WHY LETTERS TO THE COMMANDANT AND THE PRESIDENT?
by Andy Weddington
Tuesday, 30 July 2013
"The little words in the Republic of Letters, like the little folks in a nation, are the most useful and significant." Samuel Richardson
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During the past six weeks I published a couple of letters, necessary letters, to men holding high office in America.
The first was addressed to the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General James F. Amos, USMC, and the other to the President of the United States of America, President Barack H. Obama.
Surprisingly, the letters found a rather large audience. Still they do. Whether they have reached or will reach the addressees or not, I've no idea. But there is better odds of such happening in the ether world than if sent by means of traditional lick, seal, and stamp post.
The best explanation for the vast readership of the letter to the commandant sent to me is, "... the letter is resonating ... it's compellingly persuasive."
As I only address truth, undeniably, truth can sometimes be compelling. And sometimes truth can be persuasive.
As for the most recent letter to President Obama, aggregating reader opinion as to vast readership can be summed up in a few words, "truth is powerful ... truth can be breathtaking."
But does truth being compelling, persuasive, powerful, or even breathtaking matter?
Anymore, I do not know. By way of self-absorption and infatuation living life beheld to electronic gadgetry, there seems to me a broad blanket of ho-hum indifference, if not downright apathy, atop and across America. Sickening it is to witness day after day. Though, once in a while, through a hole - some bigger than others, appears concern. But it does not seem to last. The concern is not contagious - yet.
What perplexes me is how a silly YouTube video can realize millions, sometimes hundreds of millions, of views overnight and yet something vitally important to personal well-being and, in turn, country struggles to get a yawn. Perhaps explanation is no more complicated than it's easier to ignore the difficult and distasteful and hope or pray it goes away. Or, it's more fulfilling to laugh, sometimes to tears, than to weep. Though a hard, long cry has proven cleansing - rejuvenating.
Is our citizenry so clueless as to not understand their government is not working for them but government is coming at them - gaining speed and snowballing?
Is our citizenry so clueless they do not understand their rights are under attack and privacy is being trampled upon in the name of safety and security? But at the same time that which provides for their safety and security - our military - is being systematically destroyed by government including complicit obedient flag officers?
Many have asked why I wrote the letters. That question surprises me. Is the reason not obvious? Someone must speak the truth - why not me? And, why not you?
For more than 26 years in uniform my political beliefs were private. I voted. I ensured my Marines, whatever their preference, voted. Though others may have assumed my leanings, I did not share exercise of my privilege, civic duty, nor ever attempt to influence others.
Now retired, freedom of speech - that which I swore to support and defend - is mine to exercise. I choose to do so for sundry reasons but principally because it would be criminal to not enjoy a freedom that many in the world envy and others are imprisoned or ruthlessly killed for attempting. Freedom to speak must never be taken for granted - too many of our countrymen have volunteered their blood and lives to preserve it. In vain they must not rest.
I do not know James Amos nor Barack Obama. I met General Amos once, 8 or 9 years ago, and that was at a change of command reception - we spoke casually for a few minutes. I have never met President Obama.
Not knowing them, I have no opinion about them personally. To form something as intimate as an opinion about them as a person solely from media coverage would be unfair. Likability gleaned from media would likewise be unfair - foolish it would be. Besides, any personal opinion has nothing to do with their performance in high office while in service to our country.
Starting as a child, I pledged allegiance to the United States of America. I still do.
As a member of our Armed Forces, upon enlistment to attend Officer Candidates School, I swore - in writing and verbally - an oath to support and defend the Constitution and the United States of America. When commissioned a second lieutenant, and every promotion thereafter through colonel, I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution and the United States of America. I am still a colonel, albeit retired.
That oath: "I do solemnly swear 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; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God."
I take that oath - my word - seriously. Dead serious.
The Commandant swore the exact same oath - at least 10 times.
Saturday evening an active duty Marine of long tenure and great achievements told me that morale, Corps-wide, is as poor as ever seen. Awful! Said that Marine, "Our strong young officers, Staff NCOs, and NCOs are leaving - what the Corps has become is not what they signed up for." "Why?", I asked. In reply, "The tone starts at the top - the Commandant." Thus, my letter germane.
General Amos is the 35th Commandant, anyone care to guess what his predecessors, and an enormous Corps of Marines, feel about his stewardship of not keeping to history, tradition, and culture - to preserve warfighting capability and our enemy's fear and respect?
The President, too, swore that oath, when first elected to public office, and twice he's sworn the far grander but simpler oath of the presidency.
Having read much about Abraham Lincoln - our 16th President and a president Mr. Obama holds in high regard - anyone care to guess what President Lincoln's sentiments as to President Obama's performance? That is, leading the Union he, President Lincoln, fought so hard to preserve - in keeping with our Constitution?
Pardon me, but there is nothing vague nor confusing about the content of the oaths of office - allegiance is to our country and existing Constitution; not whims, agendas, and a Constitution of fantasy or dreams.
Citizens have the right to gather, to demonstrate, to display signs and even shout in peaceful protest. They may even use off-color language and resort to personal verbal attacks if they choose. But the more uncivil the tactic the less effective the message.
To the contrary, I opt to exercise my right to protest, to constructively criticize, by drawing from my humble education, training, and life experience to enter the public debate by means of the written word.
So, why not my obligation to write those two letters - to point out truth?
Courage, neither physical nor moral, did it take to write those letters. Doing what is right, what is derived from sworn duty, merely calls for action. With 'courage' being an after-the-fact descriptor. Or so I believe.
Men and women temporarily entrusted with power can only get away with what other men and women - the majority - permit.
The two men I wrote are not in good faith serving America according to what they were sworn to do. I do not take exception with them personally. I take exception with what is clearly willful intent to ignore their duties and steer America into troubled waters. And it's my sense of duty to alarm America.
Therefore, as I wrote two simple, straightforward letters, I have two simple, straightforward questions for my countrymen:
1. "Where are the voices, where is the engagement, of my millions of brothers in arms?"
2. "Why, citizenry, are you sleeping?"
I may man the point, but surely I do not walk alone? Remember, allegiance is to country; not party, not ideology, not man.
In reference to Samuel Richardson, 18th Century writer and printer, who opened today's missive - perhaps little words coming from a little folk in our nation will someday prove useful and significant.
In that light, late Saturday evening I received a call from a longtime friend, now a successful businessman, back east - considering the hour it was a surprise. He called to say he'd been thinking about recent commentaries and he felt them important and worthy of a national audience. He asked, and offered to help, about reaching out to the big-names in media. The idea I've entertained but not seriously. Perhaps more thought is in order.
Yesterday afternoon I received a call from another longtime friend (the two friends do not know one another), who's back east, about recent commentaries. We wrapped up our lengthy discussion with a comment and question from him. He felt I wrote a message of power with conviction and clarity, "Have you considered a book of your strongest commentaries to reach a broader audience?," he asked. He's not the first to ask or suggest. It's time, perhaps.
Regardless, I sleep peaceably with clear conscience knowing duty done - what was right - and done so in a gentlemanly, civil manner. Politics matters not. My purpose for writing is without malice to person. My heartfelt enduring allegiance is to country.
As such, I complied with the demands of my oath of office. To speak, freely, directly to fellow citizens momentarily entrusted to serve the United States of America - to support and defend our Constitution.
From my perspective, they, and others, have broken their oaths and trust with the citizenry. By my not engaging constitutes dereliction of duty. And, a complete absence of leadership. And cowardice.
Interestingly, no one has taken exception with either letter. Quite the contrary, comments praise tone and message and applaud decorum and remarkable restraint. Thank you all, but good manners while still being candid and truthful - that expected of a Marine officer - will never be outdated.
However, my letter to President Obama has earned numerous advisories to be on the lookout for interested government agencies. Of course, I considered that before publishing. I concluded how sad it would be if that were to deter exercising my freedom and right to speak; respectfully, indeed. And, how petty it would be of anyone and any institution, that in truth works for me, to engage in such nonsense. For such action would only serve to validate the truth - as written. Considering the current climate, might these people and institutions be on their best behavior - for country? Time will tell.
Further, if my writing makes me wrong, then everything I was taught at home, learned in school, and absorbed, from superb Marines, while leading Marines was wrong. That surely is not the case.
Though I welcome differing perspectives, convincing me that writing those letters was wrong will require being "compellingly persuasive." They were not scratched out in a fit of anger nor hastily written spur-of-the-moment but long thought over and carefully crafted with hopes the addressees, and all, will likewise give them due attention and thought. Yes, I understand that is an optimistic outcome.
Will my letters matter? They absolutely would not have mattered if not written and published. Yes, they were addressed to two fellow citizens. But they were intended for the citizenry, too; more so.
Could I possibly make more clear why I wrote those two letters?!
More letters, to others, are in order. Regrettably, I've not the time. The two letters, and addressees, as discussed above and offered in Post Script will have to suffice - for all.
An ugly and scary and contrary direction our country is tracking.
Will America (re)act?
Yes, for even doing nothing is (re)action.
But let it not be forgotten, servants are not we. Rather, servants temporarily hold office. If unhappy, dissatisfied and opting to not speak, to not engage to gain a servant's undivided attention or oust them from office - and those are conscious choices - then there is no ground to bemoan fate.
Civic duty beckons! At a minimum, read, consider, and pass along.
Speak, engage, act - if you will. Your time is now!
A Public Letter To The Commandant of the Marine Corps
To THE WHITE HOUSE - For The President