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Old 06-02-2007, 07:45 AM   #1
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"Other Than Honorable"

What's more important, loyalty to the military or loyalty to your own conscience? Can't the two coexist, and shouldn't they? Is the uniform really the issue?

By Stephanie Ebbert, Boston Globe Staff | June 2, 2007

Liam Madden was leading a cause before he became one. The 22-year-old former Marine sergeant had cofounded Appeal for Redress, a campaign urging troops to press Congress for an end to the Iraq war.

Now, the Boston man is battling the military over his right to engage in antiwar activities, sparked when he received a certified letter threatening him with an "other than honorable discharge" from the reserves for wearing camouflage during a protest and for making "disloyal statements" accusing the Bush administration of war crimes.

He viewed the threat as ammunition for his antiwar efforts. "I thought, 'this is trying to intimidate and clamp down on political opposition to the war,' " Madden said. "And I saw it as an opportunity to make them regret that they're doing this."

Madden, who plans to attend Northeastern University in the fall, is one of three inactive reserve members facing Marine investigations for antiwar activities, in a controversial move that is spurring debate about free speech. As members of the Individual Ready Reserve, the men could be called up for service, but are not being paid or participating in training. They argue they have every right to be heard.

"It seems to me as a civilian he's just as free as you and I to say the Bush administration has done bad things in Iraq and we ought to get out," said Arthur Spitzer, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer in Washington, D.C., who was meeting with Madden yesterday. "Who is better qualified to speak to those issues than someone who has seen combat in Iraq? If what's going on here is an effort by the Marines to intimidate over 100,000 people in the Individual Ready Reserves from speaking out against the war, then it's a very nefarious activity on their part and very important to stop it."

The Marine Corps confirmed the administrative action against Madden and one of the other two activists, but did not return calls. "By contract, they are still members of the Marine Corps IRR and must maintain standards of conduct in accordance with their oath of enlistment," the statement said.

A Department of Defense spokesman, Major Stewart T. Upton, pointed to a policy covering reserves as well as active troops that warns against wearing a uniform during political events because it could be viewed as endorsement by the military.

"The Marine Corps' digital cammies are trademark," Upton said.

But the nation's largest combat veterans group urged the military yesterday to "exercise a little common sense" and call off its investigation, the Associated Press reported.

"Trying to hush up and punish fellow Americans for exercising the same democratic right we're trying to instill in Iraq is not what we're all about," said Gary Kurpius, national commander of the 2.4 million-member Veterans of Foreign Wars. "Someone in the Marine Corps needs to exercise a little common sense and put an end to this matter before it turns into a circus. "

Madden, a Vermont native, enlisted months before the US invasion of Iraq and served about seven months in Anbar Province.

Honorably discharged after four years, Madden helped form the Appeal for Redress, urging troops to speak out respectfully, with attention to their legal rights and limitations. Active members of the military may attend demonstrations but only in the United States, off base, and out of uniform, his website warns.

Madden does not believe that a dishonorable discharge from the reserves would affect his benefits.

Madden spoke by cellphone while on a train to Washington, where he held a press conference at Union Station late yesterday before embarking by bus to Kansas City, Mo., with Adam Kokesh, a fellow Marine who faces a hearing Monday on his antiwar activities. Madden's own hearing has not yet been scheduled.

Iraq Veterans Against the War identified the third Marine reservist and antiwar activist being investigated as Cloy Richards of Missouri. The Marines' statement did not mention any administrative action against him.

Madden, head of the Boston chapter of the Iraq Veterans Against the War, acknowledges the circumstances that led to accusations that he made "disloyal statements."

"Not only do I believe I have the right to do that, I believe that it's the right thing to do and that I'm being truthful," Madden said yesterday.

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Old 06-02-2007, 07:50 AM   #2
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The fact that those who defend free speech can have their rights abused like that is very wrong indeed.

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Old 06-02-2007, 07:51 AM   #3
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I guess they're only defending some (certain select) free speech
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Old 06-05-2007, 09:18 AM   #4
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A decision was made about one of them

KANSAS CITY, Mo (AP). — A military panel has recommended a general discharge for an Iraq war veteran who wore his uniform during a war protest and later responded with an obscenity to a superior who told him he might have violated military rules.

Marine Cpl. Adam Kokesh participated in the protest in March, clad in a uniform that had his name tag and other insignia removed. After he was identified in a photo caption in The Washington Post, a superior officer sent him a letter saying he might have violated a rule prohibiting troops from wearing uniforms without authorization.

After a hearing Monday before an administrative separation board at the Marine Corps Mobilization Command, the panel decided not to recommend an other-than-honorable discharge, choosing instead the general discharge.

"This is a nonpunitive discharge," said Col. Patrick McCarthy, chief of staff for the mobilization command. "The most stringent discharge that could have been received is other than honorable, and the board chose to raise that up to a general discharge.

If the recommendation is approved, Kokesh would not lose any military benefits, McCarthy said. Brig. Gen. Darrell L. Moore, one of two officers who received an e-mail from Kokesh that contained an obscenity, likely will decide whether to go along with the board's recommendation.

Kokesh is a member of the Individual Ready Reserve, which consists mainly of those who have left active duty but still have time remaining on their eight-year military obligations. His service is due to end June 18, but the Marine Corps is seeking to let him go two weeks early with a less-than-honorable discharge.

That could cut some of his health benefits and force him to repay about $10,800 he received to obtain his undergraduate degree on the GI Bill.

His attorneys said Kokesh was not subject to military rules during the protest because he was not on active duty. They said the protest was a theatrical performance, which meant wearing a uniform was a not a violation of military rules.

The military considered it a political event, at which personnel are not allowed to wear their uniforms without authorization.

Kokesh said he might appeal the board's ruling on principle.

"Frankly, I'm very disappointed with this decision and I'm very disappointed with the board members who made it," he said. "I do not think it was in the Marine Corps spirit to take the easy road or to not take a stand. In the words of Dante, the hottest layers of hell are reserved for those who in times of moral crisis maintain their neutrality, and I think that's what happened here today."

Marine Capt. Jeremy Sibert said in closing arguments that military personnel can be punished if their civilian behavior "directly affects the performance of military duties and is service-related." He said Kokesh's actions could affect how people view the Marine Corps and discourage recruits.

"A lot of us believe in this uniform. At some point, Cpl. Kokesh decided he was above that," he said.

Kokesh's attorney Lt. Joseph Melaragno maintained that the military was violating Kokesh's free speech rights. "(Sibert) argues we're sending a bad message," Melaragno said. "I say we need that in society. The easiest thing for individuals to do is get complacent with the war."

Kokesh was honorably discharged after a combat tour in Iraq.

The Marines' first witness, Maj. John R. Whyte, testified Monday he was the officer who wrote Kokesh the e-mail informing him the Marines were investigating the possible uniform violation.

After the Marine Corps told Kokesh it was investigating, he sent an e-mail to officials that included an obscenity.

Kokesh was a reservist in an artillery unit when he became disillusioned with the war during his first tour. He said he believes there is no way for Iraq to achieve rule of law with a foreign military imposing martial law.

(This version CORRECTS the spelling of the Marine captain's last name to Sibert, instead of Seibert; and CORRECTS that panel decided not to recommend 'an other-than-honorable' discharge, instead of 'less-than-honorable.')
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Old 06-05-2007, 09:29 AM   #5
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Originally posted by A_Wanderer
The fact that those who defend free speech can have their rights abused like that is very wrong indeed.

You know, I keep hearing those that defend this war say to those who oppose it, "we're fighting so you have the right to protest" blah blah blah. I don't really buy it, this war is not about defending these rights, in fact it's worsened them.

But for those who think that's what this war is about then you have to defend this soldier.
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