Iraq War Vet Jailed For Writing Song Protesting Stop-Loss
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Army Specialist and Iraq war veteran Marc Hall was incarcerated by the US Army on December 11, 2009, in Liberty County Jail, Georgia, for recording a song that expresses his anger over the Army's stop-loss policy.
Stop-loss is a policy that allows the Army to keep soldiers active beyond the end of their signed contracts. According to the Pentagon, more than 120,000 soldiers have been affected by stop-loss since 2001, and currently 13,000 soldiers are serving under stop-loss orders.
Hall, (aka hip hop artist Marc Watercus), who is in the Army's 3rd Infantry Division, was placed in Liberty County Jail for the song (click here to listen to "Stop-Loss," by Marc Watercus), in which he angrily denounces the continuing policy that has barred him from exiting the military.
Military service members do not completely give up their rights to free speech, particularly not when they are doing so artistically while off duty, as was the case with Hall. He is charged under Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which covers "all disorders and neglects to the prejudice of good order and discipline" and "all conduct of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces." The military is claiming that he "communicated a threat" with his song. Hall mailed a copy of the song to the Pentagon after the Army unilaterally extended his contract for a second Iraq deployment.
Hall planned to leave the military at the end of his contract on February 27, before his commander, Captain Cross at Fort Stewart, moved to have him incarcerated for the song. The military currently intends to keep Hall in pre-trial confinement until he is court-martialed, which is expected to be several months from now.
Jim Klimanski, a civilian military lawyer, member of the National Lawyers Guild and the Military Law Task Force, who is closely following Hall's case, told Truthout that he feels the military is overreacting to the case, and that it is simply a matter of free speech and that the Army's actions violate his First Amendment right to free speech.
"It's a political case, and the military should know that," Klimanski explained, "I think they are overreaching and overreacting because of Maj. Hassan (who went on a shooting spree at Fort Hood on November 5), and I can understand that to some degree, but cooler heads should prevail and they should deal with stop-loss, and maybe we'll get the case thrown out. One would hope that common sense would prevail."
Hall is opposed to the occupation of Iraq, and had told his commander he would not deploy if ordered. His unit deployed to Iraq without him in mid-December, but this is not why Hall is in jail, as he was jailed before his unit was sent to Iraq.
"The military never ordered him to go [to Iraq], they put him in jail before that," Klimanski continued, "They can't charge him with missing movement, because he couldn't go because they put him in jail. He told them he wanted out, he wouldn't go, but they didn't put him in jail for not going."
In a statement on January 5, Hall said, ""My first sergeant called me into his office to discuss the song's nature. I explained to him that the hardcore rap song was a free expression of how people feel about the Army and its stop-loss policy. I explained that the song was neither a physical threat nor any threat whatsoever. I told him it was just hip-hop."
Hall added, "My first sergeant said he actually liked the song and that he did not take it as a threat. He and my commander at the time just recommended me for mental counseling and evaluation."