Lawful orders

Lawful orders

In the armed forces of the United States, officers (both commissioned and non-commissioned) are expected to issue orders to subordinates, in order to carry out assigned duties. These orders are assumed (by them) to be lawful (i.e. - not promoting illegal actions), and a subordinate whom disobeys them does so "at his peril" (risking legal sanction).

In some cases, orders issued by officers are illegal on their face (are unlawful orders), and subordinates are justified in not carrying them out. An example would be the 1968 massacre of unarmed civilians at My Lai, Vietnam, which was carried out by a U.S. Army lieutenant, on orders issued to him by both his company and battallion commanders. Another example occurred in Iraq, at the Abu Ghraib Prison. Prisoners were being "softened up" for interrogation by U.S. Soldiers, whom were under orders to do so. These were issued by private contractors, given authority to issue such orders by the Department of Defense.

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