8.06.2006

Soldiers of Conscience

From AirForceTimes, "Thousands of troops say they won’t fight", excerpt:
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 . . .
At Common Dreams, "Israeli Soldier Incarcerated for Refusing to Fight" by Aaron Glantz (original article at OneWorld.net). Clip:
Israeli authorities have sentenced an army officer to 28 days in a military prison for refusing to serve in the ongoing Israeli campaign in Lebanon.

32-year-old Reserve Captain Amir Paster, an infantry officer and student at Tel Aviv University, is the first Israeli soldier to be punished for refusing to serve in the current conflict and has received harsh criticism from the Israeli military for setting what it termed a bad example for his troops.

According to the soldier support group Yesh Gvul ("There Is a Limit"), Paster refused to serve on the grounds that Israeli operations were harming civilians, declaring at his trial "taking part in this war runs contrary to the values upon which he was brought up."

Supporters say Paster's act was courageous given that the vast majority of Jewish Israelis support the war . . .
In The Observer (UK), "Israeli pilots 'deliberately miss' targets". A slice:
At least two Israeli fighter pilots have deliberately missed civilian targets in Lebanon as disquiet grows in the military about flawed intelligence, The Observer has learnt. Sources say the pilots were worried that targets had been wrongly identified as Hizbollah facilities.

Voices expressing concern over the armed forces' failures are getting louder. One Israeli cabinet minister said last week: 'We gave the army so much money. Why are we getting these results?' Last week saw Hizbollah's guerrilla force, dismissed by senior Israeli military officials as 'ragtag', inflict further casualties on one of the world's most powerful armies in southern Lebanon. At least 12 elite troops, the equivalent of Britain's SAS, have already been killed, and by yesterday afternoon Israel's military death toll had climbed to 45 . . .

As international outrage over civilian deaths grows, the spotlight is increasingly turning on Israeli air operations. The Observer has learnt that one senior commander who has been involved in the air attacks in Lebanon has already raised concerns that some of the air force's actions might be considered 'war crimes'.

Yonatan Shapiro, a former Blackhawk helicopter pilot dismissed from reserve duty after signing a 'refusenik' letter in 2004, said he had spoken with Israeli F-16 pilots in recent days and learnt that some had aborted missions because of concerns about the reliability of intelligence information. According to Shapiro, some pilots justified aborting missions out of 'common sense' and in the context of the Israeli Defence Force's moral code of conduct, which says every effort should be made to avoiding harming civilians.

Shapiro said: 'Some pilots told me they have shot at the side of targets because they're afraid people will be there, and they don't trust any more those who give them the coordinates and targets.'

He added: 'One pilot told me he was asked to hit a house on a hill, which was supposed to be a place from where Hizbollah was launching Katyusha missiles. But he was afraid civilians were in the house, so he shot next to the house ...

'Pilots are always being told they will be judged on results, but if the results are hundreds of dead civilians while Hizbollah is still able to fire all these rockets, then something is very wrong.'

So far none of the pilots has publicly refused to fly missions but some are wobbling, according to Shapiro. He said: 'Their target could be a house firing a cannon at Israel and it could be a house full of children, so it's a real dilemma; it's not black and white. But ... I'm calling on them to refuse, in order save our country from self-destruction.' . . .
I can't really think of anything to say except, "Bless you".

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