The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

5500 choose desertion over going to war in Iraq and Afghanistan

Dec 20, 2004

The Pentagon admits that over 5500 U.S. troops have deserted since March 2003, when the U.S. invaded Iraq.

The TV program 60 Minutes recently interviewed three of these servicemen. What these young former soldiers have to say is worth listening to.

Twenty-four-year-old Marine Dan Felushko enlisted in the Marines after 9/11. But in January 2003, when ordered to Kuwait to prepare for the invasion of Iraq, he refused to go and instead went to Canada. Felushko explained, "I didn't want 'Died deluded in Iraq' over my gravestone. I didn't see a connection between the attack on America and Saddam Hussein. If I died or killed somebody in Iraq, that would have been wrong. It is my right to choose between what I think is right and wrong."

Brandon Hughey graduated from high-school in Texas around the time Bush declared war in Iraq. He volunteered for the army to get money for college. It wasn't until he finished Basic Training that he began to follow the news closely. When "I found out that they found no weapons of mass destruction [in Iraq] ... and the claim they made about ties to al Qaeda was coming up short, it made me angry because I felt our lives were being thrown away as soldiers."

After the reporter read letters in the newspaper from Hughey's home town labeling him a traitor and coward and calling for the death penalty, Hughey stood his ground. He said, "Before I joined the Army, I would have thought the same way. I'm thankful for this experience because it has opened my eyes and has taught me not to take things on the surface."

Jeremy Hinzman from South Dakota joined up for a military career and was a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne. He began to have doubts during training when guys in his unit were walking to chow hall, yelling, "Train to kill, kill we will." He filled out forms to be a Conscientious Objector (CO) which would have allowed him to stay in the Army in a non-combat job. While waiting for a decision, he was deployed to Afghanistan where he did kitchen duty. Later the Army denied him CO status and he was ordered to Iraq.

Hinzman refused to go. He took his wife and pre-school son to Canada. When the reporter asked, "Weren't you supposed to follow orders?", he answered, "I was told in basic training, if I'm given an illegal or immoral order, it is my duty to disobey it. I feel invading and occupying Iraq is an illegal and immoral thing to do. There are times when armies or countries act in a collectively wrong way."

These three men may be unusual in agreeing to speak publicly, but behind them are thousands more soldiers who in one way or another also turned their back on an army that proposed to use them as cannon fodder.