WEST CHESTER, PA. — Silicon Valley’s selective censorship of news stories isn’t limited to just the U.S. presidential election. YouTube and Google platforms are violating the free speech rights of Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans who organized BringOurTroopsHome.US by refusing to allow online promotion of our video honoring a U.S. Marine two-time Medal of Honor recipient and urging an end to U.S. military involvement in “endless wars” in the Middle East.
Dan McKnight, a Marine and U.S. Army veteran who served with the Idaho Army National Guard in Afghanistan and founded the veterans group BringOurTroopsHome.US, said the 13-minute video recorded Monday at the grave site of Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler, USMC, marking the 19th anniversary of the first U.S. troops landing in Afghanistan in 2001, is being “censored” by YouTube and Google, which he accused of erroneously labeling the video “election year advertising.”
“YouTube and Google censors are clearly violating our free speech rights,” McKnight said, “the very thing General Butler and every other American who’s worn the uniform swore an oath and was willing to fight to protect. We’ll fight to protect those rights in court now if necessary.”
“Our video praises Gen. Butler for his condemnation of American corporations who make money off U.S. service members’ blood, sweat, and tears, and features veterans calling for an end to the endless trillion-dollar wars in the Middle East,” McKnight said. “The video makes no mention of the 2020 election, and there’s not one word of ‘express advocacy’—as recently defined by the U.S. Supreme Court—expressing support or opposition to any candidate for public office.”
“That means there’s no defensible rationale for refusing to allow us to pay to promote our video, except that YouTube and Google speech suppressors are engaging in outright censorship of our views—and under false pretenses—simply because they don’t like the content of our message calling on politicians of both parties to bring our troops home, a plea that public opinion polls find is supported by the overwhelming majority of Americans, military personnel, and veterans,” McKnight said.
“This is a clear case of viewpoint discrimination, plain and simple,” McKnight said, “and those of us who’ve fought for our country and Constitutional rights before aren’t afraid to fight for them again now if necessary, this time in American courtrooms instead of on foreign battlefields.”
McKnight said after YouTube blocked his attempt to purchase online promotion of the video, he asked Bill Hillman of Mohawk Public Affairs, a Pennsylvania public relations consultant who is certified to post “political” advertisements, to try boosting the video. Hillman was also refused.
McKnight said the group’s attorney will be sending a letter to YouTube and Google this week, demanding they stop blocking the video.
The video depicts McKnight and other speakers Oct. 19th at the West Chester, Pa., gravesite of the late Marine war hero, who after his retirement in the 1930s traveled the country promoting his book War is a Racket and calling for the U.S. to return to its policy of non-intervention in other countries’ civil wars.
McKnight was joined by Maj. Danny Sjursen (Ret.), an Iraq war veteran and former Military History instructor at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and author of the book Patriotic Dissent, Diego Rivera, an Iraq war veteran, and Scott Horton, author of the book Fool’s Errand, a critique of the two-decade old War on Terror.
In the video, the speakers were equally critical of politicians in both parties who’ve supported continuation of U.S. troop involvement in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and other Middle Eastern countries.
Sjursen said after two decades, many Americans have grown “numb” to Middle Eastern wars, blaming their continuation on “a bipartisan enterprise…certain Republicans, it’s a lot of the Democrats, which some people might not assume.”
“We see the absurd situation where all of the Democrats and many of the Republicans are cutting off the funds to end the war because they don’t like the person ending it,” Sjursen said, “and it really doesn’t matter what you think about the individual person, that seems pretty obscene.”
“I’m glad to be just a small part of the urgency this group is bringing together,” he said, “the big tent aspect…it’s not black white, it’s not red blue, it’s the nation.”
Horton said President Jimmy Carter’s administration worked with Afgan mujahideen to bleed the former Soviet Union of its military personnel and resources in a long drawn out guerrilla war in Afghanistan, a strategy continued during the Reagan Administration and one he said Osama Bin Laden openly admitted he was trying to repeat with the U.S. military now.
McKnight criticized former President Bush for expanding the Afghanistan war beyond—as authorized by Congress—specifically killing those who planned, authorized, committed, aided, or harbored those who attacked the U.S. in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 1, 2001.
McKnight said President Trump in 2016 campaigned on and probably won the election based on his pledge to “end the endless wars,” and he cited comments by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim Risch, R-Id., who appears in another BringOurTroopsHome.US video that has not been blocked by YouTube, in which Risch seemed to declare a dramatic change in U.S. foreign policy when he told a business group in Boise last year that he is “tired of nation building.”
McKnight said conservative and liberal Americans are uniting in opposition to “the neocons and liberal war hawks who keep us in perpetual and endless wars,” criticizing prominent figures in both parties. “America is repudiating the war hawks John Bolton, Liz Cheney, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry,” McKnight said in the video.
But now, in addition to fighting the military industrial complex to achieve the group’s goal of bringing U.S. troops home from endless wars, McKnight and his fellow veterans are preparing to fight tech giants in Silicon Valley as well just to protect their right to be heard.