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Statement Submitted to the United States Court of Appeals in Washington D.C.
Conscientious Objection Declaration
by Agustin Aguayo
I have received orders from my command that on August 28, 2006, I will be deployed to Iraq in support of (ISO) the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) for a minimum of 365 days. In this statement, I explain why my religious beliefs will not permit me to participate in this or any war, even as a non-combatant, and why, under compulsion of conscience, I will risk court-martial and imprisonment rather than deploy.
My beliefs and morals come from a transformation as a direct result of my combined religious/family upbringing, military experience, and new experiences I?ve created and sought. Such as, I have surrounded myself with people who cherish life and peace. I have become an active member and supporter of many peace organizations such as The Center on Conscience & War, Military Counseling Network, The Munich Peace Committee, and American Voices Abroad. I have overhauled my life with new practices such as the peaceful art of Yoga and meditation. As time progresses (it has been more than two and a half years since I became a CO) my beliefs have only become more firm and intense. I believe that participating in this (or any) deployment would be fundamentally wrong, and therefore I cannot and will not participate. I believe that to do so, I would be taking part in organized killing and condoning war missions and operations. I object, on the basis of my religious training and belief, to participating in any war. I have to take a stand for my principles, values, and morals and I must let my conscience be my guide.
After all, I and no one else has to bear the consequences of my decisions or burden of neglecting my conscience.
Initially, the Department of the Army had allowed me to remain in a non-combatant status until the Court decided my case. However, I recently was charged with an Article 15 (a non-judicial punishment which could carry reduction of rank and loss of wages) for refusing to draw a weapon. I accepted those charges and pled ?not-guilty.? Even though there was a standing agreement with the Army I was punished with 14 days extra duty and 1 week loss of pay.
With or without non-combatant status I will not deploy to Iraq. I have been to Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom II, and I know what to expect. I know what will be expected of me. And because of this first-hand knowledge, I simply cannot take part in this deployment. Some people might think that a fear of death is the reason for refusing to deploy. But that is incorrect. I have to be true to myself and do what is right. Even though I deployed as a non-combatant in 2004-05 I still carry guilt from my participation. While there as a non-combatant, I was still required to do guard-duty, although I chose to carry only an unloaded gun. While there as a non-combatant, I was still required to patch-up, treat, and help countless soldiers for ’sick-call’ in order to facilitate their prompt return to combatant duties. While there as a non-combatant, I was asked to drive soldiers around on patrols, patrols which could have been deadly to Americans and Iraqis alike.
I regret involvement in those activities, because ultimately I was contributing to the war mission and enabling others to do what I oppose. By doing guard duty, appearing to be armed, even without bullets, I gave the false impression that I would kill if need be. I am not willing to live a lie to satisfy any deployment operation. By helping countless soldiers for ?sick-call? as well as driving soldiers around on patrols I helped them get physically better and be able to go out and do the very thing I am against – kill. This is something my conscience will not allow me to do. Although I myself did not pull the trigger, I now realize that what I did as a non-combatant nonetheless supported and enabled these missions.
I cannot carry that burden on my conscience. When you know better you do better. Therefore, this time I will not deploy. My conscientious objection applies to all forms and aspects of war. Even if I went there to do kitchen detail or scrub toilets I would still be supporting the very missions and operations I oppose. An Officer once explained to me how in his view the Army was like a huge machine made of many parts that all work together to achieve the desired outcome. I know this is true. If the outcome is killing I cannot be a part of the "machine." Since I deployed once before, I know what I would have to do, and that is not acceptable for me. Before I deployed last time, I knew I could not possibly purposely cause someone physical harm. Back then, I was willing to deploy to a war zone while the Army considered my application for discharge as a conscientious objector, so long as I was not required to use or train with live weapons. Because of what I learned during that experience, I cannot be part of a war effort at all, even if it is only while my case is pending, and even if I am required only to perform as a non-combatant.
I also oppose war because I have seen first-hand the direct result of deployments to war zones. As a result of Operation Iraqi Freedom II, I have seen many veterans whose lives have been shattered. Many men came back with missing parts, and countless physical and emotional scars, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I have personally seen my comrades come back to commit suicide, drink themselves to death, and develop a strong addiction to drugs. It is obvious to me that these men?s lives were destroyed by war. What participation in war does to our own soldiers is another reason why war is fundamentally immoral and wrong.
In my last deployment, I witnessed how soldiers dehumanize the Iraqi people with words and actions. I saw countless innocent lives which were shortened due to the war. I still struggle with the senselessness of it all – Iraqi civilians losing their lives because they drove too close to a convoy or a check point, soldiers’ being shot by mistake by their own buddies, misunderstandings (due to the language barrier) leading to death. This is not acceptable to me. It makes no sense that to better the lives of these civilians they must first endure great human loss. This, too, is clear and convincing evidence to me that all war is evil and a harmful.
The overwhelming message I obtained from my personal experiences is that all wars cause more devastation than benefit. The more time I spent there, the more evident it became to me that all wars are wrong. How can I be a perpetrator, culprit, and/or enabler of these operations? I cannot and will not. I would much rather suffer the consequences of missing a movement – prosecution by court-martial – than be part of any war activity. To participate in this deployment I would have to ignore my deep sense of responsibility to uphold my moral values. No human has the moral authority to decide when it?s acceptable to end another?s life in this way. I am simply unwilling to serve in any military deployment capacity.
I have come to believe and understand that the purpose of our existence on earth is to value, cherish and conserve the miracle that is human life. To do so one must show each and every day through actions that nothing is of greater importance than the conservation of life. From the moment of our birth we inherit the precious gift of life, and it is natural to treasure this gift. It is natural to wish to preserve the lives of our human brothers and sisters, as well as one’s own. It is not natural and not human to kill other humans. Whether we acknowledge it or not, to be willing to destroy human life is to have no respect for life at all and is a total failure of one?s objective in life. Those that kill must accept the consequences, beginning with the perpetual destruction of their own human spirit. The acceptance that they alone have caused so much devastation by killing is not only morally wrong but a failure to do what is naturally human – preserve life. A person who fails to understand our true purpose on earth is doomed to a life of emptiness, frustration and destruction. This is the only possible outcome when you kill. And I know that for this upcoming deployment, people will die and people will be killed. To be a part of any of it in any way is unacceptable to me. To support, enable, and/or put any effort towards these missions is not possible. Therefore, I will not deploy.
I have the utmost respect for Martin Luther King, Jr. I value and admire his legacy. He said in a speech against the Vietnam War:
We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation. We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace ? and justice throughout the developing world, a world without borders on our doors. If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.
I have made my choice for peace, for humanity, and for a better tomorrow. Even though I understand that one of the consequences of refusing to deploy may possibly be a trial by court-martial and even my imprisonment, I cannot and will not deploy.
Source: Agustín Aguayo: Statement submitted to the United States Court of Appeals in Washington D.C. 2. September 2006.