Written by Joshua Patton
While deployed to Bosnia in 1999, I recall having a conversation with a friend about the inevitability of a Black President. He had grown up in a poor neighborhood and blamed the economic policies of Ronald Reagan for much of the problems in his community. He was hopelessly cynical. “I’ll tell you when they’ll elect the first black dude President,” he paused to answer the hourly radio-check and then continued, “They’ll elect a brother when everything’s gone to hell, then blame him for not cleaning it all up.” When Barack Obama was elected President less than ten years later, I imagined my friend laughing at his prescience.
Terry Larkin is a physician in the Army and was slated to deploy to Afghanistan for the second time. Rather than deploy, he instigated his own court-martial by not reporting for duty until he could see the “long-form” birth certificate of Barack Hussein Obama, our President…allegedly. LTC Larkin is part of a sector of the American public that sees this President as illegitimate. They like to say that they are “just asking a question,” but when the President released an official birth certificate during the campaign, they asked to see a more obscure document, even though the FBI and the Supreme Court were completely satisfied with the results of their own investigations.
My initial impression was that Larkin is merely a coward. According to a website set up by Larkin’s defense, he has also served in Honduras, Bosnia, El Salvador, and Korea, so my initial impression that he was hiding behind this movement doesn’t feel like it holds up. In fact, I think it is more personally disturbing that this man actually believes that the President is either a foreign-national accidentally elected or some kind of Manchurian Candidate of the kind Richard Condon would have edited away as being too silly.
Last week a federal judge ruled that the President’s “long-form” birth certificate, that lists the names of his physician and the hospital, all other evidence, and witnesses relating to the birth-status of the President not relevant to the case. The prosecution argued that the orders that Larkin received were legal orders from his proper superiors in his chain of command, specifically those at Fort Campbell. However, this does not change the tragedy that Larkin, by all accounts a respected member of the military, is blinded by this sense that the President is illegitimate in spite of the evidence to the contrary.
Another argument is about the legal meaning of “natural born citizen,” suggesting it has nothing to do with being born on American soil. These folks say that Mr. Obama is illegitimately President because both parents have to be citizens, calling upon arguments from the nineteenth century used to deny citizenship to Native Americans physically born in the US, but on Indian reservations which are technically “quasi-nations” and therefore not American.
The motivations of the “birthers” are difficult to comprehend. Undoubtedly, some of them are people driven by racist fear, even if only subconsciously. Others are perhaps overly-sensitive to media that frequently uses entertainment and emotion to drive their narrative at the cost of truth and research. Larkin disobeyed orders and has made a slight media spectacle of his disregard for his commander-in-chief. This President did not begin the war in Afghanistan. No matter who won the election, there would be Americans in Afghanistan, in harm’s way. A physician, he could have potentially saved the life of one his brothers- or sisters-in-arms or perhaps saved the life of the future Afghan politician that would bring enough stability for us to leave. Even if Larkin is acting from some warped version of nobility, the fact remains he stayed behind while his unit goes on to execute the mission he refused.
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