While Adam was attending the Native American Preparatory School in San Ysidro, New Mexico, one of his mentors was a former Marine Captain who inspired him to enlist in the United States Marine Corps at the age of seventeen. After graduation, he went to boot camp, an experience he has described as “an enjoyable challenge.” He completed Marine Combat Training at Camp Pendleton, the Cannon Crewman Course at Fort Sill, then reported to his reserve unit in Pico Rivera, California in order to attend Claremont McKenna College.
While majoring in Psychology and Government at CMC, Adam volunteered to go to Iraq in December of 2003. As a principled non-interventionist, he didn't think the war was going to be worth the cost or in America's best interest, but believed that after the invasion, rebuilding constituted a “responsible foreign policy.” After an arduous application process, Corporal Kokesh was accepted for transfer to the 3rd Civil Affairs Group. When he left for Iraq in February of 2004, he was enthusiastic about the mission, and believed that he would be risking his life to help the Iraqi people and make America safer.
During his service in Fallujah, Adam was promoted to Sergeant and awarded a Combat Action Ribbon and Navy Commendation Medal. But his frustration with getting the resources necessary for the Civil Affairs mission led him to question the premises of the occupation. After coming home and successfully dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Adam took some time to gain perspective on his experience. He realized that, “the greatest enemies of the Constitution to which I swore an oath to support and defend, are not to be found in the sands of some far off land, but rather occupying the seats of power, right here at home!”
After receiving an honorable discharge in November of 2006, Adam moved to Washington, DC to pursue a master's degree in Political Management at George Washington University. Since then, he has taken it upon himself as an activist to continue to honor his oath to the Constitution and the principles of liberty behind it.
Adam is personally committed to using his life to make the world a better place. By speaking out, he is pulling people out of their bubbles where, “they don't consider things that don't immediately effect their quality of life or the moral implications of their actions.” Driven by a deep intolerance for injustice, Adam has also done extensive work to alleviate, minimize, and prevent the human suffering that inevitably arises from forceful government intervention.
In addition to addressing the kind of suffering he experienced first-hand in Fallujah, he has organized to help veterans struggling with PTSD, railed against 4th Amendment violations, and stood up against the Federal Reserve. He never loses sight of the long-term goal of inspiring a new commitment to the ideals of liberty so that we may embrace a truly free society in which the initiation of violence is not tolerated, and the blessings of liberty are shared by all.
Adam Kokesh's Principles of Good Government
1. Government must act only within its Constitutional legal authority.
2. We should evaluate government programs based on specific objectives and alter or abolish programs that do not meet their goals.
3. To shrink government responsibly, we should prioritize cutting programs based on which are the most harmful or wasteful.
4. Except for cutting harmful or wasteful programs, change should be made incrementally, with continuous assessment, and followed by precise adjustments.
5. All votes should be about one issue at a time.
6. Every function of government should be conducted at the most local level practical.
7. The federal government should never threaten to withhold funds in order to manipulate States or local governments.
8. All government budgets, agency rules, and proposed policy should be posted online in a way that is easily accessible in plain language.
9. Laws and agency policy should protect whistleblowers who speak out from within our government.
10. Elected leaders should live by the same set of laws and under the same programs as everyone affected by their policies.
PRINCIPLES OF GOOD GOVERNMENT
Adam Kokesh, candidate for Congress,
New Mexico's Third District
We have a crisis of leadership in America, and the failures of our
government cannot be explained by incompetence alone. We know that
corruption is rampant, and yet we continue to elect politicians who
think their job is to peddle policies for the special interests who
sponsor their campaigns. We need basic guidelines, principles of good
government, to assess policy and move forward as a nation.
We should evaluate government programs based on specific
objectives. We need leaders who will have the courage to take
responsibility for failure, and alter or abolish programs that do not
meet their goals. Those goals must be legally authorized by the
Constitution, not just dreamed up to serve the whims of those in
charge. When we do not ensure that our government is acting within its
legal authority, we end up with what we have today: a government that
is too big, too costly, and often ineffective or even
counter-productive. With our children's future compromised by debt, we
cannot afford government waste.
Government must be shrunk, and shrunk responsibly. We should
prioritize cutting programs based on which are most wasteful.
Counter-productive programs like foreign aid that subsidizes
corruption and corporate welfare can go first. While certain
government programs can be cut immediately, when it comes to
individual welfare and appropriate roles for government, changes
should be made incrementally. Responsible change is made modestly, in
an orderly sequence, with continuous assessment, and followed by
precise adjustments. Seeking radical change can lead to radical
backlash, divisiveness, or perpetual deadlock.
For the integrity of the legislative process, all votes should be
about one issue at a time. The current system of logrolling pork into
omnibus bills with "Christmas tree" provisions allows members of
Congress to sneak provisions into massive legislation, sometime
consisting of thousands of pages, knowing that few constituents and
fewer of the their colleagues will ever read them. I will never vote
in favor of a piece of legislation I have not read and fully
The best way to respect the voice of the individual citizen is
subsidiarity: every function of government should be conducted at the
most local level practical. By practicing this, we can empower
communities to have a greater role in determining the policies that
affect them and respect the diversity that makes America great. Many
federal programs can be turned over to the States in a way that will
allow them to create policy that is sustainable, accountable, and
tailored to suit the communities they are intended to serve. The
federal government should never threaten to withhold funds in order to
manipulate States or local governments.
Since no government is able to give something it has not first
taken away, there is an added responsibility to be fair, transparent,
and fiscally responsible. With today's technology, there is no excuse
to not post all government budgets, agency rules, and proposed policy
online in way that is easily accessible in plain language.
Transparency leads to accountability, but it must be coupled with
strong whistleblower protection for those who speak out from within
our government. In some areas, the government has a responsibility to
spend more, such as to serve our veterans, to ensure access to
unbiased courts, and to provide efficient mechanisms for legal
immigration. In these cases and for our national defense, we can apply
the same standards of accountability as we would to all government
In order to enact these principles of good government, we must
elect leaders who know politics should be about consensus building. We
can come together to serve the American people without violating
personal principles. We are all Americans first and members of
Congress should live by the same set of laws and under the same
programs that they impose on the rest of us. These principles will
help us restore a representative government of, by, and for the people
and they are the principles that I will apply if I have the great
honor of serving as a member of Congress.
"The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive veterans of early wars were treated and appreciated by our nation." - George Washington
As long as our civilian leadership is asking brave young Americans to put their lives on the line to defend this country, it is essential that we show appropriate gratitude. Yellow ribbons and political platitudes of “supporting the troops” do little to help returning returning veterans. Having dealt personally with the Veterans Administration for myself and in helping other veterans, I can tell you that the reality is a far cry from living up to the rhetoric.
In modern war, there are numerous hazards unknown to previous generations of soldiers. In addition to conventional enemy action, modern soldiers are exposed to unique explosive forces which have made Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) the “signature wound” of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition to the exposure to chemicals and biological agents on the battlefield, there are side effects of numerous vaccines to be dealt with. Full healthcare for life is the least we can do for service members who have served in combat zones, and it should be budgeted for with any defense spending authorization that puts troops in harms way.
For the troops that come home with a disability or a need for ongoing care, the red tape at the VA can be daunting and the process for claiming a disability is an arduous one. When you file taxes with the IRS, they assume you are telling the truth and only audit select cases. For a veteran going to the VA after leaving the service, the process is almost the opposite. Can we not trust our veterans enough to give them the benefit of the doubt? Something is wrong when we the IRS treats taxpayers better than we treat our veterans. The VA disability claims process needs to be reversed from one of denial and mistrust to acceptance and audits.
One of the reasons veterans' care is so grossly inadequate in America today is because those who promote war do everything they can to deny the costs associated with it. I believe this is a major contributing factor to the obscenely high rate of veteran suicides today. It is time to fully incorporate the cost of taking care of our veterans into the cost of war.