Saying that at least 28 other recreational vehicles (RVs) in his town of
Bel Aire, Kansas have been parked in yards or driveways for
longer than local ordinance allows, Iraq veteran-turned-anti-war activist
Ethan McCord has been ordered to court to explain why he has not moved
his RV off his property. McCord is the former US soldier who was
catapulted to national prominence after a video allegedly leaked by PFC
Bradley Manning to Wikileaks was broadcast on national television.
McCord wrote on his Facebook page for his friends last week:
got court tomorrow in Bel Aire, KS. I was cited by the police for my
"recreational vehicle" parked on my property. Why it took the entire Bel
aire police department to come out and cite me? Intimidation maybe? I
Have taken photos of at least 6 other homeowners with rec vehicles on
their property within a 7 block radius."
McCord has since found many more RVs parked against ordinance.
McCord's RV has been out for about a month, while other RV owners have had their vehicles out for over a year, and as long as four years, says McCord. He is faced with a steep fine or jail time if he does not comply with an order to move the RV. The citation was served by what McCord says seemed like "the entire Bel Aire police department."
At his first court appearance this month on the RV citation, in which McCord requested, and was granted, a continuance, McCord noted that "when the prosecution pulled my file it was quite thicker than all the others. I noticed typed pages that other defendants didn't have in theirs." In the course of fighting city hall, McCord discovered that the police chief of Bel Aire is "prior [military] service." McCord said "Boy did he know way too much about my service when we've never met."
The Wikileaks video in which McCord suddenly saw himself on national TV showed two controversial helicopter attacks in East Baghdad in 2007. The second attack killed two men evacuating a wounded man, and wounded two children who were unseen inside of a van. McCord was part of an American ground unit sent to investigate the aftermath of the attack.
Through the helicopter's gun camera, he is seen discovering two children still alive and running with them in his arms to a Bradley Fighting Vehicle, so they can be taken for help. The event is the subject of a short documentary entitled "Incident in New Baghdad," which won the award for Best Documentary Short at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival.
McCord has become outspoken in his opposition to the US military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, and now participates in "counter-recruiting" efforts organized by various peace organizations. In these, former soldiers speak at high schools as a counterpoint to military recruitment pitches, and relate the realities of war.
McCord says he is inclined not to move his RV or pay the fine, as he feels he is being "singled out." To comply, says McCord, would be to submit to intimidation.
The Wikileaks video in which McCord's actions are captured came to the attention of PFC Bradley Manning when he was a member of Army intelligence in Iraq, as he reviewed the attack on the van in which the children were wounded. Manning called the incident "the van thing."
Manning wrote in an email to a friend:
"At first glance it was just a bunch of guys getting shot up by a helicopter...No big deal ... about two dozen more where that came from, right? But something struck me as odd with the van thing, and also the fact it was being stored in a JAG officer's directory. So I looked into it."
The JAG is the Judge Advocate General's Office, the military's equivalent of a prosecutor. Article 12 of the Geneva Convention prohibits attacks on wounded in a combat zone and on those attempting to evacuate them. Violations of Article 2 are considered war crimes.
In pondering the possibility of going to jail for his refusal to submit to the intimidation, McCord, who is recovering from post traumatic stress syndrome, says dryly "I've got more time than money." He notes that the matter is being pursued in a criminal court rather than a civil, as zoning issues would ordinarily seem to be pursued.