A soldier's mother in the crosshairs

of the US Army.

December 28, 2005

Letter From A Military “Mom”
Domestic Spying and Incident of Intimidation of Military Families
by Robin Vaughan

I am sending this letter to you in hope of finding a source to hear my concerns. It is something that has bothered me since the occurrence, and I know it is not something that should have happened, and I worry for my family’s safety as I step out to speak about this.

During my son’s deployment to Iraq, February 2004 – February 2005, I created a small group website on MSN, for families and friends of our soldiers’ deployed unit. It was a membership only site, and we were a tight group of mostly “Moms” from all over the United States just trying to make it through each day. The support and help we gave one another is a singular experience of grace I will never forget.

During the first few months of our site, the Army decided to call every single family on the site, informing them that the site was not to be used by any of the families. The Department of Defense called families in the middle of the night to notify them to not use the web site. Most of the families were near tears, thinking they were getting “THE” call telling them their child or loved one had been killed or injured.

The information received via the phone call was to inform the families that the base did not condone the site, nor [did] the Army, and that it was not to be used; the gist was, families were not allowed to use the site, or they could get into “trouble”. Some members reported their soldier calling from Iraq, telling them to be careful about using the site as the Army was monitoring it.

As Web Mistress of the site, I needed to respond and qualify this information, as well as to educate this commanding officer as to the rights and liberties of a private web site, which I did. I was told I would have to let a commanding officer onto the site to monitor the messages. I did allow this, but I also informed the officer that this was a courtesy, as there is no such law, or right of the military to monitor, shut down or exclude our web site.

I believe we received this order and treatment for a couple of reasons.

Occasionally we would voice our concerns publicly over what our government was failing to do to help our soldiers, or we would share or argue political opinions as well. The second reason may be the armed services all have a group of their own family type support (FRG); as we were not local to the base our soldiers deployed from, the site was a means to provide that support, as best as we could.

The support group at our base tried to force the site to be given over to them, which I refused. At this time I was told I might want to be careful, as the government was monitoring the site as well. Soldiers in our unit, while in Iraq, were telling their parents to stay off of the site, or to be very careful of what they wrote. This came from a rear detachment officer in charge, and members on the site.

I reminded the Army I am a private citizen, not on base, with a private site making no claims as to having any affiliation with any branch of service, but clearly stating we were family and friends of our unit in support of one another. We were treated with power-by-intimidation. It isn’t hard to make that work, when you have someone’s child in a war zone.

We were a group of 77 families from all over the country, at the time of the call. Every single family was phoned and told not to use the site, and I believe some 150 other families were phoned as well, as it was an official order from a commanding officer.

I have waited to speak of this situation until my son was home safe and sound, and also after his transfer to another base. Yes, I was afraid of repercussions that could have harmed him, one way or another. I called my local senator’s office 4 months ago, following up every 10 days to 2 weeks, and still have no answers or support.

I admit I am not comfortable writing this, as required to, as I am still concerned for my son and the other soldiers and families involved on the site. We didn’t endanger them by means of displaying their photos with their names, giving up information about their location and actions. We were very careful to not breach Intel protocol, learning Ops protocol, as well as respecting and complying with it. We simply were at times, vocal about our displeasure with our president and government for how our military was being treated, or how the presidential election was being handled.

There are literally hundreds of military family, private support groups on the Internet. I truly believe we were singled out because of my refusal to hand the site over to the local F.R.G., as well as [my] outspoken political beliefs.

It’s simply amazing that my son and others risk their lives for “Freedom” in Iraq, when his own mother’s civil liberties are threatened, and families are intimidated into silence by the very same Army he is serving. I am hoping after reading this you may direct me as to where I can at least have this concern heard. Basically, are the following common practice, and legal?

** The Armed services can order families from communicating in a private forum?

** The Armed services can threaten private citizens’ first amendment rights?

I want to make sure this is not happening to other service member’s families. We live in a hell everyday during the deployment of our loved ones; we don’t need the added bullying or stripping away of our means of helping one another.

Any idea or direction you can point me in would be greatly appreciated. Also, this problem can be corroborated by other families if need be.

Why did it take so long for me to step forward?

Originally I contacted my Senators office, with no reply for six months, and have also spoken with the A.C.L.U (with little hope of action due to the length of time that has passed), but until now was not willing to come forward in a public way. It took until September for my son to be safely stationed at another base, and other family’s service members to either be out of the service all together, or be transferred as well.

We were afraid for their safety, our own safety, our relationships with them and their future in the service; all of these things could have been affected, and we couldn’t chance one more problem or pressure being added to the already heavy load the families and soldiers live with. The intimidation worked. Is this just something silly I should let go?

It doesn’t seems trivial to me, but I am learning unless it happens to someone personally, no one seems to care.


0 thoughts on “A soldier's mother in the crosshairs”

  1. This is certainly not the America that I thought I grew up in. On the surface, it seems that the military has the right to express displeasure with the site, including communication with families in an effort to “educate” them with respect to posting information they may have considered harmful to the war effort. On the other hand, the Army is not the equivalent of a private citizen and the ability to intimidate, using the implicit threat of unspoken repercussions is reprehensible. In this regard, the Army does not speak for me. I am interested in the content that the Army found to be threatening.
    What was it specifically about the content of the site that raised its profile in the eyes of the military?

  2. “Specifically,” you ask?

    “Occasionally we would voice our concerns publicly over what our government was failing to do to help our soldiers, or we would share or argue political opinions as well.”

    They don’t want military families, many of which, naturally, due to the emotional parent/child bond, to “allow” for their anxieities and emotions to guide and color their overall view of the military and its illegal invasion/occupation of Iraq.

    The way the military looks at it, if you have an online group like this, anonymity is likely to loosen up the propaganda’s reign over some of them, they begin communicating and honestly expressing their true feelings about their child’s military involvement, and pretty soon you have dissent. One of the chief political and military aims is to CRUSH dissent, no matter where you live. That’s how Power operates when Power can’t rule through state sanctioned violence.

    That’s also why, say, a learned cat like Mark Crispin Miller is often deemed as being on the “extreme” left; those whose views get “too close” to what would be obvious, elementary truths – if not for widespread propaganda – need be attacked by Establishment Power, both ‘left’ and ‘right,’ so when it’s impossible to debate the facts that an “extreme” leftist presents, the attackers make the attack personal.

    Think Cindy Sheehan …or any number of those familiy members using that online group. If the military doesn’t “monitor” the site, they’re at a disadvantage for controlling perceptions of “reality.”

  3. From infowars.com

    Pentagon propaganda program orders soldiers to promote Iraq war while home on leave

    DOUG THOMPSON / Capitol Hill Blue | December 30 2005

    Good soldiers follow orders and hundreds of American military men and women returned to the United States on holiday leave this month with orders to sell the Iraq war to a skeptical public.

    The program, coordinated through a Pentagon operation dubbed “Operation Homefront,” ordered military personnel to give interviews to their hometown newspapers, television stations and other media outlets and praise the American war effort in Iraq.

    Initial reports back to the Pentagon deem the operation a success with dozens of front page stories in daily and weekly newspapers around the country along with upbeat reports on local television stations.

    “We’ve learned as a military how to do this better,” Captain David Diaz, a military reservist, told his hometown paper, The Roanoke (VA) Times. “My worry is that we have the right military strategy and political strategies now but the patience of the American public is wearing thin.”

    When pressed by the paper on whether or not his commanding officers told him to talk to the press, Diaz admitted he was “encouraged” to do so. So reporter Duncan Adams asked:

    “Did Diaz return to the U.S. on emergency leave with an agenda — to offer a positive spin that could help counter growing concerns among Americans about the U.S. exit strategy? How do we know that’s not his strategy, especially after he discloses that superior officers encouraged him to talk about his experiences in Iraq?”

    Replied Diaz:

    “You don’t. I can tell you that the direction we’ve gotten from on high is that there is a concern about public opinion out there and they want to set the record straight.”

    Diaz, an intelligence officer, knows how to avoid a direct answer. Other military personnel, however, tell Capitol Hill Blue privately that the pressure to “sell the war” back home is enormous.

    “I’ve been promised an early release if I do a good job promoting the war,” says one reservist who asked not to be identified.

    In interviews with a number of reservists home for the holidays, a pattern emerges on the Pentagon’s propaganda effort. Soldiers are encouraged to contact their local news media outlets to offer interviews about the war. A detailed set of talking points encourages them to:

    –Admit initial doubts about the war but claim conversion to a belief in the American mission;

    –Praise military leadership in Iraq and throw in a few words of support for the Bush administration;

    –Claim the mission to turn security of the country over to the Iraqis is working;

    –Reiterate that America must not abandon its mission and must stay until the “job is finished.”

    –Talk about how “things are better” now in Iraq.

    “My worry is that we have the right military strategy and political strategies now but the patience of the American public is wearing thin,” Diaz told The Roanoke Times.

    “It’s way better now (in Iraq). People are friendlier. They seem more relaxed, and they say, ’Thank you, mister,’” Sgt. Christopher Desierto told his hometown paper, The Maui News.

    But soldiers who are home and don’t have to return to Iraq tell a different story.

    “I’ve just been focused on trying to get the rest of these guys home,” says Sgt. Major Floyd Dubose of Jackson, MS, who returned home after 11 months in Iraq with the Mississippi Army National Guard’s 155th Combat Brigade.

    And the Army is cracking down on soldiers who go on the record opposing the war.

    Specialist Leonard Clark, a National Guardsman, was demoted to private and fined $1,640 for posting anti-war statements on an Internet blog. Clark wrote entries describing the company’s commander as a “glory seeker” and the battalion sergeant major an “inhuman monster”. His last entry before the blog was shut down told how his fellow soldiers were becoming increasingly opposed to the US operation in Iraq.

    “The message is clear,” says one reservist who is home for the holidays but has to return and asked not to be identified. “If you want to get out of this man’s Army with an honorable (discharge) and full benefits you better not tell the truth about what is happening in-country.”

    But Sgt. Johnathan Wilson, a reservist, got his honorable discharge after he returned home earlier this month and he’s not afraid to talk on the record.

    “Iraq is a classic FUBAR,” he says. “The country is out of control and we can’t stop it. Anybody who tries to sell a good news story about the war is blowing it out his ass. We don’t win and eventually we will leave the country in a worse shape than it was when we invaded.

  4. A bit off topic, yet along the same creepy lines. Also from infowars.com:

    Pupils Being Given ‘Patriotism’ Tests in Washington State Schools

    Paul Joseph Watson | December 30 2005

    Children in Washington State are being given ‘Patriotism tests’ which are completely unrelated to their studies. The paper gauges whether or not the student shows fealty to the power of the state and whether the student believes in the right to overthrow a corrupt government.

    A reader from Washington State writes us to highlight a questionnaire paper handed out to her daughter and the rest of her 10th grade class.

    The reader comments,

    “We live in Washington state. My daughter is in 10th grade and found this to be interesting. She has a GPA of 3.75 and uses her brain. This was given in her English class, and has nothing to do with the materials they were studying. We thought you might be able to use this. They are grooming our kids. Keep up the great work. Christine.”

    The paper is shown below. Click for an enlargement.

    Considering the fact that this paper is a complete one off in that it is not part of any standard curriculum, we must question the motivations behind it.

    Is the paper a means of gauging the level of obedience to the state amongst American teenagers?

    We have covered several examples before where the government identifies a target group in society and canvasses their views on the nature of power and when that power goes too far. For example, in the 90’s, American marines and national guard were occasionally asked if they would be willing to fire on American citizens in a time of crisis.

    We are by no means against patriotism when it means love of country. Unfortunately however, the new brand of so-called patriotism translates as worship of government, and that definition is something that the founding fathers never intended.

    This may be an isolated case but if we receive anything similar then watch this space for any updates.

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