NOTE:
You've come to an old part of SW Online. We're still moving this and other older stories into our new format. In the meanwhile, click here to go to the current home page.








Agustín Aguayo faces seven years in prison for resisting the war
"I saw countless innocent lives cut short"

By Eric Ruder | February 23, 2007 | Pages 1 and 2

SPC. AGUSTÍN Aguayo did everything by the book. Now he faces seven years in a military prison for his troubles. On March 6, the U.S. Army will begin court-martial proceedings against Agustín, who is currently confined at his base in Germany.

Agustín joined the military in early 2003, but before he deployed to Iraq in February 2004, he applied for conscientious objector (CO) status--after his views evolved to the point where he no longer felt he could participate in the occupation of Iraq.

While his request was being processed, Agustín went with his unit to Tikrit, Iraq, carried out his duties as a medic, and went on patrols and performed guard duty--but without ever loading his weapon.

The Army denied Agustín's request for a CO discharge, and one appeal and two years later, the military notified Agustín that his unit would deploy again to Iraq in August 2006. Agustín again informed his commanding officers that taking part in the war effort would violate his principles.

What you can do

To learn more about Agustín's case and find out how you can support him, go to AguayoDefense.org. You can make badly needed donation to his defense fund at the Courage to Resist Web site--be sure to specify the Agustín Aguayo Campaign.

Go to the Iraq Veterans Against the War Web site for news and updates about war resisters and other initiatives. Active-duty soldiers can register their discontent by signing the Appeal for Redress. Troops who need advice about their rights should go to GI Rights Hotline Web site or call 800-394-9544 from the U.S. or 510-465-1472 from outside the U.S.

For an excellent history of the GI rebellion during the U.S. war on Vietnam, read David Cortright's Soldiers in Revolt, newly republished by Haymarket Books. David Zeiger's Sir! No Sir! is an inspiring documentary about the Vietnam soldiers' revolt, and is available on DVD, along with many other supplemental materials.

 

"In my last deployment, I witnessed how soldiers dehumanize the Iraqi people with words and actions," Agustín wrote in his blog as he outlined the reasons he could not return to the war zone. "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 checkpoint, 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."

On September 1, Agustín went absent without leave (AWOL) to avoid deploying. He turned himself in a day later to accept whatever sanctions the military might impose on him--a less-than-honorable discharge, or even a court-martial and possible prison term.

But to Agustín's horror, the Army informed him he would be sent to Iraq--in leg irons, if necessary. Agustín decided he had no choice but to go AWOL again, and then turn himself in a few weeks later.

In an interview, Agustin's wife Helga explained that as time passed, Agustín's opposition to the U.S. war drive against Iraq only deepened.

"One of the care packages sent to the soldiers was a book on the history of Iraq," said Helga. "He said that it really changed what he believed. I mean, he was a conscientious objector, he believed that killing was wrong, but after reading that book he realized that the war in Iraq has essentially been created for the personal gain of a few people.

"What he told me was that for a few corporations, it's in their best interests to keep the chaos going in Iraq. And he just came to believe that killing is wrong, but this war is wrong, too, because it's all motivated by money."

Antiwar activists in the U.S. are organizing forums and pickets to coincide with Agustín's court-martial. In Germany, too, peace activists have gathered outside of Agustín's military base to demand his release.

Like other war resisters before him, Agustín's act of conscience has helped to highlight the injustices of the U.S. occupation of Iraq--and serve as an example that other troops can and should organize to oppose this war.

Gillian Russom contributed to this report.

Home page | Current storylist | Back to the top