Salon
Operation American Repression?

An Army officer in Iraq who wrote a highly critical article on the administration's conduct of the war is being investigated for disloyalty -- if charged and convicted, he could get 20 years.

Sept. 29, 2004 | An Army Reserve staff sergeant who last week wrote a critical analysis of the United States' prospects in Iraq now faces possible disciplinary action for disloyalty and insubordination. If charges are bought and the officer is found guilty, he could face 20 years in prison. It would be the first such disloyalty prosecution since the Vietnam War.

The essay that sparked the military investigation is titled "Why We Cannot Win" and was posted Sept. 20 on the conservative antiwar Web site LewRockwell.com. Written by Al Lorentz, a non-commissioned officer from Texas with nearly 20 years in the Army who is serving in Iraq, the essay offers a bleak assessment of America's chances for success in Iraq.

The Essay, Why We Cannot Win is still on the LewRockwell.com.

I don't understand. How can writing an essay like this send you to jail for 20 years?

15 Comments

My understanding is that you enter the Army in the US you surrender your legal rights that we enjoy as citizens, and are then judged my military law and military courts, that go by very different standards.

The whole point of being in the Military is to follow orders. When a commander of soldiers begins to question those orders, especially in a written and very public manner, it undermines the control that the military has over it's soldiers, who are there to enforce policy, not debate it. The military has a very strict chain of command, and wants everyone to march to one beat, rather than a thousand soldiers marching to a thousand different beats.

While I agree with the sentiments in the letter and think that a prison sentence would be very heavy handed, I can see why the Military is pissed. In joining the Military, this man agreed to be a mechanism for enforcing policy that is created by civilians, and is instead questioning is while leading other troops.

The US should not be in Iraq - that is the real problem, and while I sympathize with the writer of the letter, he should have known better. I am not surprised by its result, and neither should he.

He is not in jail yet!

20 years is the maximum possible sentence. I would be extremely surprised if he actually got anything more than a year. I would be surprised if he got any jail time at all.

I disagree with Loser though. I think that higher ranking and experienced military personnel have an obilgation to tell the truth when a war reaches a point where it looks unwinable. The whole point of being in the military is to protect your country. That is why people enlist. It takes a lot of courage to stand up and voice an opinion like this.

It would be too bad if he'd be send to jail for this. The essay he wrote was actually one of the better pieces I've read about the war in Iraq.

``I don't understand. How can writing an essay like this send you to jail for 20 years?''

This is a simple one. This officer is telling anyone who listens that this war is un-Constitutional (cleary, this is a specious claim; it is unproven to be un-Constitutional). Every solider swears an oath to uphold the Constitution of the US. They have a duty to refuse un-Constitutional orders. Period. Calling this war what he calls it is tantamount to urging a refusal of orders amoung his charges. That's a big problem!

From his article:

``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.''

As a solider, you can't say this.

Read the whole article. He's being threatened by his commanding officer because he made his commanding officer look bad. (And his CO is probably being told by higher ups to "make this guy shut up.") He hasn't actually been charged with anything, much less convicted. His obligations as a member of the military are running smack into his rights as a citizen. I suspect (and hope!) that his rights as a citizen will win.

Good point Katherine. But they don't have to charge him with this... and throwing him in jail seems to put a sharper point on his essay, not shut him up. I probably wouldn't have blogged it if it weren't for the charges he was facing.

Having served once as an Army Information Officer (These days called "Public Affairs" to avoid confusion with guys who run computers) I can tell you that there is nothing in this essay that could not appear in an Army newspaper. Yes, on-duty troops do not have full civil rights, but during the Vietnam War, the US Military, especially the Army got smart about these things and decided it was better for morale to let people express an honest opinion as long as it did not carry disrespect for those in the Chain of Command. This guy is calling it like he sees it and that is not just permitted by Army Regulations but encouraged. You can, ironically, thank Jane Fonda for that. She was, allegedly, the one who financed the anti-war coffee houses and "FTA" underground newspapers during the Vietnam War. That caused the Army to reform its internal newspapers down to the unit level. I edited one of these and supervised five others. Bottom line, nothing is going to happen to this guy. It will never get to an Article 32 hearing because he has not commited an offense. On the other hand his chances for higher rank or awards went south when he published this. I suspect he knew that.

All good comments. Just to clarify my comment - I support what the guy said, and I DO think it was his duty as an citizen and a leader in the military to say something. The military would probably feel otherwise, however, and he had to of known that - that's all.

The middle management was dumb enough to put the screws to him, but the top brass is probably smart enough to back off.

Don't worry. He might not know it but he has all of us standing by his side, ready to kick ass if military court does something silly.

My sympathies lie with the writer. I don't know why but the war in Iraq leaves me with an odd empty feeling. Have we won? What is winning a war like? Did we need to do this in the first place? What do we do now? Questions like that bother me, because like life, there are no easy answers. This soldier volunteered to serve, and for that I think we can all be thankful. But soldiers are supposed to follow orders, legal orders. Has this soldier violated the Uniform Code of Military Justice? I don't know. I suspect that soldiers are not supposed to air grievances with commanders in public. This is likely what will get him in trouble. I have for many years wondered of the legality of congress abdication its power to make war to the president. I like to imagine that Jefferson, Adams, and Washington would take a dim view of handing over the powers to send the military anywhere without a declaration of war from congress. This is what confuses the issue to me. If we are not "at war" then the soldier is free to write what pleases him. If we are "at war" the soldier should not be so public in his sentiments about "the war". That we are not "technically" at war, although the body count is over one thousand and tragically climbing, is what clouds the issue for this soldier and this citizen.

All great comments. These kind of stories just point out what kind of hypocrits we have in power. "We support our troops" -- just as long as those troops don't express their opinion if it doesn't fit in with out rosy image of the world.

The essay was great. The guy Loser who made a few statements should know This Soldier already knew this.
Also our so called President Sits back gives orders,blows Iraq all to hell then helps rebuild. How smart is that? He also says he is going to restore peace and a few other thing. If our Soldiers have to stay over there and get killed. How can anyone consider that order. I think he should bring our Troops home where they belong and let Iraq kill each other if that's what they won't. I can understand if they were a threat to us,but he bombed them,leave it be. He isn't concerned about our welfare because he's to busy sticking his nose every where else. Take care of our Country. If there's a threat to us then handel it. Stop letting people from our Country move there and vice versa. We might would of had less terrorism then,compared to now. I do not support the president in what way so ever or have any respect for him,and if I could see him I'd tell him to his face.
Can I Get An Amen from anyone?
I know I'm gonna get plenty of crap. Is ok I thrive on criticism.
Sincerely,
Linda Duke

I AM a soldier, and I am confused. Would somebody give Me a straight anwer on 'why' I am risking my life and my family's livlihood? I doubt it...I ask almost everyday, none of my leadership can give a straight answer... I am just told to "drink water and suck it up!!"

Just a thought....

I agree with the author of the essay... and I agree with the 'recommended' sentence. He should have known the consequences of his actions.

To
14- evenrea @
My response I think our so called president & all the people who sit on the high seat just more so want control.
They aren't worried about you or anyone else there.

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Iraq Soldier Faces 20 Years for Anti-war Essay from Semioclast: Propaganda and Disinformation
October 2, 2004 1:16 AM

Salon reported yesterday on Al Lorentz, a US soldier stationed in Iraq who faces 20 years in prison for his anti-war essay "Why We Cannot Win." Of course, such an essay coming from a soldier is potentially damaging to the... Read More

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