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Dem candidate criticizes activist’s comments on military actions

Suffolk County Legislature's Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory.

Suffolk County Legislature's Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory. Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

Democratic congressional candidate DuWayne Gregory is criticizing a leader of a progressive group for a weekend Facebook post that called U.S. military actions since World War II “wars of aggression” and called troops “victims of the US war machine.”

Ron Widelec, a steering committee member of Long Island Activists, wrote on Saturday that while “my heart goes out to our troops and their families,” the “idea that they sacrificed ‘for our freedom’ is simply false because it implies that the wars they fought in were to protect out freedom. With the exception of World War 2, nothing could be further from the truth. The wars in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq (twice), Afghanistan, and the countless other smaller operations have nothing to do with our freedom. They were wars of aggression. I do not blame our troops for this. They our [sic] victims of the US war machine. They may believe they are fighting for our freedom because they have been told that a millions times. It’s not true.”

Gregory, Suffolk Legislature’s presiding officer, who served as a first lieutenant in the Army, said, “It is insulting that this individual would belittle the sacrifices made by our brave veterans who have fought for our country.”

Gregory is running in a June 26 Democratic primary against Liuba Grechen Shirley to face Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) in November.

Gregory, of Copiague, called for Widelec to apologize and for Grechen Shirley, who was endorsed by Long Island Activists, to denounce the comments.

Widelec, a 37-year-old Commack resident and high school history teacher in New York City, stood by the Facebook post in an interview Wednesday.

“I fully stand by that statement. I understand where he’s coming from, as a former service member himself, it’s definitely hard to hear that,” Widelec said.

He said Democrats for too long have pushed for “endless war and military spending.”

“It’s deeply troubling for a Democrat, and one that claims to be a progressive, to go out and attack the idea that our wars aren’t imperialistic,” he said.

Long Island Activists is a group that grew from supporters of Bernie Sanders 2016 presidential campaign.

Grechen Shirley spokeswoman Monica Klein in a statement would not address Widelec’s statement, but said, “Liuba fully supports the brave men and women who serve our country in uniform.”

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