It appears that the American Legion is the latest right-wing group to take aim at constitutionally protected dissent in the U.S. Apparently, in the right-wing equation, speaking out against a U.S. presidential administration’s war policy is tantamount to treason. Hence the words of American Legion national commander Thomas Cadmus:

“It would be tragic if the freedoms our veterans fought so valiantly to protect would be used against their successors today as they battle terrorists bent on our destruction…”

“…we hope that Americans will present their views in correspondence to their elected officials rather than by public media events guaranteed to be picked up and used as tools of encouragement by our enemies…”

“…Public protests against the war here at home while our young men and women are in harm’s way on the other side of the globe only provide aid and comfort to our enemies.”

(thanks to Atrios for locating this story)

Okay, Thomas. Now we are crystal clear on where your organization stands on this issue– BUT WAIT. I just read a post from Billmon’s blog, and it has a flashback to 1999, when the U.S. was involved in another foreign military engagement:

Dear Mr. President:

The American Legion, a wartime veterans organization of nearly three-million members, urges the immediate withdrawal of American troops participating in “Operation Allied Force.”

The National Executive Committee of The American Legion, meeting in Indianapolis today, adopted Resolution 44, titled “The American Legion’s Statement on Yugoslavia.” This resolution was debated and adopted unanimously.

Mr. President, the United States Armed Forces should never be committed to wartime operations unless the following conditions are fulfilled:

  • That there be a clear statement by the President of why it is in our vital national interests to be engaged in hostilities;
  • Guidelines be established for the mission, including a clear exit strategy;
  • That there be support of the mission by the U.S. Congress and the American people; and
  • That it be made clear that U.S. Forces will be commanded only by U.S. officers whom we acknowledge are superior military leaders.

It is the opinion of The American Legion, which I am sure is shared by the majority of Americans, that three of the above listed conditions have not been met in the current joint operation with NATO (“Operation Allied Force”).

In no case should America commit its Armed Forces in the absence of clearly defined objectives agreed upon by the U.S. Congress in accordance with Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution of the United States.

Harold L. “Butch” Miller,
National Commander

American Legion
Letter to President Clinton
May 5, 1999

So, Thomas, it appears that you need to have a little conversation with “Butch.” In 1999, “Butch” had no problem criticizing a U.S. presidential administration while U.S. troops were in harm’s way. What gives? Why such harsh criticism, why risk giving our enemies ideological ammunition in a time of conflict in 1999? Surely it couldn’t be the “C” word (that’s “Clinton,” for all of you in the cheap seats), could it, Thomas? You, “Butch,” and the American Legion wouldn’t be so petty as to make such grand, sweeping public pronouncements for the sake of partisan politics, would you?

Well, obviously you would, because you did. To fully illustrate the depth of your unholy hypocrisy, Thomas, you gilded your comments by dredging up another misguided war, one (unlike the engagement in Yugoslavia, which, however misguided you may have thought it, resulted in absolutely zero combat fatalities) which was also started under false pretenses and which also cost the lives of thousands of U.S. soldiers and countless thousands of civilians. You dredged up a familiar scapegoat from that other misguided war, as if her involvement was somehow to blame for that war’s ignominious outcome.

“…We had hoped that the lessons learned from the Vietnam War would be clear to our fellow citizens. Public protests against the war here at home while our young men and women are in harm’s way on the other side of the globe only provide aid and comfort to our enemies…”

“…The American Legion fully supports the president of the United States, the United States Congress and the men, women and leadership of our armed forces as they are engaged in the global war on terrorism and the troops who are engaged in protecting our values and way of life…”

What an asshole you are, Thomas. Your organization went after Clinton– as it had a constitutional right to do– in no uncertain terms. Now that others– including some who have lost loved ones to Bush’s illegal and dishonest war– are rightfully going after Bush, you want to play the treason card. People like you kept the Vietnam War going far longer than it should have gone, because you preferred to heap scorn upon those who protested that illegal, immoral, and unnecessary bloodbath rather than to point your anger where it belonged: at those who designed, implemented, and maintained that massive waste of human life. Worse yet, it’s been thirty years since the last chopper left Ho Chi Minh City, and you are still getting it wrong on that war.

Thomas, if I had any doubts that you and your organization (or at least the 4,000 who unanimously passed your resolution) are full of partisan, right-wing horseshit, they were promptly dispelled when I read the following recycle of an inane Bush talking point:

“…I urge all Americans to rally around our armed forces and remember our fellow Americans who were viciously murdered on Sept. 11, 2001.”

As people with working brains have long since pointed out, Thomas, Iraq had nothing to do with the Gulf of Tonkin– er, 9/11.

So my final words to you and your followers, Thomas, are as follows: Fuck you. If you think you’re going to stop me and others like me from doing our duty as citizens of a democracy, then give it your best shot. If you think you can intimidate us from standing up and criticizing our unelected leaders’ criminally insane foreign policies, then you can feel free to try. In the meantime, Fuck you.

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