July 23, 2007

Democrats Snub Vets for Freedom: Look What You Made Me Do!

Hatched by Sachi

During Democrats' slumber party last week, thirty some young veterans gathered on the Hill. They were members of a group called Vets for Freedom, which comprises Afghanistan- and Iraq-war veterans. The vets' aim was to appeal to senators to support the war: They hoped to let them know that a majority of servicemen in Iraq and Afghanistan want to finish the job and give Petraeus' strategy a chance to work.

Alas, Democratic leaders were so busy chanting "Bring the troops home" that they couldn't be bothered with actual vets, the very people about whom they so passionately claim to care. The MSM tried to ignore the Vets too; but it became impossible to completely freeze them out when the President of the United States spent a long hour talking with them. (Hat tip Power Line)

Thus it became necessary to crush VFF. When a pro-war group like them becomes visible, the anti-war crowd must pull out all the stops to discredit them. Besides, there was also the fine motive of retaliation driving the Left onward: When anti-war "veterans" groups, such as An Appeal to Redress, started demanding American defeat, they were ripped to shreds by milbloggers. So it's "only fair" that left wing bloggers take a club to the VFF like a fur hunter to a baby seal.

The anti-GOP-war crowd seems to be especialy ticked off by VFF's claim to non-partisanship. This criticism by the Center for Media Democracy, a leading anti-VFF group, is typical:

Who and what is behind the organization Vets for Freedom, a lobby group for staying the Administration's course in the war in Iraq? Contributors to our investigative website SourceWatch are wondering exactly that.... Its supposedly non-partisan patriotic agenda is looking rather suspect. Will it become to the 2006 Congressional elections what the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth were in 2004? A Republican front for waging ad hominem attacks, this time on politicians like John Murtha who are calling for an end to the US occupation?

In fact the CMD has dedicated an entire section of its webzine SourceWatch to discrediting the VFF, alleging they were a "front organization" for the Republican Party. But in the process of trying to prove rampant partisanship, the CMD accidentally makes the case instead that Democrats simply don't support our troops.

Let us take a little journey into the strange world of left-liberal conspiracy mongering...

(Please follow the "slither on" for the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey says.)

The SourceWatch article on VFF begins by referring to them as "a Republican front group managed by Republican-affiliated public relations, media, legal, and political consultants."

Let us first clarify what being a "Republican front group" means: It means that your primary goal is to advance a the GOP's political agenda. Merely receiving most of your support from Republicans is not proof of GOP partisanship; nor does it make you a front group if more Republicans happen to agree with your agenda than do Democrats. Political-party partisanship means that your agenda is the advancement of one party, rather than an independent goal, such as ending legal abortion or rolling back gun prohibition.

Why is this important? Because the CMD calls Vets for Freedom a front group; but the only evidence they produce is that more Republicans than Democrats are aligned with these soldiers and Marines... which the CMD wants you to believe is the same thing.

It's not. For one example, the National Rifle Association usually supports Republicans; but that's just because more Republicans than Democrats support gun rights. But they will support a pro-gun Democrat over anti-gun Republican... so they're not just a Republican front group.

VFF's sole agenda is the full-hearted completion of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars; for that reason, they strongly support Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT, 75%-D, 17%-R), even though he is not a Republican. Bearing that definition in mind, let us examine some of the criticism the Center for Media Democracy hurls against VFF.

Claim: members of VFF are "neocon lobbyists"

The CMD's SourceWatch article on Vets for Freedom states that some members of VFF are "affiliated" with neocon Weekly Standard publisher Bill Kristol; by this, they mean that some VFF members sold pro-war articles to Kristol's Weekly Standard, rather than to Time, Vanity Fair, or the Nation:

Non-partisan, bi-partisan or neocon lobbyists?

VFF member Alex Gallo, a West Point graduate who served in 2004 as an infantry officer in Samarrah, Iraq, wrote a pro-war in Iraq article[6] that was published July 18, 2007, by the National Review Online owned by neoconservative Bill Kristol, "the No. 1 cheerleader for the Iraq war." [What the heck? Bill Kristol "owns" NRO? I've never heard that before; NRO is edited by Kathryn Jean "K-Lo" Lopez and supported by donations. Kristol doesn't even write for them, having his own competing conservative magazine.]

Gallo is currently a "masters in public-policy candidate" at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government[8], where he is "course assistant" for Kristol's "Can America be Governed?"[9] In 2006, Kristol assisted VFF-AF in its pro-war in Iraq campaign support of Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.)....

In 2006, former White House spokesman Taylor Gross's public relations firm the Herald Group helped VFF co-founder Wade Zirkle and "fellow Iraq veteran David Bellavia approach mainstream newspapers to offer dispatches from the two as war correspondents embedded with the military. The two eventually got press credentials through the neoconservative Weekly Standard, whose editor, Bill Kristol, became an informal adviser to the group and helped put it in touch with" Republican strategist Dan Senor, who was "on retainer to help with fundraising.

The truth: What do we learn from this? That Kristol -- who supports the war -- publishes writers who support the war. Shocking! It does not make VFF "lobbyists" (who are they supposed to have lobbied -- private citizen Dan Senor, private citizen Taylor Gross, or private citizen Bill Kristol?)

Typically, the word "lobbyist" means a paid advocate for somebody else's position; VFF members talked to congressmen on behalf of their own beliefs, not anybody else's. And of course, nobody paid them to do so. We already have a phrase for such nefarious activity, and it's not "lobbying": It's "petitioning Congress."

Claim: VFF is a "right-wing" organization

By similar reasoning, the CMD leaps upon the fact that right-wing bloggers, magazines, and one supposedly conservative newspaper (the Wall Street Journal), but no left wingers, reported VFF's call for a rally on the Hill on July 17th:

On July 13, 2007, Hegseth issued a second urgent call to action, which was reposted on a number of right-wing-leaning blogs, as well as by the conservative [promoted from "neoconservative?"] online publication The Weekly Standard, in which he asked "every Iraq and Afghanistan veteran who believes in supporting the mission -- and defeating America's enemies -- to converge on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on Tuesday, July 17. It's time the fighters in this war tell their representatives -- face to face -- that now is no time to betray the mission."

The truth: Anti-war left-wing bloggers and editors evidence no interest in promoting VFF's pro-war effort; surprise, surprise on the Jungle Cruise tonight. I'm certain that if Kos or Juan Cole or the New York Times had offered to help spread the word, VFF would not have refused.

Instead of rooting around for some hidden conspiracy behind the VFF swarm on Capitol Hill, the Center for Media Democracy should ask one simple question: Why did only one mainstream news organization -- the Wall Street Journal -- cover the events in Washington D.C.? If it's newsworthy when An Appeal for Redress talks to members of Congress on behalf of retreat, defeat, and surrender, why isn't it equally important when a pro-war group of veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan talk to Congress on behalf of victory?

What is the CMD proving? Only that when it comes to actually supporting our troops -- which includes supporting the mission that they believe is so urgent -- Democrats, RINOs, and other liberals are deserters under fire.

Claim: VFF was only interested in meeting Republican lawmakers

SourceWatch describes Vets for Freedom's meetings with various senators in the Capitol in a way that makes it sound as if VFF were only interested in meeting with Republicans -- with the Left's favorite whipping boy, Joe Lieberman, being the only exception:

Hegseth wrote in his July 16, 2007, update that VFF "will also have a group meeting with Senate leaders to discuss Iraq war policy. In addition, be on the lookout for our afternoon press conference, which will take place just off the Senate floor."

On July 16, 2007, VFF issued a press release stating that it would hold its press conference at 3:00pm on July 17, 2007, in the Mansfield Room (S-207) at The Capitol with "Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Republican Conference Chairman Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), other senators."

This was confirmed in part by a local South Carolina TV news report that stated Senator Lindsey Graham "will join Vets for Freedom and a bipartisian group of senators who support the new strategy in Iraq." It should be noted that the only non-Republican named is Sen. Lieberman.

The truth: So why weren't there any Democrats present at the press conference? SourceWatch leaves us with the impression that VFF only invited "Republicans."

But this is complete nonsense, and the authors of the SouceWatch article clearly know that. The CMD knows very well that VFF did not go to the Hill just to talk to Republicans; rather, their request to meet with Speaker of the House Nancy Perosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%) and Majority leader Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%) for five minutes each was summarily rejected. Neither would any other Democratic or even squishy Republican lawmaker agree to meet with them.

But wait... how do we know that SourceWatch was aware of this? Couldn't it have been an honest mistake? Hardly: SourceWatch itself confirms this fact, without evidently noticing that it completely undermines their narrative:

VFF's "mission", Aoife McCarthy reported in The Politico, was "to reassure the GOP lawmakers supporting President Bush's war strategy as they endure a pummeling at home in TV ads and automated telephone calls from anti-war groups. And maybe, the veterans hoped, they could change the minds of other lawmakers...

"The only senators who would meet with the pro-surge veterans were those who already shared their view. The real targets -- war opponents or wobbly supporters -- sent a first wave of senior aides to shield themselves from the pitch," McCarthy wrote.

Neither Democratic leaders nor RINOs have the least interested in what actual veterans of the very wars in question have to say. This is what makes VFF a "Republican front group managed by Republican-affiliated public relations, media, legal, and political consultants"... at least according to SourceWatch.

Claim: VFF has questionable funding sources

From the begining, the Center for Media Democracy has claimed that VFF's funding comes from questionable sources. As of June, 2006, CMD had found nothing more than the following (from the CMD link above):

  1. The VFF has a "rather fancy website."
  2. At one time, but no longer, the VFF's privacy notice on its website stated "We may from time to time share the information our visitors provide with other Republican candidates and other like-minded organizations."
  3. "The organization contests and condemns the views of Democratic Congressman John Murtha, the Democrat calling for the United States to pull troops from Iraq."
  4. "Virtually no information is available about the funders and organizations behind Vets for Freedom"

One year later, their investigation has not progressed much (from the SourceWatch link):

A disclaimer on the bottom of each VFF web page states "Vets for Freedom is a nonpartisan, tax-exempt organization. Contributions are not deductible for federal income tax purposes."

Originally, the organization's precise tax status (501c3, 501c4, 527 committee) was not stated and virtually no information was available on the Vets for Freedom website about the funders and organizations behind Vets for Freedom, making it difficult to evaluate the degree to which the organization might have been part of a war propaganda campaign interacting with the Bush Administration, the Pentagon, the American Legion and/or other ideologically-driven public relations and lobbying efforts that have exploited for political purposes the issues of US war veterans and their families, such as Move America Forward and the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. [Not that SourceWatch, or their parent organization the Center for Media Democracy, would ever engage in propaganda by inuendo...!]

The truth: In other words, CMD has no information whatsoever indicating that VFF is funded by the Republican Party, or is a front for Richard Melon Scaife, or is even owned by that well-known proprietor of National Review Online, Bill Kristol.

But perhaps the very absence of evidence is sinister evidence of presence: After all, if VFF didn't have something to hide, why would they go to such extraordinary lengths to cover up all that evidence?


So what do we have here? CMD cannot prove that VFF is a "front group" of the GOP. They cannot demonstrate that VFF is partisan. They cannot even find anything funny about the funding.

CMD set out to discredit these war veterans, presumably on the grounds that nobody who had fought in Iraq and Afghanistan could possibly support those wars (they're all loser high-school dropouts stuk in Irak anyway). Instead, they proved the very point which we pro-war, right-leaning bloggers have been making for years: That Republicans care about the troops... and Democrats don't.

Bravo, CMD; kudos, SourceWatch... keep up the good work!

Hatched by Sachi on this day, July 23, 2007, at the time of 4:29 AM

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The following hissed in response by: rhkennerly

What 1st Lt Pete Hegseth of VFF needs to do is abandon his part-time National Guard post and join the regular fighting Army, the folks who have made 3 or 4 or 5 deployments to Iraq and where company grade officers like Hegseth are leaving in droves and are in extremely short supply. Let him fight and die for his beliefs like a real soldier, instead of standing on the sidelines writing articles.

BTW, Hegseth and VVF are a bit of ringer. Check out him and his organization at www.sourcewatch.org. Vets for Freedom is a completely GOP 527 front organization and has, as far as anyone can determine, very little active duty military membership (VFF won’t release a list of members, but donors and contributors are mostly republicans loyalists).

I heard a radio interview the other day with a Lt. Col. His assessment: “right force, right mix, too little, too late.”

That about says it all.

The above hissed in response by: rhkennerly [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 23, 2007 5:02 AM

The following hissed in response by: SlimGuy

Gee and then they call Move America Forward another Front Group

Sounds like they are stuck on stupid.

The above hissed in response by: SlimGuy [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 23, 2007 7:39 AM

The following hissed in response by: Fritz

Ah but Sachi, facts don't matter. Only the narrative matters as we have been told by those on the left. In their world Dan Rather was speaking a higher truth, as was Cindy Sheehan and I could go on, but you get the idea. In their world words mean what they want them to mean and therefore they can say anything they wish because they believe their hearts are pure and anyone who believes otherwise is evil. As Penelope Trunk said at the Huffington post, it doesn't matter that journalists misquote everyone because we each have our own truth. Obviously then, there can be never be any facts as each viewpoint produces new truths. In their world they can look at a decapitated body and say he is not dead because they don't want him to be dead, and that is their truth. They remind me of the jihadists in that anything can be twisted to support their goals, so it appears to me that both of those groups are unwilling to accept reality and instead have their own truths. It is their truth that Bill Kristol is part of the New Republic Online, and therefore he is. Of course for us mere mortals, that seems a little hard to swallow. It is their truth Iraq is lost, and that the U.S. Military is filled with despicable people who torture everyone and everything and run around killing everyone in sight. It is their truth that Bush lied to get us into war, and that the war is all about oil. After all, facts are what they want them to be, so how can you prove them wrong? Were the consequences not so tragic, the whole thing would be hilarious. After all, the community that claims to be reality based can't even come close to touching reality.

The above hissed in response by: Fritz [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 23, 2007 7:45 AM

The following hissed in response by: SlimGuy

CMD has their own issues about being essentially a front organization.

Read the bios on the site and you see Code Pink Affiliates , environmentalist types who live in houses made out of old card tires and aluminum cans and the list of their funding sources is also a hoot.

The above hissed in response by: SlimGuy [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 23, 2007 7:58 AM

The following hissed in response by: Sachi


I suggest you read my entry one more time, this time carefully. In case you did not know SourceWatch IS the Center for Media Democracy the very site I am sighting from! As for First Lt Hegseth’s credential, I suggest you check out Vets for Freedom site. It states the following:

First Lieutenant Pete Hegseth served in Iraq with the 3rd Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division for their deployment to Iraq from 2005-2006. Lt. Hegseth served as an infantry Platoon Leader in Baghdad during the nationwide elections in October and December 2005, and as a Civil-Military Operations officer in Samarra.

The above mentioned site also lists the members and their services in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The above hissed in response by: Sachi [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 23, 2007 8:31 AM

The following hissed in response by: Move America Forward

Thank you for such a great blog posting. The work you did to point out the fallacy of the attacks on Vets for Freedom is superb. I have seen one of your commenters, Rick Kennerly, trying to smear Lt. Hegseth all across the blogosphere - it's shameful and a disgrace. The other reason I'm here is to invite you and your readers to join us at Move America Forward as we launch our national, cross-country "Fight for Victory Tour" this September 3 - 15 ending in DC where we’ll have a rally with a collection of pro-troop groups including Vets for Freedom, Gathering of Eagles, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Free Republic, Protest Warriors and others. It’s a vital time for us to be mobilized and speaking out and it’s for such a just, worthy, noble, and pertinent cause. So let’s kick some butt and stand up to those who wish to force surrender terms upon our troops! (And yes, we at MAF are a real grassroots group which is why tens of thousands have turned out at our pro-troop rallies, much to the chagrin of the anti-military Left). More info on the upcoming big event: http://www.MoveAmericaForward.org

The above hissed in response by: Move America Forward [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 23, 2007 2:06 PM

The following hissed in response by: Baggi

Something to consider.

I havn't bothered to read it yet, but if there is a Wikipedia entry on VFF i'll bet it states the same things, or similar, as the group you quote above.

My point is that ive seen Dafydd link to Wikipedia before and I wish he wouldn't. It's a left wing controlled virtual rag.

Thanks for the great work you are doing here at Big Lizards, I really love reading articles like the one above. Very enlightening.

The above hissed in response by: Baggi [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 23, 2007 3:33 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


Baggi, we're all aware of the provenance of Wikipedia. However, there is nothing wrong with citing them on non-controversial issues. You don't want to throw out the wiki with the wikiwater.

But all this is irrelevant: If you go through this post and hover over the links, you will note that we did not use Wikipedia; we used the web sites we were discussing, whether CMD or SourcWatch (part of CMD), or VFF's site, Appeal for Redress, BlackFive, and Power Line.

I'm not sure why you bring up Wikipedia. What does it have to do with this post?


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 23, 2007 3:44 PM

The following hissed in response by: Terrye

They are going to Swift Boat them. I couldn't help myself.

Btw, if the regular army does not support the war, why are reenlistments up? This is a volunteer military and while I agree that the deployments are long and it is a strain on the troops and their families, I also know a lot of these soldiers are professionals, they are career military and they do their duty.

Besides, if the Democrats would stop supporting the enemy the whole damn thing might be over by now.

The above hissed in response by: Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 23, 2007 3:47 PM

The following hissed in response by: Rovin

Besides, if the Democrats would stop supporting the enemy the whole damn thing might be over by now.

Not just the Democrats Terrye. By their own admission the Grey Lady (NYT's) continues to contribute to the wrong side of the war effort:

"BAGHDAD, July 23 — While Washington is mired in political debate over the future of Iraq, the American command here has prepared a detailed plan that foresees a significant American role for the next two years.

The classified plan, which represents the coordinated strategy of the top American commander and the American ambassador, calls for restoring security in local areas, including Baghdad, by the summer of 2008. “Sustainable security” is to be established on a nationwide basis by the summer of 2009, according to American officials familiar with the document." LINK

Leaking publishing classified docs once again proves that the NYT's has their own agenda when it comes to national security with their discraceful tactics.

The above hissed in response by: Rovin [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 24, 2007 9:02 AM

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