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US Military Chief: Political Activity Erodes Public Trust In Military

Using the uniform for partisan politics erodes the trust the American people have in their military, says Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Interacting with journalists aboard a military aircraft on his return from Afghanistan and Iraq, Dempsey addressed a question about a group of U.S. Navy SEALs launching a political action committee.

Dempsey has been outspoken that service-members have truly earned their right to vote, and that all Americans are entitled to private and personal opinions.

But, the Pentagon chief said he and his fellow members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff were the stewards of the profession of arms, and must ensure that service-members did not cross an important line.

"One of the things that marks us as a profession in a democracy is it's most important we remain apolitical," he said. "That's how we maintain our trust with the American people. The American people don't want us to become another special interest group. In fact, I think that confuses them."

Dempsey believes that partisan groups made up of former service-members cloud the issue as well. "If someone uses the uniform for partisan politics, I'm disappointed in that," he said. "I think it erodes that bond of trust we have with the American people."

The Chairman noted that he had expressed this opinion before on his blog, and said he has had incredible conversations in the blogosphere on the subject. He also discussed this soon after a young Army reservist appeared in uniform at a campaign rally, he said.

The American people trust that the professional military will remain out of partisan politics. The U.S. military does not stage coups to topple governments and place their own in charge, he noted, adding that the American military is justifiably proud of serving the Constitution and following the orders of elected leaders.

"We're not a profession simply because we say we're a profession," Dempsey wrote in a letter to the joint force upon assuming office as the nation's top military officer last year. "We must continue to learn, to understand, and to promote the knowledge, skills, attributes and behaviors that define us as a profession."

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