Have courage -- young men can undergo transformation
How Blake Ivey came to see war as flat-out murder
People can co-exist in peace more easily when they see each other as equals, a worldview that’s aided by having society share its surplus equitably. We trim this 2008 article from AlterNet, posted October 238. The writer is the project director of Courage to Resist, an organization that supports military war resisters.
by Sarah Lazare"I believe war is the crime of our times," Blake Ivey, a specialist in the US Army, said. "It is flat-out murder."
Ivey, currently stationed in Fort Gordon GA, is publicly refusing to deploy to Afghanistan. The 21-year-old soldier filed for conscientious objector status in July but was ordered to deploy while his application was being processed. He is determined not to go and was still actively serving on his base, weighing his options for refusal.
While there is no way to tell the exact number of resisters, military statistics indicate that resistance is on the rise. Since 2002, the Army has court-martialed twice as many soldiers for desertion and other unauthorized absences per year than for each year between 1997 and 2001. AWOL rates are the highest since 1980, with the desertion rate (defined as 30 or more days of unauthorized absence) having jumped 80 percent since the start of the Iraq War. More than 150 soldiers have publicly refused to fight in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and an estimated 200 war resisters are living in Canada.
Last week, 19-year-old conscientious objector (CO) Tony Anderson at Fort Carson Colo. publicly shared his experience. Anderson had been discouraged by his commanding officers from applying for CO status, and he disobeyed orders to deploy to Iraq. He now faces steep punishment at the hands of the military.
Ivey joined the Army willingly. After the events of Sept 11, 2001, he felt that it was "his generation's time to stand up in defense of the country." He states, "I went to the recruiter myself. No one approached me." In 2005 he joined the military out of high school, despite his mother's pleas that he take more time to think it over.
Yet once in, Iveys feelings about war changed. He found it unsettling to chant "Blood, blood, blood makes the grass grow" in basic training, and he wrote a letter home to his mother describing his discomfort. When he was deployed to Korea in 2006, he started questioning the value of military service. Halfway through his yearlong deployment, he began studying anarchist philosophers and nonviolent thinkers such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi.
The refusal of close friend Ryan Jackson to deploy to Iraq led Ivey to re-evaluate his own situation. They got to know each other in Advanced Individual Training in 2005 and after Ivey's return from Korea were in the same unit. They discussed at length their reluctance to go to war. Ivey provided simple advice to Jackson: "I told him, you've got to do what you believe in." So, Jackson decided not to go. He attempted to gain administrative leave, but when his paperwork failed to go through, he decided to go AWOL in 2007 rather than face deployment. Ivey gave Jackson emotional support when he went AWOL and was court-martialed and sentenced to 100 days of confinement. "When I talked to Jackson before he went to court-martial, that's when I decided I was going to start on my conscientious objector paperwork," says Ivey.
Meanwhile, Ivey continued to research alternatives to war, immersing himself in the texts of nonviolent philosophers. He also got involved in his local community, helping start a chapter of Food Not Bombs, a collective movement to serve free food, mostly vegan and vegetarian, to others. "I want to make a difference in people's lives," he says.
While his conscientious objector paperwork was being processed, Ivey was ordered to deploy to Afghanistan. Application for CO status cannot forestall deployment, but applicants are supposed to be assigned tasks that do not conflict with their CO convictions. However, this military directive is subject to ambiguous interpretation, and the commanding officer has considerable discretion in determining appropriate assignments. Furthermore, many conscientious objectors consider deployment to a combat zone by definition ethically compromising.
If Ivey refuses to deploy, he could be charged with "Missing Movement" -- Article 87 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice -- by a general court martial, punishable by up to two years in the stockade, loss of pay and a dishonorable discharge. There is also the danger that the military might try to pile on charges against him, such as Article 90, "willfully disobeying superior officer," and General Article 134, which covers all conduct "unbecoming" a soldier.
Ivey is determined not to go to Afghanistan, and he is working with a civilian lawyer to explore his options. He has also enlisted the support of Courage to Resist and has worked with several GIs in similar situations, including Anderson and Jackson. Ivey's mother says, “I would in no way encourage him to do anything different. He is following his moral beliefs, and he has to do that."
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