Antiwar to the Corps
Thursday, May 31, 2007
Going on a mock patrol can get you in real trouble with the United States Marine Corps.
In a case that raises questions about free speech, the Marines have launched investigations of three inactive reservists for wearing their uniforms during antiwar protests and allegedly making statements characterized as "disrespectful" or "disloyal."
Two of them were part of the guerrilla theater squad of 13 Iraq Veterans Against the War who roamed Capitol Hill and downtown Washington in March, clad in camouflage and carrying imaginary weapons, to mark the fourth anniversary of the Iraq war. A Washington Post story about that protest is part of the evidence gathered by Marine lawyers.
Adam Kokesh, 25, a graduate student at George Washington University, faces a hearing Monday in Kansas City, where the Marines will recommend an "other than honorable" discharge from the Individual Ready Reserve. He was previously honorably discharged from active duty after fighting in Fallujah and receiving the Combat Action Ribbon and the Navy Commendation Medal.
Upon learning he was being investigated for wearing his uniform during the mock patrol, Kokesh wrote an e-mail to the investigating officer, Maj. John Whyte. The combat veteran discussed his service and his critique of the war, and asked this officer assigned to look into his "possible violation" of wearing his uniform: "We're at war. Are you doing all you can?" He concluded with an obscene recommendation about what Whyte should go do.
This earned him the count for a "disrespectful statement."
Liam Madden, 22, who spent seven months on the ground in Iraq, last fall helped launch the Appeal for Redress, a Web site where military personnel can directly appeal to Congress to support withdrawal of troops. Madden, of Boston, is accused of wearing his camouflage shirt at an antiwar march in Washington in January.
He also is accused of making disloyal statements during a speech in February in New York, when he says he wasn't wearing his uniform.
These statements, as summarized by the Marines in legal documents: "Sgt. Madden spends several minutes explaining the 'war crimes' of the Bush administration. Sgt. Madden claims that the war in Iraq is a war 'of aggression' and one of 'empire building.' Sgt. Madden explains that the President of the United States has 'betrayed U.S. military personnel' engaged in the Iraq conflict."
The identity of the third Marine under investigation could not be immediately verified; his or her name had been blacked-out of legal documents reviewed by The Post.
Kokesh and Madden say they have a question about all this: Don't the Marines have anything better to do these days?
Papers drawn up by Marine lawyers indicate the corps sees it as a matter of enforcing clear regulations. Spokesmen for the Marines did not return telephone calls and e-mails seeking comment.