The U.S. military can force its personnel to wear the blue beret of the United Nations and serve under the world body’s command, a federal judge ruled.
Judge Paul Friedman upheld the military’s conviction of former Army specialist Michael New, who refused to don the U.N. cap and shoulder patch and to serve in a peacekeeping mission in Macedonia nearly 10 years ago, the New York Sun reported.
New argued that the Constitution and the law governing U.S. participation in the world body prevent the president from sending American troops into possible combat under U.N. command without express authorization from Congress.
New, whose defiance became a cause celebre in the mid-1990s among U.N. opponents, launched a website that included his picture with the message, “Michael New was right. … Real Americans don’t wear U.N. blue.”
He was court-maritialed and convicted in 1996 and given a “bad conduct” discharge from the Army, which later was upheld by military appeals courts.
Judge Friedman wrote in his 35-page decision that trying to sort out whether the president had ceded too much authority to foreign military officers “would involve policy determinations beyond the competence of the court,” the Sun reported.
New’s father told the paper an appeal is likely.
“We’re disappointed,” Daniel New said. “It’s not printable what I want to say.”
In addition to appealing to the Constitution and the U.N. Participation Act of 1945, New’s lawyers argued that forcing him to serve under an international army he never signed up with abridged the ex-soldier’s rights against “involuntary servitude” under the 13th Amendment.
Friedman, dismissing New’s claims, said he could have pursued his legal points without defying his commanders.
“Petitioner had numerous avenues, besides direct disobedience, by which to challenge that order,” he wrote.
Cliff Kincaid, author of a book about New’s crusade — “Michael New: Mercenary or American Soldier?” — told the Sun the judge was right to suggest Congress could have stepped in.
“The Congress should have done more, but Friedman should have overturned the illegal order and New’s bad conduct discharge,” Kincaid said.
Kincaid objected to President Clinton’s order to American troops to participate in the Macedonia mission and President Bush’s unwillingness to change the procedure.
“U.S. troops deployed on U.S. missions under Bush still wear U.N. markings on their uniforms, including a U.N. shoulder patch and beret,” Kincaid told the Sun. “Even though they serve under a foreign U.N. commander, he insists they are still somehow under U.S. command. It doesn’t add up.”
Michael O’Hanlon, a military analyst at the Brookings Institution, contended the president’s authority to defend America would be weakened if New prevailed.
“You’d be undercutting our ability to work with our allies. You’d also be weakening the power of the commander in chief of the United States,” he said.
O’Hanlon argued American troops in past wars have been temporarily put under tactical foreign command more than under the U.N., with little objection.
New’s father, however, believes the case has given the Pentagon a “bloody nose,” causing it to look elsewhere to staff U.N. missions.
“Pakistanis and Indians are cheaper than Americans and there’s no political fallout if they die. So let’s just outsource it all,” he said derisively.
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