Soldier in Trouble for Exercising Political Speech

Jayel Aheram
Jan 9, 2012 at 10:18 AM

A reserve soldier is in trouble after appearing in a campaign event while in uniform:

Cpl. Jesse Thorsen spoke at Paul's post-Iowa caucuses rally to give his support for the Texas congressman and his non-interventionist -- critics say isolationist -- policies calling for strict limits on the use of U.S. military power.

But Thorsen, 28, a reservist who preceded his appearance at the rally with an interview on CNN, was wearing his fatigues, and that is a violation of military code.

According to the Defense Department directive on political activities by military members, active duty forces are encouraged to vote and can sign petitions, serve as polling volunteers, contribute to campaigns and display political bumper stickers on their private vehicles.

However, they may not "participate in partisan political fundraising activities ... rallies, conventions (including making speeches in the course thereof), management of campaigns, or debates, either on one's own behalf or on that of another, without respect to uniform or inference or appearance of official sponsorship, approval, or endorsement."

They also may not "speak before a partisan political gathering, including any gathering that promotes a partisan political party, candidate, or cause" or "participate in any radio, television or other program or group discussion as an advocate for or against a partisan political party, candidate or cause."

Silly soldier thinks he has political rights.

When I started to write about politics in 2007 for the blog RedStateEclectic, I had to do so under the pseudonym "Anonymous Marine." Since I was then still active-duty, there was a real possibility that I could have gotten in trouble with some of the language I was directing against the previous administration.

Political participation among the servicemembers is pretty low and the reasons for it are not that all surprising. The fact that members are displaced from their communities is significant part of it. However, the truth is that participation is not only actively discouraged, but also strictly forbidden.

I wrote about this four years ago:

It is a sad commentary on America and how it treats the men and women tasked with so-called protecting America's freedom and liberties that they are granted very few of their own.

There are so many rules in place that makes it difficult, if not impossible for active members of the military to participate in anything political among themselves. And we are the most affected by the warmongering whims of whoever is the Commander-in-Chief! There are so many obstacles in place that is far easier to just not care and not pay attention!

These are just a few of the things I am not allowed to do as a single marine (and as such, required to live in the barracks on-base):

  1. No bumper stickers supporting anyone on my car if I drive it anywhere on base. 
  2. Not allowed to print campaign literature using my personal computer and printer on-base.
  3. Not allowed to pass out campaign literature to people on-base even if it was printed somewhere else off-base.
  4. Not allowed to pass out any campaign literature to anyone even if it was my roommate!
  5. Not allowed to have rallies or any sort of meetings on-base that is supportive of any one candidate.
  6. Not allowed to pass out invitations to a meeting off-base that is supportive of any one candidate.

And that is just the tip of it. It is no wonder that most of my fellow service members are apathetic! The institution all but demands it!

It was true then, it is true now, and it will always will be true that the establishment does not like the people it sends to die in foreign wars to have any say in their future.