Civilians & The Military I – A military funeral is not the place for political campaigning!!

Note from November 2007: This was originally posted on a blog of mine that was hosted on Blogger. I’ve since imported that blog over here to C Good’s Things on WordPress.

The Mudville Gazette has a link to an article in the Pittsburgh (Pa.) Post-Gazette about a military funeral. The funeral was for Staff Sergeant Joseph Goodrich, who had been a local policeman and had been killed in Iraq while serving with the Marines.

The funeral was packed with grieving relatives, Marines & policeman, and was quite obviously a solemn occasion.

When Lieutenant-Governor Catherine Baker Knoll (allegedly) decided to drop by, hand out business cards, and tell people “Our government is against this war.”, it was clearly not the right move. In the article, family members said that they were going to contact the Governor’s office and make a complaint.

If this story is true, Ms. Knoll deserves a world-class butt-kicking for her sheer rudeness and lack of empathy.

But more importantly, Ms. Knoll deserves about five years of remedial school, focusing primarily on

  1. The division of power between the federal government and the state government. “Our government is against this war” – did they secede from the union? If they are still part of the union, then the state government of Pennsylvania doesn’t get to pick and choose what parts of Federal foreign policy it likes and which it doesn’t like.
  2. Grammar and diction – did Ms. Knoll actually mean “our administration”, instead of “our government”? If so, well, she’s still an idiot who needs a butt-kicking for using a funeral as a campaign stop, but at least “our administration” doesn’t sound like they’re getting ready for a second Civil War.
  3. Lots and lots and lots and lots of military history, especially the history of the interaction between the military & the civilian administration in a democracy such as this. To put it briefly, the civilian administration decides what overall course of action needs to be taken (with input from the military), and the military does the best they can to meet that goal (with input from the civilian administration). But the civilian administration does NOT micromanage the military and decide exactly which units to put where, which hills to take next or which sites to bomb at what time, unless circumstances are pretty extreme. And the military does NOT refuse orders from the civilian administration or make up their own orders, unless circumstances are pretty extreme.

The division of responsibility, with the civilian administration having the responsibility to decide on a course of action and the military having the responsibility to decide how to execute that course, is crucial. If that is not ingrained at every level of command in the military, the country opens itself up to the military coups that can be found throughout history.

Most military personnel understand this division and its importance. For Ms. Knoll to approach a military family in mourning for a lost son, with a campaign promise that she and her faction are against the war, is madness! What does she expect all the Marines there to do, refuse orders and not go back to base? Does she WANT large sections of the military to start picking and choosing if they will serve or where, based on whether they like or approve of the current civilian administration’s decision?

Does she think that it comforts the parents that just lost their child, to be told “well, if WE’D won the last election, this wouldn’t have happened”? (Even though alternate timelines like that are notoriously hard to predict – who’s to say that President Kerry wouldn’t have sent to South Korea, Taiwan, or the Ukraine in case of trouble there, and who’s to say that their son wouldn’t have been deployed in another place where we already have troop obligations, like Afghanistan or the Balkans??) Does she think that after telling the family that HER side doesn’t agree with the policy in Iraq, the family members will suddenly sit up and say “oh, well, it’s all alright then, we feel much better now”???

In a way, I kind of hope the story isn’t true. If it is true, I hope Ms. Knoll gets pilloried by public opinion, because she’ll deserve it.

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