My name is Ronn Cantu. I publicly protested the Iraq War as an active-duty soldier. Ask me anything about dissenting while on active duty and pushing the limits of free speech under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Hi y'all. My name is Ronn Cantu and I publicly spoke out against the Iraq War while on active duty with the United States Army. I was threatened with legal charges, received death threats, someone online even called me fat :'(
At the time, they told us we were fighting for freedom but I thought that was a bald-faced lie. More than fifteen years later and law enforcement all over the country has proved it was. They told us that it was better to fight the terrorists "over there rather than over here" and now look where we are.
In 2006, I couldn't convince other soldiers that the rights I was flexing were their rights too.
This past week, an Army regional commander--a 4-star general--sent an email to everyone under his command an affirmation that soldiers do have the right to "participate in off-post demonstrations in the United States when they are off-duty, out of uniform, when their activities do not constitute a breach of law and order and when violence is not likely to result."
The general went on to specify "My general order prohibits social and recreational gatherings. I do not view those who want to exercise their first amendment rights as engaged in a social or recreational gathering. "
This. Is. Huge. The general is tacitly giving all soldiers under his command permission to take to the streets in order to speak directly to their civilian leadership!
The general is obviously correct but his email didn't go far enough. In addition to having the right to participate in off-post demonstrations, active-duty servicemembers have the right to speak to media and voice their dissent provided they don't use slanderous language against anyone high up in their chain-of-command (anyone with stars on their uniform or "secretary" in their title and definitely not the Commander-in-Chief).
I will caveat this to mention that the Army picks and chooses the charges it brings forward. I did a radio interview with an active-duty soldier who absolutely called George W. Bush and Dick Cheney "liars" and I'm friends with an active-duty NCO who publicly spoke out against the war IN UNIFORM. Neither were punished.
In the interview I talk about in the below clip, I was not off-duty, nor out-of-uniform, nor off-post, and I wasn't punished.
All of us were honorably discharged.
These are the times when heroes identify themselves and right now the country could use a hero if not a thousand.
Ask me anything! :)
The following list is not exhaustive. I talked to any journalist who would listen; LA Times, Houston Chronicle, BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation). Those were probably some of the biggest outlets plus a myriad of smaller ones.
60 Minutes - GIs Petition Congress to End Iraq War - The one that got me and IMDB credit and body shamed. In the weeks leading up to my second deployment, I was eating all the fast food I knew I wouldn't be able to for the next year. I'm not sorry. Not even a little bit.
Future of GI Resistance - I wasn't scheduled to speak on this panel. I happened to be present when the original speaker threw a tantrum and quit. I was asked if I wanted to speak and said sure! I went before a live, international audience with nothing prepared. The story about my captain having to call me back into her office to rescind her order is 100% true.