Freedom of Speech

 

J. D. Pendry

 

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.  Bill of Rights, Amendment I, U.S. Constitution

 

The Supreme Court just heard arguments from the Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights (FAIR), which represents 25 law schools.  FAIR argued the constitutionality of the Solomon Act.  The Solomon Act requires colleges and universities to grant access to military recruiters and Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) programs if the schools also accept federal money.  FAIRís argument centers on the donít ask, donít tell policy, which prohibits homosexuals from openly serving in the military.  According to FAIR, donít ask, donít tell is a discriminatory practice that they oppose and requiring them to allow military access to campuses violates their right of free speech.  FAIR believes it should be able express its free speech right to bar the military and still receive federal funds.

 

The military also discriminates against people who are overweight, female, physically disabled and old.  Should we add these discriminatory practices to the list too?  Along with a list of all the other military policies with which FAIR likely disagrees?

 

FAIRís approach attempts to suppress free speech not exercise it.  There are no laws prohibiting schools from denying the military access to their campuses.  Therefore, any school desiring to exercise its free speech right by barring the military may do so.  It must also accept the consequences of its choice and the law.  Barring the military from campus is suppression of the militaryís free speech right.  There should be a penalty for the suppression of free speech.  In this case, itís the loss of federal funds.  I think thatís fair.

 

If college and university professors were doing the jobs that parents (and federal funds in the form of grants and student aid) pay them to do, theyíd be educating students by providing them with critical thinking, research and decision making skills rather than indoctrinating them with political and personal views.  Schools should give students the chance to use those skills to make informed choices for themselves and not make choices for them.  FAIRís approach assumes that all students support their view and therefore need and desire protection from military recruiters.  Since we have a poll for everything else under the sun, why not poll students on this topic.

 

School administrations should allow the military access and then use their free speech right to inform students about the schoolís position on donít ask, donít tell (and everything else about the military that they oppose, which is what truly hides behind this challenge anyway).  Students can weigh the information they receive from both sides and make their own informed choices.  That is the exercise of free speech and by all parties involved.

 

If the Supreme Court decides in favor of FAIR, what might follow?  Would the precedent set allow schools, maybe even entire towns, to bar the military for any policy with which they disagree?

 

There is another free speech issue thatís not fair to our Soldiers.  When Congressman Murtha demands an immediate withdrawal from Iraq, and states that our Army is broken, when Old Wierd Howard Dean (The party Chairman who doesn't speak for the Democrat party we're told) says that ďthe idea that we can win the war in Iraq is just plain wrong", when John Kerry says American soldiers are breaking into homes and terrorizing Iraqi women and children, when Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and recycled hippie Barbara Boxer keep saying we don't have a plan for Iraq, (With no plan, the Iraqis just completed their third free vote, selecting their own government and voting in greater numbers than Americans do.  Imagine what we could've done with a "real" plan.)  when Senator Durbin compares our Soldiers to Nazis and finally when Baghdad Jane Fonda says that American Soldiers are only trained to be killing machines (Please donít tell that to the Soldiers who are building schools and roads, providing clean water or giving medical care to Iraqis), it's also free speech.  Irresponsible and harmful to our country and Soldiers, but their right all the same and every Soldier I know will fight for their right to say what they want.

 

But, when I'm looking for a response to counter these nonsensical statements, I rely on my brothers and sisters of arms and others on the ground in Iraq to provide the true picture by exercising their free speech right.  Share these with the doubters and defeatists.

 

The first is a letter from Command Sergeant Major Jeffery Mellinger, Command Sergeant Major, Multi-National Forces Iraq., reprinted here with his permission.  CSM Mellinger tells me in an email today:  ďElection went smooth today.  What a day!Ē

 

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7 December 2005, Al Faw Palace, Baghdad

Merry Christmas!

 

Merry Christmas!  I generally donít like to do letters like this, but found my time gone, so I apologize.  It has been a busy year.

This is my second Christmas in Iraq, second Thanksgiving, and many other seconds.  But this mission is important for so many reasons.

As I reflect on my nearly 17 months here so far (with about 8 or so left before I head home), I see so many changes and so many things the same.

I remember not getting a whole nightís sleep when I arrived, due to the continual mortar and rocket attacks.  Seems every hour we were getting hit with something.  Now it seems we go days with nothing.

Route Irish (from Baghdad International to the International Zone) used to be the most dangerous stretch of highway in the country, but is fairly tame now.

Iraqi police (when you could find them) wore ski masks and civilian clothes from fear of being killed by their countrymen.  They now stand proudly in their uniforms on the corners of nearly every city, and routinely patrol with impunity.

The army which once turned and ran now plans and conducts many operations on their own, and works with us in places where they need our leadership and assistance.  But they get stronger and better every day.

Trash and raw sewage greeted us each time we traveled the highways and byways.  Recently, I have seen work crews out cleaning up trash, sweeping and clearing roads, and the sewage is in pipe in many places.

Imams and other religious leaders used to spit venom.  Many now are telling their flocks to stop the violence, to vote, to participate in the process, to turn in terrorists and criminals.  And they are turning them in!

School children are in schools that were closed or destroyed under Saddam, many of which were refurbished or rebuilt by the Coalition, and write on paper with pencils provided by the generosity of our countrymen.

On election day in January, I spoke with a 76-year-old Iraqi man who was standing on a corner in northwest Baghdad, crying.  He also proudly displayed his purple fingertip.  When I asked him what the matter was, he replied in broken English that with that vote, it was the first time in his 76 years that he felt like a human being.  Ponder that for a moment.  Despite the potential for violence and threats of death, people come out and vote in larger percentages here than any election ever in the United States.  They understand well that their future hinges on their participation in something many of us take for granted.

If you know me, you know I am not a hopeless optimist.  But I have hope for this country.  I see and speak to Iraqi people here who are also full of hope.  We arenít so foolish as to believe there will be peace here anytime soon, but there is hope.  The foreign fighters and terrorists will continue to kill and maim the innocent, but there is hope.

So I ask that as you think of us here in the coming year, you remember that we here see this mission as important and valuable, despite what we hear from politicians who have never been here, and from those that have who never got their shoes dirty.  We believe in the future of this country and the region.  And we have hope Ė which if I recall is one of the real messages of this season.  Hope.  May God bless each of you. Ė Jeff

 

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Chaplain Dwight Dunlap of the 61st Multifunctional Medical Battalion says it all, in his own wordsÖ (In an email to Operation Troop Appreciation )

ďLet me tell you about a person I just met just this past week. This person is a true hero of Iraq, and the ongoing war, who has a story that you will NEVER hear on any media outlet in the States.   Read the rest..

Copyright © J. D. Pendry, 2005

 

May God bless all of you, our Soldiers and their Families with a very Merry Christmas.