Surge in GI/vet resistance and support
Published Dec 12, 2008 11:24 PM
Signs of a surge in GI resistance have emerged recently. The surge is matched
by strong expressions of support from people in the U.S. and elsewhere.
PFC André Shepherd, Darnell Stephen
Summers from Germany’s Stop the
Brigade, and Chris Capps, IVAW regional
organizer for Europe.
In Germany, Army Specialist André Shepherd asked for asylum on Nov. 27.
The 31-year-old African-American served in Iraq between September 2004 and
February 2005 as an “Apache” helicopter mechanic. He has been
living underground in Germany since going AWOL last year.
Shepherd has had strong support from the Germany-based Military Counseling
Network, Stop the War Brigade and Connection eV, as well as Iraq Veterans
Against the War—especially IVAW-Germany.
His lawyer, Reinhard Marx, observes that under a 2004 European
directive—now part of German law—that a country must grant asylum
to military resisters if the conflicts they are fleeing from are being
conducted in an unlawful manner.
“Legally, his prospects are looking very good,” Marx said. A German
federal court ruled in 2005 that the U.S. war in Iraq violates international
law. Chris Capps, IVAW regional organizer for Europe, reports that
“André is having his first hearing Tuesday, Dec. 9, and he will be
writing a post on our blog.” (www.ivaw-europe.blogspot.com)
Shepherd’s asylum application is the first such move by a U.S. war
resister in Europe since the U.S. invaded and occupied Iraq and
“I could not in good conscience continue to serve,” Shepherd said
at a news conference. (Reuters, Nov. 27) “We have destroyed nations,
killed leaders, raided homes, tortured, kidnapped, lied, and manipulated not
just citizens and leaders of our enemies, but of our allies as well.
“It is a sickening feeling to realize that I took part in what was
basically a daily slaughter of a proud people.”
He added that after he “heard about people being ripped to shreds from
the machine guns or being blown to bits by the Hellfire missiles” and
“buildings and infrastructures being destroyed, I began to feel ashamed
about what I was doing.
“I am remorseful for my contribution to these heinous acts, and I swear
that I will never make these mistakes again.”
“When enlisting,” he commented, “I took an oath to
‘support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all
enemies, foreign and domestic.’ I had to choose between ignoring my
beliefs and leaving the military illegally. For me, the correct path was clear:
I had to leave.”
Shepherd is applying for asylum in Germany, where the Nuremberg trials took
place 60 years ago. “One of the main things that were established during
these trials,” he observed, “was that one cannot defend one’s
actions by claiming to have merely been following orders.
“If I had stayed in the U.S. Army and continued to participate in the
wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, I could not legally argue that I was ‘just
doing my job.’ Here in Germany it was established that everyone, even a
soldier, must take responsibility for his or her actions, no matter how many
superiors are giving orders.”
If successful, Shepherd’s application will create a precedent for the
U.S. military in Germany. After Iraq, the second-largest Pentagon presence
overseas is housed there: 66,000 active-duty personnel. As an asylum seeker,
Shepherd is now under the protection of the German federal government.
PTSD GI demands treatment
Meanwhile, at Fort Drum in upstate New York, Private Trevor L., 22, of Austin,
Tex., turned himself in on Dec. 4 demanding treatment for severe post-traumatic
stress disorder. He was accompanied by his lawyer, Tod Ensign, and had
requested the support of the Common Council of Ithaca, N.Y., where he had
spoken to supporters the night before.
Private L. served 15 months with a unit of the 10th Mountain Division in combat
in Afghanistan where he suffered serious mental and physical injuries. Upon
returning to Fort Drum, he was unable to get mental health care and eventually
left the base in search of adequate treatment.
He returned to Fort Drum with a psychological evaluation, prepared by a Houston
trauma specialist, stating that he suffers from “a severe post-traumatic
stress disorder and a major depression, severe,” according to attorney
Ensign, who is also director of Citizen Soldier, a GI/veterans’ rights
advocacy group based in New York City. (blip.tv/file/1553993, Dec. 8)
Following the example of several other U.S. cities, Ithaca’s Common
Council on Oct. 1 had unanimously proclaimed the city a “Community of
Sanctuary” that “respects the right of its residents to support
lawfully and proactively military personnel ... who are organizing to stop the
wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.” (The Ithaca Journal, Oct. 2)
Ensign told Workers World that Private L.’s request to be assigned to a
Warrior Transition Unit and either get special treatment or be dismissed was
rejected by the base commander. Instead, he was ordered to return to his unit,
which is slated to re-deploy to Afghanistan later this month.
Warrior Transition Units have been set up at all military bases in the U.S. to
handle soldiers with physical or mental injuries. “The problem is they
only have space for half as many soldiers as the number who need them,”
Ensign said. The Army Times reported on Nov. 4 that the number of such units
was expanded in October “in the wake of reports about poor conditions at
Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., including shoddy housing
and bureaucratic delays for outpatients there.”
Ensign intends to press for an administrative discharge for Private L.
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