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 TIME on politics Congressional Quarterly CNN/AllPolitics CNN/AllPolitics - Storypage, with TIME and Congressional Quarterly

Military officers risk discipline if they criticize Clinton

By Chris Plante/CNN

WASHINGTON (October 20) -- A small flurry of public criticism directed at President Bill Clinton and authored by U.S. military officers has made some waves in the military ranks and could lead to disciplinary action for at least one Marine officer.

First, a number of Marine Corps officers placed an item on the Internet reportedly calling for Clinton's impeachment.

Then a blunt opinion piece by Marine Corps Maj. Shane Sellers attacking Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky affair was published in the "Navy Times." | Navy Times Online Web site

Sellers' article pointed out inconsistencies between the way military officer are treated in circumstances similar to the president's, and the way the current Clinton scandal has been handled. The major's article also declared, "One should call an adulterous liar exactly what he is -- a criminal."

The episodes prompted the Marine Corps' No. 2 general to issue a warning to his subordinate generals to keep officers away from such "unethical" endeavors.

Assistant Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, General Terrence Dake, warned Marine generals, "It is unethical for individuals who wear the uniform of a Marine to engage in public dialogue on political and legal matters such as impeachment."

Dake's e-mail message, which was not technically in the form of an "order," instructed the commanders to "emphatically discourage any such actions" on the part of Marine officers.

Military officers are not allowed to use "contemptuous words against the President, the Vice President, Congress, the Secretary of Defense ..." and a range of other civilian government officials as a matter of military law.

Article 88 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice provides for a maximum punishment of expulsion from the military, one year in jail and financial penalties for the most severe offenses.

A second letter published in the "Army Times" and authored by a now retired Army colonel has also garnered some attention. The letter, by retired Col. John Baer, described the embarrassment at his retirement ceremony as Clinton's name was read from the bottom of the traditional "certificate of appreciation" given to retiring officers. Baer's letter to the "Army Times" states that "... an audible chuckle rose from the audience representing ranks from private to general across multiple armed services inclusive of civilians, active and retired" military.

Baer said in his letter that after the ceremony, he tore the Clinton certificate into pieces and mailed it back to the White House.

"Simply stated," Baer's letter says, "I've honorably adhered to the oath my father administered at my commissioning over 27 years ago. Values are fundamental, necessary and not negotiable. Mr. Clinton, character is important and you've 'negotiated' away yours. I urge the Army to adopt (a policy) making Mr. Clinton's 'certificate' optional at future retirements so as not to embarrass soldiers."

As a retired military officer, Baer is likley not subject to any disciplinary action. Major Sellers' fate is now in the hands of his commanding officer.

Investigating the President


Tuesday, October 20, 1998

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