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Courage to Resist

[Photo: resist by Skip the Budgie]

"War will exist until that distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige that the warrior does today."
-- John F. Kennedy

Does refusing to fight entail the same amount of courage as being on the front line?

Much media attention (perhaps not enough) has been devoted to profiling the brave troops in Iraq and Afghanistan that are fearlessly fighting Bush's war. These men and women are beacons of courage and all Americans are indebted to them for the ultimate sacrifices they are making.

Many civilians have protested against the war, calling it illegal and immoral. The liberties that are granted to us under the constitution provide us the right of peaceful protest. However, what if you are a protester and a member of the military? Do you have the same right to object?

I am sure many soldiers continue to fight and follow orders despite any objections they may have, as they made a commitment to the military. Others, however, decide to become outspoken conscientious objectors, fully knowing that the establishment is not on their side and the resulting consequences can be dire.

Not much media attention has been given to military personnel who have made the choice to refuse to fight. Many of the men and women who have found the courage to resist redeployment in support of their belief that the war is unjustified are Iraq war veterans.
"When I joined the Army I took an oath to defend the U.S. Constitution, and that is what I am doing. By refusing to fight in an illegal war, I am obeying international laws that are being violated by Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld. It is they who should be punished, not me."
-- Kyle Snyder, Iraq veteran and war resister, returned from Canada to turn himself in to Army authorities on October 31, 2006 at Fort Knox. Now he is once again AWOL after officials at Ft. Knox have reneged on a previous verbal agreement with his attorney, Chicagoan Jim Fennerty, to discharge Kyle.
While it is extremely important to honor and revere those who are battling on the front lines, it is also important to support and recognize those who speak out against the system for the purpose of bringing about change, despite the consequences.

If you believe that refusing to fight is just as courageous as participating in battle, visit the Courage to Resist and show your support by adopting a GI resister. If you are a conscientious objector yourself, these websites may also be of interest: Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors and 8th Day Center for Justice.

Do you believe GI resisters are demonstrating great courage? How should the military deal with these soldiers? Are they in breach of commitments they made to the military?

They are completely in breach of their commitment to the military. When you sign up to be in the military, you are saying I am willing to do what is asked of me by my Commander in Chief irregardless to who the Commander is. You are asked to fight when called upon by your country. You are willing to give your life to your country when you sign those papers and commit yourself. The military does not, DOES NOT force anyone to join. People join by their own free will. Everyone volunteering to join the military knows what is asked of him/her and what could be asked of him/her in the future. Why don't people understand this simple concept.

I want it to be known I'm not expressing my opinion for or against the war in Iraq, I'm sure a lot of people will think that. I'm answering and giving my opinion to the question at hand.

When someone joins in time of peace they know in the future they may be asked to go to war. If they don't grasp this prior to joining, then they are not that intelligent and should not be in the military in the first place.

I feel the military should give them a dishonorable discharge. They signed up and now they are defaulting on thier agreement. The military folks, is a little different then getting a job and then quitting 2 weeks later. It doesn't happen that way and EVERYONE knows that. Everyone has the chance to ckeck out what the military has to offer before you join, so.....no excuses!

Tony, I agree with many of your opinions, but personally feel the situation is different if the resisters are veterans of the war. Therefore, would your opinion change if the soldier was a veteran of the war and was refusing to go back? What if their initial experience caused them to doubt the capabilities and motivations of their leadership? What if they felt that fighting the war, based on their initial experience, was immorally wrong? Should you follow orders even if you feel the actions are not justified or proper?

There have been many wars were soldiers did not want to go back after being injured or for a second tour who were opposed to war because of their experiences at the front line. War is hell. War is not pretty. War is not romantic. Nobody wants it, but when your number comes up and you signed up for the military, due your duty. So no, my opinion does not change.

With regards to the capabilities of their leadership. Everyone bashes leadership at all levels. At times, it is lonely at the top. However, the only ship to survive a storm is leadership. Soldiers in every war always question what is going on no matter wether they are winning, losing or their is a stalemate in progress.

Immorally wrong. If war and fighting is morally wrong in their views, why did they join in the first place? They knew the potential of going to war exsists and if it goes against their morals, then don't join.

Who is to know if the actions are justified and proper? Censorship is a perfect example. Hitler was unjustified and improper but he had everyone in his grip via propaganda and brut force. They believed in his cause. We went in Iraq on intelligence we thought was correct. Do you remember when the U.N. tried and tried and tried to get into Iraq to look for Weapons of Mass Destruction and they wouldn't let us in. I think Iraq was buying time to get them out of the country. Like I said before, I'm not here to debate that side of the coin. Just wanted to give an example.

Soldiers break down in all wars and they all of a sudden condemn their leaders. So my opinion stands.

You can always tell a good question from the number of answers that come to mind.. :)

There's a few different pieces at play here, and a fact or two..

Piece one.. he signed up. When I went in to fill out the paperwork for my Air Force scholarship, it was made incredibly clear that I should have no uncertainty whatsoever that when they needed me to do something, that's what I was going to do. If I wanted to be a pilot, and they wanted me to wash the planes' tires, I had no choice. It wasn't on one form, it was on about 12, all worded in a slightly different, and progressively more and more clear form: You will follow our orders. By signing, you agree to do so. Following those orders, and respecting that chain of command is the heart of everything we learned.

And it's because you need it. In order to corral a group of 150,000 soldiers, it's important not to have to wonder if they're going to think about your orders and execute them in the timeframe they see fit, or in the method they see fit. Worse still is if they act in direct opposition to your orders, either by helping the enemy, or fleeing altogether without notifying anyone. (if it's your job to fly in and take out some forward-defense, clearing the sky for the folks behind you, flying off to France instead (because you think it's the native right of that country to have air defense, say) leaves the folks that believed your job was complete at risk)

But, this is an oversimplification. Piece two, is the problems come when the 'enemy' is slightly less defined. When it's less clear who is or isn't part of the "terror state" we're fighting against. People that attack our troops in the name of defending Iraq from invasion are ... the enemy? insurgents? terrorists? Or flag-waving patriots, no different than our own backyard militias that would absolutely, 110%, defend OUR country from foreign military forces, if they were patrolling our streets and trying to replace our government with one that they believed was better for us in the long run. Would those citizens be heroes/patriots? Terrorists? How would the foreign forces define them? Whose label is "right"?

For the guys/girls that are smack in the thick of this.. the ones on the ground, on the streets, in the homes of the Iraqi people.. following orders means using our labels. Suspects are suspects. Insurgents are the enemy. And orders are orders. Questioning them and doing something different, or leaving, etc.. puts the rest of our troops in jeopardy. Folks that refuse to follow those orders have to face the penalties that accompany those actions. [somewhere in here, there's an analogy about a guy getting a woman pregnant, running off to avoid childsupport, and then claiming it's unfair to have wages garnished later on once he's caught, but I'm a smidge tired and don't want to write it all out, so imagine it was a powerful analogy that swayed you in support of what I'm saying.]

Now, some facts...

It's an absolute fact that I don't know what we're ordering our troops there to do. I like to believe it's "right" and "just" what we're doing there, but I have no way to know. From a human perspective, I'd hope that the orders don't include the murder of innocent civilians. If they did, how could I possibly say our troops should follow them? How could you? But from a military perspective, those civilians may very well not be, and someone further up the chain from me may very well know something I don't, and at the end of the day, the orders given -have- to be followed. It's just not a thing you question.

It's also a fact that these guys coming back from the war -do- know what those orders were. And while from a human standpoint, I think they should be expected to go back only if they re-volunteer to do so; from a military one, their terms are -not- up.. here or there, they're still bound to the same agreement they signed, and that agreement requires them to keep following the orders given - orders that may well be to head back and keep doin what they were doing. To support them with contributions, for not following orders, and for putting the other troops in harms way would be really hard for me to justify.. [something again about the father asking people to donate money to him, since he might not think it's right to pay for a child he never sees, or something]

In the end, it was a committment. They signed up, agreeing to follow the orders given.

If you are a C.O. you really need to avoid the service...then again the nature of Armed Conflict has drastically changed from WW1 when some soldiers were dressed in bright red uniforms and scarificed out of the trenches into a cloud of mustard gas and machine gun fire. Civilians were supposed to be omitted from the carnage but the rules changed.
Now enemy combatants use guerilla tactics which utilize human shields and make them primary targets. The days of chivlary are long past and it is a bloody nightmare trying to decide if the grandmother approaching your motorcade is hiding a bomb underneath her burka...it is also hard when you are viewed as a conquering army instead of a liberator.
I would say that if you aren't willing to submit your will to the orders of the day that you find a way to avoid serving in that capacity. We have far moreinformation than we once did about our enemies. Before they were villified and demoted to inhuman cartoonish villains through propaganda and hyperbole. Now in the 21st Century we are exposed to three sides of every story and things are not as black and white as they were.
Some humans cannot be reasoned with and negotiations are useless..brute force is required to eliminate them..deciding how many civilians are justifiably expendable as collateral damage is not a decision that I would ever want to make.
The torture legislation also eliminated the so called Genevic Conventions so a soldier is fair game for horrendous cruelty..another good reason to avoid fighting. I always thought that by this point in time that technology would be at the forefront of dealing with foreign despots..obviously we still need boots on the ground.
The time to decide how far you are willing to sell your soul is before you sign on the dotted line. Like the Sargeant's line in Full Metal Jacket.."God was here before the Marines..so you can give your heart to Jesus, but your Ass belongs to the Corp!"

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