Hard to figure out what’s worse – a soldier violating formal and long-standing Pentagon rules by cheering on GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul while in uniform, or those insisting that his interview with CNN was cut off because the network (part of the Time family, we should note) wanted to censor his statement about war.
Army Corporal Jesse Thorsen, 28, said he has been in uniform 10 years and twice deployed Afghanistan, with a third coming up. But he erred in showing up in uniform at Ron Paul’s campaign headquarters in Iowa Tuesday night to cheer on the Texas congressman, according to U.S. military regulations.
“I’m really excited about a lot of his ideas, especially when it comes to bringing the soldiers home,” Thorsen told CNN’s Dana Bash during a brief on-camera appearance. “I think it would be even more dangerous to start nit-picking wars with other countries – someone like Iran” – brief interference here – “Israel is more than capable” – connection lost.
Wolf Blitzer quickly interjected that the connection “unfortunately” had been lost. That only made some Paul supporters more certain that Thorsen’s First Amendment rights were being deliberately sabotaged. They apparently felt if the corporal had continued on, previously dormant citizens would take to the streets with pitchforks and torches. “Obvious censorship live to the American people…Its nearing revolution time,” one posted on reddit.com. “How can coincidence even be a factor?” a second posted wondered. “The only time that subject was/will be discussed tonight and an active duty soldier gets scrambled?”
The notion that an Army corporal is going to incite revolution via CNN is almost as ludicrous as CNN deliberately shutting the corporal up; CNN and all the cable networks love guys like him.
What’s troubling to military officers is that Thorsen, who has been seen at Paul events in uniform before, either doesn’t know, or doesn’t care, the rules. “It’s fine if he has political views but expressing them while in uniform is absolutely disgraceful,” a third commenter posted. “I hope they throw the book at him.”
Thorsen violated this prohibition in Department of Defense Directive 1344.10, which permits troops to attend political activities so long as they are not in uniform:
Admiral Mike Mullen, who served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff until last fall, made a special point of telling U.S. troops to remain apolitical. “Keeping our politics private is a good first step,” he said in an oft-quoted 2008 article he wrote for Joint Forces Quarterly, a Pentagon publication. “The only things we should be wearing on our sleeves are our military insignia.”
Afghan vet Rajiv Srinivasan reacts to Thorsen mixing his uniform up with politics at Time’s Ideas blog.