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Roadmap for the Prosecution
September 29, 2004 5:29 AM   Subscribe

Terrorising free speech. Al Lorentz is a reserve Non-Commissioned Officer currently serving in Iraq. His blazingly clear, succinct article on Iraq, titled "Why we cannot win", has raged over the wires (also at MeFi) since it was published on LewRockwell.com. Now, the military chain of command is considering charging Al with violation of Article 134 for making a statement with the intent to promote disloyalty or disaffection toward the U.S. by any member of the Armed forces. The military is also considering charging Al with violation of 1344.10, the conduct of partisan political activity, and violation of Standards of Conduct for unauthorized use of Government assets to create and email stories.
posted by acrobat (30 comments total)

 
1. This guy was just asking for trouble. Once you put the uniform on, the right of "free speech" becomes restricted. Every military member knows that - particularly a near-20 year veteran. He knew what he was doing, and will likely pay the price for it -- rightly so.

2. "Ideology and idealism will never trump history and reality" is one of his primary arguments. Uh, has he never heard of the American Revolution? Seems to me that ideology and ideology decisively trumped history and reality.
posted by davidmsc at 6:03 AM on September 29, 2004


True, a 20 year veteran should know that he's taking a risk when he speaks out. As we used to tell the hacker kids on the help desk: Just because you can, doesn't mean you should.

That said, the military has set itself up for this kind of thing. I've been waiting for this shoe to drop since the very first "soldier's blog" that I saw. I'm amazed it's taken this long.

Now, that said -- and this is a question for you as much as for anybody, DavidMSC -- how else do we get reliable information about what's really going on, there? I mean, the reporters can't go anywhere without a heavily armed escort, we know that we can't reply on the military hierarchy for accurate information (and anyone who doesn't know that is a fool), and the current civilian pentagon is a pack of lying bastards without the moral integrity of a cockroach among the lot of them. So without stuff like this -- what have we got?
posted by lodurr at 6:14 AM on September 29, 2004


After I enlisted in the US Marine Corps in 1980, one of the very first things made explicitly and inescapably clear to new recruits was that we had forfeited any and all constitutional rights and that we lived under the provisions of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

No ifs, no ands, no buts.

"how else do we get reliable information about what's really going on, there?"

You don't. Period.
posted by mischief at 6:16 AM on September 29, 2004


Separate point: As for the revolutionary war, I really don't know what your point is. In what way did ideology and idealism "trump reality" in the American Revolution? The reality is that we won. "Ideology and idealism" certainly played a role in that victory, but at no point did they play any role that wouldn't have been anticipated by Sun Tzu, von Clausewitz, or Tommy Franks.
posted by lodurr at 6:17 AM on September 29, 2004


You don't. Period.

Well, it's kind of a rhetorical question. But the answer did need to be said, because we seem to forget it. And it's pretty fundamental.

The moral, AFAICS, is that we need to not get our asses into situations where getting reliable information is as critical to the future of the republic as it currently is.
posted by lodurr at 6:19 AM on September 29, 2004


Article 134: If the charge is promoting disloyalty and disaffection toward the United States, it needs to be applied just a wee bit higher than good old Sergeant Lorentz. Tragically, we can’t find many neoconservative academics that are subject to the UCMJ. However, doesn’t it apply to Secretary Rumsfeld and his Deputy Paul Wolfowitz? And isn’t their boss George somewhere in the chain of command? Yeah, I know, not for Abu Ghraib torture sessions, but somewhere?

1344.10: This one is laughable, as active duty members apparently constituted 3% of the delegation at the Republican National Convention only a few weeks ago. Do you think those military members will be accused of violating 1344.10?

We are reminded of the eternal words from the mouths of talking pigs in Orwell’s Animal Farm, "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."

posted by acrobat at 6:34 AM on September 29, 2004


1. This guy was just asking for trouble. Once you put the uniform on, the right of "free speech" becomes restricted. Every military member knows that - particularly a near-20 year veteran. He knew what he was doing, and will likely pay the price for it -- rightly so.

Pay the price.. unless you were attending the RNC as an active duty soldier...
posted by Space Coyote at 6:50 AM on September 29, 2004


I have no answer to the RNC stuff -- frankly, I'm surprised that it was allowed. Anyone know if there were any military folks at the DNC convention?

Re: American Revolution -- I disagree -- reality and history never allowed for a people to revolt against a monarch and establish a nation based on individual rights, liberty, and representative democracy (AFAIK). It was the idealism and ideology of the soon-to-be-Americans that triumphed over centuries of dictatorship, monarchy, etc.
posted by davidmsc at 7:24 AM on September 29, 2004


It was reality and history that put those idealists on the other side of a very big ocean that took a very long time to cross, and in lucky alliance with France. Without those basic facts of reality and history, idealism would not have triumphed, no matter what we'd like to think now.
posted by louie at 7:33 AM on September 29, 2004


David, to make your arguments work you have to really severely limit your discussion. For example, you have to say that "reality and history never allowed for a people to revolt against a monarch and establish a nation based on individual rights, liberty, and representative democracy." Pretty restrictive conditions.

But let's take a quick look at a couple of other things that history had previously "allowed", shall we?

It previously "allowed" the non-peer classes of a major european monarchy to revolt and take control of their government, in the process establishing traditions which, though their revolt was later undone, remain cornerstones of freedom in that nation (Britain) to this day. (Incidentally, some of the key values preserved from that revolutionary period were a respect for individual rights, personal liberty, and a practice of representative democracy.)

It previously "allowed" citizens of that same nation (Britain) to emigrate to the New World and found their own colonies in the conceit that the Crown would permit them to live as free men who valued individual rights, liberty, and practiced representative democracy.

History is not a thing that "allows" or "disallows", but it can "trump" [the original language] factors like ideology and wishful thinking, because history is real, and they're (by definition) not. Ideology is just a map of the way you think things ought to be; it's never the way they really actually are. Unless you believe your ideology is handed down in pure form from God, that is.

History, put another way, is a precedent from whch we learn. And the precendent here do not support any happy horseshit about the quick 'n' happy triumph of American style representative demoncracy in Iraq, and it never did.
posted by lodurr at 7:45 AM on September 29, 2004


Please - The American revolutionaries are more closely analogous to the Iraqis (on their home turf and fighting a guerilla war of insurgency against an occupying foreign power), while the British were the position the US occupies now in Iraq (imperialists with the power to win every battle, but without the power to force their will onto a people who could attack and then disappear into the forests like so much smoke).

But, even if one of our traditional enemies doesn't take Iraq's side and doesn't rise up to make that imperialist little war in a backwater region even less worthwhile to America than it seems, America, unlike the monarchy that Bush so wishes this was, has to contend with its own people and their opinions with respect to this battle.

We shouldn't have been there to begin with, and we don't have the will to do what needs to be done for as long as we'd need to do it to subdue that country to our will. We'll be gone -- either with the UN to lend an air of legitimacy to reconstruction or with the country split up into a civil war between 3 factions, and god help us with what comes out of all of this. We took a secular state blew open the door for Islamic radicalism to take hold. Yea us.
posted by willnot at 7:48 AM on September 29, 2004


The American revolutionaries are more closely analogous to the Iraqis (on their home turf and fighting a guerilla war of insurgency against an occupying foreign power)
I don't think this is accurate. The Native Americans have a beef against the British/Americans as occupiers not the colonists. The British didn't exactly invade and occupy the previously independent colonies of Pennsylvania and New York...
posted by PenDevil at 7:57 AM on September 29, 2004


The keywords in that statement would be "more closely". No analogy can be perfect, but davidmsc seemed to be suggesting that what the US did in the revolution they could do in Iraq, and that seemed to me that he had the rolls of the participants very backward in that assessment.
posted by willnot at 8:01 AM on September 29, 2004


reality and history never allowed for a people to revolt against a monarch and establish a nation based on individual rights, liberty, and representative democracy

Well you could make a good argument for France. I know, the terror was about as non-representative as you could get, but that settled into a pretty democratic system. And let's keep in mind that the American revolution could never, ever, ever have been won without French cannons. The French took an unusually strategic position and tied up the main British army units while the American armies took huge and debilitating forced marches around the countryside to sneak up on British positions. Actually, that's how Washington first got to be famous. He stayed in the saddle on those marches long after the other officers had passed out and fallen off their horses. And he was always out sharing a drink with the sentries when they set up camp. Tough bastard with a flair for talking to the common man.

Seems like the latest George W could learn a thing or two, eh?
posted by lumpenprole at 8:17 AM on September 29, 2004


(Sorry about the derail)
posted by lumpenprole at 8:23 AM on September 29, 2004


Well you could make a good argument for France.

Except that the French revolution happened over a decade after the American revolution. For what it's worth, since the argument seems to be about historical precedents.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:06 AM on September 29, 2004


1. This guy was just asking for trouble. Once you put the uniform on, the right of "free speech" becomes restricted. Every military member knows that - particularly a near-20 year veteran. He knew what he was doing, and will likely pay the price for it -- rightly so.

Yet he's got more guts than you. He's in Iraq and he Identified himself publically.

You are just a part of the 101 fighting keyboarders. *yawn*

As for your "history"
It was the idealism and ideology of the soon-to-be-Americans that triumphed over centuries of dictatorship, monarchy, etc.

Really? Wow. Here I thought the short supply lines of the rebels is what did it. But don't let reality get in the way of your right-think.
posted by rough ashlar at 12:12 PM on September 29, 2004



Re: American Revolution -- I disagree -- reality and history never allowed for a people to revolt against a monarch and establish a nation based on individual rights, liberty, and representative democracy (AFAIK). It was the idealism and ideology of the soon-to-be-Americans that triumphed over centuries of dictatorship, monarchy, etc.


davidmsc: I have to ask, if you're so historically illiterate, why do you bother talking about it. The "reality" is that no king can keep control of a country without keeping the subjects happy.

In fact, england, had a long tradition of representative democracy under a constitutional monarchy. To the point that many in the British parliament actually opposed the war, which vastly un popular in england.

And lets not forget Cromwell's rebellion, just about a hundred years prior where a republic was setup and maintained for about 30 years (IIRC).

The American revolutionary war was a case where. Idealism and reality (and history) were aligned, not where one triumphed over the others.

In fact, the revolutionary war was hardly 'idiological', people just didn't like the way king George was running things, and revolted.
posted by delmoi at 12:14 PM on September 29, 2004


delmoi:In fact, the revolutionary war was hardly 'idiological', people just didn't like the way king George was running things, and revolted.
Oh, come on -- the Declaration of Independence isn't just a statement that says "Go Away" to the King -- it is a statement of ideology and philosophy. Yes, the way Geo was running things sparked the Americans, but the DoI is truly awesome in its' ideology.

rough ashlar: You are just a part of the 101 fighting keyboarders. *yawn* I hate resorting to foul language, so I'll tone it down a bit: screw you. You obviously don't know WTF you're talking about.
posted by davidmsc at 1:43 PM on September 29, 2004


See also Operation Truth.
posted by euphorb at 1:54 PM on September 29, 2004


David: Why don't you respond to the several mentions of the fact that England was a representative democracy with a long tradition of respect for individual rights? Or, for that matter, to the fact that the English never really took the war seriously enough to win it? Or the fact that we had lots of help from the French crown?

Of course, that would mean admitting that you hadn't known what you were talking about...
posted by lodurr at 2:17 PM on September 29, 2004


i don't even have any military experience and i'm agreeing with the US Gov'ment on this one. c'mon, like he really thought he had free speech rights?
posted by NationalKato at 2:23 PM on September 29, 2004


lodurr, enough already. Your sneering is pathetic.

England was NOT a representative democracy, but I do understand that individual rights were at least acknowledged in Ye Olde England. I don't know how "seriously" the Brits took the war - at least enough to actually fight it and kill people. And never did I say that we didn't have help from the French -- I'm glad that they assisted. But those points don't diminish the fact that the US was founded on ideology and philosophy, and that the establishment of the nation was, in fact, a triumph of same over "history."
posted by davidmsc at 3:23 PM on September 29, 2004


From Salon:

Operation American Repression?

...Lorentz's essay contains no classified information but does include a starkly critical evaluation of how the Bush administration has conducted the war. "Instead of addressing the reasons why the locals are becoming angry and discontented, we allow politicians in Washington DC to give us pat and convenient reasons that are devoid of any semblance of reality," Lorentz wrote. "It is tragic, indeed criminal, that our elected public servants would so willingly sacrifice our nation's prestige and honor as well as the blood and treasure to pursue an agenda that is ahistoric and un-Constitutional."

The essay prompted a swift response from Lorentz's commanders. In an e-mail this week to Salon, Lorentz, declining to comment further on his piece, noted, "Because of my article, I am under investigation at this time for very serious charges which carry up to a 20-year prison sentence." According to Lorentz, the investigation is looking into whether his writing constituted a disloyalty crime under both federal statute (Title 18, Section 2388, of the U.S. Code) and Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

According to the UCMJ, examples of punishable statements by military personnel "include praising the enemy, attacking the war aims of the United States, or denouncing our form of government with the intent to promote disloyalty or disaffection among members of the armed services. A declaration of personal belief can amount to a disloyal statement if it disavows allegiance owed to the United States by the declarant. The disloyalty involved for this offense must be to the United States as a political entity and not merely to a department or other agency that is a part of its administration."

Under UCMJ guidelines, the maximum punishment in the event of a conviction would be a dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement for three years.

Prosecutions are rare, however, says Grant Lattin, a military lawyer and retired Marine Corps lieutenant colonel, because members of the military "have the constitutional right to express their opinions pertaining to the issues before the public. Short of there being classified material and security issues, people can write letters about military subjects. If you look at the Army Times, you'll see letters from people on active duty complaining about this and that."

For instance, in September 2003, Tim Predmore, an active-duty soldier with the 101st Airborne Division, based in northern Iraq, wrote a scathing letter to his hometown newspaper, the Peoria Journal Star in Illinois. "For the past six months, I have been participating in what I believe to be the great modern lie: Operation Iraqi Freedom," Predmore's letter began. "From the moment the first shot was fired in this so-called war of liberation and freedom, hypocrisy reigned," he continued, labeling the war "the ultimate atrocity" before concluding, "I can no longer justify my service on the basis of what I believe to be half-truths and bold lies."

Going beyond the UCMJ and prosecuting disloyalty as a federal crime is "extraordinarily rare," Lattin says, noting that the last published case was in 1970, in U.S. vs. William Harvey. Under Title 18, Section 2388, it's a crime, punishable up to 20 years in prison, "when the United States is at war, [and a person] willfully causes or attempts to cause insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny, or refusal of duty, in the military or naval forces of the United States, or willfully obstructs the recruiting or enlistment service of the United States, to the injury of the service or the United States."

In the Harvey case, a Vietnam-era soldier was accused of making disloyal statements by urging a fellow soldier not to fight in Vietnam. "Why should the black man go to Vietnam and fight the white man's war and then come back and have to fight the white man," Harvey told the soldier, adding that he "was not going to fight in Vietnam and neither should [you]." The case was brought before the U.S. Court of Military Appeals, which noted "the language of the comments were on the line between rhetoric and disloyalty," as well as the fact that "disagreement with, or objection to, a policy of the Government is not necessarily indicative of disloyalty to the United States." The court alternately upheld and reversed portions of Harvey's conviction for disloyalty.

As for Lorentz's case, Lattin, who served as a Marine judge advocate, says it's not uncommon for commanders to threaten soldiers with legal action in order to make a point: "If they know there's an offense for a disloyal statement, I wouldn't be surprised if he said, 'Knock it off.'" Lattin doubts that in the end Lorentz will face prosecution for his writings. "After this gets to lawyers and prosecutors who think about the consequences and the First Amendment, I don't think this will go anywhere."


In theory, the U.S. Army is not the military wing of the Republican Party.
posted by y2karl at 3:49 PM on September 29, 2004


Your sneering is pathetic.

LOL! Oh, geez... don't you guys ever learn how much it makes people laugh when you say things like that?
posted by lodurr at 4:02 PM on September 29, 2004


Oh, yeh, you had me laughing so hard I forgot to make my point: So, what, precisely, about current or recent history is it that you think will be transcended w.r.t. Iraq? What facts on the ground (e.g., poor planning, wishful thinking, the fact that almost everyone in the country despises us with every fiber of their being and what's more, it's our fault) do you think that "idealism" can overcome, there?
posted by lodurr at 4:04 PM on September 29, 2004


The military chain of command is also considering charging Al with violation of 1344.10, the conduct of partisan political activity, and violation of Standards of Conduct for unauthorized use of Government assets to create and email stories.

This one is laughable, as active duty members apparently constituted 3% of the delegation at the Republican National Convention only a few weeks ago. Do you think those military members will be accused of violating 1344.10?

...1344.10 also refers to "writing stories." If Al Lorentz had written a story, he would be in no trouble at all, and we might be reading his serialized novellas on the CENTCOM website. But, as so many in the military past and present know, the truth can be a mean bitch. Big Al wrote the truth, and in doing so he both embarrassed and frightened the chain of command.

The good thing about these charges is that they provide the rest of America with a roadmap for the prosecution of many in the Pentagon and elsewhere in the current administration.

Charges of inciting insubordination, disloyalty and mutiny, promoting disaffection towards members of the United States military, and conduct of partisan political activity will come in handy for the key appointees at the Under Secretary for Defense Policy and the Vice President’s office. In pleading to these charges, which can carry a maximum of 20 years in federal military prison, perhaps the more serious charges of gross dereliction of duty, national and international war crimes, espionage and treason can be mitigated.

The Non-Commissioned Officer has always been the backbone of the American military. This has never been more true than today, in an era where so many of the officers in key leadership positions are more politicized and less courageous than ever before. God Bless Sergeant Lorentz, and keep him.


Roadmap for the Prosecution by Karen Kwiatkowski

On another note, George Bush engaged in partisan political activity while he "served" with the Alabama National Guard, did he not?
posted by y2karl at 4:19 PM on September 29, 2004


Well, D'oh! I just linked the first link. She-oot. I assumed it was to Lorentz's original piece and did not check the URL closer. Oh, man, must squint harder next time...
posted by y2karl at 4:30 PM on September 29, 2004


Lorentz is naive at best if he didn't see this coming. Granted, he may have been reserve for his entire career and doesn't really get how serious the regular army can get over this stuff, but I doubt it.

I think that he wanted to make a point. He made it. Now he's facing the music. I respect his integrity if he knew the repercussions of his actions. It says a lot about a man who risks sacrificing his retirement to take a stand.
posted by Juicylicious at 4:37 PM on September 29, 2004


As DavidMSC is a man on honor and integrity, he would never support a deceptive person as president, or have a deceptive person as his boss. As DavidMSC is a member of a volunteer military, he can leave anytime. Therefore the President is steadfast and a good leader.

The President says things are fine in Iraq. The President has also said he is not a detail man, that is why he has a staff. Therefore the chain of command is feeding the President the information he has.

Al Lorentz is in Civil Affairs and as such, it is his job to be aware of all the events occurring in this country and specifically in his region. He claims the situation is bad. Given the increasing dead and wounded on all sides, Al Lorentz is correct. (At one point part of The President's staff said there would be rose peddles thrown at the feet of the American Solders, yet I've seen no evidence this happened.)

If Al did his job, and being in the military for 20 years he must have a good grasp on his job, he sent the information about the bad situation to his superiors.

The problem must therefore be between the people on the ground and The President, given the increasing body count and the statements by The President about how well things are going.

Now I understand that the Chain of Command is important in the military, how it is told to all the new employees. But management has the chain of command in mind for jobs like making sure the laser printer has paper and toner. Mr. Lorentz has information that can help save lives and wounding, and the chain of command is failing him! In the interest of helping The President - who is good leader (just ask The President and he'll tell you how good he is, plus he has the DavidMSC seal of approval and DavidMSC is an honorable man) Mr. Lorentz has now gotten the attention of people who are outside the Military structure and can inform The President, and with the good leadership The President will honor his pre-2000 election promise of using overwhelming number of troops and will fix things right up.

I can understand you are upset DavidMSC that someone stepped outside the chain of command. Mr. Lorentz has an important job and information that, if he doesn't get past the failed Chain of Command, how can The President be the good and honorable leader and get the job of pacifying Iraq done?
posted by rough ashlar at 5:17 AM on October 1, 2004


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