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May 5, 2004 7:57 AM   Subscribe

Camilo Mejia is the first US soldier serving in Iraq to run away and proclaim himself a conscientious objector. The Pentagon says another 600 people have done the same, and for the same reasons: they find this war immoral and illegal.
posted by acrobat (41 comments total)

 
What else you got from the guardian?
posted by Witty at 8:40 AM on May 5, 2004


Witty, another interesting item from the Guardian is this story about people who, even though they have eyes, are nevertheless blind. I'd say look for it, but...
posted by acrobat at 9:02 AM on May 5, 2004


So that's about people who've decided that they don't want to live up to the contract they signed? That's nice. That means there's anothet 169,400 or so who have not found the war sufficiently objectionably to go back on their word. Who would call one third of one percent statistically significant?
posted by jammer at 9:04 AM on May 5, 2004


er... about 600 people, that is.
posted by jammer at 9:06 AM on May 5, 2004


And, acrobat, that's not 600 people who have declared themselves COs... it's 600 people who have deserted from furlough. If you read the story in a bit more detail, you'll see that only a few scores of people in the entire army have applied for CO status in the past several years.
posted by jammer at 9:14 AM on May 5, 2004


We are not talking about an approval poll here, jammer. Their "statistical significance" is hardly relevant. Like pebbles falling off a mountain, these few could start an avalanche. And even if they don't - their decision will make it more difficult to persist in this disastrous occupation.

These people have seen first hand what most of us only hear about from third or fourth sources, many of which are tainting the view to further an agenda. If they are genuine in their objections - these few are the real heroes.
posted by yoz420 at 9:15 AM on May 5, 2004


If they are genuine in their objections - these few are the real heroes.

No, they're not. If they're genuine in their objections, and they honestly believe that the war is immoral, they shouldn't go into hiding. Real heroes stand for their beliefs, and accept the consequences of their decisions. These people weren't drafted, either - they volunteered to cede their decision-making authority to others when they signed their contracts.
posted by me & my monkey at 9:33 AM on May 5, 2004


Like pebbles falling off a mountain, these few could start an avalanche.

Or they could remain a small trickle of pebbles, the usual stream of non-combat force reduction that you experience in a war.

And, indeed, these rates are far lower than in previous conflagrations. That's a desertion rate of about 3.5 per 1000. Detractors of this war love to compare it to Viet Nam... to get anywhere close to the desertion rates of even the early years of Viet Nam, you're going to have to quadruple the rates of desertion. If you want our soldiers to run away at the rate of 1971, the peak year, you'll need to convince 10 times as many to do so.

And even if they don't - their decision will make it more difficult to persist in this disastrous occupation.

Sure, by making every other soldier in-theatre .0035% less effective.

Were I inclined to be ungenerous, I would wonder if you that that you understood that the "making it more difficult to persist" that you seem to hope for would almost certainly include higher death rates amongst US soldiers. Certainly, you can't be so cras as to wish for more American deaths, can you?
posted by jammer at 9:34 AM on May 5, 2004


Who would call one third of one percent statistically significant?

Depends on the variance. In experimental fields such as physics where researchers can do a great deal to control variance, .003 can be hugely significant.

Hint, don't use the term "statistical significance" if you don't know what the heck it means. What you mean here morally significant, or even pratically significant.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:35 AM on May 5, 2004


Just to demonstrate the minimal effect of these desertions... if we assume that every single troop in-theatre is in combat, and that a decrease in combat effectivity equates directly to an increase in fatalities... then we would expect a .0035% less effective combat force that has lost about 750 people in 14 months to lose only an extra two to three more in the ensuing 14 months. That's not exactly going to bring out the draft-card burners in force, thank god.

And my Viet Nam figures are from here, for reference sake.
posted by jammer at 9:39 AM on May 5, 2004


Conscientious Objector: Here's how to do it.
The Guardian has a weak memory for firsts.
posted by dfowler at 9:40 AM on May 5, 2004


These people weren't drafted, either - they volunteered to cede their decision-making authority to others when they signed their contracts.

This is true. If you join the military, you should take it as a given that you might wind up having to kill people. That's the basic contract. To suggest otherwise is ludicrous.


Like pebbles falling off a mountain, these few could start an avalanche.

Probably not, but what if they did? That would be reducing troops and sending soldiers into combat with their numbers at half-strength, thus resulting in more casualties. Are you trying to say that this is somehow a good thing?
posted by jonmc at 9:42 AM on May 5, 2004


Are you trying to say that this is somehow a good thing?

But less for the other side presumably - swings and roundabouts.

Actually, since the US seems to be killing many more Iraqis than the other way round, would it be saving lives overall to have less American troops in combat?
posted by biffa at 10:00 AM on May 5, 2004


"first US soldier serving in Iraq to run away."

Run awaaaaaaaay!
posted by Outlawyr at 10:02 AM on May 5, 2004


Actually, since the US seems to be killing many more Iraqis than the other way round, would it be saving lives overall to have less American troops in combat?

I don't think so. The fewer troops on the ground, the harder it is to maintain control without resorting to deadly force.
posted by me & my monkey at 10:18 AM on May 5, 2004


acrobat - You may have missed it, but did you hear that Michele Tafoya has been hired by ABC Sports to replace Lisa Guerrero as the sideline reporter for "Monday Night Football" telecasts, the network announced Monday.

There are more stories just like it all over ESPN.com.
posted by Witty at 10:21 AM on May 5, 2004


From the looks of things it's those who act as prison guards at Abu Graith (sp?) that seem to pose a greater danger to US persistence in Iraq...

The CO status is a much more reasonable thing to invoke in times of conscription. If you volunteer to join the armed forces it seems that you're taking a decision to follow the orders of your commanding officer whether you happen to agree with the particular order or not, I would think.
posted by clevershark at 10:23 AM on May 5, 2004


Wow, there's something happening over here too!
posted by hama7 at 10:29 AM on May 5, 2004


CO status is available only to those who have a demonstrable moral conviction that all war, regardless of circumstance, is immoral. American law respects that an individual, in uniform or not, has the right to form such an objection regardless of the decisions of politicians. Someone who's already enlisted is going to have to show a bona fide conversion to a pacifist religious or philosophical system. He'd have to be able to credibly answer "no" to the question from a review board "if Osama bin Ladin is coming at your mama with a pitchfork, would you shoot him?"

One can't qualify for CO status because one finds the war in Iraq immoral, or unjustified. That is a decision solely for civilian politicians to make, and it is for members of the military to obey. Anyone who says, "I volunteered to defend mom and Apple Pie, but once I saw how ugly it was in Iraq, decided that it be wrong for me to fight there," is going to get a quick trip to the stockade, and deservedly so.
posted by MattD at 11:01 AM on May 5, 2004


clevershark -- the armed forces are full of folks who volunteered because it was a way out of their present situation (usually poverty). Wanna stay out of jail? Join the Army. Wanna avoid a gang bullet? Join the Marines.

So when you have an army of the poor who've joined up for a better life, it's no surprise when they're disgruntled at a C-in-C who sends 'em back into the firing line they re-upped to avoid. Hey, at least in Iraq it isn't black-on-black violence.

We shouldn't start any war we aren't willing to institute a draft for. Then individuals of all stripes (yes, I mean rich whites, too) will have the opportunity to declare themselves COs from the start. It's the only way to keep it fair, and the only way to avoid throwing away soldiers' lives after money, oil, and greed.

But who gives a shit, because they're poor and of color and they really aren't Quakers anyway, are they?

... and hama7, Witty et al, though you've probably finished looking at this thread after you decared it too newsy, why don't you take that shit to MetaTalk or something? Fucking tiresome.
posted by dfowler at 11:03 AM on May 5, 2004


Dfowler did a very good job of describing the situation. It's funny how the military runs ads suggesting that enlisting is like going to technical school or being in a real-life Dungeons and Dragons game with no mention of being shot at.
posted by Mayor Curley at 11:17 AM on May 5, 2004


It's funny how the military runs ads suggesting that enlisting is like going to technical school or being in a real-life Dungeons and Dragons game with no mention of being shot at.

Advertising or no advertising, it's the fucking military. Anyone with brainpower sufficient to toast bread should be able to figure out that combat is a possibility.
posted by jonmc at 11:44 AM on May 5, 2004


It's funny how the military runs ads suggesting that enlisting is like going to technical school or being in a real-life Dungeons and Dragons game with no mention of being shot at.

And yet, during my Army years, I never ran into anyone dumb enough to buy that, though I did encounter many who'd done their own risk calculations and determined that it was unlikely they'd ever have to serve in wartime.
posted by me & my monkey at 11:51 AM on May 5, 2004


I'm not saying that a reasonably intelligent person couldn't see through that, and that the ads play a role in every decision to enlist. But dumb people shouldn't have to die for oil rights, either.

As for the ads' general efficacy, I'm sure that the military's marketing people are savvy enough not to continue ads in those veins if they don't work on SOMEBODY.
posted by Mayor Curley at 12:01 PM on May 5, 2004


Ummm.... dfowler,

I'm white, I'm not poor (sorry - only middle class, so don't get your 'rich white man' hopes up), and I joined the military to serve my country.

Although I agree with some of your suppositions, I thought I'd point out that the armed forces are full of folks who volunteered because we wanted to serve our country. In other words, people join the military for a multitude of reasons - but you make it sound as if we're all trying to escape poverty and looking for a better life... it's almost as if you're implying that many of us have other than honorable intentions when joining the military??

Please don't stereotype people who decide to join the military.
posted by matty at 12:16 PM on May 5, 2004


If you join the military, you should take it as a given that you might wind up having to kill people. That's the basic contract.
Advertising or no advertising, it's the fucking military. Anyone with brainpower sufficient to toast bread should be able to figure out that combat is a possibility.

Agreed, perhaps.

But if take a job as a manager-type, I'd have to assume that at some point I'd have to fire someone.

But what if I don't agree with the firing, which my superior ordered me to carry out?

I can either do it, and be a blind chicken-shit.

Or I can refuse, and walk away, and face the consequences.

I'd call the latter bravery, the former stupidity.
posted by tr33hggr at 12:23 PM on May 5, 2004


tr33hugger - on the deserters in this situation, I'm split: on the one hand, I respect people willing to risk everything on principle, on the other, I have qualms about people abandoning their comrades in battle, however misguided that battle is.

My comment was mainly an answer to mayor curley's suggestion that people are hoodwinked into joining the service thinking that it's some kind of summer camp. I've known many servicepeople and they all knew that combat and death were a possibility. That's what the military is for.
posted by jonmc at 12:46 PM on May 5, 2004


Witty, you are so very, incredibly, NOT.
posted by ghastlyfop at 12:49 PM on May 5, 2004


I'd call the latter bravery, the former stupidity.

This is a false analogy. Joining the military is not just like working in an office. People who sign up in the military are made very aware that following orders is very important. There are, of course, orders that are illegal, and hence not necessary to follow, but these do not include "Report to Iraq/Afghanistan/Somalia/OtherWartornHellhole." Neither the officers nor the enlisted in our military have any veto over decisions made by our elected politicians, and this is a Good Thing.

Or I can refuse, and walk away, and face the consequences.

It doesn't look like these people are doing that to me. They're at best AWOL.

That said, however, I can understand where they're coming from. I think it would really suck (and that's an understatement) to be told by your Commander in Chief that you're going to a country to liberate it, and find to your consternation that six months into it, little has improved, and the people want you gone. I could see where this would become a morale problem.
posted by deadcowdan at 12:59 PM on May 5, 2004


I can either do it, and be a blind chicken-shit.

Or I can refuse, and walk away, and face the consequences.

I'd call the latter bravery, the former stupidity.


According to the FPP link, Mr. Mejia has gone into hiding. That doesn't sound like "facing the consequences" to me.
posted by me & my monkey at 1:05 PM on May 5, 2004


great link, dfowler (re: John R. Goldthwaite). from his "Three Point Outline" i'm guessing he dropped some LSD/peyote and had a religious experience. wonderful.
posted by mrgrimm at 4:16 PM on May 5, 2004


me & my monkey No, they're not. If they're genuine in their objections, and they honestly believe that the war is immoral, they shouldn't go into hiding.

Sorry if this was unclear. I was refering to the guy who turned himself in to face court-martial for his beliefs, and to others like him.

jammer Were I inclined to be ungenerous, I would wonder if you that that you understood that the "making it more difficult to persist" that you seem to hope for would almost certainly include higher death rates amongst US soldiers. Certainly, you can't be so cras as to wish for more American deaths, can you?

Sorry once again. What I meant was that it would become more difficult politically to maintain the current occupation once the people on the front lines begin to speak out against it in numbers, as this person did. I doubt those numbers will be significant enough in the foreseeable future to actually have a direct effect on the military operations.

I don't want any deaths. I was against this war to begin with, and I'm in favor of American troops being taken out of harm's way as soon as it is feasible as a matter of top priority. I can continue to dream, can't I?
posted by yoz420 at 4:46 PM on May 5, 2004


AWOL? Hmm, I wonder who they learned that from? Not our president? No way.
posted by fenriq at 4:51 PM on May 5, 2004


I thought we already talked about most there was to talk about situations like this.

And don't you dare make it seemed like we are hoodwinked. I guess I'm not really doing this of my own choice, eh? I guess I'm a coward because I haven't run off. I guess we should fire the Village People for singing songs that don't have a 'Warning: Involves Killing! Don't do this unless you are a blood thirsty maniac'. I guess I was just forced into this.

Okay, I'm going baseless there, but there were a lot of baseless arguements flying. I CHOSE to do this. If it is the wrong thing, I'll take the blame as opposed to just shuff it off on society. And I was poor, and of course it influenced my decision, just as much as being poor influences your decision to go to community college. But I still chose. Don't take away our choices.

Bleh.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 5:38 PM on May 5, 2004


So that's about people who've decided that they don't want to live up to the contract they signed?

Not a lawyer are we jammer? Why don't you leave contract law to those of us who've got some understanding of it?

1. Contract law does not trump criminal law. In fact, you're expected to breach contract if enforcing it would entail participation in a criminal offence. See, US and British troops torturing POWs in contravention of military law, international law and the criminal law of both of our home jurisdictions.

2. Not heard of contract frustration have we? Where circumstances arise which make the performance of a contact impossible in the terms in which it's framed then the innocent party is discharged of its current and future obligations.

Unless you fancy finding me the clause in an Army service contract which mandates war crimes, breach of international law, torture and the murder of innocent civilians I suggest that you shut the fuck up.
posted by dmt at 5:38 PM on May 5, 2004


Wow. In one thread I've been accused of a misunderstanding of both statistics and law, but neither argument has actually made a substantive case against what I was saying. And both were openly hostile to me.

Are there any more self-proclaimed experts in the house whose fields I can demonstrate my ignorance of? I'd love to give you the opportunity to score points for your adoring fans without having to make any fucking point at all.

MetaFilter: You don't have to be right, as long as you're proper.
posted by jammer at 9:44 PM on May 5, 2004


they volunteered to cede their decision-making authority to others when they signed their contracts.

i also have a feeling that when they signed up, they made the assumption that their commander in Chief would be aware of what's happening from HIS subordinates instead of finding out about it on TV.
posted by nyoki at 10:38 PM on May 5, 2004


He'd have to be able to credibly answer "no" to the question from a review board "if Osama bin Ladin is coming at your mama with a pitchfork, would you shoot him?"

No. He'd have to be able to credibly answer "no" to the question from a review board "if Osama bin Ladin is coming at your county with a pitchfork, would you shoot him?"

Which wouldn't make a lot of sense.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:12 AM on May 6, 2004


...or, you know, country. Same meat, different gravy.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:12 AM on May 6, 2004


Jammer: And, indeed, these rates are far lower than in previous conflagrations. That's a desertion rate of about 3.5 per 1000. Detractors of this war love to compare it to Viet Nam... to get anywhere close to the desertion rates of even the early years of Viet Nam, you're going to have to quadruple the rates of desertion. If you want our soldiers to run away at the rate of 1971, the peak year, you'll need to convince 10 times as many to do so.

Jammer, you're forgetting two things:
1. In the war in Viet Nam, the peak of desertions occured in a (partially) conscript army. The occupation troops in Iraq are not conscripts but rather, as you pointed out, people who willingly joined the army, a group that naturally would have fewer deserters...
2. We are one year after the invasion. The relevant numbers to compare the desertion rate with would be from 1964 or 1965, for which, in the table you linked to, there are no available statistics.
posted by talos at 9:53 AM on May 6, 2004


Why don't you leave contract law to those of us who've got some understanding of it? -dmt

The enlistment document is more of an agreement than a contract.

My recruiter explained to me that a contract has to have consent by both parties before any changes can occur, and that in an agreement one party (the military) can change it without the consent of the signer. Are those definitions about correct? FWIW, IANAML.

The Document for Enlistment should be a good review for you before you choke on your "Contract Frustration".

As for Mejia running and hiding? I would be too if I were facing ART 85 charges with the death penalty on the table.
posted by blogRot at 3:25 PM on May 6, 2004


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