Some will say that a democratic military is an oxymoron or a contradiction in terms. But, that is because we have not critically examined our military, why it exists, it's purpose and it's place in the society. The US military belongs to all of us, acts in our name and we suffer or gain from the consequences of what it does. Millions of people participate in the military and their families are effected. However, the military as currently constituted does not reflect the values of a democratic society, despite the fact that enlisted members swear to defend the Constitution and believe they are fighting for democracy and the rights of others. Training, discipline and structure are central to military operations, or any operation, but they do not require the current draconian and Prussian military model we have in this country. To say we need a military is not to say we need this one, especially when it has an obsolete authoritarian structure and privileges. No other industrialized nation has an internal military judicial system, for example, nor do they ban unions. Our military does not reflect in practice the principles of the Constitution, the Nuremberg principles and other treaties, covenants and accords on warfare, and often violates international law and breaches Posse Comitatus and other barriers between military and police or civilian functions. We should create a military that respects and reflects the democratic and modern values of our nation and there are simple ways to make this happen in a dynamic way that takes the future into account. A democratic military will also be less of a force for constant warfare. Congress, the legislature and the courts should work together to ensure the following changes:
1 - Insure that decisions about military personnel are transparent, open to Congressional and court review and public input and debate, and that the rights of enlistees, active and reserve members, veterans and their families are truly respected and that accountability and advocacy are established by independent non-military civilian review and appeal processes.
2 - Own our military as a nation. Begin a national and open debate about the nature, purpose, size and budget of the military as well as how it treats anyone who is part of it. These decisions cannot be made behind closed doors.
3 - Repeal the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the internal military judicial system of courts and prisons and provide civilian court review, fines or imprisonment for violations of civilian law. Eliminate line officer non-judicial punishments including fines, bust in rank, imprisonment, extra duty and grades of discharge.
4 - Require honest recruitment, no quality standard waivers, promises made in writing on the enlistment agreement treated as equivalent to contracts, immediate and voluntary discharge based on recruiter misrepresentation or fraud, and an established period of at least 180 days during with either the enlistee or the military can voluntarily effect a discharge without characterization or benefits, but not without real and documented cause on the part of the military. Provide transportation to home of record in these cases. Also require discharge or reassignment of recruiters involved in two or more instances of misrepresentation. Enlistment should be open to all people who do not have disqualifying or severely limiting physical or mental conditions or age limitations. Gays and lesbians should be allowed to serve and not be segregated in the military. All military jobs and advancement or benefits should be equitable and open to all regardless of gender or race or sexual orientation, and not determined by a biased test taken at point of entry. The true test should be performance of those tasks. Do not make quota requirements incumbent on any individual recruiter or command, but on changes in policy, benefits, retention, or other related issues.
5 - Eliminate punitive discharges of all kinds or any characterization of service. If information of a negative nature is retained in the record or for re-enlistment purposes, it must be considered private and not released even upon waiver to anyone but the enlisted member or next of kin if they are deceased. Eliminate any right to discriminate in hiring or other treatment or benefits based on past grade or characterization of discharge and do not allow employers to ask for that information.
6 - All military service should be truly voluntary and applying for any discharge should be able to be initiated by the enlisted member with documentation or by the military with the performance record or other information that is verifiable over time and not created at the end of term of service. Discharges should be easy to obtain with a loss of benefits proportional to time served. There should not be any "stop loss" policy allowed that blocks discharges. Discharge decisions should be resolved within at least 30 days of application, with independent appeal rights. The government should ensure equally beneficial options for civilian employment and meet minimal survival needs of people so that a poverty draft does not prevail. No return to conscripted military service should be considered or allowed. Civilian court review of habeus corpus should be automatic and encouraged and courts should give no special status to military commanders or their decisions, and common standards should apply.
7 - All participation in the military, in war and in particular wars should be fully voluntary. The rights of conscience regarding war in general, particular wars and even regarding orders considered illegal or immoral during combat, and adherence to Nuremberg principles and other internationally recognized articles and covenants of war and the rules of war, should be recognized and respected without punitive action or recrimination in the case of refusal of duty or of orders. John Kennedy said, "War will exist until the distant day when conscientious objectors are held in same respect as warriors are today." That day should no longer be distant, and we have current examples of the cost of violating international treaties and covenants and breaking the rules of war. This would also insure that pre-emptive, immoral, illegal or ill-guided wars would be less likely to be carried out as long as full and open debate and information guided civilian and military opinion about them. Thus, selective objection would not lead automatically to discharge, but would ensure assignment to compatible duties and prevent improper mobilization. These rights must be respected equally in peacetime and during conflicts because the objections most commonly arise during the practice of war, or sometimes only afterwards when integration of conscience is more difficult. Conscientious objectors to military service, all war, any war and any order should be recognized and accommodated in their stated beliefs regardless of timing and without requirement of proof of sincerity or sanity, as is now the case. Also the laws of war and the principles of conscience should be required to be explained and discussed prior to any enlistment so that we have a military of conscientious participators or we don't have enough troops to fight a war that violates conscience and law alike. If the reasons for going into a particular war are revealed to have been wrong or intentionally misleading, then a renewed decision about participation in that war should be allowed and encouraged. Right of appeal of any discharge decision should go outside military chain of command and allow automatic civilian court review if needed. Objectors should be immediately reassigned to duties that do not conflict with their stated beliefs until the discharge is resolved or appeals exhausted. Any order directly countermanding a prima facie statement of objection should be considered illegal.
8 - Military members and their families should have the right to dissent, protest and organize to improve their safety or working conditions and enlisted members and officers should have the right to form separate unions outside the military command. Unions should have the right to collective bargaining over work related issues and demands with the command once recognized and freely joined by the enlisted members or officers. Family members and others should have the right to dissent and protest conditions of enlisted members without being fined or jailed as under current federal laws. Military members should have the right to free speech, to petition, to distribution of materials, to assembly and to protected methods of appeals for redress and Congressional intervention. Enlisted members should have unrestricted rights of association with unions and other non-military organizations concerned with their rights.
9 - Punitive discharges arising from past courts martial decisions should be expunged, and records of such criminal convictions should be private save in the case of crimes of violence or sexual assault that would require reporting and disclosure in civilian convictions. Transfer to long-term civilian facilities should be arranged for felony-level cases being held at Ft. Leavenworth brig or elsewhere for terms of six-months or longer and then military prisons should be closed and eliminated at the end of six-months as people end their sentences and depart the facilities. All subsequent crimes that would normally fall under civilian prosecution should be immediately referred to civilian jurisdiction with transfer of the individual to such custody or cognizance as the civilian arraignment would assign.
10 - Codes of conduct within the military structure and society would be redrawn and clearly spelled out, with democratic input from enlisted members and the public, and enforced by discharge, denial of promotion, or counseling, training and voluntary correction if they were serious and disruptive. A complete review of all the articles of the Uniform Code of Military Justice should be undertaken, eliminating all those that are already covered by civilian law and treaty and those that restrict Constitutional rights and human rights recognized nationally and internationally. A balanced and democratic code should emerge that protects rights and equally limits the bad conduct of officers and enlisted members.
11 - Instances of discrimination or abuse in the military based on criteria of age, race, gender, sexual orientation, or any other factor besides actual performance would not be tolerated, would allow an independent review and appeal process with no recrimination for claims, and would result not only in correction of wrongs done to the individual but in consequences for the officer or person involved in the discriminatory practices. Beyond this individual level of claims, all discharges would be reviewed with this in mind, initiated by either officer or enlisted, and a demographically consistent rate of enlistment, discharge, promotion and assignment would reflect if not improve on the distribution that exists in the society as a whole. An independent non-military agency should be created to both collect and decide on complaints, do the reviews, and suggest policies of recruitment, retention and treatment in practice that would make sure the military at all levels promoted equality of opportunity not privilege.
12 - Benefits and promises should be guaranteed without exceptions to those who fulfill the terms of their agreement once they are discharged. This includes medical and other treatment for those harmed or injured or whose medical conditions worsened as a result of military duty, training or combat, with a much less hostile interpretation of whether the condition is linked to their military service or easily related to possible chemical or radiation exposure in the battlefield regardless of symptoms or previous conditions before entry. Clear breach of promise during enlistment should be grounds for discharge plus fair proportional compensation for time served, and denial after discharge of promised benefits should be grounds for civilian suits for recompense. The existing Feres doctrine, disallowing legal claims against the military for medical or other malpractice injury should be eliminated entirely, making the military accountable. Again, independent medical evaluations during and at the end of military service should be facilitated to help make these decisions about need for treatment for all related conditions.
13 - Leadership in the military command structure, especially in the combat operations, should be a combination of military training and advancement and of mutually agreed respect from the troops under any command. Some military forces elect their officers without ill effect, for instance. A certain level of discharge requests, discrimination claims, and other forms of complaint (petition, redress of grievance, Congressional inquiries, and troop assessments) should be criteria in a command for replacing that leadership in a quick fashion, for discharge, retraining or reassigment as appropriate. Something like a political vote of confidence should be taken among troops being led into any combat situation prior to a final appointment
14 - The public must be given a voice and a choice, just as much as the enlisted are, in what sorts of wars the US will participate in, regardless of how they are declared or sanctioned by Congress. Wars should be the result of referendums, as should be any military response even in a crisis situation. Clear alternatives should be discussed and proposed in open debate for a public decision at the start and during any combat operations and standards for military action or reaction should be reviewed and reset in a democratic way.
15 - Militarization of the society, through excessive profits for defense and weapons contracts, denial of critical domestic needs by a bloated military budget, excessive size and global distribution of military troops requiring large levels of enlistment due to function and to lack of retention and turnover, combat training that does not retrain for civilian life and reduce violent tendencies, destruction of families and individuals through excessive stress in combat due to the nature of the combat, glorification of war and militarism as a mark of manhood or cultural adulthood in movies, toys and advertisements, recruitment and a constant military presence in middle and high schools, revolving participation in both military and corporate leadership regarding contracts and weapon development, involvement of the public in wars both covert and open that violate rules of war and treaty, the rise of the military-industrial-intelligence complex and the national security and homeland security state since General Eisenhower warned about it, massive expenditure of resources, production and human and financial capital at an increasing rate since the beginning of the last century creating a permanent war economy, and the status of the military as an undemocratic and unequal institution within the society and reflected abroad, as a sacred cow that cannot be questioned or changed, must be countered and ended.
16 - The rise of a massive military intelligence structure and apparatus, the Defense Intelligence Agency with all it's extensions in various military branches, NSA, satellite reconnaisance and mapping, and security commands, its encroachment on police function and militarization of police, plans for Continuity of Government and martial law, privatization of military function, surveillance, esperimentation and spying on civilians since the early 1900s with databases on a majority of Americans, its functions under NORTHCOM which regards the United States as a battle command area, and it's control of 85% of the intelligence budget as well as command over massive covert operations here and abroad, threatens the country and the Constitution and dominates domestic, foreign, global and even space policy and militarization. It does this with virtually no oversight regarding even its legal right to exist, it's secret budget, its Black Ops, it's violations of law and assassination activities, its ability to define and expand its own powers, its addition to the secrecy surrounding critical issues and decisions, its extensions into civilian life and politics, and its impunity through virtual invisibility to the public at large. It is far past time for oversight, transparency and review that reveals its history, structure and expansion, replacement of civilian function, domination of all intelligence agencies and matters, and its reining in and dismantling to controllable and accountable size and disclosure, not to mention function. The DIA is without question the least democratic and Constitutional of all the institutions in society, and the least known, visible or accountable. It is time to bring it into public view and regulate its function and question its purpose and methods.