The uninitiated may find somewhat confusing an AP story about Marine Cpl. Adam Kokesh, a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War who on Memorial Day said in a dramatic demonstration in Manhattan that "our democracy has failed us" and that "[i]t is time for the people to end this war."  --  On the one hand, reporter Sam Hananel asserts that a military panel in Kansas City is preparing to hold a hearing Monday to decide whether, because he violated a regulation by wearing his uniform (albeit without insignia) at a Memorial Day protest, the Iraq veteran "should be discharged from service and, if so, with what type of discharge."  --  On the other hand, it asserted that he "has already received an honorable discharge from active duty."  --  But the confusion is resolved thus:  Kokesh is not quite out of the service, because "he remains part of the Individual Ready Reserve, a pool of former active duty service members in unpaid, non-drill status.  --  It didn't help, apparently, that "when a senior officer told Kokesh that he violated military regulations, Kokesh used an obscenity and indicated he would not comply with the rules."  --  Another marine who promised not to do it again has not been called to an administrative hearing.  --  On Friday, the national commander of the VFW, not a hotbed of antiwar sentiment, called on the military to "exercise a little common sense" and call off its investigation.  --  "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.  --  "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."  --  The Washington Post on Saturday called the VFW's statement on the Kokesh case and two other related cases, entitled "VFW to Corps: Don't Stifle Freedom of Speech," a "bilstering statement."[2]  --  Kokesh, who fought in Fallujah and is now a grad student at George Washington University, risks losing education benefits if his discharge is downgraded.  --  Although the Marine Corps says this is not a free-speech case, "at least one of the charges seems to involve speech only," David Montgomery wrote.  --  "Liam Madden, 22, of Boston, is accused of making disloyal statements in a speech where he accused the Bush administration of 'war crimes'; said the conflict is a war 'of aggression' and 'empire building'; and said Bush 'betrayed U.S. military personnel.'  Madden says he was not in uniform during that February speech in New York."  --  The Pentagon seemed confused about what is going on:  "Spencer, after addressing the uniform issue, said he needed a few hours to research questions about the alleged disloyal statements, then did not return messages to answer those questions.  Maj. Stewart Upton, a Pentagon spokesman, referred those questions back to Spencer, saying, 'I'm unable to speak to the legal reasoning behind the freedom of speech charges issued by the Marine Corps.'"  --  Adam Kokesh's lawyer, Michael Lebowitz, himself an Iraq Army vet, "says what's at stake is the very definition of a civilian. These reservists are among the 158,000 on the Individual Ready Reserve, a pool of discharged former active-duty soldiers and Marines who aren't paid, don't drill, have no chain of command, yet may be recalled to duty during the few years they are on inactive reserve.  Lebowitz says they have the free-speech rights of civilians; the Marines disagree."  --  For more information on this case and how you can get involved, see the Iraq Veterans Against the War web site....


1.

VFW BACKS VET IN TROUBLE OVER PROTEST
By Sam Hananel

Associated Press
June 2, 2007

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/06/02/AR2007060200377.html
or
http://www.thenewstribune.com/tacoma/24hour/nation/story/76472.html

The nation's largest combat veterans group on Friday urged the military to "exercise a little common sense" and call off its investigation of a group of Iraq war veterans who wore their uniforms during anti-war protests.

"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," Kurpius said.

Marine Cpl. Adam Kokesh had already received an honorable discharge from active duty before he was photographed in March wearing fatigues -- with military insignia removed -- during a mock patrol with other veterans protesting the Iraq war.

A military panel in Kansas City, Mo., will hold a hearing Monday to decide whether he should be should be discharged from service and, if so, with what type of discharge.

Col. Dave Lapan, a Marine Corps spokesman, said Kokesh is under administrative review because he wore his uniform at a political event, which is prohibited. And, Lapan said, when a senior officer told Kokesh that he violated military regulations, Kokesh used an obscenity and indicated he would not comply with the rules.

"It's the political activity that is prohibited, not the type of event that it was," Lapan said. "If it had been a pro-war rally, it would still have been a violation."

The panel could recommend an honorable discharge, a general discharge, or an other than honorable discharge. Kokesh could not be given a dishonorable discharge, which generally results from a court-martial. The final decision would be made by the commanding general.

A second Marine who was at the same event was also called about the violation, but told the officer he was unaware he was breaking the rules and said he would not do it again, Lapan said. That Marine has not been called to an administrative hearing.

Kurpius said the possibility of receiving a less than honorable discharge from service could threaten educational and other benefits Kokesh is eligible to receive from the Department of Veterans Affairs. The action might also prevent Kokesh from future employment opportunities that require a security clearance, Kurpius said.

"We all know that people give up some individual rights when they join the military," Kurpius said. "But these Marines went to war, did their duty, and were honorably discharged from the active roles. I may disagree with their message, but I will always defend their right to say it."

Kokesh received his honorable discharge after one combat tour in Iraq, but he remains part of the Individual Ready Reserve, a pool of former active duty service members in unpaid, non-drill status.

Kokesh's attorney, Michael Lebowitz, has called the investigation an effort to stifle critics of the Bush administration's Iraq policy.

--Associated Press Writer Lolita C. Baldor contributed to this report. (This version CORRECTS corrects in graf 4 that Kokesh was photographed in March, not April; corrects in graf 12 that Kokesh went to Iraq once, not twice; minor editing.)

2.

Arts & living

IN CLASH WITH MARINES, RESERVISTS GAIN ALLY IN VFW
By David Montgomery

Washington Post
June 2, 2007
Page C1

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/06/01/AR2007060102421.html

[PHOTO CAPTION: Attorney Michael Lebowitz, left, Adam Kokesh, Garrett Reppenhagen, attorney Kevin Zeiss and Liam Madden at a news conference in Washington yesterday.]

[VIDEO: 'Operation First Casualty': In March, a guerrilla theater squad of Iraq Veterans Against the War roamed Washington, D.C., in camouflage to mark the fourth anniversary of the Iraq war. The Marines are now investigating two reservists who participated in the event. (2:54)]

The national commander of the proud, patriotic, 2.4 million strong Veterans of Foreign Wars (motto: "Honor the dead by helping the living") took one look at the mushrooming dispute between three antiwar Marine reservists and the U.S. Marine Corps, and knew where his sympathies lay: with the protesters.

"What the Marine Corps is trying to do is hush up and punish these individuals who served our country," Gary Kurpius, the national commander, said in a telephone interview. "All they're doing is exercising the same democratic voice we're trying to instill over in Iraq right now."

The Marines have accused the three reservists, all members of Iraq Veterans Against the War, of wearing their uniforms during political protests and making "disrespectful" or "disloyal" statements. All three were honorably discharged from active duty, but now face "other than honorable" discharges from the inactive reserve, which could affect future employment and veterans benefits.

The VFW issued a blistering statement on the controversy yesterday. Headline: "VFW to Corps: Don't Stifle Freedom of Speech."

Kurpius, an Army vet who fought in Vietnam, doesn't even agree with the protesters. "We're pretty much on record supporting the troops, and if you're going to support the troops, you're going to have to support their mission," he said. "I may disagree with the message . . . but I and my organization will always defend their right to say it."

The Marines respond that this is not a free-speech case. Adam Kokesh, 25, one of the protesters, "violated Marine Corps uniform regulations and he was disrespectful to a commissioned officer," said Master Sgt. Ronald Spencer, a spokesman for the Marine Corps Mobilization Command in Kansas City, Mo. "That would be the issue. It has nothing to do with free speech."

Kokesh, who fought in Fallujah and now is a graduate student at George Washington University, was wearing parts of his camouflage uniform in March during a demonstration where 13 veterans roamed Capitol Hill and downtown Washington carrying imaginary weapons to mark the fourth anniversary of the war in Iraq.

When Kokesh was contacted by the major assigned to investigate the case, he responded with an e-mail about his service and opposition to the war, and concluded with a profane suggestion about what the major could go do.

While all three reservists wore parts of their uniforms during demonstrations, at least one of the charges seems to involve speech only: Liam Madden, 22, of Boston, is accused of making disloyal statements in a speech where he accused the Bush administration of "war crimes"; said the conflict is a war "of aggression" and "empire building"; and said Bush "betrayed U.S. military personnel." Madden says he was not in uniform during that February speech in New York.

Spencer, after addressing the uniform issue, said he needed a few hours to research questions about the alleged disloyal statements, then did not return messages to answer those questions. Maj. Stewart Upton, a Pentagon spokesman, referred those questions back to Spencer, saying, "I'm unable to speak to the legal reasoning behind the freedom of speech charges issued by the Marine Corps."

Kokesh's lawyer, Michael Lebowitz, an Iraq Army vet with the Washington firm of Greenberg & Lieberman, says what's at stake is the very definition of a civilian. These reservists are among the 158,000 on the Individual Ready Reserve, a pool of discharged former active-duty soldiers and Marines who aren't paid, don't drill, have no chain of command, yet may be recalled to duty during the few years they are on inactive reserve. Lebowitz says they have the free-speech rights of civilians; the Marines disagree.

"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," said the VFW's Kurpius.

The circus may already have arrived, in a white touring bus. Yesterday evening, Kokesh, 25, held a news conference at Union Station. Then he and his supporters boarded what they call the Yellow Rose of Texas Bus for Peace, festooned with flags and antiwar slogans for a road trip to Kansas City, where Kokesh faces a discharge hearing Monday.

In the crowd was Tina Richards, an antiwar activist who is the mother of Cloy Richards, 23, who served two tours in Iraq -- and who was also investigated for wearing his uniform during protests. The young man is 80 percent disabled and can't afford to risk the $1,300 a month he receives in veteran's benefits. He has been told he could lose them if he receives an other-than-honorable discharge, according to his mother.

"It's a form of intimidation and blackmail on the military's part to quiet the combat veterans who are speaking out against the war," said Tina Richards, who wears parts of her son's uniform to protest on his behalf.

Kurpius noted the example of retired generals -- including at least one Marine -- criticizing the war effort, even though retired top officers retain certain obligations to the military.

"I see them on CNN all the time, badmouthing the administration," Kurpius said. "Why is something not done about those individuals, when these poor troops are being hammered?"