Tuesday, May 17, 2005

On Ethics by PFC Pepper

This is in response to a letter to our soldiers on ethics from the Commander-in-Chief himself.

First and foremost I would like to take the opportunity to point out that it was not the content of the memorandum that I found humorous. The content is something I happen to firmly believe in and have always believed in before I even thought of enlisting in the Army. Having gone to a private Catholic school for twelve years, I was brought up with a concept of morals and ethics. Furthermore, having lived for twenty-seven years, I’ve been faced with some hard decisions involving said morals and ethics. The information provided in the memorandum is nothing new to me and I personally don’t see it as anything to laugh about.

I would also like to point out that I understand the need to respect said memorandum and the necessity to live by it. I also believe that it is necessary to live by the ethics described in the memorandum in order to fully understand all seven of the Army Values. I think that if you can truly claim yourself to follow the Army Values then you can say you live ethically.
I also understand that the memomorandum was put out by the Commander-in-Chief and so being is a mandate by said commander. I understand that it is every soldier’s duty to follow any lawful order put out by any superior, from the next highest ranking private above them all the way to the Commander-in-Chief. I, like every other soldier, raised my hand and swore an oath more than once to defend the nation and Constitution “against all enemies foreign and domestic...and I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me...So help me God.” Being an educated man I understand what this means and if I had a problem with it I shouldn’t have done so. All of this I know and understand.

Now, having said all of that I would like examine the memorandum in detail and discuss it, starting with the introduction given it by the Honorable Francis J. Harvey, Secretary of the Army.

In this introduction Mr. Harvey states that “ethical behavior flows from conscience” and “the will to do what is right and proper regardless of personal cost.” I agree with this statement and take it as fact knowing that without the will to do good all sense of ethics and morality are null. He further states that it was a directive of the President that all federal employees are aware of and familiar with the ethic standard the government has set. This is the part of the memorandum that I found humorous. The fact that the current President, George W. Bush, thought it necessary to remind everyone in government position that they need to live ethically in order to gain the trust of the American People. To me it seemed a little hypocritical. But as I write this I’m thinking he might be speakling from experience seeing as how his most current approval rating is only at fifty percent.

Mr. Harvey finishes his introduction with a quote from George W. Bush himself stating that we should “always ask not only what is legal but ask also what is right.” With this statement I’m thinking that prehaps our President is haunted with things he did as governor of Texas. Such as putting to death an immigrant who hadn’t even had legal representation from his own country as is required by the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations which the United States signed. When then Governor Bush was questioned about it he stated “Texas did not sign the Vienna Convention, so why should we be subject to it?” Well, Mr. President, as much as the Texans want to deny it, they are a part of the United States and are not thier own sovereign nation. Therefore putting this man to death without representation was illegal and immoral.

The memorandum then goes on with the Federal Oath of Office which is only slightly different than the Oath of Enlistment which I’ve already discussed and don’t feel I need to go into further detail on.

Moving on to the U.S. Army Statutory Requirement of Exemplary Conduct...this excerpt, as I’m sure it is seeing as how nothing the aemy puts out is short winded, states that “All commanding officers and others in authority...” We’re gonna hold off there for a moment and examine the “authority” part. Webster’s dictionary has a few definitions for authority but I will cite two: (1) power to influence or command thought, opinion, or behavior and (2) persons in command. Taking the second definition which I’ve cited one would say that I have no authority whatsoever being a lowly private first class. As for being the ranking private in the shop I can understand how it can be misconstrued as me having authority. I see it in terms of the job and experience though and nothing else. I would hope that the other men in the shop can think for themselves on other matters. However, there is that first definition and this is the one we’re going to discuss because, let’s face it...this is the entire reason for this paper.

“Power to influence or command thought, opinion, or behavior.” Taking this definition at face value would lead someone to think that I actually had authority because I think I am a decent writer which gives me authority with words, or at least I would like to think so. But let’s not take the definition at face value. Let’s disect it a bit. Let’s think about it in terms of the brain. The brain, believe it or not, is a sponge. Everything heard, seen, felt, smelt, and touched is remembered. The reason people don’t really want to believe this is that of recollection. Recalling a memory is an entirely different process than storing and requires a bit of effort on one’s part. Now in order to “influence or command” one would have to have a way of recalling another’s mind to what they want to influence them about. To be perfectly honest, those around when SPC Donn was reading this memorandum would have only remembered my laughing and not even thought to ask what it was I was laughing about. However, it was brought to their attention. Thus giving their mind a reference point on the event. My questioning by Mr. Crownhart brought out my opinions which I had intended to keep to myself. I was trying my hardest to control myself so as not to create anymore points of reference when Sgt Jurado kicked me out, thus giving me more “authority.” So as a recommendation, don’t make me read this essay out loud because if you do you just give me that much more “authority” and that’s not something you should give me in this matter. That being said, let’s move one with the memorandum.

Getting back to the Statutory Requirement of Exemplory Conduct there are two more points in it that I want to discuss. Points (2) and (3) which have to do with people under one’s command and correcting said people when they are in violation, respectively. To be perfectly honest, I feel that although it may be said, in practice I have no position in the shop which puts me in command of anyone. That was made clear to me when we had our sensing session in which the NCOs of the shop decided to group the privates, specialists, and NCOs and tell everyone what exactly their place in the shop is. That did a lot for my morale. You tell me you want me to act like a Specialist. If that’s the case then the shop needs to at least recognize me as one even if the army can’t. Until then I see no reason to. Getting to point (3) though that’s another part of my having to write this essay and I accept it. I was wrong in letting my own personal knowledge and opinion of the President out while in uniform. Mr. Corwnhart was right in telling me that it’s fine for me to discuss my own opinion over a couple of beers outside of work and that it’s not something I should have made public in the shop. However, my opinions were my own still until he asked me in a tone that insinuated to me that he wanted an honest answer to his question as to why I found it funny. In my opinion he made the mistake of calling me out in front of everyone in a casual tone rather than a directive tone and asking to see me privately afterward. That I would have taken more seriously and I wouldn’t get the feeling of the tension between us now. As was stated earlier, it gave me more “authority” which completely irradicated his intention. We’re going to move on though...

The Principles of Ethical Conduct for Government Officers and Employees was created by George Bush, Sr. in 1990 prior to the first war with Iraq. The fact that the son’s presidency is so like the father’s makes me wonmder how hypocritical it was then. However, I can’t really comment on the presidency of George Bush Sr. because I was young and didn’t think the state of the country really effected me then and so I didn’t follow it too closely. So I’ll just comment on the ethics as outlined by the senior Bush and how they currently relate.

These principles begin with a comment on putting the Constitution, law, and ethics above personal gain and go on to say that federal employees shouldn’t hold interests that conflict with the performance of their duties. Such as having a lot of your own personal money invested in Suadi oil and conciously making war in the Middle East which is known to drive prices of the oil up.

The ethical outline further goes on to state that “employees shall put forth honest effort in the performance of their duties.” By spending your half of your time during your first eight months in office on vacation at Camp David or your personal ranch.
“Employees shall protect and conserve Federal property...” By throwing away the lives of soldiers in a war waged for the wrong reasons. This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t have gone into Iraq. I actually believe that we did the right thing by freeing the Iraqi people. However, the reason we were given for going there was to find weapons of mass desctruction when there was already a report from the CIA saying there were none. If the intention had been to go overthrow Sadam Hussein and free the Iraqis I personally think there would be more support for it than there is. The rest go on to state equality for all and reiterate the Constitution.

So as my final words on the matter I would like to reaffirm the fact that it wasn’t the ethical principles I found humorous at all. It was the source of the memorandum that I found irony in and I couldn’t hold my laughter on the matter. As anyone who’s known me will tell you I am not one to hold laughter in because I think that laughter is one of the most beautiful sounds we as humans can create. And I hope now that I have gotten my opinion and some of the facts out that it could be understood as to my position on the matter. I truly didn’t mean any disrespect to anyone by laughing.

As was said earlier though, I strongly recommend against my reading this essay out loud to anyone. It was bad enough that I was able to influence people’s thoughts by answering Mr. Crownhart’s question honestly and then being kicked out of the office by Sgt Jurado, who in my opinion obviously wasn’t paying attention himself if he noticed me keeping myself under control. Perhaps he should keep in mind that we follow as we’re lead as soldiers, nothing more can be asked of us. Perhaps all of the NCOs in the shop should keep that in mind.

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