State of Resistance: Three years into the Iraq War
by Elizabeth Quick
|Kathryn Jasinski (center) with Code Pink activists, November 23, 2005. Photo: E. Sharpe|
Three and a half years after the US invasion of Iraq, public support
for the war has steadily declined as loss of military and civilian life continues,
violence in Iraq increases, and the administration still refuses to admit wrongdoing
in leading the US to war. Among the biggest opponents of the war are men and
women who are part of the US military.
Despite the lack of public support, the war rages on with no sign that the current administration plans to change course in anything but rhetoric. Stopping the war will depend in part on the strength of opposition within the military.
The Pentagon admits that since 2000, about 40,000 troops have deserted from the military, half from the Army alone, but anti-war activists suggest the numbers are even higher. Army spokesman Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty argues that "the vast majority of soldiers who desert do so for personal, family or financial problems, not for political or conscientious objector purposes," but others, like Eric Seitz, attorney for war resister Lt. Ehren Watada, see things differently. "They lied in Vietnam with the amount of opposition to the war and they're lying now."
The Center on Conscience and War, which works to support all those who question participation in war, reports that they receive daily calls from military personnel who have questions about filing for Conscientious Objector (CO) status. But while the percentage of military personnel applying for CO status has increased, the denial rate for CO claims has increased faster. According to the Public Affairs Office of the Army, more than 70% of CO applications are denied. The process is long - sometimes taking 12-18 months. And when CO status is denied, some service men and women are taking other action - refusing deployment, seeking refuge in Canada, speaking out in ever louder voices about the unjust war. Below are stories of a few of these courageous individuals.
Katherine Jashinski joined the Texas Army National Guard in April 2002 while she was an engineering student at the University of Texas. In April 2004, her unit was notified of possible mobilization and deployment to Afghanistan. Two months later she submitted an application as a conscientious objector.
Jashinski, the first woman to seek CO status in opposition to the wars in Afghanistan/Iraq, said her opposition to war "developed during her first two years in the Guard, as she watched television and internet reports about the fighting in Afghanistan and then Iraq, met people from other parts of the world and did more reading in history and philosophy." Jashinski now says she disagrees with all war. "I believe that any person doing any job in the Army contributes in some way to the planning and preparation for war,'' Jashinski said.
Jashinski's request for CO status was eventually denied, and she was charged with bad conduct and court-martialed for refusing to participate in weapons training. She pleaded guilty to refusing to obey a legal order but was acquitted of the more serious charge of missing movement by design. She was sentenced to 120 days of confinement. Katherine was freed in July 2006. She has returned to school, and is working with the newly formed Austin GI Rights Hotline.
|Darrell Anderson (center with megaphone) leads anti-war march in Toronto, September 24, 2005. Photo: Matthew Emirzian|
First Commissioned Officer
In June 2006, US Army First Lieutenant Ehren K. Watada refused preparation orders for deployment to Iraq. Lt. Watada had previously tried to resign his commission because of his opposition to the war in Iraq. He stated, "I am whole-heartedly opposed to the continued war in Iraq, the deception used to wage this war, and the lawlessness that has pervaded every aspect of our civilian leadership."
In July, Watada was charged on several counts - two counts of contempt towards officials, specifically President Bush, three counts of conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman and one count of missing movement. The Article 88 charges of contempt towards officials are charges that have rarely been used since World War I. The last known prosecution was in 1965, during the Viet Nam War. Then in August, an additional charge was added under the category of conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman, purportedly because of statements Watada made at a Veterans for Peace Rally in Seattle, where Watada explained his reasons for refusing to deploy. Watada, if convicted, could face up to eight years imprisonment.
Watada's mother, Carolyn Ho, has spoken in support of her son: "My son's decision to refrain from deploying to Iraq comes through much soul searching. It is an act of patriotism. It is a statement to all Americans, to men and women in uniform, that they need not remain silent out of fear, that that they have the power to turn the tide of history: to stop the destruction of a country and the killing of untold numbers of innocent men, women and children. It is a message that states unequivocally that blindly following orders is no longer an option. My son, Lt. Watada's stance is clear. He will stay the course. I urge you to join him in this effort."
|Lt. Ehren Watada explains his refusal to deploy to Iraq at a June 7, 2006 press conference in Tacoma, WA. Photo: Justin Vela|
First Returning from Canada
No one knows exactly how many anti-war soldiers are AWOL and living in Canada. Hundreds are believed to be doing so but few have publicly sought asylum. This year, the first US soldier who escaped to Canada turned himself in at Fort Knox.
Specialist Darrell Anderson, recipient of the Purple Heart for taking shrapnel in order to protect others in his unit from a roadside bomb, said he deserted the Army last year because he could no longer fight in what he believes is an illegal war. "I feel that by resisting I made up for the things I did in Iraq," he said. "I feel I made up for the sins I committed in this war."
In 2004, Anderson says, he was ordered to open fire on a car full of civilians that sped through a US military checkpoint. Anderson refused. "Events like that just kept occurring, until one day I saw a couple of my fellow soldiers get hit and I pulled my trigger while pointing it at an innocent child. But my weapon was on safe, and then I realized what I was doing, and I just realized that no matter how good you believe you are, when you're there, that you're eventually - you know, the evil in this is going to take over, and you're going to kill people."
Anderson suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and because of this his attorneys were able to reach an agreement with military officials - Anderson will not be court-martialed, but will receive treatment for PTSD and be allowed to live with his family.
Closer to Home
As more service men and women speak out and act out against the war, the path for resistance will become easier. Earlier this year, a federal district court ordered the Army not to deploy Corey Martin to Afghanistan while his CO application was still pending.
Martin was a sergeant stationed at Fort Drum. He applied for discharge from the Army
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To learn more about your rights as a member of the military, check out www.girights.org, email: email@example.com or call the GI Rights Hotline: 800-394-9544.
as a CO in late 2005, realizing he had become morally opposed
to war. The Army at first granted "first-level" approval to Martin's
application but in the meantime informed Martin he would be deployed to Afghanistan
in March 2006. The Army had earlier decided not to deploy Martin but reversed
its decision for reasons of a "retaliatory and punitive" nature, according
to the NY Civil Liberties Union, who represented Martin. However, a federal
district court judge signed a Stipulation and Order by which the Army agreed
not to deploy Martin before his CO application was fully processed.
Martin joined the Army in 2001, and received a promotion to sergeant after several excellent evaluations. But by 2002, Martin was having doubts about the morality of war and took time to study writings on war and peace. By 2005, Martin was sure he opposed war and sure he could not serve in the Army. The Army Investigating Officer, who first reviewed Martin's application, recommended approval, stating that Martin "is sincere in his beliefs of conscientious objection . . . with the underlying belief as his opposition to all wars and the unintentional consequence which war produces, which is casualties and suffering it produces to innocent civilians." In April 2006, Martin's CO application was finally approved, and in May he was officially discharged from the Army.
Today, stories with 'happy' endings like Martin's are still the exception to the rule. But thanks to those bold men and women leading the way, others are finding the strength, resolve and support they need to resist. Those of us in the peace movement must do more to connect with these conscientious service people as part of our effort to bring this bloody war to a close.
-The Washington Times, April 9, 2006
|of Iraqis have access to clean water compared to 50% before the 2003 invasion. 19% of Iraqis have working sewer connections compared to 24% before the war..|