April 25th, 2012
07:13 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Soldiers can't say whatever they want, or can they?

Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.

Sgt. Gary Stein was given an "other-than-honorable" discharge for using his Facebook page to criticize President Barack Obama, said Capt. Brian Block, a spokesman for the Marines. We received thousands of comments from our readers, with many of them saying that a soldier cannot criticize the president any more than an employee should publicly critique their boss or CEO.

Marine discharged over online Obama comments

This was the most-liked comment:

rshanks66: "This is not a freedom of speech issue. It’s a military code of conduct issue. The president is the Commander in Chief. As a member of the service, you do not have the right to say you’re 'not going to follow orders.' It doesn’t matter if you like the officer or not. Everyone knows that."

But could there be unintended consequences?

Scott Giddens: "I don't care who you are or who you voted for. I would not make fun or joke about when the government aggressively silences dissident views even if it was justified. It simply smells bad. More than likely, the soldier was made an example to prevent more dissidence. If more soldiers did this, say 25-50, I wonder what the government would do then. This could backfire on us, with soldiers defending their fellow soldiers first and their country second."

In the business world, some readers argued, one must choose their words.

Sean: "Can I post nonsense about my boss and not expect to be terminated? Like or not, Obama is the Commander-in-Chief of the United States Military. This Marine should have understood his oath, and saved his views for after his discharge. MacArthur should have served as his precedent."

Some lamented the decision to discharge Stein.

Raebo: "A Marine who used his Facebook page to criticize President Barack Obama has been discharged. The key word here is 'HIS' Facebook page. And you thought this type of big brother interference only took place in places where human rights are not protected. He should at least for now be thankful for one thing. In North Korea, you are executed."

Another reader said they had to hold their tongue when they served.

royboy361: "As a retired military member myself I don't feel a bit sorry for this guy. The president is his commander and chief. You don't say anything that puts the President in an unflattering light no matter who is President. If that was the case I would have said things about George Bush. Show this guy the door and don't let it hit you on the way out. You should have known better!"

One person said they smell hypocrisy.

accorn: "We live in a funny world. Soldiers are not allowed to have political opinions ... apparently to protect the purity of our republic and their role in it, yet we have no problem with corporations buying and owning our candidates."

This commenter suggested a more severe discharge.

David1154: "I disagree. He should have been given a dishonorable discharge. Other-than-honorable is too good for him. He knew the rules and he knowingly violated the UCMJ. Just because the president is not to your liking does not matter. He is the commander in chief, and you're not. You follow all lawful orders, like it or not."

Potentially, this user suggested, this incident is a sign of growing discontent with U.S. military activity.

tullymd: "At least he didn't in vain in the failed, futile Afghan war. The average soldier knows this war is ridiculous and secretly or not so secretly holds our leadership in contempt. Burning Korans, urinating on corpses etc are only the beginnings of what we'll see as their frustration bursts forth.. Get ready for a well deserved national humiliation ala Vietnam."

There were users who said they wouldn't disagree with the soldier's views, but they don't like his actions.

Tr1Xen: "I agree with this decision. As many of you regulars know, I'm the last person you'll see defending Obama, but it is grossly inappropriate for an active member of the armed forces to make any public comments–particularly in writing via a social medium such as Facebook - decrying the commander-in-chief as a "domestic enemy." Sgt. Stein was absolutely in the wrong here - no ifs, ands, or buts. It's not acceptable under any circumstance, election year or not."

Some people wondered what is happening to the country.

InterestingStory: "There is no freedom of speech in America. You get flagged or blocked for speaking the truth."

What do you think? Share your opinion in the comments area below and in the latest stories on CNN.com. Or sound off on video via CNN iReport.

Compiled by the CNN.com moderation staff. Some comments edited for length or clarity.

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Filed under: Barack Obama • Marines • Military • Overheard on CNN.com • Politics
soundoff (159 Responses)
  1. Muffy7

    America 1st;
    You would fit right in with that idiot. No one should say things like you just said about our Presidents. Here is hoping your big mouth gets you in trouble too.

    April 25, 2012 at 8:36 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  2. igbins74

    AMERICA 1st I encourage you tomorrow when you get to work, tell your boss he is an idiot and incompetent and whatever you think and come on here and tell me what happen to you. People like you always saying you are a patriot and let me tell you, you are not even close and it is people like you that will go hide when there is draft. You call the President idiot and guess what he is the President and there is nothing you, your father can do about it so suck it up and do what you told to do fool. Before you say stuff like that look at you life and see where you are and tell me who is the IDIOT, and I know it is YOU FOOL.

    April 25, 2012 at 8:38 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  3. DK

    I don't think that there's anything wrong with criticizing your boss and perhaps even using some insulting terms, although I'm aware that it works a bit differently for those in the military. However, stating refusal to follow orders and referring to the president as a "domestic enemy" was what alarmed me the most. On the civilian side, it seems to me that would be analogous to calling your boss a child abuser, a thief, or some other grave term indicating that harsh action should be taken against them. That's a dangerous accusation to make.

    April 25, 2012 at 8:38 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Muffy7

    Stupor Dave:
    I agree with you, he has to be a hot head, one of the trash they let in because they were desperate. He looks arrogant in his picture.

    April 25, 2012 at 8:39 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Randle Brashear

    The point that so many seem to be missing here is that he said he would refuse to take orders from Obama. That is insubordination. This is a volunteer military, with plenty of volunteers for service. If someone can't be responsible and control their outbursts, there are others who can and will.

    April 25, 2012 at 8:40 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  6. DAVID in Texas

    He should serve time. Right wing extremest like this brought about al-qaeda.

    April 25, 2012 at 8:41 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  7. havoc29

    Granted, SGT Stein violated the UCMJ, but discharging him? Service members disrespect their senior NCOs and officers all the time, and they get busted for it. But they don't discharge them for it. This is a PC issue. This is a crock.

    April 25, 2012 at 8:41 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  8. mickey1313

    Any solder that would give up there thoughts to go fight a war that is evil, is nuts.

    April 25, 2012 at 8:41 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Whatever

    How does one reconcile the diversity in the application of the sacred UCMJ between ranks? Army General Stanley McChrystal directly criticized the president in Rolling Stone and is currently receiving full retirement. I might be going out on a limb here by assuming that more people read Rolling Stone then a Marine Sergeant's Facebook page, but I think the real story here is identifying another tangible facet in which the US military is seriously neglecting its own in the junior ranks, and allowing the senior officers to get away with whatever they want. At worst, they force them into retirement, such as with Gen. McChrystal, who is still making more money from the government in a month then a Marine Sgt makes in a year.

    April 25, 2012 at 8:43 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  10. igbins74

    Thank you guys for lecturing some of this guys on here that have no idea how to be a decent law abiding human being. And as a Miliatry member, his actions is shamful and am glad he is out now.

    April 25, 2012 at 8:43 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Marcus from Georgia

    This guy should get a Thrown out quicker than Prince Fielder stealing home plate! How can you disrespect the CIC. The military is based on a ranking system and this guy disrespects the President. There has to be structure in the military in order for it to work. I served under Bush and even though I didn't agree with his ways if he wanted to go to war with anyone I was on board no questions asked! Maybe it's something else bothering this guy 'racism'.? Who knows, but I wouldn't want to go to war with someone disobeying orders.

    April 25, 2012 at 8:46 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  12. camian

    Who discharges these guys?
    “There is a single theme behind all our work — we must reduce population levels,” said Thomas Ferguson, the Latin American case officer for the State Department’s Office of Population Affairs (OPA). “Either they [governments] do it our way, through nice clean methods or they will get the kind of mess that we have in El Salvador, or in Iran, or in Beirut. Population is a political problem. Once population is out of control it requires authoritarian government, even fascism, to reduce it.”
    “The professionals,” said Ferguson, “aren’t interested in lowering population for humanitarian reasons. That sounds nice. We look at resources and environmental constraints. We look at our strategic needs, and we say that this country must lower its population or else we will have trouble.”
    “So steps are taken. El Salvador is an example where our failure to lower population by simple means has created the basis for a national security crisis. The government of El Salvador failed to use our programs to lower their population. Now they get a civil war because of it…. There will be dislocation and food shortages. They still have too many people there.”
    Civil wars are somewhat drawn-out ways to reduce population, the OPA official added. “The quickest way to reduce population is through famine, like in Africa or through disease like the Black Death,” all of which might occur in El Salvador. Ferguson’s OPA monitors populations in the Third World and maps strategies to reduce them. Its budget for FY 1980 was $190 million; for FY 198l, it will be $220 million. The Global 2000 report calls for doubling that figure. The sphere of Kissinger In 1975, OPA was brought under a reorganized State Department Bureau of Oceans, International Environmental, and Scientific Affairs — a body created by Henry Kissinger.

    April 25, 2012 at 8:47 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Chris Snook

    I think expressing general opinions about the president are fine. But to blatantly say you're not going to follow the orders of the commander-in-chief? Dishonorable.

    April 25, 2012 at 8:47 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Dave72

    This fellow has disgraced the Marines, in my opinion. Instead of defending his foolish and inappropriate behavior while sitting next to a lawyer with a foolish tie, he should be apologizing personally to the Commandant and reviewing the Code.

    April 25, 2012 at 8:48 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  15. camian

    As a free citizen of US I feel more threaten by politics designed to kill than by somebody exercising his/her right to speak.
    The agency was assigned to carry out the directives of the NSC Ad Hoc Group. According to an NSC spokesman, Kissinger initiated both groups after discussion with leaders of the Club of Rome during the 1974 population conferences in Bucharest and Rome. The Club of Rome, controlled by Europe’s black nobility, is the primary promotion agency for the genocidal reduction of world population levels. The Ad Hoc Group was given “high priority” by the Carter administration, through the intervention of National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski and Secretaries of State Cyrus Vance and Edmund Muskie.
    According to OPA expert Ferguson, Kissinger initiated a full about-face on U.S. development policy toward the Third World. “For a long time,” Ferguson stated, “people here were timid. They listened to arguments from Third World leaders that said that the best contraceptive was economic reform and development. So we pushed development programs, and we helped create a population time bomb. We are letting people breed like flies without allowing for natural causes to keep population down. We raised the birth survival rates, extended life-spans by lowering death rates, and did nothing about lowering birth rates.”
    “That policy is finished. We are saying with Global 2000 and in real policy that you must lower population rates. Population reduction and control is now our primary policy objective — then you can have some development.” Accordingly, the Bureau of Oceans, International Environmental, and Scientific Affairs has consistently blocked industrialization policies in the Third World, denying developing nations access to nuclear energy technology–the policies that would enable countries to sustain a growing population. According to State Department sources, and Ferguson himself, Alexander Haig is a “firm believer” in population control.

    April 25, 2012 at 8:49 pm | Report abuse | Reply
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