Thursday, April 10, 2008

I have included a link to a story about ABC News and their recent interaction with US troops in Iraq. Basically, ABC conducted a poll of US troops to determine their voting preference and, of course, "discovered" that the majority of troops are split between Hillary and Obama. The poll was not scientific, just based on "random" interviews.

Immediately, I question the results. The military has traditionally been strongly supportive of conservative candidates somewhere in the range of 70-90%. The idea that this year they have somehow flipped completely into the liberal camp is more than suspicious. But no one has ever accused ABC of being fair and balanced.

But there is another big issue here, and that has to do with ethical journalism. What ABC News did was extremely unethical, perhaps even against the law (I'll let the legal folks debate that). But the ethics here (or lack thereof) aren't debatable. ABC has put these troops in a bad predicament. The UCMJ is clear on this issue. A US soldier can not endorse a political candidate from behind the uniform while on active duty service. And a soldier is not allowed to use their military status, on or off duty, as a means of supporting a candidate. On their own time, apart from military duty, a soldier is free to do what they want provided it does not conflict with Dept of Defense or US policy.

For example, an off-duty soldier can't participate in a rally advocating the overthrow of the US government. That's an extreme example, but you get the point. A soldier, even in civilian attire, can't say "I am a Captain in the US Army and I support Obama". That's using your status in the military to support a candidate. Leave the "I am a Captain in the US Army" part off, and it's okay. And if the soldier is on duty, wearing the uniform, they are NOT allowed to formally endorse a political candidate. They can attend an Obama rally in civilian attire, but not in their military uniform. You get the point.

ABC News surely was aware of this, yet they asked the question anyway. I doubt these troops will face significant disciplinary action, but they could if the military so decided. Granted, it's the duty of ALL soldiers to know the boundaries and limitations regarding their own conduct, but I still have a big problem with what ABC News did. They were wrong and these troops may pay a price for it.

4 comments:

auntyemfaustus said...

My husband was in the Marines (Korea in the early 50s) and says that the Universal Code of Military Justice does state that people in uniform cannot state their political views.

However, since Vietnam, the people in the military have not always abided by that code. They were not supposed to do pot or lob grenades at their officers, etc.

In my husband's day, such actions would have resulted in court martial, and at the least extra "police" duty--policing latrines, etc.

I, however, can see why many of the "grunts" today would not hesitate to name their choices for president during this campaign. Many young people have been fired up politically because of the pressure of polarization (cons vs libs), and more Democrats have registered to vote than before.

Know too that the military lures many disadvantaged youth with thousands of dollars, for college or for down payments on homes, etc. offered by recruiters and promises of fast-track citizenship for immigrant kids, even many illegals. I noticed that of course the black kids polled by ABC were for Obama, many Hispanics for Hillary.

Emilie
Port Orchard, WA

Dan Trabue said...

I saw this interview/story and never once confused it for a representative poll. It was some random questions to some Democrat-supporting soldiers. I would hazard to guess that they may have had to search a while.

Although I HAVE heard it noted that this invasion and extended service has really soured many lower-level soldiers on Republican wisdom as it has to do with the military.

According to this 2006 Military Times poll, a majority of the military were opposed to how Bush handled Iraq.

If one keeps having their tours of duty extended in unpleasant violent areas in a questionable action, one might tend to lose faith in them that brung you to that party.

Anonymous said...

Who is auntyemfaustus, and why is
her profile unavailable for comment? Rick

John Washburn said...

Emilie, thanka for the input and welcome to When Evil Prospers. And give your husband a great big Semper Fi from us!

Dan, military re-enlistment remains very strong. The argument that the troops are losing faith in the cause just isn't going to stick, despite the movies that Hollywood makes about it (ie, Stop Loss)