US Army splits with West Point grad who touted communist revolt

Spenser Rapone raises his left fist while displaying a sign inside his hat that reads “Communism will win,” after graduating from the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. (AP)
Updated 21 June 2018
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US Army splits with West Point grad who touted communist revolt

  • “I would encourage all soldiers who have a conscience to lay down their arms and join me and so many others who are willing to stop serving the agents of imperialism and join us in a revolutionary movement”
  • Less than a year after Rapone’s images drew a firestorm of vitriol and even death threats, the second lieutenant who became known as the “commie cadet” is officially out of the US Army with an other-than-honorable discharge

WATERTOWN, New York: The images Spenser Rapone posted on Twitter from his West Point graduation were intentionally shocking: In one, the cadet opens his dress uniform to expose a T-shirt with a blood-red image of socialist icon Che Guevara. In another, he raises his fist and flips his cap to reveal the message: “Communism will win.”
Less than a year after Rapone’s images drew a firestorm of vitriol and even death threats, the second lieutenant who became known as the “commie cadet” is officially out of the US Army with an other-than-honorable discharge.
Top brass at Fort Drum accepted Rapone’s resignation Monday after an earlier reprimand for “conduct unbecoming of an officer.” Rapone said an investigation found he went online to advocate for a socialist revolution and disparage high-ranking officers. Officially, the Army said in a statement only that it conducted a full investigation and “appropriate action was taken.”
An unrepentant Rapone summed up the fallout in yet another tweet Monday that showed him extending a middle finger at a sign at the entrance to Fort Drum, accompanied by the words, “One final salute.”
“I consider myself a revolutionary socialist,” the 26-year-old Rapone told The Associated Press. “I would encourage all soldiers who have a conscience to lay down their arms and join me and so many others who are willing to stop serving the agents of imperialism and join us in a revolutionary movement.”
Rapone said his journey to communism grew out of his experiences as an Army Ranger in Afghanistan before he was accepted into the U.S. Military Academy. And those views only hardened during his studies of history as one of the academy’s “Long Gray Line.”
He explained that he took the offending selfies at his May 2016 West Point graduation ceremony and kept them to himself until last September, when he tweeted them in solidarity with NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who was taking heat for kneeling for the national anthem to raise awareness of racism. Many other military personnel also tweeted in favor of Kaepernick, although most were supporting free speech, not communism.
West Point released a statement after Rapone posted the photos, saying his actions “in no way reflect the values of the U.S. Military Academy or the U.S. Army.” And U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, called on the secretary of the Army to remove Rapone from the officer ranks.
“While in uniform, Spenser Rapone advocated for communism and political violence, and expressed support and sympathy for enemies of the United States,” Rubio said Monday, adding “I’m glad to see that they have given him an ‘other-than-honorable’ discharge.”
One of six children growing up in New Castle, Pennsylvania, Rapone said he applied to West Point, which is tuition-free, because he couldn’t afford college. He was nominated out of high school by then-U.S. Rep. Jason Altmire in 2010.
“He was an honors student, an athlete, a model citizen who volunteered in the community,” recalled Altmire, a Democrat. “During the interview, he expressed patriotism and looked just like a top-notch candidate. There were no red flags of any kind.”
But he wasn’t accepted to West Point, so Rapone enlisted in the Army. He was deployed to Afghanistan in 2011 and was assigned as an assistant machine gunner in Khost Province.
“We were bullies in one of the poorest countries on Earth,” Rapone said. “We have one of the most technologically advanced militaries of all time and all we were doing is brutalizing and invading and terrorizing a population that had nothing to do with what the United States claimed was a threat.”
Toward the end of his deployment, he learned West Point fulfills a certain quota of enlisted soldiers every year. Despite his growing disillusionment about the military, he applied and got in.
“I was still idealistic,” he said.” I figured maybe I could change things from inside.”
In addition to classic socialist theorists such as Karl Marx, Rapone says he found inspiration in the writings of Stan Goff, a retired Special Forces master sergeant who became a socialist anti-war activist.
Even while still a cadet, Rapone’s online postings alarmed a West Point history professor, who wrote Rapone up, saying his online postings were “red flags that cannot be ignored.” Rapone was disciplined but still allowed to graduate.
Greg Rinckey, an attorney specializing in military law, said it’s rare for an officer out of West Point to receive an other-than-honorable discharge. He added that it’s possible the military academy could seek repayment of the cost of Rapone’s education because he didn’t serve the full five-year service obligation required upon graduation.
“I knew there could be repercussions,” said Rapone, who is scheduled to speak at a socialism conference in Chicago next month. “Of course my military career is dead in the water. On the other hand, many people reached out and showed me support. There are a lot of veterans both active duty and not that feel like I do.”


Children’s author Judith Kerr, who wrote ‘The Tiger Who Came to Tea’, dies

Updated 7 min 3 sec ago
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Children’s author Judith Kerr, who wrote ‘The Tiger Who Came to Tea’, dies

LONDON: British writer and illustrator Judith Kerr, whose death at 95 was announced on Thursday, captivated young readers around the world with her tales of a fluffy tiger coming to tea, a trouble-prone cat and her own family's flight from Nazi Germany.
With curly hair and a mischievous smile, the petite Kerr worked well into her 90s, saying she even picked up the pace in old age, drawing inspiration from events in her own life to become one of Britain's best-loved children's authors.
Kerr was born in Berlin on June 14, 1923, fleeing Germany 10 years later after a policeman tipped off her father Alfred Kerr, a prominent Jewish writer, that the family was in danger from the rising Nazi power.
"My father was ill in bed with flu and this man rang up and said: 'They are trying to take away your passport, you must get out immediately'," she recalled in an interview with AFP in June 2018.
He took the first train to Switzerland and his wife and two children soon joined him. A day after their escape, the Nazis took power.
The family moved on to Paris before settling in London in 1936.
This story is loosely recounted from a child's perspective in Kerr's semi-autobiographical novel "When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit" (1971) in which the fleeing girl can only take one toy and so leaves behind a favourite rabbit.
Kerr, who started drawing at a young age, credited the success of the book with being "published at a time when the Germans hadn't really managed to talk to their children about the past".
But she is better known for "The Tiger Who Came to Tea", released in 1968 to become a global classic of children's literature, with at least five million copies sold and published in more than 30 languages.
Kerr's first picture book, it tells of a girl and her mother interrupted at teatime by a huge, fluffy tiger who eats everything in sight before leaving again.
She was able to write up the story -- a bedtime favourite of her young daughter -- while her husband was at work and their two children at school.
The fictional family mirrors her own at the time, the illustrations featuring the yellow and white kitchen cupboards of their London home.
Kerr used tigers at a London zoo as models for her feline creation.
Next was "Mog the Forgetful Cat" (1970), the first in what became a 17-book series about the antics of a mischievous, egg-loving moggy inspired by her own pet.
"Goodbye Mog" (2002) was meant to be the last offering -- broaching the subject of death with the much-loved cat departing for heaven. But supermarket chain Sainsbury's persuaded Kerr to produce one more in 2015: "Mog's Christmas Calamity".
Proceeds of the last book were for Save the Children's work on child literacy, and a TV advert was the first to feature Mog in animation with Kerr herself also making a cameo appearance.
In her illustrated story "My Henry" (2011) -- for children and adults -- an elderly lady fantasises about adventures with her late husband, such as climbing Mount Everest, hunting lions, and riding dinosaurs.
Kerr dedicated the book to her husband Thomas Nigel Kneale, a respected screenwriter who died in 2006. The couple met at the BBC, where they both worked, and married in 1954.
Commenting on the book in 2011, The Telegraph wrote: "For all the depth of underlying emotion, there's a celebratory feel to it, an unfeigned lightness of spirit that, throughout her life, has been a great boon.
"It has helped her cope with widowhood just as it allowed her to get over the loss, exile, penury and frustration of her early life."
In 2012 Kerr was awarded an OBE (Order of the British Empire) for services to children's literature and Holocaust education.