We have all been to Iraq, and we support anyone who stands in nonviolent opposition
May 13, 2005 7:58 PM   Subscribe

... I told the judge that the war violates the United Nations Charter, which forbids the use of force, unless carried out in self-defense or with the approval of the Security Council, neither of which obtained before Bush invaded Iraq. ...--testimony of Marjorie Cohn, professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law in the case of Petty Officer 3rd Class Pablo Paredes, on trial for court-martial--he refused to board his ship bound for the Gulf.
"I think that the government has successfully proved that any service member has reasonable cause to believe that the wars in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq were illegal."
--the presiding officer at the court-martial, Lt. Cmdr. Robert Klant
The sentence? Reduction to the lowest rank. Two months' restriction to the 32nd Street Naval Station. Three months of hard labor, but no jail time. Court adjourned.
posted by amberglow (27 comments total)
Going back to what was discussed on recent similar threads, it's nice to see PO Paredes accepting the consequences of his actions and not try to run away from them. Kudos to him for standing up for his principles. Let's hope the person doesn't get hard labor.
posted by furtive at 8:39 PM on May 13, 2005

...the ^next^ person....
posted by furtive at 8:40 PM on May 13, 2005

All the threads have put it in my mind too--this is Navy tho--we'll see what the Army does.
posted by amberglow at 9:00 PM on May 13, 2005

"I'm so confused" ... gee. Somewhere along the line of millions and millions of other military folk following orders throughout history, what part of following orders did this guy not understand? If he wanted to be a part of the free speech movement he should have NOT have joined the military.

As a generic choad on a troopship, this guy ranked a big "duh" in my mind when it first hit the news a week ago. No combat, more than likely nothing but scrubbing decks after the Marines were delivered to Iraq. I think he made as much of a statement as he possible could; and I am vaguely sure the rest of his life will reflect the same.
posted by buzzman at 9:36 PM on May 13, 2005

Hard labor. In prison. Huh. Huh Huh.
posted by telstar at 10:33 PM on May 13, 2005

buzzman, the US along with the rest of the victors of WW2 made it pretty clear that they didn't think that "I was just following orders" was an excuse for committing an illegal act. Soldiers are taught in no uncertain terms that it is their duty to disobey illegal orders.
posted by hattifattener at 10:41 PM on May 13, 2005

"I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God."
Title 10, US Code; Act of 5 May 1960

I'll leave it to the lawyers to interpret the Uniform Code of Military Justice, but it's clear that blind obediance is not part of the oath.
posted by cedar at 5:42 AM on May 14, 2005

Why does the Uniform Code of Military Justice hate America so much?
posted by Thorzdad at 7:19 AM on May 14, 2005

I've been following this on the Indepundit (formerly LT Smash), and I'm inclined to agree with Smash that the losers in all this are the other guys in Paredes' watch bill that will have to pull extra duty filling in for him since his conscience purportedly obligated him to decline to perform his assigned duty.

I really wonder. Is Paredes being honest about his motivations, or is he just a selfish sailor who doesn't want to go on a float? Is he cynically using the controversy surrounding the War On (Some) Terror? Is the controversy using him?
posted by alumshubby at 7:52 AM on May 14, 2005

I vote for honesty. I have a hard time trying to figure out how selfishness equals risking dishonorable discharge and serving hard time.
posted by AlexReynolds at 9:28 AM on May 14, 2005

me too--he could have gotten a much much harsher sentence than he did, and he knew that.
posted by amberglow at 10:15 AM on May 14, 2005

posted by rougy at 2:20 PM on May 14, 2005


What would be the point of that?

But um, anyway. The fact that the order may not have squared with UN regulations dosn't mean the order wasn't legal under UCMJ.
posted by delmoi at 2:59 PM on May 14, 2005


Sure, sounds good in theory but aren't there more than enough recruiters in Iraq already?
posted by PurplePorpoise at 3:04 PM on May 14, 2005

Of course, LT Smash has made it clear a while ago that you can't be against the war and "support the troops." I never bothered to come back after that bit of narrowmindedness was revealed. Smash is just as generous to conscientious objector Pablo. His statement at his trial reveals that he believes that the war is "illegal and immoral" and therefore hopes to give strength to those serving to act on their own conscience too. He recoqnizes that this has been painful to many in the military, but that his actions were his "...duty as a human being and as a service member." He goes on later to say, "I think we would all agree that a service member must not participate in random unprovoked illegitimate violence simply because he is ordered to. What I submit to you and the court is that I am convinced that the current war is exactly that."

In any situation where I was with a group of friends or co-workers and found myself in a situation that I believed what we were doing was immoral, I'd leave. I don't understand how it should be any different in the military.
posted by john at 3:52 PM on May 14, 2005

I'd love it if the current administration got a resounding "Hell no!" from their armed forces when they decide to go after Iran.

As long as Bush can land on a carrier, strut his dumb ass around in a flight suit and declare victory after a couple of weeks (and have people actually believe him), this won't be the case though.

Fuck war.
posted by flippant at 4:03 PM on May 14, 2005

The reason I question the honesty angle is this: He's deployed before, and he's an E-4 now, so it's not as if he's fresh out of A school and on his way to his first float. This attack of conscience seems a little late in coming.

"I'm so confused," said Victor Paredes, who flew in from New Jersey to be with his son during the court-martial. "I don't know what it means."

Me neither. Missing a movement like this is usually an unpardonable sin; I think no jail time and no BCD is getting off incredibly lightly. He's become notorious enough that this could still affect his civilian employability later: A potential boss might not want to hire a guy who already publicly refused to do his job, whatever his motivations. Pablo, get out yer toothbrush and report to the head.

The base restriction and hard-labor time will be served concurrently. The Navy did not immediately specify what "hard labor" would entail.

Unless there's some reporter or professional hand-wringer babysitting him, it means a couple months of pure hell, probably. At the very least, some Chief who probably takes a dim view of hooray-for-me-and-too-bad-about-you buddyfuckers like Parades is likely to be highly motivated to ensure Paredes grows a full set of calluses.

Paredes "attempted to cripple the Navy," Hale added.

Dumb-ass ossifer -- Parades attempted not to do his job. Congrats on winning the hyperbole sweepstakes, sir.

The judge described Paredes' refusal to board the ship "a sort of tantrum that this court sees too much." He also referred to Paredes as self-serving and selfish.

All this was because of an attack of conscience over what (other branches of) the military is doing? Did Paredes think somebody was going to issue him an M-16 and have him walking point in Samarra? I thought he was a missile technician on the Belleau Wood. Hell, I think BW was involved in humanitarian relief after the tsunami, even.

He called the decision "a stunning blow to the prosecution. This is an affirmation of every sailor's and military person's right to speak out and follow their conscience."

Since he was convicted, I'm not clear that this "right" got affirmed. I don't see the UCMJ getting changed on behalf of shirkers -- however well-justified they believe themselves to be.
posted by alumshubby at 4:17 PM on May 14, 2005

The reason I don't question his honesty is because while he was here he had his eyes opened by avoiding the Fox News side of the media.

Noting the vindictive nature folks like alum express towards those with the nerve to have a conscience and then serve their duty to uphold the law, it's not surprising that it doesn't happen more. Bully tactics work. Especially considering how young most of them are and therefore more prone to bend under peer pressure.

Not sure what his actual everyday duties have to do with not wanting to contribute to an illegal war.
posted by john at 4:51 PM on May 14, 2005

Bully tactics work

This country was built on it.
posted by AlexReynolds at 5:23 PM on May 14, 2005

If you think I'm vindictive, well, that's too bad, but he deserves to be inconvenienced somewhat too -- it's only fair, after all. Remember those erstwhile shipmates of his? They're the real fuckees here. He's not even getting a dishonorable or bad-conduct discharge; he merely is confined to station and required to work hard, something lots of sailors will be doing anyway --in particular, if the detailer can't come up with another sailor to do the job Parades won't, those guys in his department will have to work all the harder because of him. (I'm sure your eyes will remain dry...)

If I were in Paredes' shoes, I hope I would've had the guts to stand by my beliefs and plead guilty, then regard myself as a political prisoner of sorts. By trying to have it both ways -- refusing to do his job, then saying he's not guilty because higher-ups are, Parades comes across as nothing but a gutless, opportunistic can't-cunt buddyfucker. Me, I'm merely a vindictive bully. Isn't name-calling fun?

Paredes is ostensibly refusing to do his job because other American service members are in a war he feels is unjust. If he was a Marine or soldier refusing to join a unit engaged in Iraq, I'd concede his point about refusing to engage in a war he believes is illegal. But he was never expected to do anything of the kind. He's a Sparrow missile maintainer in PacFlt; his job has nothing to do with Iraq. From what I've read, his ship would've been involved in ongoing humanitarian-assistance efforts in Indonesia, not operations supporting the war. And if "he had his eyes opened by avoiding the Fox News side of the media," it came at an awfully convenient time, right before he was supposed to ship out. This war's been going on awhile, and he's been in long enough to understand how to request CO status. Funny how he suddenly has this big problem with the war when he bilges out of MAA school and the detailer sends him to a ship that's about to weigh anchor.

I don't like the war in Iraq either -- I'm more sympathetic to Paredes' (and lotsa MeFites') point of view about it than to LT Smash's or FOX News'. Even so, Parades' refusal to go sounds less like "tragic hero" than "eleventh-hour sock puppet with bad decision-making skills."
posted by alumshubby at 6:20 PM on May 14, 2005

I don't like the idea that other sailors have to work harder because of him, nor do I think it's asking too much to give him the benefit of the doubt. As you know there's a lot of bad stuff about the war that could have been festering in his head that finally became a lot clearer the closer he came to his time to ship out.

I don't hold what his mission was as important as what his stance is. I think it's just as valid no matter what capacity you serve in the military. Any job becomes another part of the war machine and therefore it is a non-issue in the moral judgement sense.
posted by john at 7:32 PM on May 14, 2005

I rather like the idea behind flippant's suggestion regarding Iran. Sometimes, and I grant you this is exceedingly rare, a country's military says STFU to the political leadership, with great results.
posted by pieisexactlythree at 8:15 PM on May 14, 2005

Any job becomes another part of the war machine and therefore it is a non-issue in the moral judgement sense.

Let's agree to disagree there. And besides, there's an "out" for that, called applying for Conscientious Objector status, which Parades didn't do.
posted by alumshubby at 4:24 AM on May 15, 2005

If he applied for CO status, he would have had to get on that boat anyway while it was investigated.
posted by amberglow at 10:27 AM on May 15, 2005

"what part of following orders did this guy not understand? "
"If I were in Paredes' shoes, I hope I would've had the guts to stand by my beliefs and plead guilty...etc"

I have to disagree. I concede alumshubby that this about face did come at a convenient time, but I wouldn't call him a buddyfucker. I'd reserve that for the deserters.
That aside, in general I think he did do the right thing - given that he is being honest of course - if you think your leaders are engaged in an illegal act it is your duty to oppose them. The punishment here seems to fit well. He does deserve to get spanked and lose his crow because he is not following orders, but he does not deserve to go to jail for refusing to - pardon my semi-Godwin analogy here - put the Jews into the oven.

Let's be clear, you do not blindly follow orders. Nor do you cut and run if you find your morals or the law in conflict with your orders, you point it out. You fight and attempt to force the powers that be to be held to account. The odd of this sailor digging his boot in Rumsfeld's ass are pretty long, but by pleading not guilty he raised at least some hell.
He's not wrong. The war is by many measures illegal and he has a right to kick without losing his honor (like a deserter).
If his mates feel differently that's their problem not his. They want to aid and abet this bullshit that's their business and they have no right to expect someone to cover their ass for it. In the field it's a different story, you're already there. And again, the timing is crap so I can see him taking some hits.
But they are the one's carrying out the civilian government's directives that were obtained from the population under false pretenses. Last I heard in the U.S. power is supposed to be derived from the people. If it isn't he is upholding his oath by upholding the constitution and not following any illegal orders from leadership.

This reminds me of the argument about American troops being put under foreign officers. They are not bound to follow the constitution of the United States, therefore an American soldier should not have to follow their orders. (I think it was eventually ruled that they did have to follow orders but not any that would be in conflict with the constitution.)
The men who refused there didn't fare well under the Clinton administration either
posted by Smedleyman at 1:32 PM on May 16, 2005

He did apply for CO status, but they rejected it.
posted by john at 5:41 PM on May 16, 2005

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