Preventing a Rogue President from Committing a War Crime: Open Letter to the New Generation of Military Officers by Lt. Col. Robert M. Bowman

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by Lt. Col. Robert M. Bowman
Global Research, September 13, 2007

Should some civilian order you to initiate a nuclear attack on Iran, you are duty-bound to refuse that order

“I contend that should some civilian order you to initiate a nuclear attack on Iran (for example), you are duty-bound to refuse that order. I might also suggest that you should consider whether the circumstances demand that you arrest whoever gave the order as a war criminal.” (Dr., Lt. Col. Bob Bowman)

Duty, Honor, Country 2007

An Open Letter to the New Generation of Military Officers Serving and Protecting Our Nation

By Dr. Robert M. Bowman, Lt. Col., USAF, ret., National Commander, The Patriots

Dear Comrades in Arms,

You are facing challenges in 2007 that we of previous generations never dreamed of. I’m just an old fighter pilot (101 combat missions in Vietnam, F-4 Phantom, Phu Cat, 1969-1970) who’s now a disabled veteran with terminal cancer from Agent Orange. Our mailing list (over 22,000) includes veterans from all branches of the service, all political parties, and all parts of the political spectrum. We are Republicans and Democrats, Greens and Libertarians, Constitutionists and Reformers, and a good many Independents. What unites us is our desire for a government that (1) follows the Constitution, (2) honors the truth, and (3) serves the people.

We see our government going down the wrong path, all too often ignoring military advice, and heading us toward great danger. And we look to you who still serve as the best hope for protecting our nation from disaster.

We see the current Iraq War as having been unnecessary, entered into under false pretenses, and horribly mismanaged by the civilian authorities. Thousands of our brave troops have been needlessly sacrificed in a futile attempt at occupation of a hostile land. Many more thousands have suffered wounds which will change their lives forever. Tens of thousands have severe psychological problems because of what they have seen and what they have done. Potentially hundreds of thousands could be poisoned by depleted uranium, with symptoms appearing years later, just as happened to us exposed to Agent Orange. The military services are depleted and demoralized. The VA system is under-funded and overwhelmed. The National Guard and Reserves have been subjected to tour after tour, disrupting lives for even the lucky ones who return intact. Jobs have been lost, marriages have been destroyed, homes have been foreclosed, and children have been estranged. And for what? We have lost allies, made new enemies, and created thousands of new terrorists, further endangering the American people.

But you know all this. I’m sure you also see the enormous danger in a possible attack on Iran, possibly with nuclear weapons. Such an event, seriously contemplated by the Cheney faction of the Bush administration, would make enemies of Russia and China and turn us into the number one rogue nation on earth. The effect on our long-term national security would be devastating.

Some of us had hoped that the new Democratic Congress would end the occupation of Iraq and take firm steps to prevent an attack on Iran, perhaps by impeaching Bush and Cheney. These hopes have been dashed. The lily-livered Democrats have caved in, turning their backs on those few (like Congressman Jack Murtha) who understand the situation. Many of us have personally walked the halls of Congress, to no avail.

This is where you come in.

We know that many of you share our concern and our determination to protect our republic from an arrogant, out-of-control, imperial presidency and a compliant, namby-pamby Congress (both of which are unduly influenced by the oil companies and other big-money interests). We know that you (like us) wouldn’t have pursued a military career unless you were idealistic and devoted to our nation and its people. (None of us do it for the pay and working conditions!) But we also recognize that you may not see how you can influence these events. We in the military have always had a historic subservience to civilian authority.

Perhaps I can help with whatever wisdom I’ve gathered from age (I retired in 1978, so I am ancient indeed).

Our oath of office is to “protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” Might I suggest that this includes a rogue president and vice-president? Certainly we are bound to carry out the legal orders of our superiors. But the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) which binds all of us enshrines the Nuremberg Principles which this country established after World War II (which you are too young to remember). One of those Nuremberg Principles says that we in the military have not only the right, but also the DUTY to refuse an illegal order. It was on this basis that we executed Nazi officers who were “only carrying out their orders.”

The Constitution which we are sworn to uphold says that treaties entered into by the United States are the “highest law of the land,” equivalent to the Constitution itself. Accordingly, we in the military are sworn to uphold treaty law, including the United Nations charter and the Geneva Convention.

Based on the above, I contend that should some civilian order you to initiate a nuclear attack on Iran (for example), you are duty-bound to refuse that order. I might also suggest that you should consider whether the circumstances demand that you arrest whoever gave the order as a war criminal.

I know for a fact that in recent history (once under Nixon and once under Reagan), the military nuclear chain of command in the White House discussed these things and were prepared to refuse an order to “nuke Russia .” In effect they took the (non-existent) “button” out of the hands of the President.. We were thus never quite as close to World War III as many feared, no matter how irrational any president might have become. They determined that the proper response to any such order was, “Why, sir?” Unless there was (in their words) a “damn good answer,” nothing was going to happen.

I suggest that if you in this generation have not had such a discussion, perhaps it is time you do. In hindsight, it’s too bad such a discussion did not take place prior to the preemptive “shock and awe” attack on Baghdad . Many of us at the time spoke out vehemently that such an attack would be an impeachable offense, a war crime against the people of Iraq, and treason against the United States of America . But our voices were drowned out and never reached the ears of the generals in 2003. I now regret that I never sent a letter such as this at that time, but depended on the corporate media to carry my message. I must not make that mistake again.

Also in hindsight, President Bush could be court-martialed for abuse of power as Commander-in-Chief. Vice President Cheney could probably be court-martialed for his performance as Acting Commander-in-Chief in the White House bunker the morning of September 11, 2001 .

We in the U.S. military would never consider a military coup, removing an elected president and installing one of our own. But following our oath of office, obeying the Nuremberg Principles, and preventing a rogue president from committing a war crime is not a military coup. If it requires the detention of executive branch officials, we will not impose a military dictatorship. We will let the Constitutional succession take place. This is what we are sworn to. This is protecting the Constitution, our highest obligation. In 2007, this is what is meant by “Duty, Honor, Country.”

Thank you all for your service to this nation. May God bless America, and sustain us in this difficult time. And thanks for listening to the musings of an old junior officer.


Robert M. Bowman, PhD, Lt. Col., USAF, ret.

© Copyright Robert M. Bowman,, 2007
The url address of this article is:


Bush Administration War Plans directed against Iran by Michel Chossudovsky

British academics warn US is preparing “shock and awe” attack on Iran by Peter Symonds

The Anti-Empire Report: Read this or George W. Bush will be president the rest of your life by William Blum

When Wishful Thinking Replaces Resistance: Why Bush Can Get Away with Attacking Iran by Prof. Jean Bricmont

War Against Iran and the Logic of Dominance By Gareth Porter



26 thoughts on “Preventing a Rogue President from Committing a War Crime: Open Letter to the New Generation of Military Officers by Lt. Col. Robert M. Bowman

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  8. I am a vet, 8 years of service through two conflicts. I have friends who serve today in all branches and on the battlefields of the war against terrorism.

    Col Bowman, you are calling upon the men and women of this nation’s military forces to commit the most egregious of possible crimes against the people of the United States. It all boils down to taking a lawful order and executing it as directed by the executive branch as empowered by the people of the United States.

    Your ‘letter’ also confuses several issues in a thinly veiled attempt to tear down the Bush administration further, trying to take a non-political serving entity of the government and involving it where it’s collective noses and asses do not belong to serve YOUR own agenda.

    I am not a fan of the current administration. As the lesser of two terrible choices I voted for them, but my personal opinion is that they have indeed misled the public on numerous occasions regarding several important political, policy, and legal issues facing this nation. The war in Iraq, initially, was well justified for many reasons far beyond the one centrally focused on one by the liberal media… but it’s planning and leadership by civilian authority after the initial military campaign to remove Saddam from power was poorly planned and has never recovered due to increasingly worsening leadership and obvious profiteering.

    Mixing the Iraq debacle with Iran however is a seriously misguided attempt to further your own agenda. Iran presents the main threat to the entire western world and is very clearly attempting to become a nuclear armed nation under the leadership of obviously insane and corrupt leadership. Iran is the primary exporter of hatred and terror to the world and while its mullah leadership continues to run rabid over the nation and region they are a threat to the very existence of western civilization.

    I believe that it is patently clear, through both sides of the media mouthpieces in our nation as well as from more neutral news reporting around he world that a nuclear armed Iran is a threat very nearly all civilized nations consider dire and immediate in dealing with. In a rare case of restraint, the Bush administration has held off on direct or singular action as well, and many nations in the EU and through out the middle ease support the general view that once all political options are exhausted and Iran persists in acquiring nuclear arms, a military solution (one that is very powerful and dire, final) will be required.

    Should it come to our president ordering a precision nuclear or conventional strike on Iran in order to take away its programs to acquire world threatening nuclear arms our military should carry out its role and do so without hesitation as they are expected to do.

    Your letter instigating armed insurrection is deplorable and you should be ashamed, especially as a veteran who took the same oath as I did. Our soldiers are volunteers. They follow legal orders that do not violate the laws and rules under which they are governed and expected to operate… period. To call upon our military to intervene in any way in the political life of this nation is objectionable in the extreme… if you feel so strongly, take up political action as you see fit, but do not exercise what little ‘pull’ you have and call upon the brave men and women of this nation who serve so valiantly in our steed to commit acts from which this nation will NEVER recover.

  9. I’ve been saying for some time now that the US military does not only have the right, but by now also the duty to carry out a coup d’etat. The US is officially a police state now (see tasering incident at Kerry forum), the constitution has been hollowed out, the events of 9-11 have been covered up (WTC 7, steel beams ( = evidence in a crime) being shipped to China and India only days after the attack, etc.), Guantanamo Bay (German officers were hanged by the US military at Nuremberg for similar offenses), the ‘Gleichschaltung’ of the American media, the replacement of US attorneys, … need I go on?
    Kudos to Col. Bowman for speaking up. I hope that he is not the only member of the US military who remembers his oath to uphold the constitution and protect it from King George W. and his cronies.

  10. One day, people will wake up and see what’s going on… but it will be too late. All the fascist mechanisms will already be in place to prevent any revolt. They control the economy, the media, the law… Opposition leaders will be silenced and prevented from traveling. Without leaders, people are obedient sheeps.

  11. He already committed a war crime in the invasion of Iraq.

    Google “supreme international crime”. It’s the reason we hanged the Nazis at Nuremberg: aggressive war.

    You and your comrades in arms are already complicit in the worst possible crime against humanity. Who really cares if they commit the same crime against Iran? They’re already guilty.

  12. Thank you Colonel. You are a patriot. I’ve linked your writing on my own blog. I guess no one has the balls to impeach these two war criminals.

  13. Yeah, he definitely hasn’t been watching the news. 🙂

    He seems to be totally unaware of a situation the rest of us are fully aware of, and pissed off about. Maybe he should think about what the hell he is saying before berating someone else who actually *does* know what the hell he is talking about.

  14. What a drama queen! Perhaps while you are offering us your rationalization for abandoning the Constitution and ignoring the orders of the Commander in Chief, you could also take time out to tell us why this isn’t silly mental masturbation?

    I mean, really, do you have ANY – ANY – reason to believe that we might nuke Iran? Because if you believe it is likely, but can’t show any reasons to believe it, then you are just a nutjob. And if you don’t really believe it and you just used it as an example, then you are being a drama queen to sucker in the idiots so they will start ranting and raving about a situation that will never exist.

    So what was your point exactly?

  15. Re: Preventing a Rogue President from Committing a War Crime: Open Letter to the New Generation of Military Officers by Lt. Col. Robert M. Bowman

    Dear Dr. Bowman,

    It is with gratitude and a restoration of my faith in the potential greatness of the people of our Republic, the Republic itself, and the Principles upon which it is founded, that I read your letter, above.

    Your honorable, and honored service to the nation, and stature among our beloved veterans, only serves to further expose the sorry gang of thugs calling themselves an “administration”, for what they are.

    They are mere cowards, bullies, liars, and, I almost cannot bear to express it, mass-murderers, and disgust is only topped by amazement that we the people have let it happen, and are continuing to do so.

    Like you, my hopes were raised at last November’s elections, only do be deflated by — with a precious few notable exceptions — the supine, appeasing, limp Congress.

    I thank and commend you for your absolutely correct and right contention, addressed to officers and enlisted personnel, that “should some civilian order you to initiate a nuclear attack on Iran (for example), you are duty-bound to refuse that order.”

    You make reference to the Principles outlined at Nuremberg 1945-46; I add, here, that the Nuremberg Indictments fit this administration and its aiders, abetters, enablers and lackeys, like a glove.

    May I add that it is of critical importance that impeachment proceedings against Vice President Cheney — which have been called for by a great number of citizens, apparently ignored by the Congress — be commenced with alacrity, or better still, he should be quietly induced and compelled to resign, because impeachment must take its Constitutionally prescribed course, and may just be too slow.

    I take the liberty of posting here the actual Nuremberg Indictment :

    Nuremberg Indictment 1945-46

    “Count Two of the Indictment charges the defendants with committing specific crimes against peace by planning, preparing, initiating, and waging wars of aggression against a number of other States. It will be convenient to consider the question of the existence of a common plan and the question of aggressive war together, and to deal later in this Judgment with the question of the individual responsibility of the defendants. The charges in the Indictment that the defendants planned and waged aggressive wars are charges of the utmost gravity. War is essentially an evil thing. Its consequences are not confined to the belligerent States alone, but affect the whole world. To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole”

    May God Bless you and May He Bless America, at this crucial time.

    Sincerely and respectfully,

    Paul Buckmaster

  16. Namiste Lo,

    I agree I think that since the United nations have said that this war with Iraq and our continued intervention there is not permitted by any governing body through the United nations that it all has been illegal and they should be held accountable as war criminals…

    Namiste and peace,


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