McClatchy Newspapers reported Tuesday that 118 active-duty service members plan to petition Congress on Wednesday. -- (Though the News Tribune of Tacoma is owned by McClatchy, and though the story mentions Lt. Ehren Watada, an Iraq war resister who is stationed at Fort Lewis, News Tribune editors did not elect to run the story; readers may wish to contact the News Tribune to request that they do so.) -- The grassroots military movement is based in Norfolk, VA. -- The petition states: "As a patriotic American proud to serve the nation in uniform, I respectfully urge my political leaders in Congress to support the prompt withdrawal of all American military forces and bases from Iraq. Staying in Iraq will not work and is not worth the price. It is time for U.S. troops to come home." -- A web site has been established for the movement and is soliciting more signatures. -- A note on the web site comments on the legal rights to free speech retained by members of the military. -- AP reported that the web site was set up by Jonathan Hutto, a Navy seaman based in Norfolk, Va., and said that "is trying to verify that they are legitimate service members." -- AP quoted two Republican senators (Reed of Rhode Island and Graham of South Carolina) who spoke critically of the movement. -- AP reported that "Scott Silliman, director of Duke University's Center on Law, Ethics and National Security, said he sees the increasing political noise from active and retired military members as a relatively new product of an unpopular war. 'Fifteen, 20 years ago you wouldn't have seen it happen,'" Silliman said." -- But forty years ago, you did: as the recent film "Sir! No Sir!" shows, dissent from within the military played
SOME ACTIVE-DUTY TROOPS VOICE THEIR DISSENT FROM U.S. POLICY IN IRAQ
By Drew Brown
October 24, 2006
WASHINGTON -- Liam Madden opposed the war in Iraq even before he deployed with his Marine unit in late 2004. But he came home convinced more than ever that the war was wrong.
"The more informed I got, the more I opposed the war," said Madden, 22, a Marine Corps sergeant in Quantico, Va. "The more people who died there, the longer we stayed there, the more I opposed the war. The more I know, the easier it is to support withdrawal."
Madden is one of about 118 members of the U.S. military who plan to petition Congress asking that U.S. forces be withdrawn from Iraq and brought home, said attorney J.E. McNeil. McNeil is advising the grassroots group of active-duty service members, who organized the petition drive through a Web site (www.appealforredress.org).
In a rare display of public dissent, Madden and another serviceman plan to go public Wednesday with their disapproval. Members of the military are more limited than civilians are in how they can express dissent.
Although a number of troops, including at least one officer, have been brought up on charges for refusing to serve in Iraq, and dozens more have deserted, this is the first time that serving members of the U.S. military have publicly petitioned Congress to end the war. The action comes less than two weeks before the Nov. 7 elections, in which the Iraq war is a major issue.
President Bush says he plans no major changes in strategy, and top U.S. officials in Baghdad said Tuesday that they are sticking to plans to hand over most security responsibilities to the Iraqi government over the next 12 to 18 months.
Organizers are planning to deliver the petitions to Congress by the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday in January.
"The long-term goal is to end the occupation of Iraq," Madden said. "The short-term goal is to spread the word that service members who feel like we do have a tool to have their voice heard, and it's their duty as a citizen of a democratic society to participate in democracy."
The message that Madden and other troops are sending to their congressional representatives is brief and to the point.
"As a patriotic American proud to serve the nation in uniform, I respectfully urge my political leaders in Congress to support the prompt withdrawal of all American military forces and bases from Iraq," it says. "Staying in Iraq will not work and is not worth the price. It is time for U.S. troops to come home."
The grassroots movement of active-duty service members is based in Norfolk, Va., and is sponsored by several anti-war groups, including Iraq Veterans Against the War, Veterans for Peace, and Military Families Speak Out. Service members can submit their appeals online, giving their names, duty status and service branches.
McNeil, the attorney, said troops who speak out against the war are exercising their First Amendment right to free speech.
Under military regulations, troops are free to speak their minds as long as they're not on duty, not in uniform and aren't saying anything that's disrespectful to their chain of command or the president, she said.
"They've got to be clear that they are speaking for themselves and not the military," said McNeil, the executive director of the Center on Conscience and War, based in Washington. The organization was formed by Quakers and other church groups in 1940 to protect the rights of conscientious objectors.
The Military Whistleblower Protection Act of 1995 allows servicemen and women to communicate grievances directly to Congress without the threat of penalty or reprisal.
Eugene Fidell, a Washington attorney and president of the National Institute for Military Justice, said the service members are within their rights to speak out against the war to members of Congress. However, he said they must be careful about what they say in public and the circumstances under which they say it.
Eric A. Seitz, a Honolulu attorney who has handled military cases for more than 40 years, said: "The kinds of resistance and opposition and outrage that military people are now beginning to express has been simmering for quite a while. But it's about to just burst out in huge waves."
Seitz is representing Lt. Ehren Watada, an Army lieutenant at Fort Lewis, Wash., who's being prosecuted for refusing to serve in Iraq.
If dissent continues to build, more soldiers might refuse to fight, Seitz said.
Pentagon officials might "think they can continue to prosecute a war, but when the troops stop fighting, that's it, they're out of luck," he said.
Rights under Law
THE RIGHTS OF MEMBERS OF THE MILITARY
Members of the military have rights under the U.S. Constitution, laws passed by Congress, and the military's own regulations. Military regulations give you important ways to voice your opinion about what's going on in Iraq. They also impose important limitations. People in the military don't have the same constitutional right to express themselves as civilians do.
The military regulation that covers protest and dissent by members of the military is
DoD Directive 1325.6 -- "Guidelines for Handling Dissident and Protest Activities Among Members of the Armed Forces.
The command may prohibit members from distributing written materials on base, other than through "official outlets," without prior approval. However, the command may not prevent you from distributing printed material simply because it is critical of government policies or officials.
DoD Directive 1325.6 says it is DoD policy to preserve military members' "right of expression . . . to the maximum extent possible, consistent with good order and discipline and the national security." Members of the military may attend demonstrations but only in the United States and only when they are off base, off duty, and out of uniform.
THE RIGHT OF SERVICE MEMBERS TO COMPLAIN AND REQUEST REDRESS
Article 3.5.7 DoD Directive 1325.6 provides the right of service members to complain and request redress of grievances against actions of their commanders. (IMPORTANT NOTE: A redress is not to be confused with a petition. The action taken here by individual service members is an Appeal for Redress to End the War in Iraq.)
DoD Directive 7050.6 -- Military Whistleblower Protection Act
DoD Directive 7050.6, otherwise known as the Military Whistleblower Protection Act, provides for the following rights:
4.1 Members of the Armed Forces shall be free to make a protected communication to:
4.1.1 -- A Member of Congress
Articles 4.2-4.4 -- Military members are protected against reprisals for such communication.
If the command tries to retaliate against you for exercising your free speech rights, get some legal assistance. Talk with a civilian military counselor and/or a civilian attorney familiar with military law. You may be able to file a complaint under Article 138 of the UCMJ. [Note 1: Chapter 47, Uniform Code of Military Justice, SubChapterXI, Miscellaneous Provisions, Sec. 935. Scroll to Art. 138, Complaints of Wrongs.] You may be able to file a complaint under the Military Whistleblower Protection Act. There may be other legal channels. An attorney or counselor can help you file a complaint or communicate with your command about the problem.
You may also call the G.I. Rights Hotline at
or (510) 465-1472 (also international calls)
Appeal for Redress
PO Box 53052
Washington, DC 20009-3052
CRITICS USE WEBSITE TO RECRUIT TROOPS AGAINST WAR IN IRAQ
By Anne Plummer Flaherty
** Hope strategy will sway voters **
October 25, 2006
WASHINGTON -- Anti war groups are trying to rally active troops to speak out against the war in Iraq, a political tactic they hope will sway voters Nov. 7.
A small group of active-duty members opposed to the war created a website last month intended to collect thousands of signatures of other service members. People can submit their name, rank, and duty station if they support statements denouncing the U.S. invasion.
The electronic grievances are then passed along to members of Congress, according to the website .
"Staying in Iraq will not work and is not worth the price. It is time for U.S. troops to come home," the website says.
Jonathan Hutto, a Navy seaman based in Norfolk, Va., who set up the website a month ago, said the group has collected 118 names and is trying to verify that they are legitimate service members.
There are 1.4 million troops on active duty, including members of the National Guard and Reserve.
Retired veterans have long waded into politics, including the 2004 presidential campaign, when a group of veterans challenged Senator John F. Kerry's war record. More recently, several retired military generals have called on Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to resign, contending he botched the war and put troops at risk.
Hearing publicly from active-duty troops is rare. Military laws bar officers from denouncing the president and other U.S. leaders, and regulations typically prevent service members from lobbying for a particular cause while on duty or wearing the uniform.
Legal specialists who reviewed the website said the effort probably would not violate any rules because the site is not a personal attack on members of the administration and service members can raise their concerns to Congress in their free time.
Backers of the website also cite a "whistle-blower protection" law, under which service members can file complaints to Congress without reprisal.
But at least two senators, both critical of the administration's handling of the war in Iraq, said they were concerned that service members speaking out against the president may undermine the military's apolitical status.
"We expect our soldiers to follow . . . the legitimate orders of their commanders," said Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, who is helping lead Democratic opposition to the war this election season.
"And if you feel a course of action is inappropriate, your choice is just getting out of the service, basically, if you can and making your comments as a civilian," said Reed, a West Point graduate and former Army Ranger and paratrooper.
Senator Lindsey O. Graham, a former reserve judge for the Air Force, said vocal complaints by active-duty members represented a "disturbing trend" that threatened to erode the cohesiveness of the military.
"We've had a long tradition making sure the military doesn't engage in political debate," said Graham, a South Carolina Republican. "We don't need a Democratic Army and a Republican Army."
Hutto and supporters of his website said they see no problem with active-duty military personnel weighing into politics.
"We're doing this on our own time," Hutto said, and "We're speaking as American citizens," rather than service members.
Scott Silliman, director of Duke University's Center on Law, Ethics and National Security, said he sees the increasing political noise from active and retired military members as a relatively new product of an unpopular war. "Fifteen, 20 years ago you wouldn't have seen it happen," Silliman said.