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Don’t Let The Bastards Getcha Down

 

Chapter Five (03)


Cow Year - Truth or Consequences

Though I knew it would do no good, I wrote all the
reasons why I should not be kicked out in a last gasp effort
to overturn the inevitable. The trouble was my reasons were
trumped by nothing but recommendations for dismissal from
both my tactical officer and his superior the First
Regimental Commander. So the Academic Board consisting of
all the colonels heading each academic department, the
general who was the Dean of Academics and the general who
was the Commandant of Cadets, voted behind closed doors in a
kangaroo court to oust me from the Academy that first week
in June. Out of our class of one thousand cadets, just my
roommate Joe and I were the chosen ones that year to be
railroaded out. But of course this dirty little secret at
our nation’s most honorable institution had been going on
since its 1802 inception. At any time if higher ranking
cadets or officers, for whatever reason, happened to not
like a particular cadet, they always had the power on their
side to make up a bunch of lies and false charges to run
their victims’ demerits over the limit. This gave them
grounds to officially declare their victims deficient in
military conduct and summarily dismiss them right out of the
Academy. Playing God with people’s lives - deciding who’s to
live and who’s to die - obviously starts at West Point,
follows onto the battlefield, and eventually onto the global
chessboard, where enemies are selected based on likeability
and dislikeability. And the losers that die are always the
ones refusing to play the game, those with a mind and will
of their own, perceived as different, be it in skin color,
religion, form of government, values and principles, it
hardly matters. Those bold enough to see through and oppose
the political and military agenda of the American Empire are
those who die on this chessboard game of playing God with
people’s lives all over the globe. That is the current world
we are living in and the Empire’s world order as the
planet’s only superpower - submit or be killed.
Prior to my roommate’s and my separation date of June
8th, 1972, I had the foresight knowing we were getting
kicked out to contact a military lawyer who had taught my
military law class earlier that year. He was not a West
Pointer and the JAG seemed like a cool guy that understood
the unfairness of the West Point system. I explained the
circumstance surrounding Joe and my pending termination. He
was both sympathetic and supportive, and told me he knew an
attorney in New York City that might be interested in taking
on our case. So he set up an appointment for us to meet Joan
Goldberg in her Manhattan law office. So on that same day we
were separated and escorted out the West Point gate by
military police like criminals being forever banished, we
had a meeting that afternoon with Joan. Attorney Goldberg
had some interest and experience with West Point, having
previously represented an ex-cadet who had successfully
filed a conscientious objector case. Joan was extremely
receptive to our sad stories and gave us her concise and
candid assessment of both the legal basis of our case and
the chances we had of getting back in, “We could file a case
charging West Point for failure to allow due process of law
with what I figure to be a fifty-fifty chance of you both
getting reinstated.” Because it would involve an out of
pocket expense from each of us, Joe felt the so-so odds were
not worth the money, so he declined moving forward with any
lawsuit. Not about to let the bastards get me down, I was
passionate about seeking justice and preventing them from
tacking on the double punishment of three to four more years
as an Army private, especially after falsely running up our
demerits resulting from a command conspiracy. So I alone
gave Joan the go-ahead, paying twelve hundred dollars out of
my bank account to proceed full speed ahead with Hagopian
vs. Major General William Knowlton, General Koster’s then
successor as West Point Superintendant. Within that same
month of June my case was filed in New York City federal
district court with the Honorable Judge Charles Brieant
presiding.
Strangely enough, coincidental to my case being filed
to seek justice after West Point failed to comply with the
US Constitution’s law of due process, on June 17th, 1972 the
arrest of five men that had broken into the Democratic
National Committee headquarters at the Washington D.C.
Watergate complex led to a series of political scandals
culminating two years later in President Nixon’s
resignation. It seems both telling and fitting that while
Nixon’s lies and deception were catching up to him, causing
the first US President in this nation’s history to resign
from office in disgrace, West Point officers’ lies and
deception were also catching up to them too. For the first
time in its one hundred seventy year history, West Point
would be forced to comply with constitutional law of due
process. Clearly a parallel process exposing the evil deceit
and corruption existing in my own personal West Point story
was simultaneously being played out exposing the evil deceit
and corruption at this nation’s top echelons of power with
the Pentagon generals and the Nixon Administration. Thus,
West Point, America’s first ever war defeat in Vietnam, and
the gross and desperate misconduct of America’s leaders at
the top levels were all systematically intertwined and
interconnected in a massive web of deceit and corruption.
And during that fateful summer of ’72 all were unraveling
and being exposed to the American public like never before.
June and July were extremely stressful months not
knowing whether I would win my case and get back in or not.
And since no one in history ever beat the system after
getting kicked out, fifty-fifty seemed like a long shot to
me. Though I knew what West Point did to me was unfair and
wrong, as the weeks dragged on, being right doesn’t always
win in courtrooms. Justice is not always served.
I had to make a two appearances at the federal district
court building in New York City that summer. I sat watching
it from afar... no courtroom drama or anything different but
hanging in limbo without a clue as to where the case was
headed. Each court hearing was a major hassle having to take
the Greyhound from Springfield, Massachusetts to New York.
The second trip in late July I ended up on a subway that
took me to Brooklyn before I realized I’d missed my
Manhattan stop twenty minutes earlier and then frantically
grabbed a taxi back across the Brooklyn Bridge. By the time
I finally arrived at court, my hearing was nearly over. Not
that it mattered much, the judge still needed to review all
the presenting evidence on both sides prior to making his
final decision.
Playing the waiting game at home while holding on for
the bureaucratic wheels of justice to slowly turn began to
get to me after awhile. If my case dragged on much longer, I
was afraid I’d miss my summer training assignment and then
by the time I got back West Point might use that excuse to
not allow me to enter my senior year. And that’s assuming
I’d win my case. The longer the summer dragged on, the more
I became unglued. My family had planned in advance to take
their vacation to the Canadian maritime provinces in late
July. And of course I had to stay by the phone at home then
waiting for the verdict on my future. It was an extremely
stressful time for me. I remember one day all my anger and
anxiety busted out in a conversation with who else but my
dear old mom. It was always with her I expressed my angst.
“Ya know if those bastards screw me over, rather than
serve the next four years as an Army private after what
they’ve done to me, I’m gonna join the draft dodgers in
Canada. I may go with you guys to Newfoundland and never
come back! Fuck the United States!”
“Joachim, you can’t mean that!” My threatening to
abandon my family as a fugitive on the run unintentionally
put my mother in tears, visibly shaken by my desperate
display of drama panic. I was so caught up in my own strife,
when I realized how upset and distraught I’d made my mother,
I retreated feebly upstairs to my room. My life in crisis
was rough on my family, especially my parents. Initially my
father was angry with me. As alluded to before, he was
feeling like my “bad attitude” and brazen noncompliance had
brought this whole mess onto myself, and to some extent, it
did. It took some convincing to get him to ultimately
understand that the command conspiracy, false charges that
railroaded me out and the additional punishment as an Army
private was all blatant injustice that I did not deserve.
Though I had the full support of my family by the time I saw
them off on vacation, they were leaving me behind to face my
unknown daunting future alone. I really wanted to go with
them to Canada just to get away from the stress of waiting
there by the phone everyday. But I knew I couldn’t as any
day the judge was to be making his fateful decision.
Learning that I finally had won my court case did not
arrive with a phone call from my attorney as I had been
anticipating. Instead one morning at about eight thirty I
was awakened by a call from some radio station in New York
City asking for my reaction to the judge’s decision to
reinstate me at West Point. Still yawning and wiping sleep
from my eyes, my head was not prepared at all for the media
circus that was in store. Apparently Judge Brieant had in
fact released his decision to the press. UPI picked up the
story and such headlines as “Sloppy Cadet Reinstated at West
Point” and “Cadet Rotten to the Corps Reinstated” were soon
circulating around the world. Rather than seek quotes from
me as the court victor, UPI went straight to Major Webb the
loser in the case for quotes. Shot jumped on the opportunity
to label me “unkempt and disheveled” and hence the “sloppy
cadet” dubbing. I learned just how distorted and slanted
with negative bias the press like UPI is in this country.
The fact was very derogatory headlines were making their way
around the globe painting me as a derelict who never
deserved to even attend such a venerable and honorable
institution, much less beat West Point in court.
After such biased press against me, the Adams family
from Detroit sent me hate mail calling me the lowest of the
lowest. And it wasn’t Uncle Fester or Morticia either. They
were just the average everyday Americans that believed what
they read in the papers. I received hateful phone calls
threatening me. After my family returned from Canada, my
mother went in shock when she took a call from some wacko
shaming her for bearing a son who was “the devil
incarnated.” After initially being screwed over by the
Academy and suffering undue stress and hardship from their
wrongdoing, now I was being unfairly raked over the coals by
false publicity from a biased press corps making a total
mockery of my case. Most headlines made absolutely no effort
to responsibly report the truth in any fair or objective way
as the impartial observing press is supposed to do. My court
victory was evidence that justice was served in my case. Yet
the sensationalized media in its zeal to sell a few papers
cared nothing about seeking the truth. Instead it only chose 
to smear my character. I learned firsthand the “free press”
in America’s all about money, distorting the truth by coming
up with the most slanderous headline. It’s all that matters.
There is nothing new in the First Amendment rights of a
free press being undermined and trampled on since the early
1950’s with the advent of the CIA’s Operation Mockingbird.
It poured unlimited amounts of money into the hands of the
most prominent news agencies and journalists to spew out
anti-Communist propaganda. Though various muckraking authors
have exposed Operation Mockingbird and its major players to
the extent that the then CIA Director George H.W. Bush in
1976 announced that the CIA would no longer continue the
practice of buying off members of any US news agencies and
media outlets, control over mainstream media has only gone
from bad to worse in recent decades. Look how media coverage
of American GI’s graphically dying in Vietnam pumped into
the living room TV screens across America played a major
part in rapidly turning the majority of Americans against
the war they had been supporting a short time earlier. Then
take a look at the manipulated, white-washed, sanitized
version of how the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars have been
portrayed by mainstream media outlets with the so called
embedded journalists. No more graphic display of wounded,
dying and dead soldiers on the battlefield or in body bags.
Propaganda, disinformation and absolute control over
mainstream media in this country has never been more blatant
and in your face than it is today. Just as individual rights
to privacy, guaranteed access to due process, and First
Amendment rights have been eroded to near non-existence
since 9/11, the Patriot Act and so called “war on terror,”
the notion of a free press and a vibrant true democracy in
America is just another boldface red, white and blue lie.
Though from my own legal case coverage in 1972, I learned
firsthand that there is no such thing as a free press in
this country, in the four decades since it has only grown
less free and far more a propaganda tool for corporate USA. 
The truth is Cadet Hagopian vs. General Knowlton was 
a David and Goliath case of one individual with the balls
and resolve to stand up for what was right to challenge evil
lies and hypocrisy of an inhumane, unjust system that had
been getting away with ruining innocent peoples’ lives for
centuries. This dirty little secret at our nation’s most
“honorable” institution had been destroying hundreds of
former cadets’ lives for nearly two centuries. I became
the first cadet in history to fight and legally beat the
unfair West Point system. Sadly very few newspapers in this
country accurately portrayed the truth. Few articles in
newspapers and news magazines revealed the significance
of my court case victory for bringing the US Constitutional
right to due process into the previously impenetrable
granite gray stone walls of West Point.
Despite the rash of unfavorable press, starting that
first morning the first of August I found myself in the
media spotlight in a weird way awkwardly enjoying my
fifteen minutes of Warholian fame. I had radio and
television stations from Boston and New York repeatedly
calling me there at home for comments, like I was some kind
of celebrity, albeit the infamous “sloppy cadet.” Suddenly
Time Magazine called me seeking approval to send a
photographer out from their Boston office for a morning
shoot. I felt like a model with the camera incessantly
clicking shot after shot of me posing self-consciously for a
few hours at home one morning. Though extremely disappointed
when its first week of August issue included a brief, three
paragraph, bare bone article without a single photo of me on
the very last page of the magazine, at least it carried a
semblance of objective neutrality that was missing in ninety
five per cent of the press coverage I received.

The New York
Times also ran a series of fairly objective articles. But
Time Magazine and the Times were more the exception than the
rule, no help from globe trotting UPI. Even my hometown
newspaper the Springfield Union ran a negatively slanted
article with the usual Webb quotes and sloppy headline.
I was so fed up with the bad press, I contacted the
paper and went off on them, “Why the hell you publish quotes
from the sour grapes loser and not from me? There’s good
reason I won my case! What West Point did to me was lowdown.
And I was fortunate enough to seek and win justice through
our court system. And the least all you people in the press
can do is print the God damn truth and not the lies the
losers at West Point keep spinning!”
The Union editor was actually apologetic and sent a
reporter out to the house the very next day to write another
more fair and truthful article, which to their credit the
Union did. And that one piece was the only press that
included my point of view and my quotes. So in my mind it
was the fairest and most honest portrayal of what really
happened. The New York Post ran a cool cartoon of Judge
Brieant welcoming me back to the Point with the ol’ lush
and fellow “disheveled” West Point derelict Ulysses S.
Grant looking down from heaven with a big congratulatory
smile on his face.


New York Post cartoon

I always liked that one.
I thanked my attorney Joan Goldberg who fought a good
winning fight on my behalf. Joan’s career skyrocketed from
my springboard case as she went from a mere associate lawyer
at an obscure law firm to suddenly becoming famed attorney
William Kunstler’s law partner at Kunstler, Kunstler [son] &
Goldberg. My legal case apparently garnered a respectful
enough place in the annals of constitutional law to be
taught at all the major law schools across the country now
for decades. I am very proud of what I was able to
accomplish at my relatively young age as the West Point
cadet not to mess with without a serious consequence for the
other side. Though I admit I actually submitted for those
two weeks in that fixed race at the end, I otherwise always
retained my integrity and self-respect as one determined
individual who believed strong positive leadership was
demonstrated by example through humanitarian benevolence and
fair play balanced by knowing how to set limits and being a
hard ass if and when you have to. Can you hear the far-off
voice of Frank singing “I did it my way?”
As soon as I found out I was going back to the Point on
the judge’s order, I phoned my buddy Joe to let him know.
“That’s great news Sheik... I got some bad news. I have
to report to Fort Knox, Kentucky as a private tomorrow,” Joe
lamented.
“Then you better call Joan now so you can get back in
too. I’m sure she can get you back in quick enough.”
“Yeah, guess at this point, it won’t hurt.. . congrats
again to you Sheik, you did it bro.”
Joe made that call and within two weeks under my legal
coattails he was able to also get reinstated. Though he did 
have to report to Fort Knox the next day, soon enough he
came back to complete his senior year and like me graduated
the following June. Joe followed in his Air Force career
dad’s footsteps doing thirty years and ending up a full bird
Air Force colonel before retiring comfortably in Hawaii...
you’re welcome my friend.

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