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Top U.S. military official warns servicemen to stay away from politics
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08:28, May 27, 2008

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The top U.S. military official has warned servicemen to stay out of politics in an unusual open letter released Monday.

"The U.S. military must remain apolitical at all times and in all ways," wrote the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, in the letter released by the New York Times.

"It is and must always be a neutral instrument of the state, no matter which party holds sway."

The essay, to be officially published in the next issue of the military journal Joint Force Quarterly, is the first Mullen has written for the journal as Joint Chiefs Chairman, and the first "all-hands" letter in memory reminding military personnel to remain outside contentious political debate, the New York Times report said.

He issued the warning as the United States approaches presidential elections, with the Iraq and Afghanistan wars among voters' top concerns.

The Washington Post said the letter reveals "the deep concern" among senior officers that the military may be drawn into politicking in the election year.

"As the nation prepares to elect a new president," wrote Mullen, "we would all do well to remember the promises we made: to obey civilian authority, to support and defend the Constitution and to do our duty at all times."

"Keeping our politics private is a good first step," he added. "The only things we should be wearing on our sleeves are our military insignia."

Mullen said his letter was inspired by a constant stream of questions from visiting military personnel around the world, including "what if a Democrat wins?" and "what will that do to the mission in Iraq?"

Short of suggesting that military professionals should abandon all personal opinions about modern social or political issues, Mullen said: "What the nation expects is that military personnel will, in the execution of the mission assigned to them, put aside their partisan leanings."

Military chiefs have expressed their worries about the influence, in the election year, of retired officers who advise political campaigns, who have publicly called for a change in policy or who serve as television commentators on the wars.


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