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40,000 US Troops Have Deserted Since 2000

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    40,000 US Troops Have Deserted Since 2000 By Ana Radelat Gannett News Service Saturday 05 August 2006 http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/080506X.shtml Swept up
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 6, 2006
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      40,000 US Troops Have Deserted Since 2000
      By Ana Radelat
      Gannett News Service
      Saturday 05 August 2006

      Swept up by a wave of patriotism after the US invasion of Iraq,
      Chris Magaoay joined the Marine Corps in November 2004.

      The newly married Magaoay thought a military career would allow
      him to continue his college education, help his country and set his
      life on the right path.

      Less than two years later, Magaoay became one of thousands of
      military deserters who have chosen a lifetime of exile or possible
      court-martial rather than fight in Iraq or Afghanistan.

      "It wasn't something I did on the spur of the moment," said
      Magaoay, a native of Maui, Hawaii. "It took me a long time to realize
      what was going on. The war is illegal."

      Magaoay said his disillusionment with the military began in boot
      camp in Twentynine Palms, Calif., where a superior officer joked about
      killing and mistreating Iraqis. When his unit was deployed to Iraq in
      March, Magaoay and his wife drove to Canada, joining a small group of
      deserters who are trying to win permission from the Canadian
      government to stay.

      "We're like a tight-knit family," Magaoay said.

      The Pentagon says deserters like Magaoay represent a tiny fraction
      of the nation's fighting forces.

      "The vast majority of soldiers who desert do so for personal,
      family or financial problems, not for political or conscientious
      objector purposes," said Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty, a spokesman for the

      Since 2000, about 40,000 troops from all branches of the military
      have deserted, the Pentagon says. More than half served in the Army.
      But the Army says numbers have decreased each year since the United
      States began its war on terror in Afghanistan.

      Those who help war resisters say desertion is more prevalent than
      the military has admitted.

      "They lied in Vietnam with the amount of opposition to the war and
      they're lying now," said Eric Seitz, an attorney who represents Army
      Lt. Ehren Watada, the first commissioned officer to refuse deployment
      to the war in Iraq.

      Watada is under military custody in Fort Lewis, Wash., because he
      refused to join his Stryker brigade when it was sent to Iraq last month.

      Watada said he doesn't object to war but considers the conflict in
      Iraq illegal. The Army has turned down his request to resign and plans
      to file charges against him.

      Critics of the Iraq war have demonstrated on the lieutenant's
      behalf. Conservative bloggers call him a traitor and opportunist.

      Joe Davis, spokesman for the Veterans of Foreign Wars, said
      deserters aren't traitors because they've done nothing to help
      America's enemies. But he rejects arguments that deserters have a
      moral right to refuse to fight wars they consider unjust.

      "None of us can choose our wars. They're always a political
      decision," Davis said. "They're letting their buddies down and hurting
      morale - and morale is everything on the battlefront."

      Because today's military is an all-volunteer force, troops seeking
      objector status must convince superior officers they've had an honest
      change of heart about the morality of war.

      The last time the US military executed a deserter was World War
      II. But hundreds face court-martials and imprisonment every year.

      Members of the armed forces are considered absent without leave
      when they are unaccounted for. They become deserters after they've
      been AWOL for 30 days.

      A 2002 Army report says desertion is fairly constant but tends to
      worsen during wartime, when there's an increased need for troops and
      enlistment standards are more lax. They also say deserters tend to be
      less educated and more likely to have engaged in delinquent behavior
      than other troops.

      Army spokesman Hilferty said the Army doesn't try to find
      deserters. Instead, their names are given to civilian law enforcement
      officers who often nab them during routine traffic stops and turn them
      over to the military.

      Commanders then decide whether to rehabilitate or court-martial
      the alleged deserter. There's an incentive to rehabilitate because it
      costs the military an average of $38,000 to recruit and train a

      Jeffry House, an attorney in Toronto who represents Magaoay and
      other deserters, said there are about 200 deserters living in Canada.
      They have decided not to seek refugee status but instead are leading
      clandestine lives, he said.

      Like many of the people helping today's war resisters, House fled
      to Canada to avoid the Vietnam War. About 50,000 Americans sought
      legal residency in Canada during the Vietnam era.

      "You would apply at the border and if you didn't have a criminal
      record, you were in," House said.

      He said changes in Canadian law make it harder for resisters to
      flee north. Now, potential immigrants must apply for Canadian
      residency in their home countries. Resisters say that exposes them to
      US prosecution.


      Soldiers say officers commanded them to 'kill all military age males'
      in Iraq

      Associated Press, 7/21/06

      EL PASO, Texas - Four U.S. soldiers accused of murdering suspected
      insurgents during a raid in Iraq said they were under orders to "kill
      all military age males," according to sworn statements obtained by The
      Associated Press.

      The soldiers first took some of the men into custody because they were
      using two women and a toddler as human shields. They shot three of the
      men after the women and child were safe and say the men attacked them.

      "The ROE (rule of engagement) was to kill all military age males on
      Objective Murray," Staff Sgt. Raymond L. Girouard told investigators,
      referring to the target by its code name.

      That target, an island on a canal in the northern Salhuddin province,
      was believed to be an al-Qaida training camp. The soldiers said
      officers in their chain of command gave them the order and explained
      that special forces had tried before to target the island and had come
      under fire from insurgents.

      Girouard, Spc. William B. Hunsaker, Pfc. Corey R. Clagett, and Spc.
      Juston R. Graber are charged with murder and other offenses in the
      shooting deaths of three of the men during the May 9 raid.

      Girouard, Hunsaker and Clagett are also charged with obstruction of
      justice for allegedly threatening to kill another soldier if he told
      authorities what happened.

      `They did it admirably'
      In sworn statements obtained this week by the AP, Girouard, Hunsaker,
      Clagett, and a witness, Sgt. Leonel Lemus, told Army investigators
      they were ordered to attack an island in northern Salahuddin province
      on May 9 and kill anti-Iraqi fighters with ties to al-Qaida.

      All four soldiers charged are members of the Fort Campbell, Ky.-based
      3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division. They
      have been jailed in Kuwait since their June arrests. Their first
      hearing is Aug. 1 near Tikrit, Iraq.

      Michael Waddington, Hunsaker's civilian lawyer, said his client
      followed orders and killed the detainees in self-defense after he and
      Clagett were attacked.

      "They did (their job) honorably, they did it admirably," said Paul
      Bergrin, Clagett's civilian attorney. "If they did want to kill these
      men, they could have and been within the rules of engagement."

      Officers from their unit initially cleared the soldiers of wrongdoing.
      Charges were filed when witnesses changed their testimony after
      repeated interviews with Army investigators, Bergrin said.

      Military declines to comment
      Reached by e-mail in Iraq, Girouard's Army lawyer, Capt. Theodore
      Miller, declined to comment because the investigation was continuing.

      An Army prosecutor, also deployed to Iraq, did not respond to an
      e-mail request for comment.

      Army spokesman Sheldon Smith asked that a request for comment be
      e-mailed to him in Virginia. He did not immediately respond.

      Military officials have released few details of the case.

      But statements from Girouard, Hunsaker and Clagett describe a tense
      early morning scene, with soldiers immediately opening fire on buildings.

      Girouard told investigators he expected he and his comrades would
      immediately be attacked when they landed on the island. Intelligence
      officials had warned that at least 20 al-Qaida operatives were hiding

      But it was only once the men moved to the northern half of the island
      that they found anyone, Girouard said. He said he and others shot and
      killed a man they spied in a window in one building and then rushed
      into a house where they found three other men hiding behind two women.

      A fifth man, holding a 2-year-old girl in front of him, later came out
      of another building, Girouard and Hunsaker told investigators.

      `Struck on the face'
      Girouard said the four surviving men were not immediately killed
      because of the human shields. Once the women and child were moved to
      safety, he told investigators, the men did not appear to pose a threat
      and the soldiers took them into custody.

      But Hunsaker said three of the men then attacked him and Clagett as
      the soldiers were trying to bind the men's hands with heavy-duty
      plastic ties.

      "I had felt this action necessary for they had tried to use deadly
      force on me and my comrade," Hunsaker wrote about the shooting.

      Hunsaker told investigators he was stabbed. Clagett said he was
      "struck on the face with a fist or something."

      Lemus, who only saw the men fall to the ground, told investigators he
      thought the killings were justified.

      "Proper escalation of force was used when the detainee became hostile
      and armed himself with a weapon and wounded one soldier and struck
      another," Lemus said. "Our actions ... were in accordance to the ROE
      (rule of engagement) briefed to us prior to our mission and moments
      before our air assault was conducted."

      `Telling the truth'
      Girouard said he did not see the shooting either but was immediately
      told what happened.

      "I think they are telling the truth," Girouard's statement said. "If
      it would have happened another way they would have told me and the
      story has been the same the whole time."

      Clagett and Hunsaker also told investigators they found AK-47 assault
      rifles, ammunition and gun parts after the men were killed.

      Bergrin said the weapons and other evidence not mentioned in the
      statements were proof that the Iraqi men were a threat.

      Several other service members face similar charges in unrelated cases
      involving the deaths of civilians in Iraq.

      According to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the maximum penalty
      for murder is death, but it was unclear if the government will seek
      the death penalty in any of the pending cases.


      The Right Way in Iraq
      By John Edwards
      Sunday, November 13, 2005; B07

      I was wrong.

      Almost three years ago we went into Iraq to remove what we were told
      -- and what many of us believed and argued -- was a threat to America.
      But in fact we now know that Iraq did not have weapons of mass
      destruction when our forces invaded Iraq in 2003. The intelligence was
      deeply flawed and, in some cases, manipulated to fit a political agenda.

      It was a mistake to vote for this war in 2002. I take responsibility
      for that mistake. It has been hard to say these words because those
      who didn't make a mistake -- the men and women of our armed forces and
      their families -- have performed heroically and paid a dear price.

      The world desperately needs moral leadership from America, and the
      foundation for moral leadership is telling the truth.

      While we can't change the past, we need to accept responsibility,
      because a key part of restoring America's moral leadership is
      acknowledging when we've made mistakes or been proven wrong -- and
      showing that we have the creativity and guts to make it right.

      The argument for going to war with Iraq was based on intelligence that
      we now know was inaccurate. The information the American people were
      hearing from the president -- and that I was being given by our
      intelligence community -- wasn't the whole story. Had I known this at
      the time, I never would have voted for this war.

      George Bush won't accept responsibility for his mistakes. Along with
      Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, he has made horrible mistakes at
      almost every step: failed diplomacy; not going in with enough troops;
      not giving our forces the equipment they need; not having a plan for

      Because of these failures, Iraq is a mess and has become a far greater
      threat than it ever was. It is now a haven for terrorists, and our
      presence there is draining the goodwill our country once enjoyed,
      diminishing our global standing. It has made fighting the global war
      against terrorist organizations more difficult, not less.

      The urgent question isn't how we got here but what we do now. We have
      to give our troops a way to end their mission honorably. That means
      leaving behind a success, not a failure.

      What is success? I don't think it is Iraq as a Jeffersonian democracy.
      I think it is an Iraq that is relatively stable, largely
      self-sufficient, comparatively open and free, and in control of its
      own destiny.

      A plan for success needs to focus on three interlocking objectives:
      reducing the American presence, building Iraq's capacity and getting
      other countries to meet their responsibilities to help.

      First, we need to remove the image of an imperialist America from the
      landscape of Iraq. American contractors who have taken unfair
      advantage of the turmoil in Iraq need to leave Iraq. If that means
      Halliburton subsidiary KBR, then KBR should go. Such departures, and
      the return of the work to Iraqi businesses, would be a real statement
      about our hopes for the new nation.

      We also need to show Iraq and the world that we will not stay there
      forever. We've reached the point where the large number of our troops
      in Iraq hurts, not helps, our goals. Therefore, early next year, after
      the Iraqi elections, when a new government has been created, we should
      begin redeployment of a significant number of troops out of Iraq. This
      should be the beginning of a gradual process to reduce our presence
      and change the shape of our military's deployment in Iraq. Most of
      these troops should come from National Guard or Reserve forces.

      That will still leave us with enough military capability, combined
      with better-trained Iraqis, to fight terrorists and continue to help
      the Iraqis develop a stable country.

      Second, this redeployment should work in concert with a more effective
      training program for Iraqi forces. We should implement a clear plan
      for training and hard deadlines for certain benchmarks to be met. To
      increase incentives, we should implement a schedule showing that, as
      we certify Iraqi troops as trained and equipped, a proportional number
      of U.S. troops will be withdrawn.

      Third, we must launch a serious diplomatic process that brings the
      world into this effort. We should bring Iraq's neighbors and our key
      European allies into a diplomatic process to get Iraq on its feet. The
      president needs to create a unified international front.

      Too many mistakes have already been made for this to be easy. Yet we
      must take these steps to succeed. The American people, the Iraqi
      people and -- most important -- our troops who have died or been
      injured there, and those who are fighting there today, deserve nothing

      America's leaders -- all of us -- need to accept the responsibility we
      each carry for how we got to this place. More than 2,000 Americans
      have lost their lives in this war, and more than 150,000 are fighting
      there today. They and their families deserve honesty from our
      country's leaders. And they also deserve a clear plan for a way out.

      The writer, a former senator from North Carolina, was the Democratic
      nominee for vice president in 2004.



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