Marines drop case against Iraq veteran who wore uniform at anti-war protest

Saturday, June 30, 2007

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Marines won't kick out an Iraq war veteran who made anti-war statements in a speech and wore part of his uniform at a protest, the service said Friday, despite a recommendation to discharge him early.

The Marine Corps Mobilization Command in Kansas City said in a news release that it was dropping the case against Liam Madden, 22, of Boston, because it had "received sufficient indication" from Madden that he would no longer wear his uniform when engaged in political activities. They also determined that his statements did not warrant further action.

However, Madden insists he never reached an agreement with the Marines and planned to keep wearing his uniform at protests.

"I think it's a total victory," Madden said, speaking on his cell phone from Columbia, S.C., where he is participating in a bus tour of East Coast military installations. "The country is on our side, and it really puts the Marine Corps in a bad light if they try to intimidate and screw with us."

Madden, a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, wrote in an e-mail to the Marine Corps on Tuesday that he would agree to stop wearing his uniform at protests if the corps put in writing "that my statements are neither disloyal nor inaccurate."

In the February speech in New York that led to the charge of "disloyal statements," Madden accused President Bush of betraying service members and called the fighting in Iraq a "war crime." The speech was posted on the Internet.

Madden said he never received the letter he requested on Marine Corps letterhead and had no further conversations with the Marines. In Tuesday's e-mail, Madden wrote that if the Marines stopped pursuing his case, he would accept the action "as your implied tolerance and support of protesting against war crimes while wearing military uniforms."

Madden also was cited for a uniform violation for wearing a camouflage, button-down shirt and jeans at a demonstration in Washington, D.C., in January.

The Marines did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment.

Madden was one of at least three Marines investigated for their protest activities. One of those protesters, Adam Kokesh, who lives in Washington, D.C., was kicked out of the Marines earlier this month with a general discharge for wearing his uniform during a demonstration and using an obscenity in an e-mail to an investigating officer.

Madden, like Kokesh, contends he is not subject to military rules because he is a member of the Individual Ready Reserve, which consists mainly of those who have left active duty but still have time remaining on their eight-year military obligations.

An investigating officer disagreed and recommended in May that Madden be kicked out of the IRR with an other-than-honorable discharge, the worst discharge possible under non-court martial conditions.

Madden's attorneys said the main affect of an other-than-honorable discharge would be on his employment prospects and ability to obtain a security clearance. Kokesh's attorney said the other-than-honorable discharge could affect health benefits, but Madden said his attorneys did not think it would because he previously received an honorable discharge from active duty.

The Marines wrote in the news release that Madden will be allowed to continue serving the remainder of his military obligation. He isn't scheduled to be discharged until 2010.

Art Spitzer, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union in the Washington area, has consulted with Madden and said he hoped the matter was resolved.

"It seems to me that the Marines have shown good judgment in dropping these charges, which were improper to begin with," Spitzer said. "Liam Madden should be free to continue expressing his views about politics and the Marines should go about their important business of defending the country."

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