Soldiers who refuse to go back to Iraq are justified in decision

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With more and more news filtering through the White House censors about torture and senseless killing of children and other Iraqi civilians, I ponder about what are the real images of American values?

Have we encouraged our men and women in uniform to sink below Saddam Hussein? What is the difference between Hussein using torture at Abu Ghraib or U.S. soldiers doing the same thing? What is the difference between Hussein using chemical weapons during his eight-year war with Iran (purchased from the U.S. Commerce Department) or our military using napalm, microwave devices, depleted uranium bombs and bullets, cluster and sound bombs, and 800 cruise missiles?

When did earning a combat infantry badge become more important to an officer’s career path than following the guidelines of the Geneva Convention or international law? What happened to the regulations that state it is perfectly legal for soldiers to refuse unlawful and immoral orders?

And who are the soldiers who now refuse to participate in our unethical, illegal and immoral invasion and occupation of Iraq? They include Kevin Benderman, Jimmy Massey, Stephen Funk, and Camilo Mejia (just to name a few—there are over 5,500 soldiers who have refused to report back to duty).

Camilo Mejia, a former U.S. Army soldier, is coming to the Twin Cities Nov. 4 through 6. In his own words, he talks about what war changed in him as a human being in an article posted as “Regaining my humanity”at CodePink4Peace.org. for February 17, 2005.

“When I saw with my own eyes what war can do to people, a real change began to take place within me. I have witnessed the suffering of a people whose country is in ruins and who are further humiliated by the raids, patrols, curfews of an occupying army. My experience of this war has changed me forever.

“One of our sergeants shot a small boy who was carrying an AK-47 rifle. The other two children who were walking with him ran away as the wounded child began crawling for his life. A second shot stopped him, but he was still alive. When an Iraqi tried to take him to a civilian hospital, Army medics from our unit intercepted him and insisted on taking the injured boy to a military facility. There, he was denied medical care because a different unit was supposed to treat our unit’s wounded. After another medical unit refused to treat the child, he died.

“I also learned that the fear of dying has the power to turn soldiers into real killing machines. In a combat environment it becomes almost impossible for us to consider things like acting strictly in self defense or using just enough force to stop an attack. By putting my weapon down, I chose to reassert myself as a human being.”

Mr. Mejia will speakon Nov. 4: noon, brown bag lunch, St. Thomas University at Murray Harrick building, Fireside Room; 5 p.m., Macalester College at Weyerhauser Board Room; 7 p.m., University of Minnesota – Blegen Hall. Nov. 5: 10 a.m., Resource Center of the Americas, Lake St. & Minnehaha Ave.; 6 p.m., pre-talk reception, Holy Trinity Church, 2730 E. 31st St., Mpls. Nov. 6: 9 a.m. and 11 a.m., St. Joan of Arc Church, 43rd St. & 3rd Ave. S., Mpls.

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