat because: (no reason given)




posted on Oct, 23 2015 @ 07:55 AM
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a reply to: nOraKat

I guess the theory is you sign up to the forces, you know what you are going to do... The senior officer has the greater knowledge therefore the senior officer must be obeyed. No time for reasoning on the battlefield.



posted on Oct, 23 2015 @ 08:30 AM
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a reply to: and14263

That's the theory huh? According to whom?

A reasonable person of average intelligence is probably going to wonder why they were told "go shoot that elderly woman in the dome" and how it helps the mission.

I know it's cool to paint members of the military, especially trigger pullers, as borderline retards. Inaccurate, but cool. Oh well.



posted on Oct, 23 2015 @ 11:32 AM
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a reply to: nOraKat

If you notice in these cases, where is the court martial for the superior officer for giving the order to begin with? In warfare, while in the midst of battle,refusing an order can get you killed right on the spot. It has happened. So you obey the order and then get court martial and still nothing happens to your superior for having given the order to begin with. Its a neat way to pass the buck on to the hapless soldiers.



posted on Oct, 24 2015 @ 10:19 AM
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a reply to: Shamrock6

Not my theory but what I assume is the approach taken by authority in the cases quoted in the OP

edit on 24-10-2015 by and14263 because: (no reason given)



posted on Oct, 24 2015 @ 10:51 AM
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Any order that violates the UCMJ *Uniform Code of Military Justice", ROEs (Rules Of Engagement), or violates any part of the Geneva Convention is considered UNLAWFUL.

Any military personnel executing unlawful orders can be convicted of doing so in a military court.

The "I was only following orders." defense will not work, as the military person is suppose to know if their orders are lawful or not (IE killing unarmed civilians as opposed to armed combatants, and yes, a little old lady armed with a butcher knife can be considered a combatant).

The defense of "I had to follow the order, even though I knew it was unlawful, because I feared for my life." will also not fly with a military court. They expect you to eat a bullet rather than follow unlawful order. You stand a better chance with a court martial if you have witnesses of your superior giving that unlawful order, and threatening to shoot you, and instead, neutralize that superior, as it can be shown that they were trying to make you follow an unlawful order later.

I know, sounds unfair, but that's the reality of it.



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