15 July 2009

Major Cook and the "Birthers"

The talk of subterranean quarters of the internet today is the news that the military has revoked an order deploying Army Reserve Major Stefan Frederick Cook to Afghanistan after Cook, who had volunteered explicitly for Afghan service in May, challenged the legitimacy of President Obama as Commander in Chief. He was apparently instigated to make the challenge by Orly Taitz, who has emerged as a leader of what is called the "birther" movement. These are the people who continue to question Obama's eligibility to serve as President on the suspicion that he was born, not in Hawaii as a verified birth certificate claims, but in Kenya. The Constitution requires the President to have been born in the United States. Taitz contends that the birth certificate verified in Hawaii is inadequate documentation, and demands that Obama release what she calls a "vault" birth certificate, which she suspects will reveal the damning truth about his disqualifying alien birth.

Taitz represents an organization called the Defend Our Freedoms Foundation. This is a conservative-populist group that advocates more military spending, greater border security against illegal immigration, lower taxes and protectionist trade policies. This document details their case against Obama's eligibility, which includes the claim that, had he even been born in this country (as most people assume) he lost his citizenship as a child during the time he lived in Indonesia. They even question whether Barack Hussein Obama is his real name, asserting that he was registered in Indonesian schools under the name Barry Soetero while claiming to find no evidence of a legal change of name to the one we know. You'll notice, however, that their point-by-point attack is riddled with equivocations; they "suspect" this or that based on supposedly missing documentation. Taitz would no doubt say that this is exactly why the government should release all the information she requests, but it looks like the stand-or-fall point of the whole claim is the validity of the Hawaiian records, and on this point, since even most conservative media concede their validity, the DOFF are voices howling in a wilderness, everyone else's refusal to respect their suspicions only reconfirming and deepening them.

No reason has been given yet for the revocation of Major Cook's deployment orders, but Taitz considers it a breakthrough moment for her cause. Her hopeful assumption is that the Pentagon gave in to Cook because they could not prove what he demanded proven: Obama's legitimacy according to the standards set by Taitz and the "birthers." Inevitably, conspiracy theorists will have a field day with this, since the question of why the Pentagon backed down, if this action can be so characterized, will hang in the air for a long time. For some people, questioning Obama's citizenship is probably just a way of disguising their more instinctual suspicion that his race alone makes him unfit for his office. But there were people running around last year also questioning John McCain's eligibility to serve as President, their questions having something to do with whether the Republican was born in the Panama Canal Zone, so we may now be dealing only with a more popular form of a suspicion of political power so absolute and terrible that those who share it may feel that no one is qualified to be President.


Anonymous said...

This seems rather odd, since "conscientious objector" status is usually reserved for those who are drafted, and as far as I can find, not once has it ever been given to an officer, especially one who volunteered for duty in the first place. I should think that, as commander-in-chief, Mr. Obama would not want to allow the military to make a habit of allowing it's officers to volunteer for duty, then refuse on the grounds of being a "conscientious objector". But then, the democrats have a long history of being spineless when it comes to asserting their authority in the military.

Samuel Wilson said...

That's why this story is going to beg the question for some people. Why doesn't Obama's Pentagon stomp on this guy? After all, if you think about it, they probably don't have to prove what he wants proven to assert their authority over him. What would happen, after all, if someone refused deployment to Afghanistan or Iraq because he claimed that Congress had declared war on neither country? Would the army ask a Supreme Court justice for a fatwa proving the war's legality? For all I know, such questions have been asked and it would be interesting to know what was done to those who asked them, for comparison's sake.