Amid much whooping and clapping

Should Michael Flynn be court-martialed for advocating a coup? Not quite, legally speaking. (Morally speaking he should be court-martialed and then pushed into a deep mud puddle.)

Flynn made the comment at a QAnon-themed conference in Texas this past weekend. After Flynn delivered a speech to the group, a man in the audience rose and said, “I’m a simple Marine. I want to know why what happened in Minimar [he was referring to the February military coup in Myanmar] can’t happen here.” Amid much whooping and clapping from the crowd, Flynn replied, “No reason. I mean, it should happen”—i.e., a coup should happen here. (Flynn has since denied saying this, but the videotape clearly shows he did.)

The First Amendment protects free speech, but the Uniform Code of Military Justice—which applies to retired and active-duty personnel of the U.S. armed forces—doesn’t always. Rep. Elaine Luria, a retired Navy commander who is now vice chair of the House Armed Services Committee, said that Flynn’s comments “border on sedition” and that he should be tried in a military court.

But Fred Kaplan explains why the law doesn’t quite agree.

Still, Flynn poses a problem, especially at a time when Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, himself a retired Army general, is trying to purge the ranks of political extremists and aspiring insurrectionists. One thing that Austin, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, military commanders, and any other officer in the public eye should do is to shun and shame Michael Flynn—denounce him, hold him up as a poster boy for bad behavior, turn the sorry, sordid devolution of his career into a case study of a path not to take.

Former colleagues of Flynn say that his dismissal from DIA—a move ordered by the secretary of defense and director of national intelligence at the time (Robert Gates and James Clapper)—embittered him and made him ripe for recruitment by Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Flynn made his pivot, leading the anti-Hillary chant of “Lock her up!” from the podium at the 2016 Republican National Convention—and has been plunging ever since. His indictment during the Mueller investigation triggered his dive into out-and-out conspiracy-mongering, especially after he was persuaded to retract his guilty plea—at which point he stopped cooperating with the authorities and started adopting slogans of QAnon and talking with alarming casualness about the possibilities—and appeal—of martial law to preserve or restore Trump’s presidency.

Flynn wants to be the face of an insurgent military cabal. The legal military authorities can’t toss him in the brig, and they shouldn’t turn him into a martyr in any case. But they need to counter, quash, ridicule, and otherwise nip his dark ambitions in the bud. They need to make clear, to one and all, that every moral and legal tenet of the U.S. armed forces, every idea animating American democracy, holds Michael Flynn in contempt.

Get busy on that then.

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