US army deserters flee Iraq
Last week's successful election in Iraq was a major step towards the
withdrawal of US troops from the country. But some soldiers are
jumping the gun. They're deserting the US army, insisting the
occupation is unjust.
At present, more than 5,000 troops are missing from duty, the
One of them is Andre Shepherd, who found a new home in Germany. In
2007, before his second deployment in Iraq, Andre fled the army,
calling the war illegal.
"When the CIA report came and they said that there were no weapons of
mass destruction found in Iraq, that really made me angry," Andre
said. "I wondered if there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq
and the CIA and obviously the Bush administration knew about this,
then why did we just destroy Fallujah, completely wiped out the
entire city?" he asked.
When Andre's unit first returned to its military base in Germany, the
apache helicopter mechanic said he knew he could no longer be a part
of America's war efforts.
"I am sitting here and thinking: what am I doing? I'm putting
together a lethal machine that is just killing innocent people."
Andre told the army he was going on holiday to the US, but instead
went on the run in Germany. But after 19 months in hiding, he decided
on another course of action. In his case, asylum was the only option.
Andre's lawyer Dr Reinhard Marx says German and international law is
on Andre's side but there will be challenges ahead.
"Speaking in legal terms, he has good reason; but speaking in
political terms - if you consider the particular relationship between
Germany and the US, it will be a very difficult question and it will
raise a lot of problems," Marx said.
Andre Shepherd may become the first US soldier to get asylum status
in Europe and many here also believe that this case will be a key
indicator of Germany's stance on the war in Iraq.
Even though Germany has declared the war illegal, the country is the
main staging post for the US military with around 60,000 US troops
Criss Capps is an Iraq war veteran. Like many of his colleagues, he
also questions the war's legitimacy.
"So if I'm doing work for the Iraqis by watching them with an M16,
while they are working their ass off filling sand bags, this is not
the kind of help we need to bring to Iraq," he said.
"What I did see in Iraq is basically Iraqis being exploited; a lot of
Americans made a lot of money."
Tim Hubert from the Military Counseling network says around 80
soldiers contact his organization each year looking for ways to get
out of the army, and he thinks Andre's case may open the flood gates
for many other US soldiers.
"I think giving Andre asylum would give hope to a lot of soldiers
struggling with guilt right now - fighting a war they feel is unjust,
and not having a way out of a contract they entered under extremely
different circumstances," Huber said.
Hubert says that if Andre loses then he will be turned over to the US
authorities. And if they decide to prosecute him with desertion he
could even face the death sentence.
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