Posted by Mike Kelly for Veterans For America First:

Veterans For America First (VFAF) strongly condemns the recent statements made by three retired senior military officers, who represent VetsVote, The Lincoln Project and Bloomberg, that our military is divided and poses a grave risk to the unity of the country. As veterans we believe this rhetoric is unconscionable and sows fear in the ranks as well as among the civilian population. Their OpEd is akin to yelling fire in a crowded theater. We believe this rhetoric is fueled by disinformation, possibly from abroad by our enemies including communist China and Russia. Clearly, some of our military and political leaders have themselves become unwitting allies of the real enemy by spreading these divisive narratives. 

Retired Generals Paul D. Eaton a U.S. Army 2-star, Antonio M. Taguba another Army 2-star, and Steven M. Anderson a 1-star, published an OpEd wherein they claim that the U.S. military is likely to fracture and devolve into a civil war if former President Trump is not reelected in 2024. But are they speaking out as veterans, or are they political advisors for an organization known as VetsVote? VetsVote is a liberal progressive organization with strong ties to The Lincoln Project and to former New York City Mayor and former Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg. MG(Ret.) Eaton was also an advisor to the Clinton campaign.

Major General (Ret.) Eaton recently gave several interviews on liberal media where he states categorically that he believes that the January 6th legal demonstration at the Capital was a “deadly attack” and an “insurrection” orchestrated by former President Donald Trump. There is no proof of this at all.

MG(Ret.) Eaton claims that it is the fault of the Republican Party and Trump’s “cult.” During a recent press report by MSNBC, Eaton is on with Major General (Ret.) Anderson of the Lincoln Project who also believes that the events of January 6th were an insurrection and a coup carried out by the Republican Party. During the interview Anderson clearly indicates his dislike, if not hatred of, retired Army 3-star Michael Flynn and Congressman Jim Jordan (R-OH).

In the interview Eaton states he believes “members in the military may confuse their allegiance to the Constitution to the cult of Trump.” In the general’s opinion the solution is to “collect intelligence on our military service members and get them out of the military” specifically “if they supported Trump.” He also advocates for the military to prepare for (i.e., red team) the looming civil war which they believe is going to start in the military. These retired generals believe anyone who supported President Trump should be considered “the enemy” and are the “bad guys.”

Bizarrely, in their OpEd, the generals state the Department of Defense “must undertake more intensive intelligence work at all installations. The goal should be to identify, isolate and remove potential mutineers; guard against efforts by propagandists who use misinformation to subvert the chain of command; and understand how misinformation spreads across the ranks after it is introduced by propagandists.”

Are their words causing fear and terror among the civilian population?

One of the commentators of the interviews openly admits that she herself is “terrified” of the claims of the generals and believes people who “think like” General Flynn and his supporters should be removed from the military because they are dangerous “domestic terrorists.” Also, the commentator stated that she believes the people who carried out the “deadly attack” were a “lynch mob.” Her words, not ours. Finally, that anyone who supported the former President is a member of a cult.

In truth, their OpEd is just another attack against our military and our veterans. This time was carried out by politically co-opted former members of the military.

What is conveniently left out during the entire interview is that Eaton is not just a retired military officer, he is connected to The Lincoln Project (established by former campaign staff for former Senator John McCain (R-AZ) who despised Trump) and Michael Bloomberg. Essentially, VetsVote is an extension of the Democratic Party and is not simply a group of concerned patriotic veterans. 

Are there extremists in the military?

A recent study released by the University of Maryland, National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, stated “From 1990 through November 2021, at least 458 individuals with U.S. military backgrounds committed criminal acts that were motivated by their political, economic, social, or religious goals. This includes 118 individuals who are facing charges for their involvement in the breach of the Capitol building on January 6, 2021.” It also states, “Of the 458 subjects in the data, 383 were no longer serving when they were arrested for committing extremist crimes.” 

Without the proper context the above data can be made to appear as if there are numerous extremists in the military. This data was gathered over the course of 31 years of service by millions upon millions who served on active duty and in the reserves and national guard. How can 458 individuals in a country of hundreds of millions that was established upon the bedrock of liberty, freedom of thought and ideas be proof of extremism? It isn’t. It actually proves the exact opposite.

Yes, the number of arrests in recent years of supposed “extremists” with military backgrounds may have increased, but this should not be seen as a reflection on the military or our veterans. It should be viewed as a reaction by veterans to threats to the country by forces that appear to be working to disrupt our unity. 

Interestingly, the General believes that we as a country need to promote civics in school so that our children will be loyal to the Constitution.

Here is your first lesson:

It is against everything we believe as Americans to collect intelligence on American citizens based solely on Constitutionally protected activities like attending rallies, attending church, lawfully bearing arms or exercising their free speech. Why? Because this is America. Because these are natural rights. Supposed “hate speech” or “extremist” speech is not violence. It is also not illegal. In fact, it is not even usually speech that is “hateful.” This is the language used by the progressive left to demonize and divide Americans. Essentially, what they call “hate speech” is all the speech they don’t like. 

Speech you don’t like is just free speech. Speech is not violence despite what some people will tell you. There is no other purpose for a First Amendment except to protect all speech. Our natural right to express our opinions, emotionally if we so choose, is not a civil right, it is a human right. It is a natural right.

The First Amendment was written to limit the government’s ability to limit our natural right (a right that all human beings have just by the mere fact that they are human) to speak their minds. Yes, this means the First Amendment specifically protects speech we may consider vile and repugnant.

While these senior retired military officers have the natural right to say what they believe just as any other citizen of our great country, we utterly reject the idea that members of the military pose a threat to our unity. Those serving today in our military are the guardians of the Constitution. They are sworn to defend it. Our oath includes the defense of every voice, even those with whom they do not agree. 

The U.S. Supreme Court has over and over again made it clear that the government cannot limit speech except in very extreme situations (when speech will result in unlawful violence). We may not like what some people say, and while serving in the military, you may be limited in what you can say while in uniform or as a representative of the government; but, it is a gross violation of our oath to protect the Constitution if we stand by and allow the government to silence our fellow citizens’ voices. 

Here are three examples:

Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444 (1969) Found – “The Court used a two-pronged test to evaluate speech acts: (1) speech can be prohibited if it is “directed at inciting or producing imminent lawless action” and (2) it is “likely to incite or produce such action.” And a law cannot make “illegal the advocacy and teaching of doctrines while ignoring whether or not that advocacy and teaching would actually incite imminent lawless action. The failure to make this distinction rendered the law overly broad and in violation of the Constitution.” (https://www.oyez.org/cases/1968/492)

R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul, 505 U.S. 377 (1992) Found that “The First Amendment prevents the government from punishing speech and expressive conduct because it disapproves of the ideas expressed.” and “Government has no authority “to license one side of a debate to fight freestyle, while requiring the other to follow the Marquis of Queensbury Rules.” (https://www.oyez.org/cases/1991/90-7675)

Snyder v. Phelps, 562 U.S. 443 (2011) Found that the First Amendment protects even protesters at a funeral from liability for intentionally inflicting emotional distress on the family of the deceased. (https://www.oyez.org/cases/2010/09-751)

The purpose of the First Amendment was to limit the government’s ability to control speech. The entire concept of criminalizing people’s speech or worse people’s feelings and emotions is utterly repugnant to the Constitution. Without absolutely free speech we are not free. 

We agree with the general that violent extremists should not be tolerated in the military because they “can have an outsized effect.” But that is true in everything, not just the military. However, we strongly believe — and the general himself admits others in the military agree with us — that these statements of insurrection, mutiny, coup, cult, enemy and civil war are hyperbole. These statements are extremely dangerous, insidious and wrong. 

In April of 2021, the Pentagon released a memo on the subject of extremists in the military – Immediate Actions to Counter Extremism in the Department and the Establishment of the Countering Extremism Working Group. (https://media.defense.gov/2021/Apr/09/2002617921/-1/-1/1/MEMORANDUM-IMMEDIATE-ACTIONS-TO-COUNTER-EXTREMISM-IN-THE-DEPARTMENT-AND-THE-ESTABLISHMENT-OF-THE-COUNTERING-EXTREMISM-WORKING-GROUP.PDF) 

After careful review of this memo, we support this effort to increase our understanding of actual threats of violent extremists within the ranks as we always have. However, we are very concerned over the Department of Defense relying on a political litmus test to screen recruits and members currently serving for “extremism.” This strikes at the very core values of our country.  When we raised our hands to swear the oath to defend the Constitution, we meant it, and we still carry that oath in our hearts. This means we will defend the natural rights of every American–even Americans with whom we disagree. 

We believe that this effort by VetsVote, alongside The Lincoln Project and Bloomberg, is merely another attack from the left on our military and our veterans and we utterly reject it.

VoteVets.org is a self-described progressive organization, which is “closely aligned with Congressional Democrats,” and “liberals” according to The New York Times and The Washington Post. VoteVets endorsed far-leftist and now-Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg in the 2020 Democratic Party presidential primaries a candidate who was a strong advocate for the elimination of the 2nd Amendment as well.  

Veterans for America First                

www.vfaf.org / www.veteransforamericafirst.org

(833) 303-8883 Office eFax:  888.225.4888 
FEIN # 87-0994586 / 501(c)4 NonProfit

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