Next Tuesday, Dec. 14, begins the court-martial of Lt. Col. Terry Lakin, the officer being prosecuted for his efforts to assure that orders currently issuing from the U.S. military chain of command flow from a constitutionally qualified, and therefore lawful, commander in chief.

There was a time when responsible military authorities fully understood that soldiers had the right to reasonable assurance that their orders came from a valid source. During the Battle of the Bulge, for example, English-speaking German soldiers dressed in American uniforms had infiltrated American forces. Their activities gave rise to disquieting rumors and confusion in the ranks. In response, “Checkpoints were set up all over the Allied rear, greatly slowing the movement of soldiers and equipment. Military policemen drilled servicemen on things which every American was expected to know, such as the identity of Mickey Mouse’s girlfriend, baseball scores, or the capital of a U.S. state – though some could not remember or did not know.”

Today, American troops are every day risking and laying down their lives in battle just as they did in World War II. But rather than acting effectively to protect the integrity of the chain of command, current military hierarchs seem ruthlessly determined to intimidate anyone who seeks reassurance against the now widespread question concerning the constitutional identity of the person who presently occupies the office of commander in chief. Lt. Col. Lakin is saying, simply, “I don’t know that Barack Obama is the person the Constitution says he must be. The Constitution is the supreme law of the land. Therefore, I cannot know that in obeying his orders I am defending the Constitution, as I am sworn to do.”

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Some officers during World War II were asked to name Mickey Mouse’s girlfriend. Barack Obama is being asked to let U.S. servicemen and women (and indeed all Americans) see that he is what he claims (and the Constitution requires him) to be, a natural born citizen of the United States. But unlike those serving during WWII, military officers today face a question that threatens more than military operations. It involves a fundamental doubt as to the continued operation and integrity of the Constitution they are sworn to defend. It goes to the heart of the cause that morally justifies the use of force in its defense. It threatens morale in the most literal and fundamental sense of the term.

“War is hell,” Gen. Sherman said. When its long hours of tedium and routine hardships erupt into still longer moments of unimaginable horror, a soldier in the midst of a firefight would be forgiven for wondering by what awful transgression he ended up among the damned. Then he might think of the deadly things he has been asked to do and, losing heart, be tempted to confirm his damnation.

Every combatant thus labors under a moral burden that is uniquely his own. However, a people that truly respect and honor those who endure the burden for their sake will labor to make sure that nothing they have done, or that is done in their name, increases its weight. A people of good conscience, such as the American people are supposed to be, will be especially concerned that the cause and conduct of the war satisfy, insofar as humanly possible, the requirements of right and justice.

I say that this is what the American people are supposed to be because limited government, such as that established by the Constitution of the United States, means first of all government defined, structured and limited (in its use of power) by respect for the requirements of right and justice; and because the common commitment of Americans to the Constitution is the core of our identity and unity as a people.

The use of military and police forces is the most explicit manifestation of government power. Because it involves potentially violent instruments, its every use raises questions of justice and morality. Every individual involved in such use labors under the inescapable burden of conscience such questions involve. As I pointed out in a previous column, this is explicitly acknowledged and recognized in the regulations that govern the conduct of U.S. military forces. Lawful orders exclude those that violate the fundamental moral laws that allow us to distinguish just military and police actions from violent iniquity. “The moral principles the Allies relied upon for their prosecution of German military officers at Nuremberg after World War II make clear that individual officers are not relieved of the conscientious responsibility for the moral consequences of their actions. Military discipline, therefore, requires obedience to lawful orders, not those that abuse the formalities of the chain of command, and violate the basic principles of justice that substantiate the lawfulness of the authority it represents.”

At the behest of Barack Obama, and of those who by silence and inaction join in support of his contempt for the U.S. Constitution, military authorities seem intent on denying Lt. Col. Lakin any semblance of due process. They officially libel and slander him with the public statements that assert his disrespect for the honorable traditions of the U.S. military. In fact it is they who now depart from those traditions. American soldiers have always been trained to remember their obligations as citizens and human beings, that is, to their country and to God.

Unlike the disciplined tools of evil they faced in the wars against totalitarian powers such as Nazi Germany and Communist North Korea, American officers are legally and morally forbidden to be the mindless automatons of lawless power. Lt. Col. Lakin remembers this. In the ordeal he now faces for doing so, Americans who share and admire his true American patriotism will pray for and stand with him. Will you pray? Will you do your part with your contributions to his defense?

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