February 16, 2007

Late to Conscience

by PG

As an opponent of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, I ought to be sympathetic to those who are trying to avoid being part of it, but I find myself deeply exasperated by many of the men who are litigating the issue. As Armen said of one, "As much as I'd like to sympathize with 1LT Watada, I think he broke one of the most fundamental rules governing the armed services. No soldier should have to obey an immoral order, but the legality of the war, and by implication his deployment orders, do not constitute immoral orders. He broke the law, and he should be punished for it accordingly."

But today it's Army Specialist Agustín Aguayo who is annoying me. He's a medic with the Army’s 1st Infantry Division -- one of the guys who patches up those injured in battle, including enemy POWs -- but he's claiming a conscientious objection and his lawyer says that his beliefs have "crystallized" since joining the military in 2002, such that he no longer can take a life. He served as a combat medic in Iraq from February 2004 to February 2005, having applied for conscientious objector status shortly before his deployment. He then refused to re-deploy, deserted in Germany and now is held in a U.S. military prison. His lawyer says, "'These cases are hard for people to believe because they involve a change in people's beliefs, but when you think about how old they were when they signed up, it's not that surprising at all." Aguayo was no teenage GED recruit, however; he's 35, married with adolescent children. In his statement to the U.S. Court of Appeals in D.C., Aguayo said,

By doing guard duty, appearing to be armed, even without bullets, I gave the false impression that I would kill if need be. I am not willing to live a lie to satisfy any deployment operation. By helping countless soldiers for “sick-call” as well as driving soldiers around on patrols I helped them get physically better and be able to go out and do the very thing I am against – kill. This is something my conscience will not allow me to do. Although I myself did not pull the trigger, I now realize that what I did as a non-combatant nonetheless supported and enabled these missions.
I suppose at a certain point, the Bush Administration would pull out of Iraq if the war lacked sufficient medics, but absent a widespread refusal by such support staff, one less medic means there is just one less person to help care for the combatants who may not want to be there either, but who need medical care nonetheless. Their claims do not seem to trouble Aguayo.

February 16, 2007 03:18 PM | TrackBack
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