MARFA, Texas - Army specialist and Iraq war veteran Marc Hall is being held by
the United States Army in Georgia for recording a song that expresses his anger
over the army's stop-loss policy. He is waiting to be sent to Iraq to face a
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, despite public pledges by President Barack Obama to phase out the
Attorney David Gespass, a member of the National Lawyers Guild
and founding member of the Military Law Task Force, has been consulting on the
case and will possibly represent Hall.
"It's not clear to me if he'll be tried in Kuwait or Iraq," Gespass told Inter
Press Service (IPS). "It may be a matter for the military judge to decide, once
there is one."
Gespass explained he believed the army was handling the case this way for two
reasons. "One, it will make it much more difficult to defend because it's
impossible to get witnesses over to a war zone, and two, it denies Hall's right
to a public trial. I think the fundamental reason is to make it more difficult
for his supporters and witnesses to be there," he said.
Gespass believes the army's position "is that that's where all the alleged
victims are [Iraq], and they wanted to have the trial where their witnesses are
going to be. For me, it's a lot easier for the army to get witnesses back to
the states than it is for Marc to get his witnesses to a war zone."
Hall, who is in the army's 3rd Infantry Division, was placed in jail in Liberty
county for the song in which he angrily denounces the continuing policy that
has barred him from exiting the military.
On December 12, Hall was jailed on the pretext that the song he had written was
considered a threat, and he faces charges under Article 134 of the Uniform Code
of Military Justice that covers communication threats.
"The charges are connected to song lyrics allegedly written by Spc Hall that
allege deadly threats against his chain of command and fellow Soldiers,
specifically shooting them," reads a statement released the by the Fort Stewart
Public Affairs Office.
"I explained to [my first sergeant] that the hardcore rap song was a free
expression of how people feel about the army and its stop-loss policy,"
explained Hall in response to the charges. "I explained that the song was
neither a physical threat nor any threat whatsoever. I told him it was just
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.
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.
The army's latest decision to deploy Hall to Kuwait is an unusual twist in a
case that has already attracted widespread criticism from GI rights lawyers.
Once in Kuwait, Hall will be driven into Iraq to meet up with his old unit and
placed in confinement and court marshaled there.
Kevin Larson of the Fort Stewart Public Affairs Office says the trial will be
held in Iraq because that is where important witnesses are. "It makes sense
from the standpoint of witnesses. Most of the witnesses are deployed," he said.
Jim Klimanski, a civilian military lawyer and member of the National Lawyers
Guild and the Military Law Task Force, told IPS 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 Hall's 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 Major
[Nidal] 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."
IPS obtained a redacted copy of the army's charge sheet against Hall, filed by
Marcus Seiser, which includes five charges. On the sheet, Hall is accused of
telling someone he would "go on a rampage" that "the song makes threats of acts
of violence" and that Hall is accused "of planning on shooting the brigade or
Jeff Paterson, the director of the soldier advocacy group Courage to Resist,
which is assisting Hall, told IPS, "Marc's case is unique in that the military
hasn't shown a propensity to go after these political speech cases for several
years. We think this is an important case because it could set precedent for
free speech rights for those in the military."
Klimanski, along with underscoring the importance of the case for the First
Amendment, thinks the case highlights the military's ongoing use of stop-loss,
which also contributes to how they have responded to Hall's song.
"It's a song, and he puts it out to the public," Klimanski told IPS. "We're not
talking about a Major Hassan who is quietly plotting violence ... this is
political hyperbole. This is his rant on stop-loss. It's political speech."
"He's over there saying I have no control over my life," Klimanski added, "I
could be in here forever. We're talking about a war that could go on forever.
So poor old Marc Hall could possibility be in the military forever. I see this
as an issue of political speech. The military may not like what they're
hearing, but that's what it is. There are people in the military saying their
being in it is/was wrong, and they want out."
"They are sending him to Iraq just to punish him," Klimanski believes. "Not
that they need to do that to conduct a court martial. They are trying to find
any which way to inflict punishment on Marc."
Hall's supporters also say that it is highly unlikely that his current military
lawyer will be available to deploy at a moment's notice.
"He will get a new military lawyer who is probably very busy and won't have
time to build a proper defense," said Klimanski, "They are trying to stack the
deck. It is illegal to ship him to Iraq or Kuwait, but who is going to contest
it? You would have to go to Iraq to contest it. They know that they are not
going to have a civilian lawyer out there. They are just trying to punish him
without due process."
At the time of this writing, Hall was waiting to be shipped to the Middle East,
which could happen any time.