Some time ago, I had the temerity to write that Gen. Generoso Senga did right in imposing discipline on Marine general Francisco Gudani and Marine colonel Alexander Balutan. Even though I thought that Gudani and Balutan had done the right thing, in testifying under oath before the Senate convened as a Committee of the Whole, and violating a direct order of their immediate superior in the process, I reasoned that Senga had no other choice but to repair the damage to the chain of command.
Two Sundays ago, lawyer and must-read blogger Edwin Lacierda raised a specific question, this time about the "failed attempt of Col. Klaus von Stauffenberg" to assassinate Adolf Hitler.
Had it succeeded, would you still hold that the chain of command must be inviolably maintained and therefore, condemn the act or would you admit of an exception and condone his act on the premise that in the hierarchy of moral virtues, his assassination Hitler is far more superior than maintaining the command structure?
(It’s taken me eight days to eke out a possible answer, but, Your Honor, I plead a heavy caseload, in a manner of speaking.)
The short answer is: Yes, it was a moral act, and deeply professional, worthy of the highest ideals of the traditional (Prussian-based) German army. Regardless of its success, it was the right thing to do (and many of the best generals of the German military thought so too).
The long answer begins with a quick detour. I think I understand where Dawin is coming from; he is thinking like a lawyer. As I understand it, legal reasoning is based on the fundamental principle of "facts and the law." Essentially, it is applied metaphorical thinking. It deals with one case by searching other (already decided) cases for a convincing parallel, or analogy. But the parallel is not simply a matter of comparing laws in question; the (key) facts of each case must also be essentially the same.
His question about the plot to assassinate Hitler (I think Stauffenberg left a bomb under the conference table in Hitler’s mountain retreat in July 1944; when it exploded, Hitler happened to be some distance away from the table; he sustained injuries, none mortal, except perhaps to his dictator’s sense of invincibility) is thus an attempt to look for parallels between the Gudani episode and other acts of soldier’s conscience in history.
But I think the parallel, in this particular instance, does not hold.
Germany in 1944 was laboring under a dictatorship. The Gudani episode took place under a democracy — imperfect, but still real. I think that difference, right there, would invalidate the analogy. After the July 1944 plot, the German high command (which we should distinguish from the Nazi elements of the military, such as the SS) should have turned against Hitler. (It is interesting to note that as early as 1938, before the invasion of Poland was even launched, German generals who saw themselves as following the noblest traditions of Prussian arms were already plotting against Hitler.) That they didn’t is history’s burden on them.
Perhaps the better parallel is with Edsa I. After the RAM plot was discovered, the AFP chain of command should have turned against Marcos. It didn’t, at least not right away. But through the telephone diplomacy of Fidel Ramos (he really earned his Steady Eddie nickname in those four days, as photos taken then show; while Defense Minister looked tense even in the most flattering black and white photos, Ramos looked like Robert Duvall did in Apocalypse Now, walking nonchalantly on the field of battle), and under pressure from millions of people gathered in Edsa, military units broke the chain of command one by one.
The parallel with Colonel Stauffenberg’s time: the military was under a dictatorship.
Everything I’ve written on the vexing role of the military in our political crisis is based on the assumption that, in a democracy, the military must secure the public square, but not enter it. (And in order to provide security, discipline through the chain of command must obtain.) But in 1944 Germany, and in 1986 Philippines, the military was right in the middle of the public square; the army needed to break and then re-forge the chain of command in order to vacate the square.
Another assiduous lawyer-blogger who is already familiar to many of us, Abe Margallo, raised the question whether self-preservation could in fact be used to justify Senga’s decision.
I’m of the same frame of mind for where there is no war or sudden attack involved, how can the testimony before the Senate of Gen. Gudani and Col. Balutan be enjoined upon the pretext of self-defense? What if the testimony is about knowledge of “killing fields” perpetrated upon orders of superior officers? Would such a case go beyond the “personal” and the “moral”? Is it preferable to breach the “discipline” to preserve the integrity of the military as an institution?
It is to Abe’s first question that I address myself. The court martial that will try Gudani and Balutan will center on their act of insubordination; it is in this context that a reassertion of the chain of command can be understood as an act of self-preservation. It is immaterial whether the Marine officers testified to election fraud or the lack of it, or to something else altogether. (Immaterial, that is, to the military justice system. It is certainly most material to all of us who take the one man, one vote guarantee seriously — a multitude, of course, that includes fellow citizens who happen to serve in the Armed Forces.)
As for the "killing fields" hypothesis, I think the situation Abe contemplates is of a completely different order, a difference not of degree but of kind.
I hope I can set aside my "caseload" for an hour or so this week to test his hypothesis.