An op-ed appeared in Thursday’s Wall Street Journal bearing the title “A Fifth Star for David Petraeus“. The byline for the op-ed lists Pete Hegseth and Wade Zirkle and the Journal provides this “description” of their association at the bottom of the piece: “Messrs. Hegseth and Zirkle are directors at Vets for Freedom. Mr. Hegseth served in Iraq with the 101st Airborne Division and will deploy to Afghanistan in 2011. Mr. Zirkle served two deployments to Iraq as a Marine infantry officer and is a recipient of the Purple Heart.” The Journal provides no further information on Vets for Freedom. Thursday night, Pouting Baby gave us the description of Vets for Freedom off their website:
Vets for Freedom is a nonpartisan organization established by combat veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Our mission is to educate the American public about the importance of achieving success in these conflicts by applying our first-hand knowledge to issues of American strategy and tactics in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Vets for Freedom PAC is a Political Action Committee whose mission is to help candidates-mostly combat veterans-who believe in achieving success in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the overall War on Terrorism, get elected to the United States Congress and other Federal positions.
Digging a little further, I note that Vets for Freedom places Republican Allen West at the top of their list of candidates they supported in the 2010 elections. Bragging about getting such a deranged person elected to Congress tells me a lot about where this group is coming from.
But there is much more. SourceWatch has a very long, highly documented portrait of Vets for Freedom, which includes this pithy, one-sentence summation:
It was, in essence, a Republican front group managed by Republican-affiliated 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.
When he provided testimony against confirmation of Elena Kagan for the Supreme Court, Mother Jones provided this description of Hegseth:
Finally, there’s Pete Hegseth, the former Bear Stearns banker and head of the Republican-friendly political action committee Vets for Freedom, whose way through Princeton was paid by the anti-gay Family Research Council. While a student, he started the Princeton Tory, a conservative school paper funded with thousands of dollars from national right-wing groups, including the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, Leadership Institute, and YAF. Hegseth used the Tory’s pages to attack “atheist public schools” while advocating spanking and “a return of the acceptability of the ‘homemaker’ vocation.” He also called the National Organization for Women “a radical, leftist, feminist organization” and, for a would-be Army civil affairs officer, did a really poor job of predicting success in Iraq in late 2002:
I believe, if done correctly, eliminating Saddam and liberating Iraq could be the ‘Normandy Invasion’ or ‘fall of the Berlin Wall’ of our generation…the Iraqi people are eager to be rid of Saddam, and there is equally encouraging evidence that republican principles could thrive there.
In 2008, Hegseth pulled down a $100,000 base salary as the head of Vets for Freedom. Tax filings from that election year also show his “nonpartisan” group has deep GOP ties, paying out hundreds of thousands of dollars to right-wing consultants, including one lobby group connected to former Republican senator Bill Frist, the Bush-Cheney campaigns, and Frank Donatelli, the treasurer of Youngblood’s YAF.
In a glowing profile of him at Power Line, we learn more about Hegseth when they quote a newspaper column by Katherine Kersten:
At Princeton, Hegseth joined ROTC and the National Guard. But the opportunity to serve came sooner than he expected. In March 2004, three days after he started at Bear Stearns — and three weeks after he married Meredith Schwarz, his high school sweetheart — he was called up.
Hegseth was sent to the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The SourceWatch article also contained the White House photo you see above, where Pete Hegseth is closest to George W. Bush. The photo was taken on July 20, 2007. In a very interesting coincidence, that is also the date that George W. Bush signed Executive Order 13440, which provided a “new” interpretation of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions and has been described as allowing “harsh” interrogations.
Isn’t that interesting? On the day a former Guantanamo guard (who later would go on to help a elect a former torturer to Congress) visits him, Bush signs an Executive Order that re-starts torture.
To see a little bit of Hegseth in action catapulting the propaganda on Iraq, here is a very low resolution YouTube posted by Vets for Freedom of Hegseth appearing with Glenn Beck during the 2008 “National Heroes Tour” that Vets for Freedom organized to gin up support for the Iraq War:
As for Wade Zirkle, he doesn’t appear much better. Here’s a happy picture of him with Gordon Liddy.
Is Vets for Freedom preparing to support David Petraeus as a candidate for President? Shouldn’t the Wall Street Journal have mentioned that Vets for Freedom supports candidates for office who are veterans and support “victory” in Iraq and Afghanistan?