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The Oath I Keep
By Meg Miner
Some members of a group called the Oath Keepers broke through barriers at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, with the goal of preventing Congress from certifying the 2020 presidential election results. It was reported that the group is a veterans' organization. Video footage shows a group working their way through the crowd using a military or police-style formation. A leader of the group was recorded on an encrypted audio channel issuing instructions for some members to go to the Senate and others to go to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office.
If Oath Keepers are veterans, I have two questions:
1) Of whose military?
2) And if they are US veterans, which oath are they following?
The oath I keep is to the Constitution. The Constitution explicitly rests power between three equal branches of government. We the people can and should make our opinions known to elected representatives but we the veterans do not get to pick and choose which part of the Constitution we will defend over any other part.
The Oath I took asserts a duty to obey lawful orders of presidents and officers. If these are US veterans, I wonder if they forgot their basic training instruction on the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).
Trump gave no lawful orders that day. No active-duty military or inactive veteran can claim their US Oath of Office required them to obey. And they certainly can't claim their loyalty to an individual president takes precedence over their duty to the Constitution. Even a president can't trump the Constitution.
President Trump's exhortations to disrupt the Senate's responsibilities were not meant to inspire peaceful citizens. And let us also note that the coward even said he would meet the mob at the Capitol and then went back to the safety of the White House to watch the mayhem unfold.
This is not an article about former President Trump's actions that day. He certainly should be held responsible and with any luck, our Legislative branch will live up to its obligations under the Constitution someday. But this is also not an article about failed leadership among our legislators.
My complaint is with the people who claim a duty to the Constitution and then use the President as their shield to justify their actions. I have serious doubts about their fidelity to what comes out in their own public statements. It doesn't take long to see through to the lie.
Their website claims they are not aligned with particular politicians but that's a recent adaptation. The Internet Archives' Wayback machine holds over 6,000 views of their website since 2009 (search www.oathkeepers.org at http://web.archive.org/). In the weeks before the raid on the Capitol, the site shows them in lockstep with Trump's messages about the election and urging him to invoke the Insurrection Act.
The only way the involvement of a group like the Oath Keepers in the January 6, 2021 takeover of our Capitol makes sense is if we recognize that they are not interested in being part of representative democracy. It seems likely that any alignment with Trump was just their way of shielding themselves from sole responsibility for their actions.
In a September 2019 publication titled "Department of Homeland Security Strategic Framework for Countering Terrorism and Targeted Violence," the Department of Homeland Security defines terrorism as "any activity involving a criminally unlawful act that is dangerous to human life or potentially destructive of critical infrastructure or key resources, and that appears intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population, to influence government policy by intimidation or coercion, or to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping."
No peaceful but disgruntled Americans show up at a protest in paramilitary gear with weapons on themselves or with a ready supply of weapons nearby. Peaceful demonstrators don't execute tactical formations and carry zip tie cuffs to arrest elected members of the Legislative branch. They don't use fire extinguishers to beat police, break windows and force their way through the doors of the Senate, ransacking legislators' desks and offices. And they sure don't literally shit in the hallways of our Legislative house.
Call the people who broke into the Capitol on January 6, 2021, what they are: terrorists. This act of terror succeeded in one way. It instilled such fear in the hearts of faithless lawmakers that they now deny that anything out of the ordinary happened. The few people who have been brought to trial as of this writing, over a year later, have not faced serious consequences for their actions. Buried at the end of a recent Associated Press report is news that "eleven members and associates" of the Oath Keepers "have been charged with seditious conspiracy," but no one has been charged with terrorism. And that news sure hasn't been as prominent as the endless loop of footage showing the storming of the Capitol. Without a clear denunciation of these tactics and well-publicized penalties, it seems doubtful that this is the last we will see of these kinds of actions.
At least one person in the group was still on active duty. Why has his military chain of command failed to prosecute this clearly traitorous action? If convicted, let the UCMJ be the guide for punishment. Civilian veterans should be prosecuted in civilian courts to whatever level of punishment indicated by their actions.
All who entered the building that day participated in an attempt to overthrow our government. If the people who ransacked Congress are US veterans, they are Oath Breakers. They are not my brothers and sisters.
Meg Miner is a retired Gulf War-era veteran of the Air Force, joined VVAW in 2002 and became a member of the VVAW Board in 2017.