Morgan made up military law, calling Soltz "a hypocrite and a liar"

››› ››› MATT GERTZ

Melanie Morgan called VoteVets.org chairman Jon Soltz "a hypocrite and a liar" for criticizing Army Sgt. David Aguina's appearance in uniform at a YearlyKos convention panel but using a picture of himself in uniform on the VoteVets.org website and engaging in political activism while serving in the Army Reserve, which Morgan called "a violation of the U.S. Military's Uniform Code of Military Justice." In fact, military law does not prohibit reservists from engaging in political activity, and it does not address the use of a photo of oneself in uniform for political purposes.

In an August 10 column on the conservative website WorldNetDaily, right-wing radio host Melanie Morgan referred to Jon Soltz, co-founder and chairman of VoteVets.org, as "a hypocrite and a liar" for criticizing Army Sgt. David Aguina's appearance in uniform at an August 3 panel at the YearlyKos convention but using a picture of himself in uniform on the VoteVets.org website and engaging in political activism while serving in the Army Reserve, which Morgan called "a violation of the U.S. Military's Uniform Code of Military Justice [UCMJ]." In fact, military law -- the UCMJ and applicable regulations -- does not prohibit reservists from engaging in political activity, and it does not specifically address the use of a photo of oneself in uniform for political purposes. What active-duty members, reservists, and military retirees are explicitly barred from doing is engaging in political activity while in uniform "when an inference of official sponsorship for the activity ... may be drawn." Morgan also asserted that Soltz was in violation of the UCMJ during the August 9 edition of her radio show on San Francisco radio station KSFO.

Morgan wrote that Soltz "launched into a tirade" after U.S. Army Sgt. David Aguina "made the 'mistake' of noting the progress being made with 'the surge' of U.S. troops in Iraq" during a Yearly Kos panel titled "The Military and Progressives: Are They That Different?" Morgan continued: "He did not express any political opinions; he merely challenged the panel to prove him wrong that civilian casualties in Iraq had dropped." Morgan reported that Soltz responded: "For the sergeant I want to see you outside, I want the name of your commander, your first sergeant, you will never ever use my uniform again in the name of political purposes."

As Morgan noted, a Pajamas Media cameraman had interviewed Soltz after the encounter and quoted him asserting that he was angry with Aguina because "[w]ell look, you don't use the military uniform to talk politics.... I don't appreciate people using military uniforms in politics." Soltz went on during the interview to assert: "You don't use a military uniform to talk politics. It's against the law." Soltz continued: "You don't use your military uniform to speak politics, you speak it as a civilian. This is why we have a good, disciplined military, it's against the law."

In response, Morgan called Soltz "a hypocrite and a liar" because he "us[es] a picture of himself in his uniform" on the VoteVets.org website. Morgan also stated that during the August 8 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, retired Lt. Col. Robert "Buzz" Patterson -- vice chairman of the "conservative, pro-troop non-profit organization" Move America Forward, of which Morgan is chairman -- "confronted Soltz on his political activism at the same time he is serving in the reserves -- a violation of the U.S. Military's Uniform Code of Military Justice." While Patterson did in fact ask Soltz, "Are you a reservist? Are you still in the reserves, John?" he did not mention the UCMJ, nor did he make the false assertion, as Morgan did, that political activism by reservists violates the UCMJ. Think Progress posted the video. (In that same appearance, as Media Matters for America noted, Patterson made the unsubstantiated claim that in 1996, then-first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton "wanted to outlaw uniforms, military uniforms in the White House"; Patterson's story on how he learned of the purported plan has varied with each telling.)

Morgan also made this accusation on the August 9 edition of her radio show, KSFO's The Lee Rodgers & Melanie Morgan Program, asserting that Soltz is "actually a reservist, and he has no business -- well, he's in violation of the United States Marine Corps Code of Justice by making these kinds of outrageous political and partisan statements."

In fact, military law does not prohibit reservists from engaging in political activities. Indeed, several members of Congress are members of the U.S. military reserve, including Rep. Stephen Buyer (R-IN), a colonel in the Army Reserve; Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a colonel in the Air Force Reserve; and Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL), a Naval Reserve intelligence officer.

Moreover, military law does not specifically address the use of photos of oneself in uniform. While Department of Defense regulation Directive 1334.01 bans "members of the Armed Forces (including retired members and members of Reserve components)" from appearing in uniform "during or in connection with furthering political activities," it does not include a reference to photos.

Further, Army Regulation 670-1 prohibits the wearing of Army uniforms "in connection with the furtherance of any political ... interests":

j. Wearing Army uniforms is prohibited in the following situations:

(1) In connection with the furtherance of any political or commercial interests, or when engaged in off-duty civilian employment.

(2) When participating in public speeches, interviews, picket lines, marches, rallies, or public demonstrations, except as authorized by competent authority.

(3) When attending any meeting or event that is a function of, or is sponsored by, an extremist organization.

(4) When wearing the uniform would bring discredit upon the Army.

(5) When specifically prohibited by Army regulations.

But neither military law -- these regulations, and the punitive articles of the UCMJ -- nor the chapter of the United States Code dealing with "The Uniform" contains either a ban on reservists using photos of themselves in uniform for political purposes. Rep. Buyer features photos of himself in uniform on his congressional website, as do the founders and executive director of Vets for Freedom, an organization of combat veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who support President Bush's escalation of the Iraq war.

In her column, Morgan claimed that Soltz is "the front man in [anti-war activists'] campaign to betray our troops and force them to declare defeat in Iraq." She also asserted that he is "acting like a cockroach, frantically scurrying from the spotlight of truth that's shining on him." Morgan concluded: "Does anyone have a can of bug spray handy?"

From the August 9 edition of KSFO's The Lee Rodgers & Melanie Morgan Program:

RODGERS: Now, Mel can put it into context. This happened on, what, that Chris Matthews scream-fest, is that it?

MORGAN: Yeah, it happened last night. The producers of Hardball invited Jon Soltz on. Jon Soltz is this individual who says that he -- tells everybody he has the absolute moral authority to denounce the war in Iraq because he's an Iraqi war veteran. He's actually a reservist, and he has no business -- well, he's in violation of the United States Marine Corps Code of Justice by making these kinds of outrageous political and partisan statements.

RODGERS: So he hasn't been there at all, is that what you're saying?

MORGAN: No, he has been to Iraq, but he's not supposed to be involved in partisan activity like he is now, but he's --

RODGERS: But he's still a member of the reserves.

MORGAN: He's a reserve -- yes, he is.

RODGERS: Oh, OK. Just wanted to clarify.

From Morgan's August 10 WorldNetDaily column:

Here's what Soltz said as captured by the great people at Pajamas Media who videotaped the incident:

"For the sergeant I want to see you outside, I want the name of your commander, your first sergeant, you never ever use my uniform again in the name of political purposes."

As Soltz bolted from the stage, the Pajamas Media cameras were still rolling and asked Soltz why he was so worked up.

"Well look, you don't use the military uniform to talk politics.... I don't appreciate people using military uniforms in politics," Soltz said.

One problem, Mr. Soltz -- you're a hypocrite and a liar.

Here's the image I downloaded on Thursday from Mr. Soltz's VoteVets.org website -- a group that spent nearly $2 million in the 2006 election cycle to defeat Republican candidates for Congress who supported the missions of our troops in Iraq.

There's Mr. Soltz using a picture of himself in his uniform right under a menu bar that shows which political candidates are "VoteVets.org Candidates" -- you can view the photograph of Soltz in uniform on the VoteVets.org website until they realize he's busted and take it down.

[...]

This weekend Soltz was a panelist at the left-wing "Yearly Kos" convention where he launched into a tirade against U.S. Army Sgt. David Aguina of the 733rd maintenance company. Sgt. Aguina made the 'mistake' of noting the progress being made with "the surge" of U.S. troops in Iraq. He did not express any political opinions; he merely challenged the panel to prove him wrong that civilian casualties in Iraq had dropped.

[...]

On Wednesday, Move America Forward Vice Chairman, Lt. Col. Buzz Patterson (USAF, Ret.) confronted Soltz on his political activism at the same time he is serving in the reserves -- a violation of the U.S. Military's Uniform Code of Military Justice.

As captured in a video from MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, Soltz screamed, yelled and literally stuck his tongue in the side of his cheek in discomfort as he realized that Colonel Patterson had busted Soltz for improper conduct.

Jon Soltz is acting like a cockroach, frantically scurrying from the spotlight of truth that's shining on him.

Does anyone have a can of bug spray handy?

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