Sunday, March 04, 2007

War resister Agustin Aguayo to be court-martialed Tuesday


Free Agustin Aguayo! - Iraq war veteran, prisoner of conscience
Agustín Aguayo, a 35-year-old Army medic and conscientious objector, will face court martial on March 6 for resisting redeployment to Iraq. He has been formally charged by the Army with desertion and missing movement. If convicted of all charges, Agustín faces a maximum of seven years in prison for following his conscience and refusing to participate in war. He is currently imprisoned pending trial at a military brig in Manheim, Germany.
Nearly three years ago, Agustín applied for a conscientious objector discharge from the Army and later served a full one year in Iraq, all the while refusing to load his weapon. Now Agustín's wife Helga, mother Susana, and his two 11-year-old daughters Raquel and Rebecca, are leading a grassroots campaign for justice and freedom for him and all GI war resisters.
Read more about Agustín Aguayo
Download the "Free Agustín Aguayo" leaflet (also: Spanish version)
Photo gallery of Agustín, family and supporters
Write to Agustin directly at:SPC Agustín Aguayo; Unit 29723 Box LL; APO, AE 09028-3810
Upcoming events in support of Agustín AguayoSaturday dance party March 3 in Oakland, California
Watch Courage to Resist videos of Agustín's Sept. 26 press conference and Agustín saying goodbye to wife Helga and daughters.

The above is from Courage to Resist. Agustin Aguayo, born in Mexico, naturalized citizen of the United States, joined the military in 2000. Kevin Dougherty (Stars and Stripes) reported that Aguayo singed up after repeated conversations with a California military recruiter convinced him he convinced that "a health care specialist" could serve the country (US) and the military, that it was only once Aguayo deployed to Iraq that he began to rethink his decision.

The father of two, husband of Helga Aguayo for fifteen years, self-checked out of the military on September 2, 2006. His reasons for doing that included the fact that, while serving in Iraq, he came to realize the nature of the illegal war and did not feel he could participate for religious and moral reasons. While in Iraq, he refused to load his gun. Aaron Glantz (OneWorld) noted Aguayo's reasoning for refusing to load his weapon, "By doing guard duty, appearing to be armed, even without bullets, I gave the false impression that I would kill if need be. I am not willing to live a lie to satisfy any deployment operation. By helping countless soldiers for 'sick-call' as well as driving soldiers around on patrols I helped them get physcially better and be able to go out and do the very thing I am against -- kill. This is something my conscience will not allow me to do."

In July of 2004, his conscientious objector status was denied by the army and he was told that his appeal couldn't be heard until after he returned from Iraq. The US military rejected the idea that someone could sign up and even be comfortable with going to Iraq only, once in Iraq, realize the mistake of the decision, They rejected his c.o. status on those grounds and, in doing so, they rejected the basic principle of many popular faiths practiced in America which are based upon the idea of awakening.

As C.I. noted, "If the military or the civilian courts are going to argue that one's religious status is a fixed state, they're going to be going against the teachings of a great many churches within the US. Aguayo's case can be summed up as someone coming from a religious environment, confronted with a real world reality that is not the one sold to him, deciding to respond to it with the teachings he was raised on."

Faced with the impending date for deployment to Iraq and the threats that he would deploy to Iraq in handcuffs if need be, Aguayo decided to self-check out.

He left Germany (where he had been stationed) and returned to the United States. On September 26, 2006 (24 days later) he turned himself in. He explained his decision, "Why am I turning myself in? Because it is the right thing to do. It is the responsible thing to do. I'm not a deserter or a coward. I just felt that I needed to be unavailable for this movement because I have come to believe that it is so wrong." Speaking to Adrienne Ziegler (Desert Dispatch), Helga added, "The greatest lesson he could teach (our daughters) is to stand up for what you believe in, and if you don't, you hurt the people around you. . . . If my husband can inspire one person to become a conscientious objector, then all this hassle was worth it."

Aguayo self-checked out of the US military on September 2nd and turned himself at Fort Irwin on September 26. If you're wondering, "What's with the dates?" -- there is a reason. Anyone can be charged with desertion for any length time they're missing for the military; however, as a general rule, the military usually avoids the desertion charge for anything 30 days or less. Aguayo was missing for 24 days.

Kevin Dougherty (Stars & Stripes) reported, in January, that the US military had decided on their charges against Aguayo: desertion and missing movement and that conviction on both charges "could receive a maximum prison term of seven years". The military wanted to come down hard on Aguayo (the same as with Kyle Snyder) and use him to send a message. Charging him with being AWOL would have meant a conviction could result in less maximum time.

Helga Aguayo spoke with Gillian Russon (Socialist Worker) and stated, on the topic of war resisters, the folloing, "They're important because they're taking a stand that all the Americans who are against the war can't really take. They're making it difficult for the Army to continue their mission. My husband's a paramedic, and medics are needed desperately in Iraq. I think that these soldiers who stand up and say, 'I won't do it,' are frustrating the plans of these particular units. It's important for the antiwar movement to adopt these soldiers and say that this guy has taken a remarkable step. We need to support him because he's doing what we would do if we were in his position."

She is correct and war resistance has a long history. One of the most famous war resisters is Muhmammed Ali. Ali stated, in 1966 (Howard Zinn's A People History of the United States, p. 431):

Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go ten thousand miles from home and drop boms and bullets on brown people in Vietnam, while so-called Negro people in Lousiville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights? No, I am not going ten thousand miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people th world over. This is the day when such evils must come to an end. I have been warned that to take such a stand would put my prestige in jeopardy and could cause me to lose millions of dollars which should accrue to me as the champion. But I have said it once and I will say it again. The real enemy of my people is right here. I will not disgrace my relgion, my people or myself by becoming a tool to enslave those who are fighting for their own justice, freedom and equality.
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