Spenser Rapone is the West Point grad who got in trouble for social media postings in which he was pictured wearing a Che Guevara t-shirt under his uniform and having written “Communism will win” inside his cap. A week ago the Army put out a statement condemning Rapone’s actions and stating that his chain of command was investigating. Today the Daily Caller reports an officer made a complaint about Rapone’s behavior and the content of his social media posts nearly two years ago, months before he graduated:
In November 2015, after being removed from his Ranger battalion for violating standards, Rapone was a cadet in his final year at the academy. According to the report obtained by TheDC, after the latest in a series of incidents involving Rapone’s penchant for insubordination, [retired Army Lt. Col. Robert] Heffington became aware of Rapone’s radical leftist activity on social media and notified the cadet’s chain of command.
“From his various online rantings and posts, it appears that DCT Rapone is an avowed Marxist, which is completely out of line with the values of this nation and its Army,” Heffington said in a sworn statement. “Moreover, CDT Rapone’s posts indicate that he hates West Point, the U.S. Army, and indeed this country. One post dated 16 November 2015 states, ‘F*ck this country and its false freedom.’ He also … even implicitly justifies the actions of ISIS and blames the United States for terrorist attacks.”
Heffington concludes by saying that Rapone’s social media postings remind him of a high school student obsessed with Nietzche and suggests the best case scenario is that he will grow out of this phase. However, he also sees a worst-case scenario:
Cadet Rapone’s statements bespeak either a severe mental or psychological disorder, or a genuine commitment to values and ideals wholly at odds with those of West Point and the Army. If the former is true he is dangerously unbalanced, and therefore not suited to military service. If the latter is true, he is a coward and a hypocrite who refuses to discontinue his association with an institution that, as he sees it, is a tool of an inherently unjust, immoral, and imperialist state. He may at some point grow out of this phase but the Army does not have the luxury of allowing him the opportunity to sort out his beliefs while charged with the sacred duty of leading American Soldiers.
Rapone’s social media posts are really just a small portion of the report, most of which is about his insubordinate attitude when Heffington broke up a loud argument. Heffington writes, “Never in 18 years has any soldier spoken to me or treated me with such extreme disrespect as CDT Rapone did…His utter contempt for my rank and position as an Army officer was blatantly obvious…”
Yesterday, Senator Marco Rubio sent a letter to the Army Secretary calling for Rapone’s removal from the ranks and suggesting West Point should consider revoking his diploma. From the Army Times:
“It is extremely concerning that someone who so often expressed such hostile views towards the United States’ system of government was able to obtain a commission,” he wrote. “(His) revolutionary ideas were harbored long before he was commissioned as an Army second lieutenant. Were West Point administrators or faculty aware of his views and behavior?”…
“Posts on social media by Rapone broadcast his devotion to the communist cause and his plans to infiltrate and sabotage the military,” the senator wrote. “His conduct, writings, and sympathies for American adversaries predates his commission in the Army.
“Therefore, I respectfully request the United States Army immediately nullify Rapone’s commission and pursue all available disciplinary options under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Rapone should be required to pay back in full the cost of his education, and the United States Military Academy should consider revoking his degree.”
The online news site Task & Purpose suggests going after Rapone’s political comments is the worst way to approach his behavior:
“Going after the political aspect of these photos is the Army’s weakest route unless he wrote something about the American Communist Party,” [retired Col. Don] Christensen told Task & Purpose.
“There are different perspectives on whether ‘communism’ is a political view, and economic view, or a more philosophical view,” Christensen added. “Instead of having ‘Communism will win’ in his hat, what if he’d written ‘Free markets will prevail’? Will anyone say that’s political activity? You can view it as an economic thing.”
Christensen does say that attacking the Secretary of Defense on social media while a commissioned officer “would be a clear violation.” So Rapone could be in some trouble for tweeting in June that Sec. Mattis was “the most vile, evil f**k in the current administration.” Finally, Christensen adds that Rubio’s letter could be used by Rapone’s defense in any judicial proceeding, i.e. claiming he is being punished because of his political opinions rather than other problems with his behavior.