Soldier against the war gets mistrial

Just over the wires: "Mistrial declared court-martial of war objector":http://today.reuters.com/news/articlenews.aspx?type=politicsNews&storyID=2007-02-08T000024Z_01_N05474363_RTRUKOC_0_US-USA-IRAQ-OFFICER.xml&WTmodLoc=PolNewsHome_C1_%5BFeed%5D-3. Details:
bq. A military judge declared a mistrial on Wednesday in the court-martial of a U.S. Army officer, who publicly refused to fight in Iraq and criticized the war.
It's great to see that some soldiers are seriously debating the ethics of this war.

Conscientious Objection, After You’re In

Here’s a web­site of “Jere­my Hinz­man, a U.S. Army sol­dier who became a a con­sci­en­tious objector”:http://www.jeremyhinzman.net/faq.html in the course of his ser­vice. His appli­ca­tions denied, he moved to Cana­da and is seek­ing polit­i­cal asy­lum there.
I find I can under­stand the issues all too well. In only a slightly-parallel uni­verse, I’d be in iraq myself instead of pub­lish­ing Non​vi​o​lence​.org. My father, a vet­er­an who fought in the South Pacif­ic in World War II, real­ly want­ed me to join the U.S. Navy and attend the Naval Acad­e­my at Annapo­lis. For quite some time, I seri­ous­ly con­sid­ered it. I am attract­ed to the idea of ser­vice and duty and putting in hard work for some­thing I believe in.
Hinzman’s sto­ry is get­ting a lot of main­stream cov­er­age, I sus­pect because the “escape to Cana­da” angle has so many Vietnam-era echoes that res­onate with that gen­er­a­tion. I wish Hinz­man would flesh out his web­site sto­ry though. His Fre­quent­ly Asked Ques­tions leaves out some impor­tant details that could real­ly make the sto­ry – why did he join the Army in the first place, what were some of the expe­ri­ences that led him to rethink his duty, etc. I’d rec­om­mend Jeff Paterson’s “Gulf War Refusenik”:http://jeff.paterson.net/ site, which includes lots of sto­ries includ­ing his own:
bq. “What am I going to do with my life?” has always been huge ques­tion of youth, and today in the wake of the hor­ror and tragedy of New York Sep­tem­ber 11th this ques­tion has increased impor­tance for mil­lions of young peo­ple. No one who has seen the images will ever for­get… If I hadn’t spent those four years in the Marine Corps, I might be inclined to fall into line now. Most of the time my unit trained to fight a war against peas­ants who dared to strug­gle against “Amer­i­can inter­ests” in their homelands-specifically Nicaragua, El Sal­vador, and Guatemala… Faced with this real­i­ty, I began the process of becom­ing un-American-meaning that the inter­ests of the peo­ple of the world began to weigh heav­ier than my self-interest. I real­ized that the world did not need or want anoth­er U.S. troop…
There are bound to be more sto­ries all the time of service-people who find a dif­fer­ent real­i­ty when they land on for­eign shores. How many will rethink their rela­tion­ship to the U.S. mil­i­tary. How many will fol­low Paterson’s exam­ple of becom­ing “un-American”?

Army of None

Recruit­ing Satire. I’ve always found U.S. Army recruit­ing adver­tis­ing fas­ci­nat­ing. It’s not just that the ads are well-produced. They catch onto basic human yearn­ings in a way that’s the teen equiv­a­lent of self-help books. “Be all that you can be” is won­der­ful – who wouldn’t want that. And the cur­rent ads mak­ing the Army look like a extreme sport also hits the nexus of cool and inspir­ing. The cur­rent US Army slo­gan is “An Army of One,” which might almost make poten­tial recruits for­get that a basic cor­ner­stone of mil­i­tary train­ing is wip­ing away indi­vid­u­al­i­ty to mold recruits into inter­changable units. The link above is to “Army of None,” a smart par­o­dy of the offi­cial recruit­ing site.

How Come the U.S. Trains All the Terrorists?

I’ve just been read­ing today’s New York Times arti­cle about the con­vic­tion of the New York City World Trade Cen­ter bombers. With it is a com­pan­ion piece about the plot leader, Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, who hoped to kill 250,000 peo­ple when the tow­ers col­lapsed onto the city below. Born in Kuwait to a Pak­istani moth­er and Pales­tin­ian father, his life began as an alle­go­ry for the social dis­place­ments of the Mid­dle East, and he grew up with anger towards the Israelis-and by exten­sions the Americans-who had forced his father from his home­land. Even so, Yousef came to school in the West, to Wales, where he stud­ied engi­neer­ing. But in 1989 he left it for anoth­er edu­ca­tion, fueled by his anger and lead­ing to the death of six in the heat and smoke of the mas­sive under­ground explo­sion in down­town Manhattan.

Yousef trav­eled to Afghanistan to join the Muja­hedeen rebels in their fight against Sovi­et occu­piers, and there learned the guer­ril­la tech­niques he would lat­er employ in New York. Who sup­port­ed the Muja­hedeen and paid for Yousef’s train­ing in ter­ror­ism? The Unit­ed States Cen­tral Intel­li­gence Agency, who fun­neled the Afghan rebels mil­lions of U.S. tax­pay­ers dollars.

It would seem a sim­ple case of U.S. mil­i­tarism com­ing home to roost, but it is not so sim­ple and it is not uncom­mon. Fol­low most trails of ter­ror­ism and you’ll find Unit­ed States gov­ern­ment fund­ing some­where in the recent past.

Tim­o­thy McVeigh was anoth­er angry young man, one who had to drop out of col­lege, couldn’t find a steady job, and moved from trail­er park to trail­er park as an adult, won­der­ing if the Amer­i­can Dream includ­ed him. He did what a lot of economically-disadvantaged young kids do, and enlist­ed in the U.S. Army (this has been described by some as “the pover­ty draft”).

In 1988, he met Michael Forti­er and Ter­ry Nichols at the U.S. Army base at Ft. Ben­ning, Geor­gia (coin­ci­den­tal­ly home of the infa­mous School of the Amer­i­c­as). There he was taught how to turn his anger into killing and was quick­ly pro­mot­ed, get­ting good reviews and being award­ed with the Bronze Star and Com­bat Infantry Badge for his ser­vice in the Gulf War.

Lat­er he came back to the U.S. with his Ft. Ben­ning friends and turned his anger against the U.S. gov­ern­ment. He used his mil­i­tary skills to build a bomb (alleged­ly with Nichols, now at tri­al, with the knowl­edge of Forti­er, who turned state’s wit­ness). On a spring day in 1995, he drove the bomb to Okla­homa City’s fed­er­al build­ing and set it off, killing 168 peo­ple. McVeigh’s moth­er said, “It was like he trad­ed one Army for anoth­er one.” (Wash­ing­ton Post, 7/2/95)

Anoth­er ter­ror­ist trained by the Unit­ed States government.

But it doesn’t end there either. This same dynam­ic hap­pens on the nation-state lev­el as well. Today’s head­lines also include sto­ries about the stand­off between Iraq’s Sad­dam Hus­sein and Unit­ed Nations arms inspec­tors, a sit­u­a­tion which threat­ens to renew mil­i­tary fight­ing in the region. Who fund­ed Hus­sein and gave him mil­lions of dol­lars worth of weapons to fight the Ira­ni­ans dur­ing the 80s? Why, it’s the U.S. gov­ern­ment again.How come the Unit­ed States is direct­ly involved in train­ing some of the biggest ter­ror­ists of the decade? Haven’t we learned that mil­i­tarism only leads to more mil­i­tarism? Would Ramzi Ahmed Yousef and Tim­o­thy McVeigh just be polit­i­cal unknowns if the Unit­ed States hadn’t taught them to kill with their anger? Would Sad­dam Hus­sein be just anoth­er ex-dictator if the U.S. hadn’t fund­ed his mil­i­tary dur­ing the 1980s?

We can nev­er know these answers. But we can stop train­ing the next gen­er­a­tion of ter­ror­ists. Let’s stop fund­ing war, let’s stop solv­ing prob­lems with guns and explo­sives. Let today’s angry twen­ty year olds cut peo­ple off in traf­fic and do no more. Let’s stop these unde­clared wars.