From: Hospital Corpsman Daniel J. Lakemacher Petty Officer Second Class XXX-XX-XXXX (Social Security Number)

To: Navy Personnel Command
Via: Commanding Officer, Naval Health Clinic Great Lakes, Illinois

Ref: (a) MILPERSMAN 1900-020

1. I request discharge on the grounds of conscientious objection. The following required information is provided:

a. Permanent home address:
Intentionally Left Blank for Publication

b. School and colleges attended after age 16:
School Name/Address /Type School /Inclusive Dates
Intentionally Left Blank for Publication

c. Chronological list of all compensated and uncompensated jobs held after age 16:
Employer/Address /Type Work /Inclusive Dates

Intentionally Left Blank for Publication

d. All residences after age 16:
Address/City/State/Inclusive Dates

Intentionally Left Blank for Publication

e. Spouse and member’s parents’ names/addresses and religion/sect:
Intentionally Left Blank for Publication

f. I did not make application to the Selective Service System for classification as a conscientious objector prior to entry into the Armed Forces.

g. A description of the nature of my belief:

The basis of my belief is that the ultimate violation of natural law and consequently of natural rights is to use force without a direct personal threat of physical violence being visibly enacted against your person, your property, or the person or property of another individual present with you. Generally known as the non-aggression axiom, this principle is the foundation of my morality, and it is because of this that I cannot but conclude that war is immoral. War, in contrast to an individual’s self-defense, inherently involves the formation of a group of persons who enact systematic violence against another faction whether or not they have been personally threatened or attacked.

The necessary escalation of violence that is inherent to waging war directly contradicts the moral obligation that compels me to preserve human life. My adherence to natural law is rooted in the belief that each human acts as their own moral agent, and that therefore, what any individual holds as their highest value should be respected insofar as it does not infringe upon the natural rights of others. I believe it is almost universally accepted that humans value their right to continue living as the most important function of their existence. That this line of reasoning sounds awkward or circular is simply evidence that it is the de facto basis for almost all human action. Although few if any persons would argue against the theoretical value of human life, the problem arises when individuals or groups do not weigh their actions against the criterion of whether or not they infringe upon another person’s highest value, most frequently their right to continue living.

It is with this mindset that I cannot affirm any manner of “Just War Theory” because it intentionally jeopardizes human lives that may not otherwise have been threatened. Whether my moral premise is applied to our current wars, any past war, or any conceivable future war, no warring party can be justified. I accept that from such a strict moral standpoint, the ease of defending the sovereignty of any government is severely compromised, as it would ultimately rely upon the success of individuals defending themselves and their property. Even at such potential cost, I cannot set aside my moral beliefs for the sake of expediency. Therefore, whether on foreign soil or American, in aggression or in defense of government, I am convinced beyond doubt of the immorality of war.

h. Explanation of how my belief changed/developed:

I enlisted in the Navy with the intent of becoming a Navy SEAL. At the time, I was a devout Evangelical Christian who firmly believed that I would not merely be justified in the eyes of God for my involvement in war but that I would in fact be pleasing him with my service. This mindset is not surprising given my upbringing. From my early childhood through my early twenties, church was the central institution in my life. My family participated in church events multiple times per week, and this continued into early adulthood when I entered Moody Bible Institute as a freshman in college. For more than twenty years, I learned about how God’s chosen people, Israel, waged innumerable just wars throughout the Middle East.

At the end of high school, I briefly considered military service but instead felt drawn to pursue a life of ministry. After the events of September 11, 2001, I again considered entering the military with the wholehearted conviction that if I did so, God would be pleased. Within the next year, I got married and sought to provide for my young family through several jobs, all while continuing my religious activities.

Prompted again by my patriotic feelings as well as my desire for adventure, I enlisted in the Navy in 2005. I did so without a doubt in my mind about the justice of war and, in particular, the necessity of America’s ongoing military actions. Ultimately, my belief that war was not only acceptable but also honorable stemmed from the premise that the Judeo-Christian God was the final arbiter on what is right and wrong, and from the teachings of my church, I believed that God sanctioned war. In addition to the biblical scholarship in which I had been indoctrinated, “Just War Theory” was also taught to me, and I readily accepted it as truth.

Since that time my religious beliefs have completely changed. While my conscientious objection does not stem from a religious perspective, an explanation of my current views is necessary to understand why I came to question the morality of war. I no longer believe in the existence of the Christian God. I would not classify myself as an atheist or an agnostic. I simply believe that if other superior beings exist, they do not define human morality.

I do not believe that the causal factors of the change in my religious views are especially pertinent to this process, but it was because of this dramatic shift in my understanding of the world that I began to question the morality of war while I was deployed last year. During my search for answers to the innumerable questions that were raised when I removed the Christian God as the moral authority in my life, I discovered the non-aggression axiom, which is frequently cited as the natural rights basis for morality.

I learned that the founding presupposition for many of the writings of the classical liberal tradition was the belief that to use force or coercion against another was the most basic violation of natural law. It may seem unusual that I felt prompted to investigate the thinking of these long dead philosophers given that I only had a brief exposure in high school to the Enlightenment theory of natural law and natural rights. Ironically, it was during my time in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, that I again explicitly encountered this moral framework.

A significant portion of my free time in GTMO was spent reading, and it was the MWR library that provided me with a free copy of Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. Among many other philosophic beliefs conveyed in her epic narrative, Rand repeatedly emphasizes the non-aggression axiom. Prompted by the instant recognition that Rand’s prose was an expression of many of the ideas that had come to replace my religious convictions, I undertook a concerted effort to study natural law, natural rights, and innumerable related ideas that have had personal ramifications on my political, economic, and ethical beliefs.

Since returning from deployment in 2008, I have repeatedly listened to a thirty-two hour lecture series entitled “Learning About Liberty,” a production of the Cato Institute that traces such classical liberal ideas as the non-aggression axiom through various philosophers over the centuries and into the present. Additionally, I have spent days studying articles and books both from and recommended by the Ludwig Von Mises Institute. These Internet resources have introduced me to more modern advocates against war such as Murray Rothbard and his book For A New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto. Although not every individual or organization whose material I have studied argues that war is immoral, taken collectively and screened through my own personal reasoning and earnest convictions, I can only suggest that any who do not make this judgment have merely failed to follow their natural rights advocacy to its only true conclusion.

i. Explanation of when and why these beliefs became incompatible with
military service:

Although the transformation of my beliefs about the morality of war has been an ongoing process for at least the past eighteen months, it was at the end of February 2009 that my understanding crystallized and I came to the personally indisputable conclusion that any war, in any form, is immoral. Since that time, my status as a member of the Armed Forces has inevitably become incompatible with my personal convictions. Overall, in the fourteen months since I returned from GTMO, I have experienced a growing level of distress at being a part of something that I honestly believe is wrong. This dichotomy between my personal beliefs and my daily actions as a Sailor has been and, I fear, will continue to be a cause of great personal stress, not to mention a lack of satisfaction in life. Although I have grown increasingly uncomfortable with our nation’s current military actions, this is not because of the specifics of these particular engagements. I believe that war is wrong, so it is only logical that I would be the most disturbed by the wars that are the closest to me.

On April 17, 2009 I had a conversation with my Senior Enlisted Advisor (SEA) that more clearly laid out the incompatibility of my being in the Navy than perhaps any other single conversation with a fellow Sailor has ever done. My SEA explicitly stated that I am an “Enlisted Warrior,” and that as such I am part of a warrior culture in which it is necessary to kill. He informed me that this warrior ethos was something that he sought to cultivate among his Sailors. He added that when he worked with the Marines, his Sailors and the Marines would greet one another not by saying, “good morning,” or “good afternoon,” but rather they would exclaim, “kill”. My SEA explained that this sort of behavior was necessary and inescapable given the fact that I am part of a war-fighting force.

He went on to relate a story about how one of his Corpsman was killed as a result of not being adequately influenced by the culture so as to follow even difficult orders or those that seemed to contradict his instinct. This Corpsman, the SEA explained, had a child approach him, and instead of “kicking the child away” or “shooting him,” the Corpsman let the child get too close to him and then the child ignited explosives that killed them both. My SEA stated that the warrior culture that I told him I found very disturbing was necessary to put Sailors in a mindset that would protect them in battle and help them to do their jobs. I can think of nothing that distresses me more than that both inside and outside the Navy I am considered to be an “Enlisted Warrior” in an organization that promotes the cultivation of such an “ethos” as my SEA described.

Conversations such as the one above, as well as the “Sailor’s Creed” that makes the claim that I “represent the fighting spirit of the Navy,” and that I “proudly serve my country’s Navy combat team,” make clear that my beliefs are completely incompatible with the Navy’s culture and mission. This dichotomy has a definite emotional effect on my quality of life as well as being a distraction from the duties to which I am assigned. For example, my mind was replaying the conversation with my SEA for more than an hour after it ended, and I have spent untold hours trying to reconcile my beliefs with the position in which I find myself. While I have no intention or desire to do less than my best as an employee, the stress caused by working in support of an overall mission in which I do not believe has been significant. At the same time, I cannot believe that it is beneficial to the Navy to retain someone like myself, who has such an adamant moral opposition to war.

As for how I came to the point of seeking classification as a conscientious objector, there have been different points throughout 2008 and 2009 when the idea occurred to me, but I honestly did not realize that this could be granted without a religious affiliation. Essentially, I was unaware that there existed within the military a legitimate outlet for the expression of my beliefs. Finally, in response to my fervent and repeated expressions of frustration over being trapped as a member of a war-fighting force, my wife googled “conscientious objector” at the beginning of March 2009. As a result, I read for myself the Navy and Department of Defense instructions on seeking a CO discharge. In so doing, I realized that there is a procedure in place specifically for persons such as myself to seek discharge.

Since reading the instruction, I have still had an immense struggle in coming to the point of being willing to denounce in public many of the ideas with which I was raised and in which I know almost all of my family and friends still believe. Even in the limited conversations that I have had with them about my new convictions, my fears that I will cause pain to those closest to me and that they will respond in ways that are painful to me have been confirmed. I am very much aware that there remains a high level of stigma about believing that war is wrong and especially about requesting to be discharged prior to the end of my enlistment. I would be lying if I did not acknowledge a fear of being characterized as unpatriotic, un-American, or worst of all, a coward. Despite this, I believe the far graver mistake would be to violate my conscience. In summary, the strength of my moral convictions has finally reached the point of outweighing any possible social consequences among family, friends, and coworkers.

Despite my current shore duty assignment at Great Lakes, I nevertheless find it necessary to seek CO status. My most pressing reason for this is that regardless of the actual content of my workload, my mere presence in uniform implies a support of the war mission of the military that I no longer desire to even tacitly give. More practically, in my current role, I work directly as part of the process that perpetuates war: facilitating the training of new recruits. Finally, it was from my post here that I deployed to GTMO, and I may be deployed again there or elsewhere in the “Global War on Terror.” Perhaps it seems callous that in a time of such purported need I would dare seek to get out of the Navy, especially since I personally know those who would likely go in my place. Although my heartfelt desire would be that none might go, I can at least take solace in the fact that, to the best of my knowledge, none of my coworkers would be going with the strong moral conviction that it was wrong.

j. Explanation of the circumstances under which I believe in the use of force, under any foreseeable circumstances (if none so state):

My belief that war is immoral does not also imply that I consider any use of unwanted physical force to be wrong. In his attempted explanation of why no rational and consistent person could be a pacifist, Christian apologist C.S. Lewis describes a theoretical situation in which one man is holding a pot of boiling water over the head of another man. Lewis’s point is that even if the reader questions the morality of the extreme violence of war, surely he or she would not sit calmly and wait to be scalded. At face value I play into Lewis’s setup, since I agree that I would not rule out violence as a means to protect myself from scalding; however, swapping individuals for state military forces in the analogy offers no evidence of the necessity of war.

To explain, only an individual is capable of action, and therefore, only an individual can act in self-defense. The attempted argument that Lewis implies is as invalid as any line of reasoning that asserts that one person’s actions can be imputed to any other person, or worse, a group of persons. To properly apply Lewis’s analogy to war would be to say that in response to the attempted scalding I led an army against the offending party and all those that lived in his house, neighborhood, state, country, or whatever label was chosen to identify the “enemy”. Again, this harks back to the expansion of violence I referenced in section g as a significant reason for my belief in the immorality of war.

As a final example, in the unlikely event that Islamic extremists invaded my house in an attempt to harm my wife or me, I would have no moral qualms about resorting to the use of physical force if it were necessary to safeguard my family. Above all, I wish to be clear that in each of the hypothetical circumstances, I would not view the use of physical force as necessarily immoral, but my belief in the value of human life makes me hope that I would be able to resolve each situation with non-lethal force.

k. Explanation of how my current life style has changed as a result of my belief, and the future actions I plan to continue my support of these beliefs:

My rejection of my previous beliefs (including an acceptance of war as morally justifiable) can most readily be seen in my current lack of participation in any religious activities. Through my childhood, and into my early adulthood, church was the center of my non-work life. It was through church that I learned “Just War Theory,” and, as a result of this religious setting and mindset, I originally enlisted with the confidence that I would be pleasing God. The summer prior to my entering boot camp, my wife and I volunteered as leaders for our church at a weeklong Christian youth conference. We sacrificed our vacation time from work to travel by bus from Chicago to Salt Lake City with more than one hundred teenagers.

Church involvement was our way of life. We regularly attended not only Sunday worship services but also participated in a couples Bible Study and volunteered in the youth group on Wednesday nights. I regularly read and studied the Bible and spent an hour or two in prayer each week. Additionally, our social engagements were almost exclusively with people either from our church or from other affiliated churches. The exception to this was when we would meet non-Christians for the sake of proselytizing.

In sharp contrast, I no longer have involvement in any religious organization, nor do I pray, read the Bible, or even believe in the existence of the Christian deity. Although church-related activities used to consume the majority of my free time, my favorite personal hobby has always been reading. As I was planning on entering the Navy, I was passionate to learn more about warfare, and I immersed myself in books on the subject. I bought and read all three of Dick Couch’s books on BUD/S and SEALs. In addition, I recently counted sixteen other books that I own regarding the “War on Terror” and military special operations. As recently as my tour in GTMO, I borrowed the audiobook of Lone Survivor, by former Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, from the MWR Library. For the first time, I was disturbed by the circumstances surrounding the acts of violence Luttrell related, and I did not finish listening to the book. I realize now that the revulsion I felt was an early manifestation of the distinct shift in my beliefs that I was not yet even aware was taking place.

Today, I have no interest in rereading Blackhawk Down, or even in watching the movie. Even fiction, such as Tom Clancy’s, is no longer appealing like it once was. I remain ever the avid reader, but my focus has moved from war to politics, government, economics, and trade. Authors such as John Locke, Frederic Bastiat, Ayn Rand, Murray Rothbard, John Denson, Lew Rockwell, Thomas Naylor, and Hans Herman Hoppe now consume my interest. I believe that pursuing knowledge in each of the aforementioned fields, particularly the latter two, offers the greatest promise for the realistic prevention of war in a world that is home to people with diametrically opposing opinions.

I now also turn to Internet resources like Reason.TV and the Cato Institute both for current events and entertainment. Last year I went to see the famous libertarian John Stossel give a lecture at the University of Chicago, and in March 2009, I attended a debate in Chicago on gun control that included a Cato Institute Scholar.

In the future, I plan on pursuing a degree, possibly at Shimer College in Chicago. I still have a strong desire to study more of western philosophy, and Shimer, with their “Great Books” curriculum, would afford an excellent opportunity to pursue more knowledge in this field. Beyond this step, I would also consider either attending law school or seeking a Masters of Business Administration. I believe either course of study would give me an excellent background from which to more effectively lobby against war while promoting natural rights. Overall, I wish to live my life in accordance with what I believe to be morally right.

l. Explanation of what, in my opinion, most conspicuously demonstrates the consistency and depth of beliefs which gave rise to this application:

I have withheld this section from publication to maintain the privacy of the individuals referenced. In summary, the most conspicuous demonstration of my depth of belief has emerged in my relationships, and some very specific interactions that have taken place therein.

m. Prior service:

n. The following information is provided regarding my religious sect or organization:
I have no religious sect or organization with which I affiliate myself.

o. Information on the pastor or leader of my (church, congregation, or meeting):
Not applicable

p. A description of the creed or official statements (if any, and if known) of said religious sect or organization in relation to participation in war:
Not applicable

q. A description of my relationship with and activities in all organizations with which I am or have been affiliated (since age 16), other than military, political, or labor organizations:
Intentionally Left Blank for Publication

2. Enclosures:
These were five notarized statements from friends, family, and colleagues who wished to express their support of my application by detailing their understanding of my beliefs, how my beliefs have been transformed, and the sincerity with which I hold them. Out of respect for their privacy, I do not at this time wish to publish the names and information of those who made sworn statements on my behalf.

HM2 Daniel J. Lakemacher, USN

No comments:

Post a Comment

Blog Archive