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Playing ‘Gotcha’ on ‘Illegal’ Nuke Order Unwittingly Supports Premise behind Oath Keepers

Playing ‘Gotcha’ on ‘Illegal’ Nuke Order Unwittingly Supports Premise behind Oath Keepers
Gen. John Hyten explains the principle of unlawful orders and the legal duty to not blindly follow them, the very thing Oath Keepers is condemned for. (Halifax International Security Forum screenshot)

“Top general says he would resist ‘illegal’ nuke order from Trump,” CBS News practically crowed Saturday. “Air Force Gen. John Hyten, commander of the U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM), told an audience at the Halifax International Security Forum in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Saturday that he has given a lot of thought to what he would say if a president ordered a strike he considered unlawful.

“Hyten was responding to a question about testimony by former STRATCOM commander retired Gen. Robert Kehler before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee earlier this week. Kehler said that nuclear operators would refuse to implement an unlawful order,” the report elaborates. “Hyten agreed, and argued that the process in place to launch a nuclear strike would prevent such a situation from arising in the first place. As head of STRATCOM, Hyten is responsible for overseeing the U.S. nuclear arsenal.”

See for yourself what he said:

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“I provide advice to the president, he will tell me what to do,” Hyten explained. “And if it’s illegal, guess what’s going to happen? I’m going to say, ‘Mr. President, that’s illegal.’ And guess what he’s going to do? He’s going to say, ‘What would be legal?’ And we’ll come up with options, with a mix of capabilities to respond to whatever the situation is, and that’s the way it works. It’s not that complicated.”

“If you execute an unlawful order, you will go to jail. You could go to jail for the rest of your life,” Hyten noted.

And as the saying goes, the crowd went wild, if by “crowd” you mean “media.”

CNN presented it as “push back” from “anxiety over Trump.” Slate characterized the scenario as resulting from “rogue orders from the President of the United States.” And the desired effect is exemplified by “progressive” comment posters over at Common Dreams (and all over the internet).

But what did Hyten say that was really “news”? You might criticize him for appearing at the globalist policy wonk version of “The View” (the left criticizes the event because it doesn’t redistribute wealth to its preferred beneficiaries), but plenty of ruling elites avail themselves of the chance to establish their gravitas within the international community. The bottom line is, he didn’t just volunteer the information as an “in your face” to his Commander-in-Chief, he was responding to a question, and what’s more, he responded correctly.

The left, it seems, is more than willing to forego civilian control of the military and accept a standing army ruling junta as long as the coup is against Donald Trump. That they treat Hyten’s response as some sort of revelation shows how ignorant most are of how things are supposed to work.

Playing ‘Gotcha’ on ‘Illegal’ Nuke Order Unwittingly Supports Premise behind Oath Keepers
Nuremberg Trials: How did the “just following orders” defense work out for these guys?

The Uniform Code of Military Justice mandates a requirement to “obey [a] lawful order.” With the Constitution being the “supreme Law of the Land,” and with all service members having taken an oath “to support and defend” it, disobeying unlawful orders becomes a legal and moral imperative.

“I was just following orders” is not an excuse for committing evil. That said, it can take an extraordinary act of courage by extraordinary patriots to disobey such orders, as the “safe” thing to do is follow, and as challenging “authority,” however false, can result in vengeful retribution.

So naturally, the same media cheering on the prospect of military leadership rebelling against a president they loathe are also the ones ridiculing and spreading the lie that Oath Keepers are “anti-government extremists.”

And their grave offense?

Playing ‘Gotcha’ on ‘Illegal’ Nuke Order Unwittingly Supports Premise behind Oath Keepers
In what Opposite Day Bizarro World is this “anti-government extremism”?

Like Gen. Hyten, they realize that some orders cannot be obeyed if their oath is to be honored, with the first and foremost being:

“We will NOT obey any order to disarm the American people.”

Oh, but Hyten’s an important general! He knows things and is more knowledgeable than the average service member, who’s just not qualified to make that call, some will counter.


Contrary to what a legal priestcraft would have us believe, the Constitution was not written for elites, and at the time it was being considered and debated, defenses and counter-arguments were being spread throughout the states, largely via the Federalist Papers and the Anti-Federalist Papers. That was so that the people could understand and provide informed consent to what was being proposed.

How meaningless would an oath to the Constitution be if the person taking it had no comprehension of what it was he was swearing to?

The general approval Hyten’s answer is being greeted with just goes to show us that it’s not the concept of disobeying unlawful orders that those who would fundamentally transform America object to, but who’s doing the disobeying. Those they approve of will be lauded as heroic. Those who stand in the way of their agenda will be condemned as “treasonous.”


If you believe in the mission of Oath Keepers, to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic, please make a donation to support our work.  You can donate HERE.


David Codrea’s opinions are his own. See Who speaks for Oath Keepers?”




David Codrea blogs at The War on Guns: Notes from the Resistance (, and is a field editor/columnist for GUNS Magazine. Named “Journalist of the Year” in 2011 by the Second Amendment Foundation for his groundbreaking work on the “Fast and Furious” ATF “gunwalking” scandal, he is a frequent event speaker and guest on national radio and television programs.



  1. David, through the years I have spoken with many NCOs regarding OK and “the orders”. In doing so I have asked them how they would act if they were given an order which appeared to be unlawful. In some cases the response was that they would not obey. Unfortunately, in all too many cases, their reply was that they would go ahead and obey the order; trusting their chain of command not to issue a genuinely unlawful order. The people giving this answer said that the chain of command would have a more complete view of the over-all situation and that while the action might seem unlawful from the NCO’s limited perspective, the chain of command can be trusted not to issue unlawful orders.

    Please understand, David, that while enlisteds are told from day one that they are not required to obey an unlawful order. The problem is that nowhere are there any guidlines for determining what might constitute an unlawful order. The only way for the average GI to establish whether an order was lawful or not would be for the individual service member to (respectfully) refuse to obey the order and face a Court Marshal, The court would then decide if that particular order was, indeed, lawful or unlawful. The fly in the ointment here is that the court would be made up of members of the same power elite whose power was threatened by that individual’s refusal to obey. I cannot conceive of a situation where the order could not be deemed lawful by the officers sitting in judgement on the poor wight who had the unmitigated nerve to refuse an order coming from one of their brother officers. To my mind it is merely another Catch 22 type situation.

    1. This is a perfect example of fake new. General made a comment about his advisory responsibilities to ANY President. Yet the media is making is seem like he is saying Trump is looking to issue an illegal order to use nukes against N Korea. Such nonsense, I’m so sick of the media and their fake news crusade against our sitting President.

  2. “How meaningless would an oath to the Constitution be if the person taking it had no comprehension of what it was he was swearing to?”

    But that’s precisely the current state of affairs, isn’t it? The average person can no more comprehend what the Constitution has been “interpreted into” by blackrobes and shylocks than he can comprehend the entire federal tax code. “Congress shall make no law,” but it has made lots of them… “shall not be infringed,” but infringements abound… “searches require probable cause and warrants,” but the fedguv scans every email or phone call you make… “exercise authority over [property in states] for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dock-yards, and other needful buildings,” but the feds own up to half the land in many western states and leave them undeveloped… When the government insists that the Constitution means exactly the opposite of what it says, how can an oath to it have any meaning at all?

  3. Two things about this anno me:
    First, the fact that this is even a thing annoys the shit out of me. Of course illegal orders such as turning the military against the citizenry or launching a preemptive nuclear strike would warrant disregard for the order. But addressing subjects like this is nothing more than playing the ‘what if’ game’ that our strategists do daily.
    The second thing that annoys me is the fact that this General is on foreign soil discussing US politics and procedures publically while supposedly being apolitical. His brief undermines US protocol and is detrimental to the security of the nation.

  4. That this general even addressed such a question in this way indicates a phenomenal arrogance and a play to liberal politics in indicating any reluctance to obey a lawful order by his Commander in Chief. Any insinuation that an order would be illegal portrays less than adequate faith in the staff and President, military chain of command, the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and provides rationale for immediate dismissal of someone who serves at the pleasure of the President of the United States.

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