LINDEN, N.J. – Former Marine, Adam Kokesh got his start as an activist shortly after returning from Iraq, where he joined Iraq Veterans Against War. He spoke in rallies, protests, self-produced videos, and even made national headlines for interrupting John McCains’s acceptance speech at the 2008 Republican National Convention. Needless to say, Kokesh is well versed on the societal damages of war and has plenty of practice communicating such a touchy subject. So, when a fellow veteran angrily confronts him in the basement of a New Jersey bar for as much as criticizing the military, he handles the situation like very few could.
As part of The American Campfire Freedom Tour, Kokesh was wrapping a stop in Linden, New Jersey when “a posse of angry young men came down the stairs, blocking [his] way out.” According to the video, one of the servers at the bar upstairs overheard a line in his speech, which prompted him to send his “big Iraq veteran” buddy downstairs to challenge Kokesh to a fight.
The video begins by showing a group of men surrounding Kokesh, the largest of which wants to fight.
“If you have something bad to say about the year and a half that I spent there (Iraq), by all means we can discuss it outside.”
Kokesh, surprised that a large, angry, former cop is threatening violence over some words in a speech, simply asks the guy if that would make him feel good–to beat someone up over some intellectual conversation, mostly based moral principles.
The angry veteran, clearly still fired up about words that he didn’t actually hear, gives Kokesh an ultimatum.
“If you have something bad to say, as you did earlier, then you can say it now as a fucking man, and go ahead.”
Kokesh responds very calmly by explaining that the military is funded by taxation, which by definition is theft and that as a people we could achieve greater things with voluntary actions opposed to violence. You could almost hear the wind deflating out of the bully’s sail as he realizes that Kokesh is well armed with truth and communication skills.
“Well how else do you expect governments to pay for everything that goes on?” the now calmer bully asked.
“I don’t.” Kokesh reponded.
The conversation then transitioned to both men’s service. Obviously, the angry vet wanted to prove how tough he was by proving that his military service was somehow more valuable then that of Kokesh’s. However, Kokesh quickly brought the conversation back to it’s original intent. “This isn’t really a contest of who has the bigger dick, dude. This is a conversation that you brought up about the of the military.”
The angry vet still threatens that if anyone disrespects the military, he was going to have a problem. However, Kokesh clarifies that he didn’t believe it was disrespect, rather an important intellectual criticism to realize that most recruits are lied to in order to join the military. This was the turning point in the conversation, as Kokesh must have hit chord with the man, as he agreed. He “agreed 100%” with that. Kokesh then took over the conversation and out powered the man with pure intellectual honesty.
“We’re taken advantage of. It’s always poor men dying in rich men’s wars. Why is that? Because they take advantage of us.”
Kokesh literally flipped the script on this man, to remove the emotional aspects and the ego that go along with the collective mentality of the military and found common ground to where they could both agree, they were lied to.
After a few minutes of civil conversation, and a quick education on what liberty actually is, and is not, the man conceded, “then I have no problem with you.”
A situation that started out as a confrontational mess, ended with a handshake and good feelings all around. When Kokesh asked if he wanted a sticker, the man initially refused. However, the video states that Kokesh later sought out the man and shook his hand again, and offered his book and sticker.
“I can’t fault you for being lied to, but I can say that it’s cowardly to avoid the truth now that it’s in front of you.”