The ex-director of the CIA, Michael Hayden, told Bill Maher on Real Time that the U.S. military would be forced to disobey the commander in chief if he ordered the torture of prisoners.
“I would be incredibly concerned if a President Trump governed in a way that was consistent with the way that candidate Trump expressed during the campaign,” Hayden said.
Maher brought up Trump’s pledge to kill family members of Islamic State terrorists. “That never even occurred to you, right?” Maher deadpanned.
“God, no!” Hayden exclaimed. “Let me give you a punchline: If he were to order that once in government, the American armed forces would refuse to act.”
Maher responded incredulously, “What? Well, that’s quite a statement, sir.”
“You cannot—you are not committed, you are not required, in fact you’re required to not follow an unlawful order,” Hayden replied. “That would be in violation of all the international laws of armed conflict.”
“You’ve given us a great reason not to support Trump. There would be a coup in this country,” Maher cracked.
Hayden said he was not sure about “a coup.”
No, not a coup. More like a mutiny. The top brass will never remove a president from office by force — unless, perhaps, they judge the president insane and have no other choice.
Refusing to obey an unlawful order might be accepted by a court martial — and then it might not. Would it be the individual’s interpretation of international law that mattered? Or would it be a matter of conscience? In other words, define “unlawful.” Depending on the circumstances, a courts martial might side with the CiC.
Clearly, murdering a terrorist’s family would be against the Geneva Convention and would be a war crime. So Hayden’s observation is probably correct. But I doubt it will ever come to that. Trump is a loudmouth bomb thrower who likes to get a rise out of the press. His comments about waterboarding and the murder of innocents is just one more way for him to garner headlines and increase his stock with his supporters.