Saturday, May 26
BRATTLEBORO -- A local son turned U.S. Marine turned anti-war activist has been threatened by military authorities for activities related to his opposition of the Iraq war.

Liam Madden, 22, formerly of Bellows Falls and a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War confirmed he received a letter from the Marine Corps earlier this month informing them he was being recommended for discharge from the individual ready reserves.

Madden, who now lives in Boston, declined to speak further on the advise of his attorney.

But Adam Kokesh, 25, of Washington, D.C., shared a similar letter in which he was recommended for a dishonorable discharge from the Marine reserves. The first step for Kokesh is a hearing on June 4 in Kansas City to answer the charges in the letter.

"It's so petty and stupid," Kokesh told the Reformer Friday afternoon.

"Certainly it seems that they have been targeted because of their anti-war activities," said Amadee Braxton, the director of organizational development for Iraq Veterans Against the War, about Madden and Kokesh.

When Kokesh received the letter from the Corps, at first he was scared, wondering what kind of trouble he had gotten himself in to. But as a veteran of the war, he feels he has "a moral imperative to speak out."

"You've got to take a stand," he said, adding "I wasn't going to shut up.


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A Bellows Falls Union High School graduate, Madden was a co-founder of the Appeal for Redress, in which active-duty service members appealed to Congress for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq.

In June, he, Kokesh and a dozen other veterans are embarking on a bus tour of 20 military installations on the East Coast to talk to soldiers, airmen, marines and sailors about why they oppose the war. One of the first stops of the bus trip will be Kokesh's Kansas City hearing at Marine Corps Mobilization Command.

His threatened bad discharge -- under other than honorable conditions in military parlance -- was a result of Operation First Casualty, a "mock combat patrol" he and eleven other war veterans, including Madden, participated in during a protest in Washington, D.C., on March 19, and an e-mail exchange between Kokesh and the officer recommending his bad conduct discharge.

Kokesh doesn't deny he was disrespectful in an e-mail to the officer who informed him of the potential action against him, telling him to perform an anatomically impossible act before calling himself a PFC or "Proud (expletive) Civilian."

Nor does he deny that he participated in the mock combat patrol in a military style uniform. He insisted he wore no markings or insignia on his camos, but according to the letter he received, he could be charged with commission of a serious offense for appearing "at a political event or activity in the Washington, D.C., area in your Marine Corps uniform which violated (regulations)."

Eugene R. Fidell, the president of the National Institute of Military Justice, said that Kokesh's discharge classification from the reserves would not impact the level of benefits he has been promised as a result of his active duty.

Both men received honorable discharges -- Madden in January and Kokesh last November -- from active duty service that included tours in Iraq. As a member of the inactive reserves, Madden is subject to recall for another three years. Kokesh's obligation is due to expire June 18, 14 days after his Kansas City hearing.

Fidell was baffled by the Marine Corps action.

"It's a highly dubious business to go after someone in the ready reserves for exercising their First Amendment rights," he said. "It's a very doubtful action on the government's part."

He and Braxton both expressed concerns that the military might initiate other similar actions as a way to stifle dissent within the ranks.

"We are concerned about the outcome of these two cases because it will send a message to other veterans who justifiably want to speak out about their experiences in the war," said Braxton. "This could have a chilling effect."

Despite the letter recommending his discharge, Kokesh plans to participate in another mock combat patrol this weekend, this time in New York City.

"I still love the Marine Corps," he said, despite the action levied against him.

Bob Audette can be reached at raudette@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.