How GOP Senator Joni Ernst May Have Broken the Law By Signing Seditious Letter to Iran

It is a privilege to serve in the US military.  With that privilege comes obligations.  Following military law is one of them. When Lt. Col. Joni Ernst signed the seditious letter to Iran, she broke a serious law.


Lt. Col. Joni Ernst, the junior senator from Iowa, is a lieutenant colonel in the Iowa Army National Guard. As such, she is bound by the Iowa State Code of Military Justice.  Her signing of the seditious letter to Iran is a clear and direct violation of Chapter 29B.85 of the Iowa State Code of Military Justice.

29B.85  CONTEMPT TOWARD OFFICIALS.
         Any person subject to this code who uses contemptuous words against the president, the governor, or the governor of any other state, territory, commonwealth, or possession in which that person may be serving, shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.

This is very serious infraction.  We are a nation governed by civilians.  Our Commander-in-Chief is a civilian.  The government officials that hold ultimate authority over our military are civilians.  This is true at the federal level and the state level.  This has always been the case since George Washington was president.  He resigned his military commission to accept the position of president.   We have never in our history had a military ruler.  Military obedience to civilian authority is critical and essential if we are to maintain the democracy we inherited.   That is why "contempt towards officials" is such a serious matter. Lincoln enforced that discipline during the Civil War. Even with the imposition of martial law, Lincoln remained a civilian commander. Truman enforced the same discipline after WWII when he relieved Gen. MacArthur of his command. Obama enforced the same discipline recently when Gen. McChrystal was relieved of his command. There is nothing anachronistic about this fundamental principle.

In the federal armed services, this is handled under Article 88 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

“Any commissioned officer who uses contemptuous words against the President, the Vice President, Congress, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of a military department, the Secretary of Transportation, or the Governor or legislature of any State, Territory, Commonwealth, or possession in which he is on duty or present shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.”

Reading the federal version, it is obvious where Iowa got the wording for its law.  It's not an accident or a coincidence.  The importance of enforcing the requirement for military obedience to civilian authority is universally applied at every level of governance, from the federal to the local level. This is why we are not a police state.

In the Open Letter to Iran, which Lt. Col. Joni Ernst freely signed,  it says:

we will consider any agreement regarding your nuclear-weapons program that is not approved by the Congress as nothing more than an executive agreement between President Obama and Ayatollah Khamenei.

The fact of the matter is the president, under Article 2, section 2, has always been recognized as uniquely empowered to speak on behalf of the nation.  After all, the president is the Chief Executive.   This principle has been in place for over 200 years.  Secretary of State Jefferson -- as instructed by President Washington -- made this point in writing to Edmond Genet in 1793, explaining that no one but the president could speak for this country.

He being the only channel of communication between this country and foreign nations, it is from him alone that foreign nations or their agents are to learn what is or has been the will of the nation; and whatever he communicates as such, they have a right, and are bound to consider as the expression of the nation

That principle has been ratified numerous times across the centuries.  Undermining that authority is sedition.  Undermining the authority of the president while you are serving as an active duty officer in the Iowa State National Guard is clearly contemptuous.

At the federal level, an officer is in violation of this law (Article 88) if their behavior meets the following tests:

(1) That the accused was a commissioned officer of the United States armed forces;

(2) That the accused used certain words against an official or legislature named in the article;

(3) That by an act of the accused these words came to the knowledge of a person other than the accused; and

(4) That the words used were contemptuous, either in themselves or by virtue of the circumstances under which they were used.

This brings us to the case of Lt. Col. Joni Ernst. I assume the same elements, or similar elements, are used to determine compliance at the state level for Section 85 as they are at the federal level for Article 88.

In this case, Sen. Joni Ernst is a commissioned officer. (1)

She did use words against the president. (2)

These words were published to MANY people besides the president.  (3)

The circumstances of these words are contemptuous of the president and his authority.(4)

That's four strikes.

***

By her behavior, Joni Ernst has disgraced her commission and tarnished the reputation of the Iowa National Guard.  Her behavior reflects poorly on her and her chain of command.  It also provides a poor example of leadership to those men and women entrusted to her command.

Because of her actions, Lt. Col. Joni Ernt appears to have willfully violated Iowa Code 29B.85. The only reasonable course of action is to subject Joni Ernst to court martial and punishment in proportion to the severity of her infraction.

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