Dear General Kelly – Loyalty

(First posted 31 January 2018)

 

You probably don’t know this, but we checked in to The Basic School in Quantico about the same time in 1987 – I was a newly minted 2nd Lieutenant, you were taking over the Tactics shop. You may well have been the Major I failed to salute that day; I couldn’t find my glasses and thought I could do without. (Turns out, not so much – and not all that’s gold around that place is 2ndLt bars. Who knew?)(Besides everybody, I mean). We almost certainly crossed paths again at some point at 29 Palms after the war, when you took over 1st LAR Battalion and I was with TEECG. Small world, huh?

I bring that up because we both served at a time, and in an organization, where loyalty was highly prized. Loyalty to our people; loyalty to our country; most of all, loyalty to the ideal on which our system of representative self-government was founded. We were loyal to the Constitution – not to princes, not to men, certainly not to political parties – but to the living document on which our Founders set out the principles by which we as citizens would run our country.

You and I both swore to “uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America from all enemies, foreign and domestic” when we were commissioned. We swore it again every time we were promoted. You swore it again every time you took command. We both administered that oath to the Marines we promoted. Those were not mere words – they were the affirmation of our warrior priesthood.

After all that’s gone down this year …. I’m wondering if those may now be just words to you. Just something you say without thinking, by rote.

Our oath was to the Constitution; we never once swore to “uphold and defend the President of the United States from all enemies real and imagined”. It’s very clear to me, from the outside, that this President demands utter, unconditional loyalty to _himself_ and himself alone. He can’t even conceive of it working any other way – loyalty to a piece of paper? What the hell is that about? (never mind he has never shown any loyalty to his wives or his employees, let alone you – while we were both taught that loyalty works in both directions). This whole mess with the FBI? It’s because that organization is (nominally, at least) loyal to the rule of law. For all their flaws, Comey, McCabe, Rosenstein, et al feel the need to be loyal to their oaths, not the latest political overlord – and that’s why your boss wants them to be purged.

Leave aside the question of whether “cleansing” the FBI of people who are not 100% politically loyal to the current President is a good idea or a bad one. (We can get to that later). How can your repeated oaths to “support and defend the Constitution” possibly square with Caesar’s cult of personality? How can you, a man who repeatedly swore his life, his fortune and his sacred honor to “support and defend the Constitution”, so help you God, put up with this? Let alone support it with your daily thoughts, words and actions?

Is the Oath of Office just words to you now? Is this a manifestation of Stockholm syndrome? Was the opportunity to deport millions of brown people just to sweet to ignore? Is your contempt of silly-vilians so ingrained that you can justify this to yourself without discomfort? Throw me a bone here – I’m trying to understand.

You know these words as I do – they’re engraved on our hearts:

“First to fight for right and freedom – And to keep our honor clean;”

Are those just words for you now as well? Because every presser, every time you get up in front of a camera, every word you are recorded saying indicates that you’re neither fighting for “right” nor “freedom”, and (frankly) your honor looks like you polished it with a Hershey bar.

I have Brasso, Kiwi, some clean cotton T-shirts and everything else necessary to polish that stain out – you have but to ask.