Liam Madden is a Marine veteran who spent seven months in Iraq. After returning to the United States, he became a co-founder of the Appeal for Redress. This is a campaign of active service members who are appealing to the US Congress to remove all American military forces and bases from Iraq. He is also a member of the Iraq Veterans Against the War. Recently, the United States Marine Corps (USMC) notified him that they were going to change his honorable discharge to a less than honorable discharge. He finds himself fighting this attempt while also continuing his organizing against the war. As for the Appeal for redress, there are now 2002 service men and women who have signed the statement. What follows is a brief exchange between Liam and myself over this attempt to silence him and other service members for speaking out against the war.
Ron: Liam, What exactly is the military trying to do to you?
Liam:The Marine Corps notified me that I was being recommended for “Other then Honorable Discharge” from the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) for two alleged violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
1. Wearing a partial USMC camouflage uniform at a political protest.
2. Making Disloyal Statements at a speech in New York City. I said that “The War in Iraq is, by Nuremberg standards, a war crime and a war of aggression” and “the president has betrayed U.S. service members by committing them to a war crime.
In essence, they are trying to apply the UCMJ to members of the Individual Ready Reserves (IRR) who aren’t supposed to be subject to it. Further, they are attempting to silence political opposition to the war by intimidating vets and GIs.
Ron: Just to clarify, are you still in the reserves?
Liam: I’m still a member of the IRR.
Ron: Why do you think they chose you? Is this also happening to other service people or vets?
Liam: I believe they chose to target me because they perceive me as a figure head for the veterans who are speaking about the illegality of the war Two other members of IVAW are being targeted. Adam Kokesh and Cloy Richards are both former Marines who have been under investigation by the USMC and Adam has already faced his discharge board.
Ron: Historically, is this that unusual for the military to come down on you?
Liam: Normally people aren’t discharged from the IRR. It is simply a list of names the military can call upon in times of national crisis. When they don’t want someone on the list they typically just cross them off. However it is not unusual that the government cracks down on those who are questioning the motives of their actions. For example, COINTELPRO, the imprisonment of Eugene Debs, and harassment of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Ron: What is the status of the case? When do you have to go to court or whatever?
Liam: They haven’t scheduled a date yet
Ron: What are the potential punishments if they bust you?
Liam: It is basically a black eye on my record that makes it difficult to obtain future employment, particularly government employment.
Ron: What can people do to help you and whoever else is in a similar situation?
Liam: 1. Encourage GIs/Vets to press on in their opposition to the war. Do not be intimidated, if they were not concerned about our activities they wouldn’t be acting to stifle our views.
2. Join the Defense committee some friends are setting up.
3. Sign the petition.
4. Donate to the legal defense fund.
5. Boycott all gas except Citgo, this will to be my escalation of resistance after I return from the IVAW bus tour.
Ron: Now, on to more general stuff. How is the Appeal for Redress progressing?
Liam: The appeal has just passed the 2,000 mark. We are going strong and will continue to be an avenue for troops to speak out against the war.
Ron: I was recently at a conference where several Iraq Veterans Against the War were present. In your estimation, how is the organization faring? Are numbers growing, etc?
Liam: We are growing rapidly. We are getting alot of attention lately and we are on the leading edge of the anti war movement. Our activity is growing bolder and more independent of other groups.
Ron: From your perspective, do you think the military is feeling the heat from the growing disenchantment with the Iraq and Afghanistan wars–from within the military and otherwise?
Liam: Yes, troops aren’t stupid; they know the government isn’t telling them the whole story. No one is happy about the lengthening deployments and the deteriorating public support for the war. Let me be clear, public opposition doesn’t lower troop morale, being in a war that is clearly based on a lie lowers troop morale.
Ron: Anything you want to add–especially to vets or active duty GIs who might read this?
Liam: Honesty is the essence of loyalty. Criticizing a president and a war that is harming our nation is not disloyal despite what the government claims. If the war was legal by international standards, then the U.S. government should prove their case instead of attempting to silence the voices of opposition.
RON JACOBS is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground, which is just republished by Verso. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. His first novel, Short Order Frame Up, is published by Mainstay Press. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org