Freedom of speech and the right to dissent – these are key to the creation and success of any great nation. The first amendment is essential to this nation, and when I saw a protester on campus from the group Veterans for Peace I knew that by defending the constitution it gave him his right to protest.
The man in the booth, George T. Muller, was in jeans and a makeshift Air Force Desert Camouflage Uniform (DCU). His DCU blouse had a ribbon rack that belonged only on a dress uniform; obviously he was confusing uniform items. Also, for a man who obtained the rank of Lt. Colonel, his rack was quite small.
I sat down and talked with this gentleman, not disclosing that I am an Air Force veteran and now Army soldier with the Utah National Guard and the ROTC program at UVU. I did not want him to revise his message.
While talking, I became angered – not because he was speaking against the war that I had served in, but because this so-called "retired officer" was spouting lies quicker than a politician in a presidential election.
I want to share some of the outlandish lies this vet for peace used to garnish support for his cause. For the record, great research was done to validate his claims, including speaking to high-ranking officials from the Pentagon and the Office of Army Headquarters, Public Affairs under the pretext of the Freedom of Information Act.
Muller claimed that the Army has a policy to declare any Iraqi who owns a cell phone a terrorist and to torture and kill him and his family.
"Ludicrous, absolutely ludicrous. I don’t even want to dignify that with a statement, other than the Army has no such policy that would indiscriminately target Iraqi civilians," said Major Tom McCuin, from Army Public Affairs headquarters.
Muller also accused the Army of placing various items around the city, with small signs attached that read "U.S. Property" to bait Iraqi’s. Snipers would wait for someone to come by and remove the property, at which point a sniper would shoot the Iraqi and leave him for dead in the streets.
McCuin said, "While we do not discuss sniper tactics for security reasons, I assure you that we are not indiscriminate with our targets."
Muller also stated that "Over 2000 soldiers have come home and committed suicide because of the atrocious things they where ordered to do (in Iraq)."
According to suicide statistics monitored by the Army and Department of Defense, the number isn’t that high, even if you combine all branches of service. All suicides are investigated, and most are determined to be a result of financial, and relationship problems, said McCuin.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a contributing factor, mostly from the typical stresses of combat. The Army and the VA have since adopted an extensive suicide prevention program to combat and identify the effects of war on their people.
Muller also displayed graphic pictures of dead and decapitated Iraqi children, many of whom were victims of attacks by insurgents, not U.S. Forces as he claimed. Granted, there will always be civilian casualties in any war – especially in fighting an enemy that will use children and mentally disabled people as makeshift bombs. Labeling U.S. forces as "baby-killers" in this manner is wrong. I was offended to be labeled as such, since I have seen first hand the U.S. medical personnel helping so many Iraqi children. They have saved countless lives.
I spoke with the parent organization, Veterans for Peace, and their only regulation for members is that they "have peaceful demonstrations," said Betsy Reznicek, the communications and outreach coordinator. "Our members are autonomous. We have over 8000 members and we don’t know what our people are doing."
This is a statement that should make any professional organization proud. This could be likened to the LDS Church saying we have over 53,000 missionaries, they are autonomous, and we don’t know what they are teaching. Of course, no legitimate organization in the world would have such open territory for its members to represent the very thing that the organization stands for.
Do I fault Muller for using lies and deceit to gain momentum for his cause? Not entirely; however, as a former officer of the U.S. Air Force, he should have more sense than what he displayed. I do fault Veterans for Peace, for their wannabe Berkley movement that has the same credibility as Roger Clemens advocating a drug-free America.
The use of fiction to garner support for a cause only shows how weak the anti-war position really is. An educated debater and public speaker would use broad research from multiple credible sources to back their cause, instead of inventing truth.
Utah Valley University has established a tradition of excellence that has set it apart from other colleges. We teach using facts, and with that truth we educate our students. We use history, truth, and knowledge to open a dialogue of discussion, which is the fundamental principal for a well-rounded education.
We welcome groups who have views differing from our own, because that creates dialogue and discussion. But what we will not stand for are lies, deceit, and obscene materials in the student center for all to see and hear.