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Veteran Protests War

In the military, the code has long dictated that you do what your superiors say...and don't complain. But these days, more and more soldiers are questioning the war in Iraq.

The national group, "Iraq Veterans Against the War" started in 2004 to counter the pressure on vets to remain silent. One Marine from New England is part of those protests and, at one point, he faced military charges for his anti-war activities.

WBUR's Monica Brady-Myerov has this profile.

Audio for this story will be available on WBUR's web site later today.

Text of Story:

MONICA BRADY-MYEROV: When Liam Madden graduated from high school in Vermont in 2002 he admits he wasn't mature enough to succeed in college.

LIAM MADDEN: The Marine Corps offered me the opportunity to see a lot of the world that you wouldn't get to see otherwise, to challenge myself and to grow up, and I did.

MONICA BRADY-MYEROV: When the war began a year later, he grew into a protestor. Now he leads the newly formed Boston chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War, which has ten members and is growing. He's also a freshman at Northeastern University, studying international relations. But over the summer he rode on a bus tour of military bases from New York to Georgia to recruit members and promote an end to the war. Recently he was part of a platform of speakers at an anti-war protest in Kennebunkport, Maine.

LIAM MADDEN: The word that comes to mind as I look out in front of me to a sea of New England's most concerned and compassionate citizens, is conscience.

MONICA BRADY-MYEROV: Madden stands before several hundred people. He's wearing his Marine Corps combat camouflage shirt. It's a defiant act as the Marines have instructed him not to protest in his uniform because he is still part of the Individual Ready Reserves, which is made up of former active duty soldiers and reservists.

LIAM MADDEN: Our solution as Iraq Veterans against the war is to understand that this war will end not thru an act of Congress but thru an organized and collective act of conscience.

MONICA BRADY-MYEROV: Madden, who is 22, says he didn't join the military to gain a platform to protest. But even in boot camp before the war he didn't believe former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was a threat to America and he says the war was launched on false pretenses. When he was fighting in Iraq on a six month tour of duty in 2004, he didn't share his views on the war.

LIAM MADDEN: In my experience I found that our presence in Iraq was not contributing to a safer more stable society for the Iraqi people. Whenever we drove past Iraqis I saw people with a lot of hatred a lot of fear and a lot of hopelessness in their eyes. It was evident to me that our presence was making the situation a lot worse.

MONICA BRADY-MYEROV: While still on active duty, Madden helped start The Appeal for Redress. It's a legal strategy that allows active duty service members to petition Congress to pull out of Iraq. Some military observers say active duty military should keep their opinions to themselves. Among them is Andrew Bacevich, a retired Colonel who teaches International Relations at Boston University.

ANDREW BACEVICH: To me the free speech of active duty military personnel ought to be limited or put subordinate to these other principal like having an apolitical military or firm and sacrosanct to the chain of command.

MONICA BRADY-MYEROV: Bacevich says veterans have every right to state their opinions on the war. He for instance has spoken out against it. And that's what Madden was doing in February when he spoke at a rally in New York City where he called it an illegal war.

LIAM MADDEN: The war in Iraq by Nuremberg standards and international and domestic law a war crime and a war of aggression.

After the rally, the military charged him with disloyal statements and threatened to discharge him from the Reserves. But in June the Marine Corps dropped the case. A statement from the Marines says Madden agreed not to wear his uniform again while protesting. Madden says he never agreed to that condition and won't be intimidated.

Chanting
How do we support the troops, bring us home now!

MONICA BRADY-MYEROV: Liam Madden was wearing his fatigues as he held a banner for Iraq Veterans Against the War at the protest in Kennebunkport. Since then, he hasn't heard from the Marine Corps. He says that when Americans see how many soldiers are against the war, it will help to bring an end to it, just as protests from Vietnam veterans helped to end that conflict.

For WBUR I'm Monica Brady-Myerov.

This program aired on September 11, 2007. The audio for this program is not available.

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