Operation Vigilant Eagle: Is This Really How We Honor Our Nation’s Veterans?

By John W. Whitehead

Just in time for Memorial Day, we’re being treated to a generous serving of praise and grandstanding by politicians, corporations and others with similarly self-serving motives eager to go on record as being pro-military. Patriotic platitudes aside, however, America has done a deplorable job of caring for her veterans. We erect monuments for those who die while serving in the military, yet for those who return home, there’s little honor to be found.

Despite the fact that the U.S. boasts more than 23 million veterans who have served in World War II through Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan, the plight of veterans today, while often overlooked, is common knowledge: impoverished, unemployed, lacking any decent health benefits, homeless, traumatized mentally and physically, struggling with depression, thoughts of suicide, marital stress.

Making matters worse, thanks to Operation Vigilant Eagle, a program launched by the Department of Homeland Security in 2009, military veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are also being characterized as extremists and potential domestic terrorist threats because they may be “disgruntled, disillusioned or suffering from the psychological effects of war.” As a result, these servicemen and women—many of whom are decorated—are finding themselves under surveillance, threatened with incarceration or involuntary commitment, or arrested, all for daring to voice their concerns about the alarming state of our union and the erosion of our freedoms.

The case of 26-year-old decorated Marine Brandon Raub is a prime example of the government’s war on veterans.

Raub’s case exposes the seedy underbelly of a governmental system that is targeting Americans—especially military veterans—for expressing their discontent over America’s rapid transition to a police state.

On Thursday, August 16, 2012, a swarm of local police, Secret Service and FBI agents arrived at Raub’s home, asking to speak with him about posts he had made on his Facebook page made up of song lyrics, political opinions and dialogue used in a political thriller virtual card game. Among the posts cited as troublesome were lyrics to a song by the rap group Swollen Members and Raub’s views, shared increasingly by a number of Americans, that the 9/11 terrorist attacks were an inside job.

After a brief conversation and without providing any explanation, levying any charges against Raub or reading him his rights, law enforcement officials then handcuffed Raub and transported him first to the police headquarters, then to a medical center, where he was held against his will due to alleged concerns that his Facebook posts were “terrorist in nature.” Outraged onlookers filmed the arrest and posted the footage to YouTube, where it quickly went viral. Meanwhile, The Rutherford Institute came to Raub’s assistance, which combined with heightened media attention, may have helped prevent Raub from being successfully “disappeared” by the government.

In a hearing on August 20, government officials pointed to Raub’s Facebook posts as the sole reason for their concern and for his continued incarceration. Ignoring Raub’s explanations about the fact that the Facebook posts were being read out of context, Raub was sentenced to up to 30 days’ further confinement in a psychiatric ward. While in the psych ward, Raub reported being interrogated by medical staff about his views about the government and threatened by a doctor with brainwashing. Raub’s legal team, provided by The Rutherford Institute, immediately began petitioning the courts for his release.

On August 23, Circuit Court Judge Allan Sharrett declared the government’s case to be lacking in factual allegations and ordered Raub immediately released. However, for the tens of thousands of individuals detained—wrongfully or otherwise—under civil commitment laws every year, regaining their freedom is nearly impossible, predicated as it is on a bureaucratic legal and judicial system.

Within days of Raub being seized at his Virginia home on August 16, 2012, and forcibly held in a VA psych ward, news reports started surfacing of other veterans having similar experiences.

That the government is using the charge of mental illness as the means by which to immobilize (and disarm) these veterans is diabolically brilliant. With one stroke of a magistrate’s pen, these service men are being declared mentally ill, locked away against their will, and stripped of their constitutional rights.

Make no mistake, these returning veterans are being positioned as enemy number one by government officials with a penchant for endless wars. Does anyone else find it heartbreaking and ironic that we raise our young people on a steady diet of violence and military action, sell them on the idea that defending freedom abroad by serving in the military is their patriotic duty, then when they return home, bruised and battle-scarred and suddenly serious about defending their freedoms at home, we treat them like criminals?

Brandon Raub understands this all too well. While still serving with the Marines in Afghanistan in November 2011, Raub put pen to paper in order to flesh out some of his concerns about the dismantling of freedom in America. His concerns echo those of countless Americans like myself dismayed at the nation’s descent into authoritarianism:

America has lost itself. We have lost who we truly are… They are controlling your media. They have dumbed you down through your school systems. They have systematically dismantled the constitution. It is in rags. The bill of rights is being systematically dismantled. Men have spilled their blood for those rights. Your sons and daughters, your brothers and sisters, and America’s best young men and women are losing their limbs. They are losing their lives. They are losing the hearts. They do not know why they are fighting. They are killing. And they do not know why. They have done some extraordinary acts. Their deeds go before them. But these wars are lies. They are lies. They deceived our entire nation with terrorism. They have gotten us to hand them our rights… We gave them the keys to our country. We were not vigilant with our republic. There is hope. BUT WE MUST TAKE OUR REPUBLIC BACK.

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. He can be contacted at johnw@rutherford.org. Information about the Institute is available at http://www.rutherford.org.

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