Butler, the anonymous Lt. Col.

Here’s an interesting link:


For those who missed it, Butler decided to write a whacked out conspiracy theorist letter essentially accusing the last three Presidents of the United States of mass murder for political gain. (There are some quotes from that letter in the link above.) He also conveniently left out his rank, service, and position at the Defense Language Institute-Foreign Language Center at the Presidio of Monterey, which he did append to his signature block the last time he wrote a letter to the editor of the same newspaper. The earlier letter was to express support of the fine Servicemembers at DLI in the wake of the attempted murder by two not fine Marines at DLI.

Now there are folks writing in to the Monterey County Herald to say how evil our military is to be stripping Butler of his constitutional rights. Some have written in to say “He’s right, of course.”

On the other hand, others have written in to point out how whacked his accusations are.

There’s also the whole issue that Butler, as a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Air Force, either knew or should have known that he does have a method to address a perceived violation of law or regulation (the aforementioned mass murder accusation Butler made) by someone in his chain of command. There’s a regulation covering that & I’d appreciate it if somone conversant with the AF regulations/instructions/etc. would be so kind as to post exactly what the Air Force version is. Essentially, it allows a legal method of holding someone accountable even if they outrank you.

What’s even more astounding is that Butler did this just weeks before his scheduled retirement and might go to court-martial for it. I certainly hope he does face it. After years of accepting salutes, an enforced sign of respect, for nothing more than being a commissioned officer, I say his own extreme disrespect based on zero facts of the individual in charge of our military certainly deserves court-martial. Of course, he’ll probably get a non-punitive letter placed in his official personnel file, a suspended reduciton in rank, and a suspended forfeiture of pay, and because he has to stay on Active Duty long enough for the non-judicial punishment (Article 15) proceedings to be completed, he’ll actually be making money off of this stunt!

Now think of something else: If I, as an Enlisted individual in the paygrade of E-6, made the same or similar comments about Butler while I was on Active Duty, I certainly would be subject to disciplinary action for, at the very least, falsely accusing him of a crime. Luckily, I’m in the Fleet Reserve (type of Retirement for Enlisted Navy types) so my pointing out that Butler’s stunt above was a stunt isn’t a violation of the UCMJ.

What’s the debate: Was Butler’s letter in a public place appropriate, and is Article 88 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice worthwhile?

Moderators: I really see this as a Great Debate; however, if you feel that it’s destined for the Pit (or someone else takes it that way sooner than you get to see it), of course move it there.

Looks like a colorable claim of insubordination to me. Of course, free speech concerns are a big deal in a case like this, but I think you could make a reasonable argument that the government has a compelling state interest in regulating such public statements in the military. Can’t have our troops being led by senior commanders who are telling them that they’re inn the service of the bad guys, after all. But I think any punishment greater than losing his job would be inappropriate. As whacked out as those statements are, that’s the worst that could have happened to him in civilian life, so that seems to me like the worst allowable punishment in the military.


My point is that “losing his job” should include “losing his pension.” Otherwise, he’s not getting any punishment.

I left off something else:

Insubordination can also be punished via court-martial and thus return a sentence of dismissal from the service. Dismissal from the service means no pension, btw.

Yeah, I caught the “no pension” thing. I simply disagree, because I see no compelling state interest in punishment going beyond the necessity of maintaining military order for statements that would otherwise indisputably be protected by free speech.

Maybe this will shed some light on my position, minty:

A military member is subject to recall to Active Duty from Retirement. It’s more of a retainer than a pension. So long as he’s still “holding the ID card,” he’s still part of the military.

BTW, realistically, how free are you to go around accusing your employer of mass murder without you being subject to some kind of severe punishment?

Assuming my employer has no defamation claim (and Col. Butler’s “employer” certainly has no such claim–public official, malice, etc.-- the worst that happens to me is that I lose my job. They can’t touch my pension, though.

Monty, I AM in uniform, and as such, I am limited in what I can say, but here’s a link for you.

E1.2.2.5. Section 888 (Article 88, UCMJ) – Contemptuous
words by commissioned officers against certain officials.

E1.2.2.6. Section 889 (Article 89, UCMJ) – Disrespect
toward a superior commissioned officer.

As you can see, there are many ways to prosecute an officer for what is tantamount to mutiny. And that’s just with the UCMJ. I don’t even have to look up the Air Force regs, because they’ll almost certainly say the same thing.

Well, it’s not tantamount to mutiny. He didn’t call for the overthrow of anyone in command. As far as the regulations go, I’m looking for the AFR that discusses how someone can make a complaint against a superior. IIRC, in the Navy it’s Article 1110 of the Navy Regulations.

My favorite part of the Monterey Herald article:

Now, these were two officers and therefore subject to Article 88 of the UCMJ, no? Oh let me guess: “We weren’t at war back then, and anyway, those guys were talking about that poo-poo-head Clinton.”

It seems to be the substance of the allegations, not the fact that any allegations were made, that has certain people beside themselves … The guy’s about to retire anyway; I say let it go. Court-martial that brave, outspoken American soldier, try and take his pension away, and one only creates bigger problems for themselves.

Well, according to this site:


Maj. Rabil was a reserve officer who wasn’t on active duty at the time that he wrote the letter, he was therefore not subject to Article 88.

He was, nevertheless, issued a letter of reprimand which, again according to this site, ensures that he will never be promoted and in effect ends his military career.

Maj. Sellers was issued with a letter of “caution” (or some such thing) which did not go into his permanent record.

According to a couple of sites I looked at it would appear that it is left to the discretion of the particular superior officer as to how to proceed in each case. One of the reasons that Maj. Sellers got off so lightly might be that there were allegations that his superior officer was being inappropriately pressured by other military officials.

Anyway, this is the kind of problem that big companies deal with all the time, an employee who used to be good has, for one reason or another, lost it. The best thing is to quietly and gently push them out the door and wish them the best of luck.

Brave? Hah! The coward didn’t bother to put his rank and Service on his name. You’ll notice that I used the term anonymous in the title of this thread to refer to Butler. That’s because the guy’s a coward.

Please see above my comment about his retirement. I don’t think he should be allowed to retire and thus continue to draw a pension when his last major[sup]1[/1] act on Active Duty was to accuse the last three presidents of murder.

[sup]1[/sup]It’s an accidental pun, but oh so appropriate.

I’d greatly appreciate a coding “fix” in that last post.

There were a lot of people seriously conflicted by the language of Article 88, UCMJ, during Vietnam. As long as there was no preaching to the troops that Johnson / MacNamara / Nixon/ Kissenger were all idiots and power mad there was no trouble. I don’t recall any one being prosecuted for the expression of a contemptuous opinion of the powers-that-be, but I don’t recall anyone raising the matter in a public forum, either. There was any number of cases when junior officers were taken aside and told that running off at the mouth was not a good idea. As long as opinions were not expressed in public and were not identified as the opinions of a serving officer there was just no real problem. For instance, no one suggested that my Vote for McGovern bumper sticker next to the blue post entry permit was in anyway unacceptable.

When I went back to several post as a reservist during the Clinton Administration I was shocked to see “Clinton Doesn’t Blow, He Sucks” bumper stickers all over the place. There has been a pretty obvious change in the Service’s attitude toward political expression. It seems to me that LTC Butler’s problem may represent a pretty refreshing return to the idea that serving military and naval officers keep their political opinions to them selves.

Will LTC Butler be court-martialed—probably not. Will something unpleasant happen to him, like not getting a promotion to full colonel on the way out the door, probably.

Even military members are guaranteed their right to participate in an election so long as they don’t interfere with the working of their unit or attempt to exert influence on their subordinates in regard to the election. The bumper sticker on the vehicle is a statement made on a piece of private property (the vehicle) and thus is protected speech. Now, if the bumper sticker were to appear on a military vehicle, that would be a completely different story.

As far as “not getting apromotion to full colonel on the way out the door” goes: nobody gets promoted on the way out the door. Some folks do manage to get demotions on their way out. As it is, Butler had already applied for retirement and pulled this stunt literally just a few weeks before his scheduled retirement date. I’m tempted to believe that he’s just been throwing a temper tantrum because he’s not happy with being a light colonel, but that’s just my take on it.

Perhaps. If so then Butler has nothing to worry about, especially if Solis’ colleague’s “harsher view of the colonel’s letter” is any indication of the prevailing attitude among the higher-ups.

You are using the term “anonymous” as a subjective, punitive judgement against his actions, rather than in the sense of “he never gave his name”. He attached his full, real, given name to his commentary - which is much more than I can say for pretty much any member of the SDMB, including you, including me. Presumably it was Butler’s intent to speak out in his capacity as a citizen of the USA without hampering his opinion with all the baggage that people are bound to pile on if he had identified himself as a soldier. (That’s not a “pun”, either, appropriate or otherwise.)

Again with the “3 presidents” bit. I can’t seem to find in that article where he talked about anyone but W. Please advise.

LOL Why, when I was in the Army, only a damned, masochistic fool would decorate his personal vehicle with anything more leftist than a “World Wildlife Federation” panda, and even that would be pushing it to the redline.

Well there’s Colin Powell, for starters … Clinton promoted him to 5-star when he retired, yes?

Colin Powell was not promoted to 5 Star. Only Congress can do that anyway. Please refrain from WAGs.

Regarding the 3 presidents bit: Butler accused all 3 iin his original letter.

I am using the term “anonymous” in the sense that Butler kept his rank and branch of Service secret (aka anonymous) due to the obvious response from the military had he used it to begin with.

Speaking of WAGs: Butler’s letter contained the comment “How many people died because of Monica Lewinsky?” which I took to mean a rhetorical phrase blasting Clinton for attacks some people took to be a diversion from the Lewinsky affair. Actually, Butler merely accused the two Presidents Bush of murder and called Clinton a great president. Sorry about the WAG on my part.

His earlier comments about the Supreme Court certainly should’ve woken up his Chain of Command to the type of officer Butler is.