Veterans for Common Sense, a national veterans organization, has issued an open letter in the wake of the George Floyd murder and the threatened invocation of the Insurrection Act. We invite all who have served in the U.S. military and agree to sign on to this letter, below.
The final letter will be published listing all those who have joined in signing it.
Scroll to the bottom of this page to sign the letter.
June 6, 2020
As American military veterans, we are horrified by the murder of George Floyd, the latest in a long line of similar incidents that together form an unmistakable pattern of injustice.
During our military service, we worked side by side with Americans of every race, ethnicity, background, and religion—a microcosm of America’s invaluable diversity. However, as stated this week by the leaders of each branch of our armed forces, we are under no illusion that even our military is free from racism and inequality, let alone our veteran community.
As veterans, we are informed not just by these experiences, but also by our shared values of national service and defense of our Constitution. As such, we are encouraged by, and stand in solidarity with Americans exercising their constitutional rights, including the freedoms of speech, press, peaceably assembling, and petitioning for redress of grievances of Black Americans deprived of their lives, liberties, and rights, without due process of law. Further, we stand in solidarity with our fellow Americans, including veterans and military service members, who are most at risk from systemic race-based injustice.
By contrast, as American military veterans, we are deeply concerned by prospects of the Insurrection Act being invoked. We are steadfast in our commitment to the principles of our nation’s Founders; domestic law enforcement should not be carried out by federal military forces.
Indeed, many law enforcement officers have prior military service–both inherently difficult, risk-filled, highly responsible roles. A great many law enforcement officers and military service members do their individual best to live up to the highest standards of conduct and service. However, the two roles have sharply divergent aims, methods, and intended outcomes.
Thus, as former U.S. Secretary of Defense and Marine Corps General (Ret.) James Mattis rightly stated: “At home, we should use our military only when requested to do so, on very rare occasions, by state governors. Militarizing our response, as we witnessed in Washington, D.C., sets up a conflict—a false conflict—between the military and civilian society. It erodes the moral ground that ensures a trusted bond between men and women in uniform and the society they are sworn to protect, and of which they themselves are a part.”
Additionally, we must not risk “further politicizing the men and women of our armed forces,” as former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral (Ret.) Mike Mullen, recently stated.
We are therefore resolute that federal and state officials should renounce any declaration invoking the Insurrection Act in response to Americans exercising their constitutional rights. It is noteworthy that these rights are being exercised, in most cases, to ensure government lives up to its constitutional promises.
Furthermore, we trust that wise leaders across America will be reminded during these critical times that our nation was founded on the principles of certain unalienable rights and that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. We therefore assert that:
- Police violence and excessive use of force—in the course of detaining or arresting, and against protestors and journalists exercising their constitutionally protected rights—must end.
- Local law enforcement should be refocused on people to be faithfully protected and served, not incited to view their communities as a “battlespace” to “dominate.”
- Accountability measures, evidence-based best practices for community policing, and professional standards for all law enforcement should be established, with federal assistance contingent on their implementation.
- Militarization of community-based policing should be reversed.
- The doctrine known as “qualified immunity” must be reviewed, in light of its accumulated excesses.
Finally, groups, organizers, and individuals that disrupt or seek to disrupt peaceful demonstrations with acts of violence should be identified and prosecuted. Similarly, law enforcement organizations, officials, and officers who violate the law or order it to be violated by assaulting or attacking any American including journalists, or otherwise preventing the free exercise of constitutional rights, must be held to account.
As veterans, we believe unequivocally that racism and injustice have no place in our nation or our communities, and that they may not always be immediately visible to all. We trust that wise leaders and Americans across the country will listen to protesting voices, and work to overcome the injustices they are exposing. As Revolutionary War patriot Thomas Paine wrote in 1776, “a long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right.”
It is long past time to ensure the blessings of liberty, enshrined in our founding documents and afforded by our Constitution, are available equitably to every American, not just a majority.
As American military veterans, we cannot sit on the sidelines, including in our own military and veteran communities.
We can do better. And we must.
-Veterans for Common Sense
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