Appeal For Courage

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Appeal For Courage (AFC) founder LT Jason Nichols announced November 3, 2006, on RightNation.US that he was on his way to Iraq and had "created a site where active duty military can (legally) express political support for our mission and oppose calls for retreat."

Nichols continued:

"It was motivated by www.appealforredress.org, a left-wing attempt to get active duty military to oppose our efforts in Iraq.
"I don't think the media is going to publicize the site, so if one of you could start a topic on it (I just registered, I've been a freeper & hadn't seen this site before) to help spread the word, I'd appreciate it. This is my 2nd (& last) post on this, I thought this topic was particularly relevant."

On February 13, 2007, Nichols again announced the launch of the website as "an Appeal For Redress in support of our mission in Iraq." The AFC announcement was cross-posted at Free Republic.

AFC states that it is "an authorized means for active duty military to submit a grievance to Congress", "authorized" by U.S. Department of Defense by "Guidelines for Handling Dissident and Protest Activities Among Members of the Armed Forces", DoD Directive 1325.6 (pdf), and "Military Whistleblower Protection", DoD Directive 7050.6 (pdf), and "can be signed by Active Duty, Reserve, or National Guard military personnel." [1]

AFC describes itself as a "non-partisan, grass-roots effort to communicate to Congress the troops' desire to remain in Iraq until our mission is complete." Appeal for Courage "feels calls to retreat embolden our enemy and hurt our support within the American public and Iraqi people."

Counter Effort to AppealforRedress.org

According to an April 23, 2007, opinion piece by W. Thomas Smith, Jr., a recent embedded reporter in Iraq [2], published by the National Review Online, U.S. Navy LT Jason Nichols said that Appeal For Courage (AppealforCourage.org) is "also a counter-effort to antiwar AppealforRedress.org." [3]

Nichols compared AFC to Appeal for Redress: [4]

"[as] of this writing, AppealforCourage.org, has received 2,172 signatures. AppealforRedress.org, has received 1,855. It's not a lot of signatures for either group relative to the size of the U.S. armed forces. But as Nichols explains, 'Appeal for Redress has received quite a bit more media exposure than Appeal for Courage, and we've exceeded their number of signatures in a third of the time it took them to collect theirs.'
"Appeal for Courage has been collecting signatures since mid-February 2007. Appeal for Redress has been gathering signatures since October 2006.
"'They’ve also received quite a bit of funding,' says Nichols. 'They’ve hired a professional advertising group. They've appeared in a bunch of newspapers, and were featured on 60 Minutes.'
"He adds, 'Redress is also paying for about four different caravans that drive around to bases, park outside, and get people to sign.'
"Not so for Appeal for Courage. 'We're just word of mouth,' says Nichols. 'Most people in the military haven't heard of us.'"

Nichols, Scripps Howard News Service correspondent Joe Garofoli wrote April 7, 2007, said that "The limited expression of anti-war support among the military 'just shows that the overwhelming majority of guys are in favor of the mission in Iraq..."

Website

The domain name APPEALFORCOURAGE.ORG was registered on October 25, 2006, to Jason Nichols, U.S. Navy, at his military address—Multi-National Force-Iraq—in Baghdad, Iraq, via Dotster, Inc. Nichols is also the technical and administrative contact for the domain.

Around the "Right-Wing" echo chamber

Appeal for help with the "Appeal"

On February 22, 2007, Dave Wylie ("Gunner") at the Target Centermass Blog wrote that he had received the following in an email request:

Hello from Baghdad.
I and a Vietnam vet friend of mine have launched a new site, AppealForCourage.org which allows active duty military to (legally) tell Congress and the media that they should support our mission, and that their criticism does hurt our morale while emboldening our enemies.
This site is partly in response to the leftist site AppealForRedress ... It was created by a big money group and given a free pass by the media. I don’t have any money for advertising, and I don’t expect the media to help.
If you folks could help publicize it in other websites and to your military friends, I think we could get thousands of signatures and have an impact at this crucial juncture in the war. Thank-you for your help.
V/r,
LT Jason Nichols, USN
MNF-I, Baghdad

The same email appeal was received March 7, 2007, by Talk Show America, a Townhall.com Blog.

Right-wing blogosphere and online media

During February and March 2007, right-wing and conservative bloggers, including Old War Dogs Blog (members of which have been involved with Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and participated with Gathering of Eagles on March 17, 2007); Rolling Thunder Blog (likewise involved with Gathering of Eagles); Right In a Left World; and Power Line Blog, among many others, and online media—such as Pajamas Media [5]; The Weekly Standard [6]; Hugh Hewitt at Townhall.com [7]; and MensNewsDaily.com [8]—quickly circulated AFC's "Appeal" on the internet during February and March 2007.

Gathering of Eagles

Gathering of Eagles—closely affiliated with Swift Boat Veterans for Truth—is ostensibly a group set up to protect the Vietnam Memorial Wall and other war memorials, but which functioned as a counter-protest group during the March 17, 2007, Washington D.C. March on the Pentagon rally against the war in Iraq.

On March 20, 2007, Gathering of Eagles posted on its website the "Statement of Support from Appeal For Courage" signed by SGT Dave Thul and LT Jason Nichols of AppealForCourage.org.

On March 30, 2007, LT Jason Nichols participated in an interview with Gathering of Eagles.

Additionally, Nichols' April 21, 2007 "Open Letter to Senator Reid on His Declaration of Defeat," originally posted on Gathering of Eagles' website, was reposted by Free Republic.

Michelle Malkin

On April 19, 2007, after Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) "proclaimed the Iraq War 'lost', U.S. Navy Lt. Jason Nichols was e-mailing Michelle Malkin from his office in Baghdad with a message for Reid," W. Thomas Smith, Jr. reported in National Review Online.

Malkin, a conservative nationally-syndicated columnist with Creators Syndicate, had written on her blog: "Active-duty military readers and military bloggers: If you'd like to send a message to the treacherous Harry Reid--who just declared the war in Iraq lost today--e-mail me or leave a trackback."

Malkin subsequently posted a link to AFC's Appeal on her website.

National Republican Senatorial Committee

Scripps News Service reported in an April 26, 2007, article that Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) "would not criticize the recent assertion by his state's Democratic colleague, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, that the Iraq war 'is lost,' which Reid followed up by stating that the war 'can only be won diplomatically, politically, and economically'," Media Matters for America reported April 30, 2007.

"The article noted that the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which Ensign heads, recently released an 'Internet advertisement that used Reid's words to campaign against Senate Democrats up for reelection in 2008.' Scripps asserted that the ad features 'written comments from U.S. troops' and then uncritically reported the claim by an NRSC spokeswoman that the comments were taken from letters 'sent to a blogger who asked troops to write in to tell the majority leader how they felt about his comment'," Media Matters wrote.

The article failed to mention that "the 'blogger' the NRSC spokeswoman referred to is right-wing pundit Michelle Malkin or that two of the five quotes used in the ad came from letters sent to Malkin signed by one person who included only a first name and another who used only initials. The other two identified themselves as 'LT Jason Nichols, USN' (who was quoted twice in the ad) and 'SPC Matthew S Gangwer'." [9]

The Scripps Howard article also reported that "one of the quotes from the ad read: 'To be brief, your words are killing us.' However, it did not mention that the quote came from Nichols, according to Malkin's weblog."

GOP.gov

In his April 27, 2007, radio address, posted at GOP.gov, the website of the House Republican Conference, Rep. Adam Putnam (R-Fla.) regarding Senator Reid's remarks, said:

U.S. Navy Lieutenant Jason Nichols wrote of Harry Reid's remarks, saying, Your words are killing us. Your statements make the Iraqis afraid to help us for fear we'll leave them unprotected in the future.
That is simply unacceptable. Lieutenant Nichols' message reminds us why it is well past time for Washington Democrats to put aside political rhetoric and work with Republicans to ensure that our troops have not just the funding they need, but the support and strength they deserve.

Human Events Online

On April 30, 2007, the conservative online publication HumanEvents.com (web) published LT Jason Nichols' article "An Appeal for Courage," which was reposted on numerous conservative blogs.

Presenting the Petition to Congress ... to the Republicans

On May 9, 2007, acting on behalf of LT Nichols and SSG Thul who are stationed in Iraq, representatives of Veterans of Foreign Wars will present a petition "signed by 2,700 current and former service members in support of continuing U.S. combat operations in Iraq will be turned over to two Republican lawmakers"—Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), the House Republican leader, and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee—in a ceremony at VFW headquarters, Rick Maze reported in the Army Times, Marine Corps Times, Air Force Times, and Navy Times.

"About 60 percent of the 2,700 signatures on the Appeal For Courage petition come from service members who are serving or have served in Iraq, with about two-thirds enlisted members and one-third officers. The signatures were gathered over about a month," Maze wrote.

Boehner and Graham will "use the event as another opportunity to criticize Democrats who control the House and Senate for trying to impose a withdrawal timetable on Iraq combat operations," Maze wrote.

SSG Thul added May 9, 2007, in his Foreign and Domestic Blog that also attending the VFW presentation would be Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Geo.), Republican Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), and Chief Deputy Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.)

Thul also stated that "the number of signers continues upward, 2835 as of 21:30 Iraq time."

According to Fox News, VFW Executive Director Bob Wallace personally handed the petition "signed by 2,755 current and former troops who say they believed full funding of the Iraq war is the only way to defeat terrorists and prevent them from attacking U.S. soil again" to House Minority Leader John Boehner and Senator Lindsey Graham.

The Weekly, an Atlanta, Georgia-area newspaper, reported May 9, 2007, that U.S. Senators Graham and Boehner were joined by Senators Saxby Chambliss, Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), Eric Cantor and U.S. Representative Adam Putnam (R-Fla.).

2,700 Signatures

The claim of 2,700 signatures in "over about a month" [10] is inaccurate. LT Nichols made his first effort to gather support in his November 3, 2006, RightNation.US posting and made a second call February 13, 2007, on AFC's website and through Free Republic.

It would appear that AFC gathered steam through the FR posting, as on February 23, 2007, SSG Thul reported there were 900 signatures. On February 26, 2007, the announcement circulated on right-wing blogs and forums the benchmark of 1,000 signatures had been reached.

On March 18, 2007, SSG Thul reported through Powerline Blog that he had joined with LT Nichols and "Thus far we have just over 1650 signatures, so we should soon surpass the anti war petition that has garnered so much attention in the MSM."

On March 20, 2007, ROK Drop Blog reported that AFC had 1,730 signatures. On April 23, 2007, Post Scripts Blog reported 2,172 and, on April 28, 2007, ROK Drop Blog reported a total of 2,608.

These numbers taken into perspective present another picture. On background, the following is according to a March 2007 report by the Center for American Progress:

  • 1.4 million military (Army and other service) troops have served in Iraq or Afghanistan
  • 650,000 Army soldiers have been deployed to these countries
  • More than 420,000 troops have deployed more than once
  • 170,000 Army soldiers have been deployed more than once
  • 169,558 Marines have deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan more than once
  • More than 410,000 National Guard and Reservists have been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan since 2001, for an average of 18 months per mobilization; of these, more than 84,000 have been deployed more than once

Based on these figures, AFC's 2,700 reported signatures cannot be taken seriously as representative of those who are currently serving or who have served in Iraq.

Additionally, of the 2,700 reported signatures, only 60% or approximately 1,650 were those of "service members who are serving or have served in Iraq". A further breakdown shows "about two-thirds enlisted members"—approximately 1,100—and "one-third officers"—approximately 550. The identity of the remaining 40% is unknown.

1,650 out of 1.4 million is, statistically speaking, insignificant, representing only .11785% of the troops who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Vets for Freedom

Organizational supporters include Vets for Freedom, now known as Vets for Freedom Action Fund, a 527 committee national lobby managed by Republican public relations, media, legal, and political consultants, including former White House spokesman Taylor Gross, to defeat candidates who advocate an end to the US occupation of Iraq.

Petition: Appeal for Redress

Paul Bedard reported May 6, 2007, at U.S. News & World Report's Washington Whispers that, according to Nichols, AFC had "collected nearly 3,000 signatures and will deliver them to Congress this week. 'I ... think we're winning the fight in Iraq on the ground,' says Nichols, but frets over losing the political battle in Washington. 'It's the responsibility of the military to prevent that.'"

AFC states that its "primary purpose is to offer military members a chance to submit to Congress our desire for Victory in Iraq, and halt calls for retreat. It is also intended to express the damage done to our efforts by those calls for retreat." [11]

Active duty, reservist or national guard members of the military are encouraged to sign the following appeal, which is to be delivered to members of Congress: [12]

"As an American currently serving my nation in uniform, I respectfully urge my political leaders in Congress to fully support our mission in Iraq and halt any calls for retreat. I also respectfully urge my political leaders to actively oppose media efforts which embolden my enemy while demoralizing American support at home. The War in Iraq is a necessary and just effort to bring freedom to the Middle East and protect America from further attack."

Appeal For Courage Committee

The following are listed as members of the AFC Committee:

  • LT Jason Nichols, USN: "a Navy Information Professional officer currently stationed in Baghdad, Iraq."
  • SSGT David Thul, MNARNG: "currently serving with the 34th Infantry Division, conducting convoy operations in Iraq. He has received the Combat Infantry Badge and was recently extended 125 days in support of surge operations."
Note: SSG Thul joined AFC in March 2007. [13]
  • Larry Vandergriff, USA (Retired): "a retired Explosive Ordnance Disposal vet who served in Vietnam as a Specialist in Vietnam."

Supporting Organizations

The following organizations are listed as AFC supporting organizations:

Funding

AFC states on its website that it "accept[s] no funding from any source, and do[es] not speak for any group or organization other than those military members who have signed the Appeal."

Contact Information

Appeal For Courage
PO Box 7015
Bloomington, IN 47407
Web: http://www.appealforcourage.org
Email: committee AT appealforcourage.org

Note: Information on AFC activities can also be found on SSG Thul's Foreign and Domestic Blog.

Resources and articles

Related SourceWatch articles

References


External articles

By Appeal For Courage

Interviews with Appeal For Courage

  • Video, Fox News, February 22, 2007: Nichols "[t]alks to 'Your World with Neil Cavuto' about spearheading a petition to allow service members to stay in country until Iraqi and Afghan Security Forces are competent enough to defend their respective country." Also see YouTube link.
  • Casey, "I Introduce You To Iraqnophobia," Needs of the Many Blogspot, April 20, 2007.

About Appeal For Courage