Sunday, June 03, 2007

US military goes after veterans

He had several suicide attempts just trying to live with what happened in Iraq. And he had, you know, decided that he would fight for peace and try to end the war. And from that, he started to get better and then when he got the news that he may be reactivated for a third tour, I walked in and he had a shotgun in his mouth and I had to talk him out of . . . taking the shotgun out of his mouth. And I promised him that he wouldn't have make the decision of becoming a deserter or having to go back, which he absolutely wasn't going to do. [. . .] He knew he couldn't participate in an illegal and immoral war now that he knew what the truth was. And so, yeah, he did. And I told him that I'd do whatever I could to make sure that he didn't have to make that decision.

That's Tina Richards speaking of her son Cloy to Kris Welch on KPFA's Living Room May 24th.

And how's the US military 'helping'? If you missed Friday's snapshot, they're taking a novel approach. David Morgan (Reuters) reported: "The third Iraq veteran -- 23-year-old Cloy Richards of Salem, Missouri, who was wounded in combat -- will avoid losing his disability benefits after agreeing not to wear his uniform at future protests, the Marine Corps said."

Cloy Richards suffers from PTSD, has served twice in Iraq, his crime was the same as Adam Kokesh and Liam Madden wearing fatigues or parts of them only to have the US military scream, "Those are uniforms!"

A lot of self-satisfied War Hawks are saying, "Well that's the law." Is it? And do they know the law? Do they know, for instance that these military guidelines also would prevent children from dressing up on Halloween as US military? That's how the code reads -- self-satisfied War Hawks might want to try reading it. Has any child ever been prosecuted? No, but the US military did try to go after a theatrical production. In 1970, the Supreme Court heard the case of Schacht v. United States regarding the arrest and conviction of Daniel Jay Schacht who wore uniforms while performing plays outside a recruiting center with two other people. The military's 'law' said that civilians (didn't you know the military thinks it has control over civilians?) couldn't wear military drag (which is how the issue of trick or treaters is covered) and that they weren't allowed in entertainment if the production gave the military a bad name. The Court disagreed with the lower courts and found that not only could Schacht wear the uniform in a production but he could say whatever he wanted to while wearing it.

Interestingly, the same US military is not at all worried that two of their brethren visited Winnie Ng in Canada, in search of Joshua Key, while posing as Canadian police.

Not only did they threaten Cloy Richards with loss of benefits, on Monday Adam Kokesh will face a hearing Monday in Kansas City, MO that will determine the status of his benefits and discharge which had previously been "honorable." If he loses his "honorable" discharge, not only are his benefits at risk, he may have to repay the government for his college education. That would include not only the courses he took on the campus of Claremont McKenna College but also the courses he took while serving in Falluja.

His "crime" took place in Washington, DC on March 19th while participating with Iraq Veterans Against the War in street actions to bring the illegal war home. This was, and this matters for anyone who wants to pay attention to the Supreme Court verdict, street theater. As Justice Hugo Black wrote in 1970:

Certainly theatrical productions need not always be performed in buildings or even on a defined area such as a conventional stage. Nor need they be performed by professional actors or be heavily financed or elaborately produced. Since time immemorial, outdoor theatrical performances, often performed by amateurs, have played an important part in the entertainment and the education of the people of the world.

There is not a bit of difference between what Daniel Jay Schacht performed in and what Adam Kokesh performed in so one issue raised at the hearing might be "Are you saying those in the Inactive Ready Reserves aren't allowed to perform in plays and, if so, would you please find the subsection that backs you up on that?" The Supreme Court ruled that the military has no control over productions, whether they are pro-military or anti-military, because once the code was written to allow pro-productions, the military found itself facing free speech issues and does not possess the ability to determine the content of the play or to influence it.

If the US military is arguing that IRR members may not participate in any productions (of any nature) they might need to find a subsection that gives them that power and they should probably inform those in IRR that this is the reality.

Liam Madden may or may not face a hearing for a speech he gave (while wearing a fatigue shirt) and it would be great if Adam Kokesh's hearing could be used to wrap this entire thing up. However, Kokesh goes before the hearing on Monday and he's our chief concern.

To repeat, he engaged in street theater. Justice Hugo Black made it quite clear that was theater. The Supreme Court made it quite clear that anti or pro military, anyone participating could wear military drag. Kokesh had removed his insignia and was wearing nothing but fatigues while participating in a theatrical production. In terms of Kokesh, his rights would appear to already be covered, already addressed and the US military has overstepped their bounds.

Again, the US military may then want to argue that they do not allow any member to participate in theater productions. Find the subsection and provide the material they hand out to drama majors and minors or to returning veterans who are moved to IRR and decide to go to college.

The military doesn't have legal standing on this issue, the Supreme Court has already determined it. Kokesh was clearly involved in street theater which is covered under the theater issue the Supreme Court addressed and the Court found that the military had no right to determine what type of productions (pro or anti military) that uniforms could be worn in.

What's going on here was outlined by Kelly Dougherty, executive director of Iraq Veterans Against the War, "This is not so much about Adam as it is an attempt by the military brass to silence opposition to the war among veterans. The military is supposed to fight to preserve free speech, not quashing it. Not only are veterans, who can attest to the realities of war, increasingly speaking out against the war -- but its grim realities are moving them to increasingly take nonviolent direct action to stop it." Tod Ensign (Citizen Soldier and Different Drummer Cafe) told Eric Rudolph (Socialist Worker), "This is just a trial balloon, and it's harassment. But if they get away with it, you can be sure that they will then start becoming more draconian and their sweep of other people will be expanded. This could have a very chilling effect on the IVAW, to say the least."

To no one's surprise, Mommy's Pantyhose's organization has sat this out. Lot of talk about the need to defend veterans from Mommy's Pantyhose but they took a pass on this. Surprisingly,

the Veterans of Foreign Wars did not and their national commander, Gary Kurpius has urged the military to use "a little common sense" and stop this nonsense. (Those who would prefer an audio link can listen to The KPFA Evening News on Friday for Mark Mericle's report which is rather complete; however, it was March 19th and not April that the incident took place.)

"A little common sense" is strongly needed. So is a little (at least a little) public outrage. If you're counting on The Nation to lead on that, cookie, get wise. They've not written one word about this as we write this. By contrast, Matthew Rothschild (The Progressive) wrote a lengthy piece entitled "Iraq Vet Faces Penalty for Protesting War." Who's leading and who's get rug burns on their belly from crawling? We think the answer is rather obvious and has been for some time.

Someone will drag you down
And try to knock you under
Hey Mama said with words of wonder
Don't matter cause, cause it's in your soul

-- "In Your Soul," written by Corey Hart, off his CD Young Man Running
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