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Veterans Groups Unite Behind Kokesh Battle With Marines for Free Speech

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I’m writing this while on the road to Kansas City, MO in what the Veterans of Foreign Wars, in supporting Adam Kokesh in his fight for the free speech rights of vets, has described as a "circus" but which is a very real effort to muzzle veterans of the Iraq War and preventing the public from hearing their views of what is going on in Iraq.

We held a press conference outside of Union Station in Washington, DC before departing for Kansas City, MO on the Yellow Rose of Texas Peace Bus.  You can see the press conference at:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z8kAXF1Ylss  Kevin Zeese introduces Marine Mom Tina Richards of Grass Roots America, Garret Reppenhagen Chairman of the Board of Iraq Vets Against the War and Liam Madden, an IVAW member who is facing disciplinary action not only for speaking out while wearing a uniform but for "disloyal" statements while not wearing a uniform.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=67geLw6w3Rk&mode=related&search=  KZ introduces attorney Michael Lebowitz, after his statement he responds to media inquiries.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ApVMr4XcGk   Kevin Zeese introducing Adam Kokesh

On the road Adam Kokesh, Liam Madden and Tina Richards did constant radio interviews.  This morning Adam, Liam and Cloy Richards -- all three who have been threatened for their speaking out against the war -- appeared on Good Morning America.  The three had very little sleep the night before as we drove through the night to get to Kansas City.  They broke off with a car and arrived in Kansas City at 4 AM and had to be in the studio at 8 AM.  The Yellow Rose of Texas Peace Bush did not arrive till 8 AM after two days and nights of driving to get here.  

When I was not trying to sleep in various uncomfortable positions, I spent my time on the bus directing media calls to the three spokespersons, providing background to the media and, as an attorney in the case, interviewing potential witnesses.  I also stayed in touch with Michael Lebowitz, the lead lawyer in the case, about witnesses and other issues.  One issue that came up was that the Marines were excluding the media from the hearing.  The media was told that they were being excluded to "protect" Adam Kokesh.  We filed a motion on Saturday asking that the media be allowed to observe and report on the hearing saying that Adam would be better protected by allowing the media to be present.  We have not heard a response to this motion.  The decision is at the discretion of the administrative board.

On the road we also got the good news of a second excellent Washington Post news article on the case as well as an excellent AP article.  Both are reprinted below.  They focused on the Veterans of Foreign Wars making a very positive statement of support for Adam Kokesh and the other vets under investigation.  They urged the Marines to put an end to this "circus."  It is great to see major veterans organizations uniting in their support of the free speech rights of vets.  At the rally scheduled for Monday at noon in Kansas City we will have representatives of Iraq Veterans Against the War, Veterans for Peace and Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Along the road we were received friendly assistance from members of the Mennonite Church who provided us with breakfast in Columbia, OH yesterday and gave us some gas money for the trip -- both were greatly appreciated.  Today when we arrived at a camp site in Kansas City peace activists had set up tents for us and reserved us an excellent space. They waited until 3 AM for us to arrive and to help direct us to the site but we did not arrive until the next morning.  They also had food and a comfortable fire waiting for us.  Along the way we received many honks, flashes of peace signs and flashes of lights in support of the large peace messages on our bus.  There were a few people who were unable to get the two fingered peace sign up and only were able to get up one of those fingers but they were greatly outnumbered by the messages of support.

Tina Richards, Linda Schade and I are very pleased that Polly Richards and Pete Perry are working extra hard to keep the SWARM on Congress organized while we travel to this disciplinary hearing. I hope people will join them, U.S. Labor Against the War and Iraqi oil workers at a protest march planned for Tuesday at 5:00 PM in Washington, DC. The march begins at the offices of Bearing Point (80 M St., SE, Washington, D.C. – near Navy Yard Metro), the authors of the Iraq oil law, with a march to the U.S. Capitol at 5:30 (3/4 mile). Please join them.

People seem to recognize the importance of this case and the brave stance the vets are taking in challenging the Marines in their efforts to muzzle them. We appreciate the support and hope the Marines see the absurdity of their position.  The only thing the Marines have succeeding in doing is sending a message that they do not want the public to hear the views of Iraq vets on the war.  This only reduces their credibility which is already at a low level with many Americans. 
 In discussing the case with Adam and others we recognize that we win no matter how this turns out.  If the review panel applies the law and facts fairly they will not even hear the case as they do not have jurisdiction over a civilian and Adam, an honorably discharged vet, is a civilian.  Further, he did not even violate the regulation.  But, if the hearing board takes the Kangaroo Court approach and rules against Adam and reduces his discharge to less than honorable, that will only free Adam to be more aggressive as an advocate for peace.  And, believe me, you will see more aggressive advocacy by Adam and other vets no matter how this turns out.  We've cooked up some great plans on this ride that will be announced at the appropriate time.  

My previous article on this case can be seen at: http://democracyrising.us/content/view/939/151/

News reports below:

Washington Post

In Clash With Marines, Reservists Gain Ally in VFW

By David Montgomery
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, June 2, 2007; C01

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.

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Kevin Zeese is co-chair of Come Home America, www.ComeHomeAmerica.US which seeks to end U.S. militarism and empire. He is also co-director of Its Our Economy, www.ItsOurEconomy.US which seeks to democratize the economy and give people greater (more...)
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