Sunday, June 03, 2007

Marine Battles Military Over His Antiwar Activities

By Stephanie Ebbert, Globe Staff June 2, 2007
Liam Madden was leading a cause before he became one. The 22-year-old former Marine sergeant had co-founded 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 cell phone 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.
I could understand the military's perspective on this, if this guy was an active duty marine or even a reservist, but being part of the IRR simply means that you have already served your full active duty contract and your name is now part of a list (usually for two years after your contract's up) from which the military can call you up to return to active duty, if the country is in need. People are usually only called up from the IRR when the military is truly in dire straights. Personally, I don't think the military is doing itself any favors by trying to bully this guy or any American civilian into shutting up. What the hell does America stand for, or are our troops fighting for if a citizen is not allowed to freely state his or her opinion?!


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