Friday, October 01, 2004

Some Speeches: More Free Than Others

Al Lorenz is an NCO with 20 years of service, currently serving in Iraq. He wrote a blistering piece about the war for a libertarian web magazine, entitled "Why We Cannot Win."
I have come to the conclusion that we cannot win here for a number of reasons. Ideology and idealism will never trump history and reality. [...]

Because the current administration is more concerned with its image than it is with reality, it prefers symbolism to substance: soldiers are dying here and being maimed and crippled for life. 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.
Needless to say, this created a great deal of controversy, with some arguing that Lorenz's comments might harm the war effort or tarnish America's reputation abroad. But Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld leapt to Lorenz's defense.
The defense secretary said he could not prevent military officials from making controversial statements.

"We're a free people. And that's the wonderful thing about our country," Rumsfeld said. "I think that for anyone to run around and think that that can be managed and controlled is probably wrong. Saddam Hussein could do it pretty well, because he'd go around killing people if they said things he didn't like."
Oh wait. That's not what happened. Actually, the military chain of command is planning to bring charges against Lorenz for "making a statement with the intent to promote disloyalty or disaffection toward the U.S. by any member of the Armed forces" or perhaps for "the conduct of partisan political activity." (There ought to be a long line-up for that charge, given that, as Kos points out, 3% of the delegates to the Republican National Convention were apparently ative duty military.)

The Rumsfeld quote actually refers to Lt. Gen. William Boykin, and his habit of giving public speeches, in full Army uniform, in which he explicitly defined the War on Terror as a religious war between Christianity and Islam. Sure, Boykin's speeches fed ammunition to the Al-Jazeera propaganda machine, and sure, they didn't look very good from the perspective of our Islamic allies, but what could anyone do about that pesky right of the serving military to unrestricted free speech?

I guess that between then and now, they found some solutions. No, wait, I'm wrong again: they had those solutions then.