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In the ironically named Liberty County Jail since December 11 sits Army Specialist and Iraq War veteran Marc Hall, a rap musician who had the audacity to write a song attacking the Pentagon for subjecting him to a so-called stop-loss order after he had finished his Army tour and had returned from a posting in Iraq.
Hall, whose hip-hop alias is Marc Watercus, wrote the song and sent it to the Pentagon as a protest. His commander at Ft. Stewart initially had him arrested after he went to his base commander to protest his stop-loss order. He had planned to leave the service when his contract was up on Feb. 27. The Pentagon then upped the charges, claiming that in sending his song to the Pentagon, he had “communicated a threat” to he military. In the song lyrics, Hall says he will shoot officers if he is stop-lossed.
The Pentagon reports that since 2001 it has prevented 120,000 soldiers from leaving the service using the stop-loss policy, which critics say is being grossly mis-used. Originally intended to keep the military from having to withdraw active troops from the battlefield if their contracts expire while they are engaged in the field, the policy has become instead a way of compensating from low enlistment and re-enlistment rates, with stop-loss orders generally hitting soldiers who have already returned home from the wars and who, like Hall, who has a wife and child, are preparing to return to civilian life.
The ironies of Hall’s incarceration and prosecution–he is being held without bail, pending a court-martial proceeding, which could be months off–are stunning.
Liberty County, Georgia earned its name–it was originally called St. John’s Parish by the Puritan settlers who founded it–because back in the 1770s it was a hotbed of revolutionary sentiment in a colony that was largely populated by pro-British Loyalists. Two signers of the Declaration of Independence hail from the county. One, Dr. Lyman Hall, actually shares Marc Hall’s surname, and was one of the most ardent of revolutionists in America–a man who despised tyranny boldly and who and actually went to the original Continental Congress representing not Georgia, but only his own county, because of lack of support from the population of the broader colony. Hall was a primary writer of the Constitution, which he allegedly based upon a pamphlet he had been carrying with him that had been penned by John Adams.
The story of Hall’s colleague Button Gwinnett, the other Liberty County signer of the Declaration of Independence, is even more reminiscent of the modern Specialist Hall. Gwinnett, like Hall, was frustrated and angry at his superiors. As commander of the Georgia Militia during the American Revolution, he disagreed with the man named to head the Georgia Continental Battalion by the Continental Congress, Lachlan McIntosh. Gwinnett, as governor or Georgia, felt he should be commander in chief or Georgia’s citizen soldiers. His unit’s subsequent subversion and disobedience culminated in a duel fought between Gwinnett and McIntosh, in which both men were gravely wounded. Gwinnett died several days later of infection resulting from his wound.
Rapper Hall, who has taken a bold public stand against the Pentagon’s brutal stop-loss program, which many critics have said is nothing but an unofficial draft, stands in the proud tradition of both Gwinnett and Hall.
Although his song vows violent retribution if he is stop-lossed, Hall insists it was “just hip-hop.” He says he told his sergeant that he opposed the war in Iraq, that he would not go back there if ordered to go, and that his song was simply a “free expression of how people feel about the Army and its stop-loss policy.” He says that his sergeant told him he actually “liked the song” and didn’t consider it to be a threat.
Attorney Jim Klimanski, a member of the National Lawyers Guild and the Military Law Task Force, who is following Hall’s case, says that the military is “overreacting,” and insists that Hall’s song is protected by the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech.
Klimanski says that Hall and other stop-loss victims look at the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, see that they are unending quagmires, and understandably feel that with stop-loss, they are doomed to stay in the service until it kills them.
If you want to defend Hall and the First Amendment right of soldiers, call your Senators and Representatives and demand that he be released. Call the jail at 912-876-6411 to demand an end to this illegal confinement. Letters of protest can be sent to: CPT Cross, Commander, B 2-7 INF BN, Fort Stewart GA 31314.
Also be sure to let any young men and women you know who are being tempted by recruiters to sign up for the military, with promises of college funds, and skills training and signing bonuses, that it is all a big lie. Tell them they could, like Hall and many others, be prevented from using their GI benefits by stop-loss. They could be kept prisoner in uniform at the military’s discretion, as Hall and 120,000 other troops have been.
DAVE LINDORFF is a Philadelphia-based journalist and columnist. His latest book is “The Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press, 2006 and now available in paperback). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org