Army Gears Up to Punish Soldiers Who Refused Mission
Statement in Support of the 343rd Soldiers Who Refused Iraq Mission
Issued by the Campus Antiwar Network Coordinating Committee -
"The Army doesn't want the information to get out."
-Beverly Dobbs, mother of Spec. Joseph Dobbs
Well, we want the information to get out. We want everyone to know what the military is trying to do to these soldiers who stood up against unsafe orders. They were right to refuse, and no charges should be brought against them.
The Army has recommended punishment for 24 members of the South
Carolina-based 343rd quartermaster company who refused orders to drive a fuel convoy on a route hundreds of miles long without armor, air or ground support, and carrying helicopter fuel they believed to be contaminated, and therefore dangerous to other soldiers.
The military is trying to keep the situation as quiet as possible.
Without the soldier's families bravely speaking out on the situation, much less would be known about their fight.
Families say the punishment being considered ranges from a letter of
reprimand, fines, reduction in rank and pay, to possible court-marshal
and prison time.
The military has tried to portray this as an isolated incident, and not
part of a larger breakdown in discipline or a symptom of a widespread
shortage of proper equipment for troops.
They obviously fear the soldiers' refusal will find popular support
among civilians, and more importantly, those in the military who can
sympathize with the 343rd's plight--and who might consider following their example.
The widespread discontent in the military can be seen in the numbers of reservists who are fighting calls to return to active duty.
Over the last few months, the Army has called 4,000 former soldiers to
report for active duty, and 1,800 have requested exemptions or delays.
Of the 2,500 that were supposed to report for duty by Nov. 7, 733 haven't shown up. Some soldiers have sued the military and won their cases.
In Vietnam, widespread combat refusal paralyzed the military and was
crucial to ending the war. That's why the military is trying hard to keep people from seeing the actions of the 343rd as a symbol of resistance.
"I'll say it over and over, I do not understand why they're having to go
through this", said Beverly Dobbs. "They joined because that was a
dream for all of them. It can be ruined because they're not willing to listen to what they're trying to say. To my mind they saved lives by not going out."
The military disillusioned many soldiers in Vietnam, and is doing the
same today. We will see more incidents like the 343rd's. In fact, another, largely unreported, protest occurred when three National Guard members at Camp Shelby, refused to conduct training exercises after their anger at poor pay and conditions at the base spilled over.
When these soldiers stand up and resist, we have to be ready to do the same.
The Campus Antiwar Network