Demonstrating yet again that the Democratic Party is totally corrupted and owned by the AIPAC and military-industrial-complex lobbies (aka "the war machine") the Democrats ALLOW war protesting veterans to be INTIMIDATED and possibly prosecuted by the military. The military CLAIMS that "if [uniformed veternas] had been at a pro-war rally, they would have faced the same punishment," but this claim is of course absurd, given that the favorite PR (propaganda) technique of Karl Rove and President Bush's is t have Mr. Bush announce some war policy or "war on terra" news - WITH A FULL BACKDROP OF UNIFORMED MILITARY PERSONAL APPLAUDING HIS SPEECHES at every military base that Mr. Bush appears at to chastise his critics and demand more blank-check funding for his gross incompetence in conducting the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Veterans: Military curbing free speech
Protesters in uniform could be downgraded, lose their benefits
By Kirsten Scharnberg
Tribune national correspondent
Published June 24, 2007
1996 rule prohibits protesting in uniform
According to a Department of Defense directive issued in 1996 and renewed in 2003, "members of the Armed Forces are prohibited from participating in off-post demonstrations when they are onduty, in a foreign country, when their activities constitute a breach of law and order, when violence is likely to result, or when they are in uniform."
The military has said the three Marines who have faced less-thanhonorable discharges for violating the uniform portion of that code at a war protest would have faced the same punishment had they been at any other kind of rally.
"If it had been a pro-war rally, it would still have been a violation," Col. Dave Lapan, a Marine Corps spokesman, said of one of the cases earlier this month.
The young combat veteran stared at the letter in disbelief when it arrived in his mailbox a few months ago.
The Marine Corps was recommending him for "other than honorable discharge." The letter alleged he had violated the Uniform Code of Military Justice by wearing part of his uniform during an anti-war rally. Furthermore, the letter accused him of being "disloyal," a word hard to swallow for a man who had risked his life to serve his nation.
"All this because I have publicly opposed the war in Iraq since I came back from it," said former Marine Sgt. Liam Madden, 22.
Madden is not alone.
At least two other combat veterans who have returned from tours in Iraq and become well-known anti-war advocates have seen the military recommend them for less-than-honorable discharges. One of them is a young man 80 percent disabled from two tours who was threatened with losing his veteran's disability benefits if he continued to protest in uniform.
Critics — including some groups that have been the most supportive of the war—say the crackdown on these men constitutes a blatant attempt to quiet dissension in the ranks at the very time more and more members of the armed forces are publicly questioning the war they are being sent to fight.
"I may disagree with their message, but I will always defend their right to say it," Gary Kurpius, national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, said in a scathing statement this month under the headline, "VFW to Corps: Don't Stifle Freedom of Speech."
"Trying to punish fellow Americans for exercising the same democratic rights we're trying to instill in Iraq is not what we're about," he said.
'We don't restrict free speech'
The military defends its decision to punish the men, stating that its policies regarding acceptable forms of protest are clear. Military guidelines state that troops may attend demonstrations only in the United States, only when they are off base and off duty, and only when they are out of uniform.
"We don't restrict free speech," Maj. Anne Edgecomb, an Army spokeswoman, said. "It's the uniform that gets people in trouble. When you wear the uniform, you are representing the armed service behind that uniform, and it is against the military code of justice to protest in uniform."
Madden and the two other Marines were clearly documented wearing at least part of their uniforms at public protests. (Though all three had completed their active-duty service, they remained reservists; the military argued that the Pentagon's conduct codes still applied to them, an assertion that seems likely to make its way to federal court.)
The military, with its hierarchical rank structure and absolute adherence to following orders, has never been an institution that takes kindly to debate from within. But today, as an increasingly unpopular war drags on and troops are being sent on multiple combat tours, the criticism from veterans and even those on active duty is reaching a fevered pitch.
Perhaps the most telling part of such criticism is how open disgruntled troops are becoming despite the risk to their careers—signing their names to furious letters printed in military-owned newspapers; speaking on the record to reporters in Iraq about how badly the mission is going; writing members of Congress. And then there are the protests in uniform, a throwback to the Vietnam War, when veterans such as Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) denounced the war in weathered fatigues.
Many of the protests involving vets in uniform are all-out street theater, like one in Washington last spring where protesters staged a mock patrol, manhandling people at simulated gunpoint in order to illustrate how they say Iraqis are treated by American troops. Just last week in Chicago, a similar protest took place. The intended subtext of the uniformed protests is apparent: that protesters have additional credibility because they have witnessed the war, that the uniforms now being used in protest have walked the real-life battlefield.
"Guys like us—veterans who served but then came to believe the war is not only wrong but illegal—are not who the military wants speaking on a national stage," Madden said.
If Madden and the other Marines initially feared their high-profile discharge cases would serve to silence protest, the opposite seems to be slowly and quietly happening. The men's cases have spurred dissenters to voice their disapproval of the war while remaining within military guidelines.
Take, for example, DOD Directive 7050.6. It provides the right of service members to complain and to request redress of their grievances, including to members of Congress. Some 2,000 active-duty and reserve troops have used the protection of that directive to sign "An Appeal for Redress," an initiative that sends troops' demand to end the war to Congress.
The wording of the appeal is intended to be patriotic and respectful while unequivocally anti-war: It begins, "As a patriotic American proud to serve the nation in uniform …" It ends, "Staying in Iraq will not work and is not worth the price. It is time for U.S. troops to come home."