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Abandon the Battlefield. "There's No Way I'm Going to Deploy to Afghanistan"

by Dahr Jamail

MARFA, Texas, May 26 (IPS) - "It’s a matter of what I’m willing to live with," Specialist Victor Agosto of the U.S. Army, who is refusing orders to deploy to Afghanistan, explained to IPS. "I’m not willing to participate in this occupation, knowing it is completely wrong."

Agosto, who returned from a 13-month deployment to Iraq in November 2007, is based at Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas.

While in Iraq, Agosto never left his base, located in northern Iraq.

"I never had any traumatic experiences, never fired my weapon," Agosto told IPS in a phone interview. "I mostly worked in information technology, working on computers and keeping the network functioning well. But it was in Iraq that I turned against the occupations. Through my reading, and watching what was going on, I started to feel very guilty."

Agosto added, "What I did there, I know I contributed to death and human suffering. It’s hard to quantify how much I caused, but I know I contributed to it."

Having served three years and nine months in the U.S. Army, Agosto was to complete his contract and be discharged on Aug. 3. But due to his excellent record of service and accrued leave, he was to be released the end of June. Nevertheless, due to the stop-loss programme, the Army decided to deploy him to Afghanistan anyway.

Stop-loss is a programme the military uses to keep soldiers enlisted beyond the terms of their contracts. Since Sep. 11, 2001, more than 140,000 troops have had tours extended by stop-loss.

A copy of his Counseling Form from the Army, dated May 1, reads, "You will deploy in support of OEF [Operation Enduring Freedom] on or about [XXXXX] with 57th ESB. This is a direct order from your Company Commander CPT Michael J. Pederson."

Agosto posted copies of the Counseling Statements issued by the Army on his Facebook page. Counseling Statements outline actions taken by the Army to discipline Agosto for his refusal to obey a direct order from his company commander.

On one of them, dated May 1, Agosto’s written statement appears: "There is no way I will deploy to Afghanistan. The occupation is immoral and unjust. It does not make the American people any safer. It has the opposite effect."

In another, dated May 18, he wrote: "I will not obey any orders I deem to be immoral or illegal."

On that day, Agosto was ordered to get his medical records in preparation to deploy to Afghanistan. He refused to do so. The Army threatened to take punitive measures, but Agosto wrote on the Counseling Statement, "I am not going to Afghanistan. I will not take part in SRP [Sealift Readiness Programme]."

If Agosto continues to refuse orders, he almost assuredly will face court martial, and likely jail time.

When IPS asked Agosto if he is willing to take whatever consequences the Army is prepared to mete out, he replied, "Yes. I’m fully prepared for this. I have concluded that the wars [in Iraq and Afghanistan] are not going to be ended by politicians or people at the top. They are not responsive to the people, they are responsive to corporate America."

Agosto added, "The only way to make them responsive to the needs of the people is if soldiers won’t fight their wars, and if soldiers won’t fight their wars, the wars won’t happen. I hope I’m setting an example for other soldiers."

Agosto has overtly refused to follow any order that has anything to do with his taking an action that would support the occupation of Afghanistan. For a time, according to Agosto, he was given simple orders to clean the motor pool, or pull weeds.

"They switched that recently," he told IPS, "I’ve continued to be fairly defiant, so on Tuesday I have to meet with Trial Defense Services, which then begins the process of getting an Article 15, which is movement towards being court-martialed, if these reprimands continue."

"If I take the Article 15, I’ll take a reduction in rank and pay. I don’t’ know what is going to happen. I agreed to sweep the motor pool and pull weeds, but nothing else that I feel directly supports the war. I’m not going to follow orders I’m not comfortable with."

Agosto’s case is not unique. The group Courage to Resist, based in Oakland, California, actively engages in assisting soldiers who refuse to deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan.

"Although the efforts of Courage to Resist are primarily focused on supporting public GI resisters, the organization also strives to provide political, emotional, and material support to all military objectors critical of our government's current policies of empire," reads a portion of the group's mission statement.

IPS spoke with Adam Szyper-Seibert, an office manager and counselor with Courage to Resist.

"Currently we are actively supporting over 50 military resisters like Victor Agosto," Szyper-Seibert told IPS, "They are all over the world, including André Shepherd in Germany, and several people in Canada. We are getting five to six calls a week just about the IRR [Individual Ready Reserve] recall alone."

U.S. Army Specialist André Shepherd, who went AWOL after serving in Iraq, has applied for asylum in Germany after refusing military service because he is morally opposed to the occupation of Iraq.

The IRR is composed of former military personnel who still have time remaining on their enlistment agreements but have returned to civilian life. They are eligible to be called up in "states of emergency." The Army is currently undertaking the largest IRR recall since 2004, despite the recent inauguration of a so-called anti-war president.

Szyper-Seibert said that the number of soldiers contacting Courage to Resist has been increasing dramatically in the last year, and particularly in recent months.

"The number of soldiers contacting us is increasing," he explained, "With five to six IRR’s contacting us a week, plus others going absent without leave [AWOL], the numbers are all climbing, as compared to a year ago. Since May 2008, we’ve had a 200 percent jump in how many soldiers are contacting us."

According to Courage to Resist, there have been at least 15,000 IRR call-ups since Sep. 11, 2001, for deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq.

Sgt. Travis Bishop, who served 14 months in Baghdad and is also stationed at Fort Hood, recently went AWOL when his unit deployed to Afghanistan.

Like Agosto, Bishop feels it is immoral for him to deploy to support an occupation he morally opposes.

"I love my country, but I believe that this particular war is unjust, unconstitutional and a total abuse of our nation’s power and influence," Bishop’s blog reads, "And so, in the next few days, I will be speaking with my lawyer, and taking actions that will more than likely result in my discharge from the military, and possible jail time... and I am prepared to live with that."

The reason he made this decision is addressed in his blog.

"My father said, ‘Do only what you can live with, because every morning you have to look at your face in the mirror when you shave. Ten years from now, you’ll still be shaving the same face.’ If I had deployed to Afghanistan, I don’t think I would have been able to look into another mirror again."

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Comment by Jeff on July 7, 2009 at 9:08pm
Sounds fair to me.

Peace
Comment by clamor on July 7, 2009 at 8:47pm
"Glad That There Are People Like Your Father In Arms"


To Vincent,
I'm not throwing a guilt trip to Spc Agosto, if I am Agosto, I apologize. More than anything, if anyone feels guilty I think I do. Though I too am tired of the war and felt I did what that "Oath" asked of me (just like Agosto - he served, and that's why I really feel that he won't serve time) it sucks knowing that my friends and acquaintances (who I enjoyed working with) whom are also stop-loss like me and Agosto are down there right now. Though I don't want to leave my little munchkin and the lady of the house for another year, I do feel guilty from time to time that I'm here stateside getting a medical evaluation. Every time I'm put in a silly detail, I suck it up cause I know in the end of the day, I'm still here. Good news is that everyone is safe down there and no one is engaging no one. There is one thing I know Agosto and I will agree on... there's is no reason for us to still be doing this...all of us. NO mission - NO Stop-Loss!!!!!!! If civilians are allowed down range, then there is no threat, agree (if there was any in the first place)? I wish we would just go away and let them "stand up."

Oh and Agosto same here......."I believe in wars of legitimate self-defense and resistance."

To Jeff, if we ever become neighbors, try not to piss off the Misses to much, I have to live with her.....hahahaha.
Comment by Jeff on July 7, 2009 at 12:06pm
Dead
Comment by Jeff on July 7, 2009 at 10:04am
Spc. Clamor,

Agosto has no connection to me and doesn't know me although I did ask him, before I answered any of your comments, if you were in fact a soldier associated with his unit, or whatever the proper military terminology might be, and his response was affirmative. I did that through Facebook in a private message.

I could care less whether you like me. I don't like or dislike you. I don't know you although were we living next door to one another we'd probably be very good friends. Internet conversations, typed in small spaces, leave a lot to be desired and rarely accurately or thoroughly describe opinions. It takes dialogue. This isn't dialogue. I've never met anyone that I didn't have the basis for friendship with in terms of those people I've met and talked to in person. The internet isn't personal. Don't take it that way.

While you may feel that I was hard on you, and perhaps I was, much of what I had to say didn't accurately describe my true feelings. I don't have the patience or time for that in web interactions.

I wish you well, I wish you success, good health and happiness. I'm glad that Spc. Agosto took the time to come here and stand up for himself. Lord knows, I'm surely not capable of doing it and did a very poor job of it since my knowledge of the military is slim and none combined and I know even less than that about Spc. Agosto and his personal feelings.
Comment by clamor on July 7, 2009 at 9:14am
Oh and Vincent, no I don't feel that way for everyone. Truthfully, its just Jeff, for reason's I've mentioned more than once. Obligation, no. If your reason are true and sincere, you'll have my "ear." To Agosto, if you are one of those, like I said I just wanted to put in my two cents in because of all the publicity its getting, and I just wanted to let people like you know that we aren't cold blooded, brainwashed killers. And that there are many people who came in to the military with a pure purpose to do some good. Agosto, I won't support you, but I definitely won't fight you. If that made any type of sense. See you downrange or the civilian world.
Comment by VIctor Agosto on July 7, 2009 at 9:09am
As for why I didn't file for conscientious objector status: I do not meet the criteria for this status. I, like you, am not opposed to all wars. I believe in wars of legitimate self-defense and resistance. I am opposed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Army's definition of Conscientious Objector (possibly the one you posted earlier) requires that one be opposed to all wars.
Comment by clamor on July 7, 2009 at 9:04am
"Sorry For The Wait"

Sorry for the late reply, I was on leave. Hope you didn't take it as disrespect. Agosto, glad to hear from you. In this way, Mr. Jeff knows I'm a real soldier in the unit and not some fake politic going "covert." Set this guy straight with the whole being a "soldier" in this new generation, cause he definitely won't hear me out. He still thinks were "Gommer Pile's."

Anyways, I see where you're coming from, I really do. But you know where I'm coming from right? Famous Army quote, " We're all we got!" As lower enlisted we go through things differently, and for you to blow us (not me specifically, obviously your friends and comrades) off like that, sucks. To have our own do that? Its one thing to have a officer, or some no good NCO, but for someone who goes through the same BS like us. I mean, we all are going through the same thing one way or another, why not stick it out with us? And that video I saw with you protesting in front of the Fort Hood entrance, really?

And another thing, like I said in my comments, there are many ways to get out, and you know this, I just don't understand why this publicize route? If you didn't go public, I just honestly would think you'd get a slap in the wrist.
I don't think I'm making much sense, I think I'm just wiped with the whole 4th of July thing, but if you want to talk Rm - D13. I'd check you, but I've only seen you once this past month. Unfortunately, it was a week or two before I read your article. Oh, I commend you for not going the AWOL route.

Here's a question for you Agosto, does it seem like I came here with hate or anger or a purpose to disrespect you? Or to just voice my opinion. Cause I thought I made it really clear that I just wanted to give another view of what WE go through. Just wondering cause all I get is anger from Mr. Jeff (which by the way I think is hilarious, for someone who wants peace, he does spread a lot of anger).

Oh, (I mean this with passion) if you support this guy (Jeff) in anyway, I would truly judge you. Especially knowing how this guy operates. If you don't understand what I'm talking about read all my comments. To side with someone as shady as this guy. If you're doing what you're doing for all the right things, have the right people with you. Jeff, you should run for office, by the way we've been conversating, you seem like a politician.
Comment by Jeff on July 6, 2009 at 1:52am
Can't argue with that at all.

Peace
Comment by VIctor Agosto on July 6, 2009 at 12:27am
SPC Clamor,

You have made a few claims about me. I am here to address them.

My objection to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is not something that sprung up as a result of my stop-loss. However, getting stop-lossed did force me to make a decision as to whether I would deploy. I joined Iraq Veterans Against the War (an organization that is also opposed to the war in Afghanistan) in April of 2008, a few months after I came back from Iraq. So, my objection to the wars is nothing new. Many people who have served with me in 57th have known that I am against the wars. I have been fairly well-known among peace activists in central Texas since that time. That's why it is not surprising that you, a person I was once briefly introduced to, make claims without fully understanding the facts.

Even though I knew these wars were totally wrong, I volunteered to deploy to Iraq last summer. I did it for the same reason a lot of soldiers in our battalion did -- I figured I was going to get stop-lossed in the summer of 2009. Since I was not prepared to ever refuse deployment, I wanted to get the deployment out of the way so I could get out of the Army as soon as possible. I volunteered to go to Iraq with that other unit. I am grateful the Army did not accept me for the mission.

I continued in my activism against the wars. I learned about GI resistance during the Vietnam era and the crucial role it played in ending that war. I concluded that the only way the wars would end is if soldiers stopped fighting them. But still, I was not prepared to refuse deployment.

Obama said he was going to end stop-loss, and I hoped that it would not happen to me. When it did, I had another decision to make, since I then knew for sure that the Army planned to deploy me to Afghanistan. Knowing I would have support, and knowing that was the right thing to do, I decided I would refuse deployment to Afghanistan. I did not like like getting stop-lossed, but I believe I would have refused deployment even if my active-duty commitment were longer. The subconscious is a powerful thing, so it MAY have played a role in my decision, but the stop-loss played no part on my conscious decision-making.

I considered going AWOL and a number of other things to avoid deployment. Ultimately, I chose to resist the way that I have because I do not just want to end my participation in these wars - I want to end everyone's participation in these wars. So yes, I do want as many people as possible (especially soldiers) to know what I'm doing. I am willing to go to prison. However, I do not believe I have done anything wrong, so I want to limit the amount of time I spend in prison. The public attention may help me receive a shorter sentence. I do not feel the need to apologize for that.

As for the pulling weeds and motor pool clean-up comment -- those are the things I DO when ordered, since I don't see much of a connection between that and the unit's deployment to Afghanistan.

I do not have complete control over the articles people put out. Anyone who has worked with reporters can tell you that they often do not represent things exactly the way you explain them. Oddly enough, the SRP mistake was repeated on my court-martial charge sheet. Apparently the prosecuting authority read Dahr Jamail's article and did not bother consulting with the people in my chain of command.

- Victor Agosto
Comment by clamor on July 2, 2009 at 12:37am
Before I totally drift away, I've been the past few days...........sorry, the first day or so, you really interested me. But then all the dodging of my questions, and not fully, directly replying to my many, many comments you pretty much cold turkey me when you made that comment not really wanting the truth, just words to feed your cause. But anyways, if all anything,

ASSUMPTIONS: (By whom? The world may never know)

"You are a disinformation specialist." "

You joined this web site not with the intention of being an active member but with the specific intention of disparaging these fine young sodliers."

"You possess NO empathy."

"While you are under some serious delusions..."

"The military does do one thing well. It turns out obedient and able bodied workers that don't question authority."

"Now, recognizing you're a dumb, stupid animal to be used as a pawn in foreign policy means all you can say now is, "Woof, Woof."

No need to reply Jeff, all I need is another fractures of answers for a little bit of here and there, never anything full.

P.S.
No hard feelings (actually from my end, never did). Peace be with us all.

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