Not-So-Retiring Retired Military Leaders

Victor Davis Hanson // National Review

Sometimes retired generals are deified. Ulysses S. Grant and Dwight D. Eisenhower won two presidential terms in landslide elections.

At other moments, war heroes such Generals Douglas MacArthur and Curtis LeMay were vilified as near insurrectionaries for their blistering attacks on sitting presidents.

In such a climate, the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which became effective law in May 1951, prohibits active generals from disparaging their commander in chief — in the way perhaps MacArthur had bitterly pilloried then-president Harry Truman over the Korean War. Article 88 of the UCMJ makes it a crime to voice “contemptuous words against the President, the Vice President, Congress, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of a military department, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or the Governor or legislature of any State.”

But no one quite knows, and debate continues over, whether such codified prohibitions on free expression apply to retired generals receiving military pensions. Yet, given the spate of recent “contemptuous words against the President” leveled from retired generals, it seems that few worry about regulation AR 27-10 of the code: “Retired members of a regular component of the Armed Forces who are entitled to pay are subject to the UCMJ. (See Art. 2(a)(4), UCMJ.) They may be tried by courts-martial for offenses committed while in a retired status.”

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