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Military resister’s father calls him ’a hero’

Published Jul 27, 2008 7:32 PM

James Burmeister
Photo: Burmeister family

When James Burmeister was court martialed last week, he was sentenced to six months in the stockade and a Bad Conduct Discharge. “I feel like the case was used as an example to other soldiers,” his father told Workers World. “Not only will you get punished, but your loved ones will be too.”

“They attacked James as more of a sociopath than a patriot,” said Erich Burmeister. “They hammered on the point of his going AWOL and leaving his unit in great danger. They painted him as a coward.”

“I think my son is a hero,” Erich continued. “There are many Iraqis who were not killed because of what he did, and many GIs whose lives were saved because of it. He made a tremendous service to his country by standing up and bearing witness to the ‘bait-and-kill’ war crimes.”

After James went AWOL he exposed this program, in which U.S. sniper teams leave “bait” to lure Iraqis and then kill them. When he denounced the program, it turned into a media scandal. (See “U.S. aims to lure insurgents with ‘bait,’ ” Washington Post, Sept. 24, 2007.)

Being on a military base “unnerved me and my wife,” Erich said. “In hindsight it was the perfect ‘good cop-bad cop’ thing, played to perfection.” Between the JAG lawyer the Army assigned, and the prosecution, Erich said, “They really had me convinced that the best strategy for [James] was to plead guilty. We took the bait and got our butts kicked.” He said their JAG attorney “was rotten. Had we been able to afford good civilian legal defense, we could have pursued more options. I wish we had done it.”

Speaking of James, Erich said, “The amazing thing is he is taking it better than those of us who love him so much. He’s very strong. He told us, ‘Understand this, anything the Army can do to me can’t be as bad as being in Baghdad doing what they wanted me to do.’ He’s relieved not to have a gun in his hand anymore. That’s what he cares about.

“Once he had achieved his goal, making the public aware of ‘bait and kill,’ he was prepared to turn himself back in. He’s strong, and I’m sure he’ll do okay. He didn’t seem to be as troubled by it as we were. We’re hoping he’ll stay that way and will be with us soon.”

Supporters can write to James Burmeister at Box A, Fort Knox, KY 40121.