The Constitution, the First and Second Amendments and the Bill of Rights

The “average American” has the mistaken idea that the US Constitution is the document that gives us our rights. This is not surprising since “the average American” has probably never actually seen the Constitution and if they have, they don’t know what a constitution is. Yes, we have rights but they come from amendments to the Constitution, not from the Constitution itself.

The definition of a constitution is actually quite simple – it is “a body of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state or other organization is acknowledged to be governed.” It doesn’t matter whether the organization is a state, a club or a church, the definition is still the same. In the case of the US Constitution, it sets the principles under which the government of the United States, the Federal government, is supposed to operate. Originally, the rebel colonies established a government based on Articles of Confederation  which gave a central government the power to wage war against the British and conduct diplomacy with the rest of the world.  The Articles remained in effect after the British granted its former colonies their independence. (Although the Battle of Yorktown is touted as a British defeat with King George relinquishing his power over the colonies, it was actually the British Parliament who made the decision to discontinue financing of military operations in the colonies due to Britain’s wider war with France and Spain.) However, the Articles were seen as inadequate because (1) they gave the government of the United States no power to tax and (2) there was no judicial system to settle disputes between the states. A rebellion in Massachusetts had to be met by a private militia because the Articles made no provision for raising troops.  Consequently, former colonial leaders proposed a convention to consider the situation. The convention met in Philadelphia over the spring and summer of 1887.

Although the purpose of the Philadelphia Convention was to rewrite the Articles of Confederation to strengthen the existing government, some delegates, particularly James Madison of Virginia and Alexander Hamilton of New York with support from John Jay, also of New York, felt the existing government should be abolished and a new one established. They began referring to themselves as “federalists”, meaning they favored a stronger national government than the one that existed under the Articles of Confederation. Led primarily by Madison, the delegates produced the Constitution of the United States, which, upon ratification by the states, established a government consisting of three separate but equal bodies called branches, the legislative, executive and judicial. An article delineated the role of each branch. The Legislative Branch would consist of two bodies, a House of Representatives made up of representatives elected by the people of each state,  and a Senate made up of senators chosen by each state, usually by the legislature. The Executive Branch would be presided over by a president elected by electors chosen by the states with a vice-president, also chosen by electors.The Judicial Branch would include a Supreme Court made up of judges appointed by the president with the advice and consent of the Senate.

The proposed Constitution established a government, but it had to be ratified by the states. Opposition was strong. Virginian Patrick Henry had refused to attend the Philadelphia convention, stating that “I smell a rat in Philadelphia, tending toward monarchy.” Henry argued against ratification, as did many others, including Baptist preacher John Leland, who pastored in the district James Madison hoped to represent. It is an established fact that Leland played an instrumental part in convincing Madison of the need for a bill of rights, particularly a right of freedom from interference by the new national government, if and when it was established, in all matters related to religion. Patrick Henry saw to it that Madison would not be elected to the new senate and took steps to prevent his election to Congress. However, with the help of the Baptists in Orange County, his home county, after he promised to submit a Bill of Rights, Madison was elected to the 1st United States Congress.

James Madison went to the first Congress and submitted a bill guaranteeing nine rights – he proposed that the Constitution itself be changed – but the Congress came up with not ten but twelve amendments to be added to the original document, of which the amendment establishing religious freedom and freedom of speech and the press was third, not first. The first proposed amendment pertained to the establishment of proportion of representatives per population. It never passed. The second established that Congress would not pass any law pertaining to compensation to take place until after the next election. The 1st Congress did not pass it and it remained on the books until 1982 when a college student discovered it and began a campaign for ratification. It was ratified as the 27th Amendment on May 7, 1992.

The first item in Madison’s bill of amendment read – “The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience by in any manner, or on any pretext infringed.” They were followed by guarantees of freedom of speech, the press and assembly, and the right to petition for grievance. The next words were – “The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; a well armed, and well regulated militia being the best security of a free country: but no person religiously scrupulous of bearing arms, shall be compelled to render military service in person.”  His words were modified and became the First and Second Amendments to the US Constitution, and the foundation of what was called The Bill of Rights.

Madison’s first words were changed considerably to -“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” His second proposal was also changed – “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” In both instances, the changes made the two amendments more nebulous than Madison’s original words. In his original wording, Madison made clear that he was proposing complete freedom of religion in terms of civil rights. The change made the amendment pertain solely to Congress rather than to civil rights in general. This has led to considerable confusion and legal interpretations that stray from the amendment as written, but are in some respects more in line with Madison’s original wording.

It’s easy to understand why Madison’s proposed amendment regarding religious freedom was changed. At the time, all of the new states except Rhode Island and Virginia had an established church, a religious body sanctioned by the state and supported by levies placed on all of the state’s citizens. (The word “church” is misleading, it’s taken from a German word “kirche” which actually means a place of worship. The word translated as “church” in the English Bible is ekklesia, a Greek word meaning a called-out assembly.) By changing the wording and inserting “Congress,” the amendment would be more palatable to the residents of states with established churches. As it was, established religion continued in those states that had it with Congregationalist Connecticut being the last to abolish it in 1818. Such states continued to persecute members of other faiths – particularly Baptists – until the state churches were abolished.

In what became the Second Amendment, Madison made clear that the right to keep and bear arms pertained specifically to the people, then justified that right by connecting it to the militia, which at the time was considered to be the entire male population of the former colonies. (The word “militia” means “military service.”) Virginian George Mason defined the militia as “the whole people, except for a few public officials.” There can be no doubt that Madison and the Founders intended two things – (1) “The people” (not the state) should be free to keep and bear arms and (2) they saw an armed population as the basis for a free society. After all, they were meeting in 1787, only three years after the conclusion of a successful revolt against that some colonists believed to be tyranny in which militia had played a major role. Madison was inspired by the Virginia Declaration of Rights, written by George Mason, which said – “That a well-regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defense of a free state; that standing armies, in time of peace, should be avoided as dangerous to liberty; and that in all cases the military should be under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power.” Mason’s declaration applied to Virginia but Madison’s applied to the new United States as a whole. There can be no doubt that the Second Amendment, as proposed and written, applies to the individual, not the state.

The “militia” is misunderstood today to apply to what is known as the National Guard. However, the National Guard is actually a reserve element of the national United States Army and Air Force. No such organization existed prior to 1903 when the Dick Act nationalized the state militia organizations, some of which had taken to calling themselves “the National Guard” although no such title had been recognized by the United States. The Dick Act essentially made the National Guard a part of the United States Army. In 1933 Congress decreed that any man who enlisted in a National Guard unit was also enlisting in the Army reserve. In short, the “militia” referred to in the Second Amendment is not the present-day National Guard and Air National Guard.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump caused a furor when he commented while talking about how his opponent, Hillary Clinton, seeks to do away with the individual right to keep and bear arms, that “I don’t know, Second Amendment people might be able to stop her.” Members of the media jumped on their Smart Phones and Tablets to pound out stories about how Trump was advocating that someone assassinate Hillary Clinton. Trump supporters said he was advocating that people vote for him. In fact, Trump was referring to the political power of those of us who support the Constitution and its amendments in their entirety and how we have the power to block any nominations threatening it. The Constitution is the foundation of our nation and an armed citizenry is the most effective means of protecting it.

 

The Military, Heroism and “Gold Star Families”

 

DFC                                    AirMedal

The current flap over Pakistani immigrant Khizr Khan’s appearance at the Democratic convention prompted me to write about something that’s been bugging me for a long time. There seems to be a belief that anyone who serves in the military is a hero, particularly those who’ve died, and some seem to think that family members of military members and of those who died while in military service are somehow deserving, although deserving of what I’m not sure.

In the summer of 1963 my dad signed a document granting permission for me to enlist in the United States Air Force. He – or my mother – had to sign it because my birthday is late in the year and I was still seventeen when I graduated from high school a few weeks before. Air Force regulations required that although seventeen-year olds could enlist, they had to have parental permission. My dad had been in the Army Air Corps during World War II – his brother had also and had remained in service for twenty years – and he had mixed emotions about my plans to join the Air Force. He would have preferred that I stay home and farm, or perhaps go to college. I had been accepted at several colleges but didn’t know where the money was going to come from. I would also be subject to the draft once I turned eighteen and as a single teenager, would have been prime meat. So, daddy signed. (I heard later that my maternal grandmother accused him of “signing Sam’s life away.” No one ever told me until after she was dead.) A few months later I turned 18 but by that time I was already in the Air Force and in the final weeks of training to become a jet aircraft mechanic.

When my dad signed the papers for me to join the Air Force, the United States was not at war, at least not officially. Yes, we had military personnel in some Asian country called Vietnam few Americans were even aware of it. I wasn’t expecting to go to war myself and certainly wasn’t expecting to see combat, although I wouldn’t have minded. As it turned out, I spent 12 years in the Air Force with a good chunk of it in Vietnam where I saw war up close and personal. However, it was MY service and my family didn’t have a damn thing to do with it. I collected quite a few medals and decorations during those 12 years but just because I’m a decorated combat veteran doesn’t make me a hero. Had I died, it would have been my death, not theirs, and while they would have grieved over me, they were deserving of a no particular status other than that of a family that had lost a son. It wouldn’t have mattered if I’d died wrapping my car around a tree, I’d have been dead just the same as if I’d been shot down on a mission over North Vietnam. Maybe my mother would have joined Gold Star Mothers but somehow I doubt it since she never joined the DAR even though she had ancestors who fought in the American Revolution. No member of my family has ever joined the DAR, the DOC, SAR or SOC. I’m a member of three veterans organizations, one which I had a role in founding, another I was coerced into joining and the DAV, which I joined because I’m a disabled veteran and I thought they’d be of help dealing with the VA (I was wrong, they’re not.)

In recent years – mainly since Reagan – an idea has developed that anyone who’s ever served in the military is some kind of hero. People like to greet veterans with “thank your for your service” or, if a veteran “welcome home.” Now, I don’t care for such bullshit. I do sometimes wear caps, one that says “C-130 Hercules Vietnam” and one with an emblem of the Distinguished Flying Cross on it but I don’t wear them to get recognition. I only wear them in hopes of attracting the attention of a fellow C-130 veteran so I can tell them about the organization I helped found. I don’t want anyone to thank me for my service because I didn’t do it for them and I don’t need to be welcomed home. I don’t want anyone to think me a hero because I’m not, even if I did fly some 1,500 combat sorties. My dad flew 30 missions over Germany and Occupied Europe during World War II and he didn’t think of himself as any kind of hero. He put his DFC and Air Medal lapel pins in the lapel of his suit but he hardly ever wore a suit. The fact is that just being in the military -and even being in combat – doesn’t make a person a hero, not even if they die while in service. To be a hero, a person has to do something heroic.

The modern perception of military service seems to be shaped largely on the service of the men who served during the period from World War II to Vietnam when military service was to a large extent compulsory, as it was in World War I and the Civil War. Young men were forced to serve in the military against their will, and their service was seen as sacrificial, particularly by politicians eager to get their vote after they returned to civilian life. But military service hasn’t been compulsory in the United States since early 1973 when the Department of Defense announced that there was no longer a need to draft men for military service. (The end of the draft came as the United States withdrew the last military personnel from South Vietnam.) Since that time, all men and women who have served or are serving in the military are there of their own free will. They are making no sacrifice as their fathers and grandfathers did who were drafted into interrupting their lives for a period of military service. They are compensated with a pay check, a pay check that is substantial for men and women in the modern military and often in excess of what they would likely be making in civilian life. This is true even of the lowest ranking enlisted men and women. Those who elect to stay in the military for a 20-year career draw 50% of their base pay; those who stay longer draw a higher percentage all the way up to 75%, which can amount to a considerable sum for senior officers and enlisted men and women.

Contrary to popular belief by those who’ve never served, military service isn’t particularly hard. New recruits must complete a period of basic training which consists primarily of physical conditioning and military training in regulations and such disciplinary skills as learning to march in formation and small arms training. Upon completion of basic training, a new recruit is sent on to additional training that may involve additional military training if they’re assigned to the infantry but may be classroom and practical training to learn a particular technical skill. Such courses consist of as little as a few weeks from some skills to as much as two years for skills such as nuclear reactor operators. Some new officers are sent to special courses such as military pilot training or submarine officer training. Once a young man or woman has completed their training, they are assigned to an operational unit, which may be a combat unit but could also be support. If they are assigned to a combat unit, they can expect to spend their time in continued training since combat units aren’t engaged unless they are actually in a combat zone. Military training in itself can be dangerous and hundreds of young men and women die each year in accidents, both while on duty and in vehicle accidents when off duty. In fact, accidental military deaths have exceeded deaths from hostile actions in many years since the beginning of the so-called “War on Terror” after the 9/11 attacks. This was true in the years 2002 and 2003 and has been true since 2008. In fact, in the years from 1980 to 1989, accidental deaths in the military exceeded 1,000 a year; the most hostile deaths in a year since 2002 is 847 in 2007. My point is that a military member is more likely to die due to accident than from hostile action. Military Deaths by Year, which brings me to my next point.

Just because a person serves in the military – or dies while on active duty – does not make them heroic. There have been men who truly were heroic in the military, starting with Sgt. Alvin C. York in World War I and continuing through such men as Lt. Audie Murphy, Major Edwin Dyess and Colonel Paul I. “Pappy” Gunn, but such men usually became heroes because of desperation. York decided to take matters in his own hands when he saw his buddies being mowed down by German machine guns, Murphy defended his men against a German attack, Dyess carried out attacks on Japanese ships in Subic Bay in one of the few remaining Air Corps fighters left in the Philippines and Gunn waged an essentially one-man war against the Japanese to free his family from captivity in Manila. Since then, military heroes tend to have been men who performed “selfless” acts such as jumping on hand grenades, acts that might be more correctly identified as thoughtless since they happened so quickly the individual didn’t have time to consider the ramifications of his actions.

In truth, much of what is hailed as heroism is merely a military member doing the job they were trained to do, whatever it may be. Some medals – the Bronze Star in particular – are often awarded as commendations for routine performance of one’s administrative duties. In fact, the Bronze Star was originally authorized as a counterpart to the Air Medal, which was authorized in 1942 to recognize the role of airmen flying combat missions – often against great odds – at a time when ground forces had yet to enter combat. A colonel felt that infantrymen, in particular, should be awarded some kind of decoration to recognize that they had been in combat. No particular act of valor was required for award of the medal – any soldier who had qualified for the combat infantryman’s badge was eligible – and the award was also approved for administrative actions, such as maintaining files in an orderly room.  The Bronze Star It and the Air Medal were equal in prestige – until 1985 when military politics led to the elevation of the Purple Heart from a low-level award to prominence above the Meritorious Service Medal and dropped the Air Medal to the lowest precedence of any combat award and below the level of the MSM, which is only awarded for non-combat  service. (By doing so, the DOD robbed hundreds of Army Air Corps and pre-1985 USAF airmen of the recognition they so richly deserved for their meritorious service in aerial flight.)

Military medals are a story in themselves. Prior to the Civil War, there were no medals and even then, the Confederacy did not recognize its heroes with medals. The Medal of Honor was authorized during the war and was often awarded for such mediocre actions as reenlisting. (Hundreds of Medals of Honor were taken away when the criteria for the medal was changed in the early Twentieth Century.) The Distinguished Service Cross and Silver Star were authorized just before World War I and the Purple Heart was authorized in 1932 for presentation primarily to men who had been wounded. The Distinguished Flying Cross was authorized in 1926; it was awarded to civilians such as the Wright Brothers and Amelia Earhart. The Air Medal and Bronze Star came along during World War II, along with the Legion of Merit, which is essentially an award for high-ranking officers. Since Vietnam, a veritable library of new awards have been authorized, to the point that it seems that the modern military man and woman gets medals just for showing up for chow! In short, most military medals today are meaningless.

This brings us to “gold star families,” a term little heard of before a Pakistani immigrant named Khizer Khan made a speech at the Democratic Convention. To begin with, there is no such thing as a “gold star family.” It’s a term that the Army has on its web site to refer to families of military members who lost their lives on active duty. However, there’s no official organization or recognition of such families even though the military was authorized to present lapel buttons to family members – parents, spouses, children, step-children, brother and sisters – of those who die while  on active duty starting in 1947. The lapel button carries no significance and no benefits to those to whom it is presented except recognition. It’s something for family members to have to remember their family member, the same as the flags used to drape coffins and which are then presented to the family, usually to either the wife or mother of the deceased. The design is different for those who died in a combat theater, regardless of the cause of death. There is no organization and they have no official standing.

There is, however, a formal organization for Gold Star Mothers, women whose son or daughter has died while on active military service. Gold Star Mothers was formally organized in 1928 when the mother of a US Army Air Services pilot who died during the war decided to start an organization for mothers of men who had died while in military service. They got their name from the gold-starred flags family members displayed in their windows during the recent war – families with men in uniform displayed a flag with a blue star and those whose sons were lost displayed gold stars. The blue and gold starred flags became prominent during World War II but they died out after the Korean War. They were not popular during the Vietnam War – in fact, they were hardly ever mentioned. They were resurrected in the 1990s and began attracting some attention from the media – and politicians. In September, 2012 Barrack Obama proclaimed the last day of September as “Gold Star Mothers and Families Day.” However, the memo must have got lost because no one seems to know anything about it.

Families of men and women who die while on active duty have recognition, but not status or standing, as members of the media proclaimed that Khizer Khan and his wife have. The Khans claimed they have made some kind of sacrifice because their son died in Iraq. In fact, they have made no sacrifice at all and whether their son’s death was a sacrifice is debatable. Captain Khan’s commander, Maj. General Dana Pittardi, (Gen. Pittard was Bill Clinton’s military aide 1996-1999), wrote a piece for the Washington Post but was very vague as to how the officer died. He says only that he was killed by a suicide bomber and that he “may” have been trying to prevent the death or injury of innocent Iraqis. The captain was awarded a Purple Heart, which is awarded to all military personnel who die as a result of enemy action, and a Bronze Star, which is basically a glorified commendation medal. If his actions had been seen as “heroic,” he would have been awarded at least a Silver Star and possibly a Distinguished Service Cross. In the Khan’s minds, their son died a hero but in reality he was the victim of a bomb. Regardless, their son’s death reflects solely on him, not on them.

Military valor reflects solely on the individual, not corporately on their family, regardless of how close. My actions while in the military reflect solely on me and if I’d died, while my family would have suffered loss, they would have made no sacrifice. Neither would I if my son’s submarine had gone to the bottom of the China Sea while they were playing cat and mouse with the Chinese navy. Several of my ancestors served in the Revolutionary War but I have never been a member of the Sons of the Revolution and no one in my family has ever joined the DAR (except my great-aunt.) At least two of my ancestors were Confederate soldiers but I’ve never joined the Sons of Confederate Veterans – and never will. My valor is my own and no one else’s. Similarly, while I’m proud of my father for flying 30 missions in B-24s over Europe, his service is no reflection on me, nor was it a reflection on his parents, brothers and sisters.

What I’m saying is that military service and any recognition for it only applies to the one who serves, not their mother, father, spouse, brother, sister, children, grandchildren or anyone else.

 

 

 

 

 

Khizr Khan and His Disgraceful Speech (The Khan Game)

Since I put this up, Khan has deleted his web site. It’s obvious he – and the Clinton campaign – want to hide that he’s an immigration lawyer who represents Muslims desiring to immigrate to the US.

By now, many Americans have heard of the speech Pakistani immigrant Khizr Khan made at the Democratic Convention on Thursday night. Khan got up and waved a pocket version of the Constitution around and claimed Donald Trump has never read it. In doing so, Khan made a huge mistake – the Constitution has nothing in it about immigration. Khan and his wife were invited to speak at the DNC for one reason and one reason only – because their son, a US Army captain, was killed in Afghanistan by a suicide bomber 12 years ago in 2004. This is supposed to give him and his wife “standing” to comment about Trump’s position on vetting Muslim immigrants.

As it turns out, Khan is a Pakistani lawyer who studied at Punjab University in Punjab, then immigrated to the United Arab Emirates then immigrated from there to the United States where he continued his legal studies at – Harvard. He now represents potential Muslim immigrants. KM Kahn Law. He is closely connected to organizations that have contributed to the Clinton Foundation. He took a swipe at Trump and Trump swiped back – then the media took after Trump and distorted everything all out of proportion while making Khan and his wife the flavor of the day.

Khan and his wife’s appearance at the convention is disgraceful because they are politicizing their son’s death for the Clinton campaign. Their son, an Army captain, died on June 8, 2004 when an explosives-laden taxi blew up at the gate of the compound in Iraq where Captain Khan’s unit was responsible for security. Although the young officer is being hailed as a “hero,” in truth he was more of a victim. It is claimed that he told the troops manning the checkpoint to hit the dirt then walked toward the oncoming taxi but that claim seems to have come from his father, or possibly from his posthumous Bronze Star citation. It really doesn’t matter – what matters is that he died. His death has only attracted attention because he was one of a thimbleful of Muslims who have served in the US military – less than 1/100th of a percentage of the military as a whole – and a miniscule number who have died in military service since 9/11 – 14 out of some 6,000 total deaths. (The term “Muslim” includes members of the Nation of Islam, a sect made up of blacks who claim to be Muslim that originated in the United States.) The sole reason they were invited to speak was because of their son and the intent of their appearance is to politicize his death and attack GOP candidate Donald Trump for his call for restrictions on Muslim immigration in view of the threat from Islamic militants worldwide.

Khan is not a recent immigrant and although his son was born in the UAE, he came to the US at age three and grew up here. The Khan family came to the United States in 1980 – 36 years ago. At the time they came here, the Soviet-Afghan War had just started, Ronald Reagan had yet to become president, Ossama Bin Laden had yet to be heard from and the Taliban was still merely an organization of ruling clerics. By the time of the 9/11 attacks, the Khans had been in the US for over 20 years. Other than the elder Khan being a Muslim immigration lawyer, their immigration has little relevance to the current immigration situation. The Clinton campaign dug them up because they couldn’t find any recent Muslim immigrants who had lost a son or daughter in the military.

In his speech, Khan made reference to Arlington Cemetery where his son is buried, calling on Donald Trump to visit it. Now, I have been to Arlington numerous times, most recently in 2010. Arlington is not the final resting place of American war dead as many believe. Although there are war dead buried there – mostly Union soldiers from the Civil War – most American war dead are returned to their homes to be buried locally. Captain Khan’s interment was only the 66th of the Iraq War. The graves in Arlington – and other veterans cemeteries around the nation – are of just that, veterans. If you look at the headstones at Arlington, you’ll see that most are of old men, many are retired generals and colonels, who lived long lives and were buried there in a place of honor. In fact, current burial regulations restrict burials to men and women who were either active duty or retired from the military at the time of their death and certain veterans – Arlington Burial Eligibility. Khan’s implication that Arlington shows “sacrifice” is way offbase.

Khan waved a copy of the Constitution dramatically and accused Trump of having never read it, and apparently implying that it somehow grants rights to Muslims to immigrate to the United States. In fact, the Constitution does no so such thing. The Constitution of the United States is the document under which the US government is required to operate but the only mention in it of immigration is a prohibition of Congress making any regulations pertaining to immigration until 1808. US Constitution. Immigration is governed by Federal law, specificially the Immigration Act of 1965. Prior to the implementation of the Act, immigration was based on quotas for immigrants of specific national origin.

Khan may be implying that the Bill of Rights, specifically the First Amendment, somehow prohibits restriction on immigration based on a specific religion. However, such is not the case. The First Amendment religion clause does two things: 1. Prohibits Congress from passing laws establishing a state church and 2. guarantees the right for adherents of a particular religious body to exercise their beliefs. The First Amendment came about because of the efforts of Virginia Baptists, led by John Leland, a minister in James Madison’s home county, to  convince the new Congress not to establish any kind of national state church. As it was, except for Rhode Island, each state had an established church and sentiment was to allow four religious bodies – Anglicans, Congregationalists, Presbyterians and Baptists, in the new country. John Leland and the Baptists said no – make religious exercise completely free of state interference. Leland was running for Congress against Madison until the latter agreed to make guarantees of religious freedom his first priority. Even so, the states continued to have established churches into the 1800s, with Connecticut being the last to abolish its state church (Congregationalist.) The First Amendment makes no guarantees of a right for adherents to any particular religion to immigrate to the United States. In fact, the First Amendment – and the other amendments, make no guarantees of rights to foreigners of any kind at all. Even the Fourteenth Amendment only applies to those born or naturalized as citizens.

The Khans are representing themselves of grieving parents of a son who died 12 years ago. It so happens that I am the parent of a son who died 13 years ago but I accepted his death and put it behind me years ago. No, the Khans are not grieving parents – they’re Clinton supporters who are using their son’s death for political purposes. They’ve disgraced him and themselves in order to make political points.

 

 

Donald Trump and John McCain

Code of Conduct

I. I am an American fighting man. I serve in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense.

II. I will never surrender of my own free will. If in command I will never surrender my men while they still have the means to resist.

III. If I am captured I will continue to resist by all means available. I will make every effort to escape and aid others to escape. I will accept neither parole nor special favors from the enemy.

IV. If I become a prisoner of war, I will keep faith with my fellow prisoners. I will give no information or take part in any action which might be harmful to my comrades. If I am senior, I will take command. If not, I will obey the lawful orders of those appointed over me and will back them up in every way.

V. When questioned, should I become a prisoner of war, I am bound to give only name, rank, service number and date of birth. I will evade answering further questions to the utmost of my ability. I will make no oral or written statements disloyal to my country and its allies or harmful to their cause.

VI. I will never forget that I am an American fighting man, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which made my country free. I will trust in my God and in the United States of America.

The above is what is known in the US military as the Code of Conduct. It was developed after the Korean War due to the sometimes despicable behavior of US troops who surrendered even though they still had the means to resist and who in some respects collaborated with their communist captors by making statements beneficial to their cause. The code has been changed somewhat in recent years due to the opening up of combat roles to women and the likelihood of women being placed in situations where they are subject to surrender and capture. These words were drilled into the head of young recruits and were required to be committed to memory. Furthermore, each soldier, sailor and airman was issued a small wallet-sized card with the words of that code printed on it. A young Donald Trump learned that code when he was a student at the New York Military Academy as a teenager. So did John McCain when he was a midshipman at the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland. I learned that code when I was in US Air Force basic training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas in the summer of 1963.

I suppose the young men who were required to learn this code came away with their own impressions but mine was – under no circumstances, don’t be captured! And, if you are, don’t tell them anything. I had the same message drilled into me again at the US Air Force aircrew survival school at Fairchild AFB, Washington in 1969. Once again, I came away with the message – don’t get captured. It is because of that code that I understood what Donald Trump meant when he said Senator John McCain is no hero because he was a POW.

In fact, prior to the latter part of the Vietnam War when great emphasis was placed on the POWs, men who were captured were not considered to be heroes – unless they escaped. No medals were awarded for conduct while under control of the enemy, which is what it means to be a prisoner of war. The Medal of Honor could not be awarded to a man for anything that took place while he was under enemy control. (That policy was changed by the Nixon Administration.) The Vietnam prisoners of war were no longer part of the war; they were being held in cells in North Vietnam or in jungle camps in South Vietnam and were under the complete control of the North Vietnamese or Viet Cong. They had no means to resist and were unable to attempt heroic actions. Yes, they were beaten and subjected to horrific actions upon their person – because they no longer had the means to resist. Still, they were making no contribution to the conduct of the war whatsoever and all they knew about it was what they heard from the more recently captured prisoners.

Now, John McCain became a prisoner of the North Vietnamese because he surrendered to them. Yes, he had suffered injury when he ejected from his A-4 fighter but he still had his .38 pistol and could have pulled it our and fought to the death as Arizonan Lt.. Frank Luke did in 1918. Like was awarded the Medal of Honor because he was a true hero, and his heroism was recognized by the German soldiers who captured him after he had killed several of their number with his .45 pistol. Luke did not surrender, John McCain did. There is Vietnamese video of his capture and it shows that in spite of his injuries, he was in relatively good shape.

Once a soldier, sailor or airman surrenders, they are no longer fighting men (and women, in today’s military) no more than the prisoners at Guantanamo are. They are prisoners of the enemy. Some of the Vietnam POWs performed heroic acts prior to their capture and a few managed to escape. Navy pilot Dieter Dengler escaped from his Laotian captors and managed to survive in the bush until he was finally spotted by a friendly pilot who basically ordered a rescue team to check on him. Dengler was a true hero. As for the other POWs, they endured a lot at times, although by their own account, they were being treated generally well during the months prior to their release. But, they surrendered, and that is what Donald Trump meant when he said John McCain is not a hero because he was a POW.

Incidentally, despite Trump’s criticism, McCain is supporting him for president.