Iraq

In Defense of Sgt. Kokesh

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A Washington Times editorial comes out in support of Adam Kokesh, the Iraq War veteran whose honorable discharge was downgraded to a general discharge for wearing his uniform, stripped of insignia, to an anti-war protest.

We're likely to see more cases like Mr. Kokesh's in the future, so it's worth considering whether this treatment was justified. Indeed it would be wholly fitting punishment for an active-duty soldier, Marine or drilling reservist, who should never be seen moving around Washington in uniform at political demonstrations. Mr. Kokesh's case is not so clear. We think the Corps should have erred on the side of leniency

Mr. Kokesh is, for all practical purposes, no longer in the service. When the protest episode occurred, he had mere weeks remaining as member of the Individual Ready Reserve, which at any given time consists of about 112,000 veterans returning to civilian life. A member's only duties are to keep a uniform, keep an I.D. card, notify authorities when changing addresses and, crucially, respond to the president's call in cases of national emergency. The Marine Corps had told Mr. Kokesh that it did not want him back. And the stripping-down of the uniform blurs things. Military lawyers can wrangle over how much this matters, but it's clear that Mr. Kokesh was simply a guy at a protest in camouflage pants. People listened to him because he's an Iraq veteran with fiery antiwar views.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars recently and rightly criticized the treatment of Mr. Kokesh. "Trying to hush up and punish fellow Americans for exercising the same democratic rights we're trying to instill in Iraq is not what we're all about," says VFW chief Gary Kurplus. "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."

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  1. 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.

    Doot doot doodle doo doo doot doot doo doot.

  2. Hey, once you join the military, you give up certain rights, like all the protections of the Constitution that you’re allegedly fighting for.
    Or something.
    Ah fuck, this guy got hosed.

  3. Just because, technically, he broke the rules (UCMJ, Navy Regulations) doesn’t mean you have to hammer the guy. Hell, they could have given him a reduction in rank, suspended, and made their point. This is vindictive bullshit. There is a huge difference between an Honorable and a General discharge. Benefits, prospective employer perceptions etc. It’s like taking a sledgehammer to a fly.

  4. Mr. Kokesh was simply a guy at a protest in camouflage pants.

    If he bought the clothes at an army surplus store, he’d be getting the exact same hassle.

  5. Since he’d been over to Iraq, what better person to speak out and say it’s not such a good idea to be over there? Compared to Jane Fonda cozying up to the N. Vietnamese, what he did was pretty tame.

  6. “Indeed it would be wholly fitting punishment for an active-duty soldier, Marine or drilling reservist, who should never be seen moving around Washington in uniform at political demonstrations.”

    Unless ordered to attend a policy rally in uniform by the President, or his commander, in which case he should charged with disobeying an order if he does not appear in full uniform, with all insignia present, and stand and clap as indicated by the rally’s organizers.

  7. joe,
    Where you ever required to do that?

  8. Yes, but the uniform in question was for a Catholic high school. Why do you ask?

  9. I had to do it with a dixie cup on my head.

  10. Well, I was all for leniency when I was under the impression that he had already been discharged before attending the rally. In fact he was still in the IRR, just like me, and could have attended in civilian clothes, just like I did, but he didn’t and he is getting what he deserves. He ought to be happy that he is making an even bigger ‘statement’ and getting a lot more attention than he planned.

    Oh, as for the writer of the article, this bit of double-speak should get an award:

    Mr. Kokesh is, for all practical purposes, no longer in the service. When the protest episode occurred, he had mere weeks remaining as member of the Individual Ready Reserve, which at any given time consists of about 112,000 veterans returning to civilian life.

    Did this guy invent the phrase “a little pregnant” too?

  11. Would a person wearing camouflage without insignia count as a uniformed combatant under the Geneva Conventions?

    If so, then he’s in uniform. If not, then he’s out of uniform.

  12. I’d like know specifically what he was wearing. Anyone can purchase and wear military uniform items. I wear old BDU pants and an old field jacket when I go camping but i’m not “in uniform” because there are no distinctive military insignia on them. How “stripped down” his uniform was is key. If he had chevrons, USMC nametape over the pocket, ribbons/medals, etc., then he likely violated the rule against attending rallys in uniform. But if it was just camo pants, this sounds bogus.

  13. I guess it’s not possible that Kokesh is getting more attention than all of the other soldiers who have done this because he has become a major darling of the gay media/blogosphere, (because he is cute and built like a brick shithouse. Seriously, find me a gay blog/publication without a piece on Kokesh.)
    They have to do something with the half-billion dollars a year they blow on DADT. (Besides firing most of the only available arabic translators.)

  14. thoreau,

    Oh, DAMN!

    On their home field, too. Boo Yah!

    Anyway, I’ve been watching people in full uniform, with insignia, sit in the audience and clap during speeches by George Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld, which are organized by the White House for the purpose of campaigning, and contain partisan political statements indistinguishable from their stump speeches.

    Not a single one of them has ever been disciplines – in fact, they were usually ordered to be there.

  15. Kokesh was wearing Marine Patterened digital camoflauge (MARPAT) and a reasonble subset of our patrol gear. There is no practical way to “strip down” the insignia, as there are small Marine Corps emblems in the digital pattern itself (a version without the emblems is available for civilian and other uses). As to the removal of rank, well, he continued to refer to himself as Sergeant, though I was in the NJP that broke him down to Corporal… so who knows what he was really wearing. Concur with Guy Montag on the weasel-words and flexible view of the law held by the article author (if two or three weeks is no big deal, why didn’t he just wait?).

    He’s a personable enough guy, but not nearly as smart or articulate as he thinks he is… but he’s no dummy. Watch for him to be running for office in a few years. I’ll bet dollars to donuts that his current posturing will, in a very Kerry-like way, figure large in his campaign. He’s building his resume and establishing his creds. And posturing it is… none of his anti-war stance developed until we busted him for smuggling home a weapon from Iraq in 2004, and didn’t manifest while he was fighting to get to go with us in 2006 (but was on legal hold for the above-mentioned violation).

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