"I believe war is the crime of our times," Blake Ivey, a specialist in the U.S. Army, said over the phone in a slow, deliberate voice.
Ivey, currently stationed in
Ivey joins what appears to be a growing number of troops refusing to fight in the so-called Global War on Terror. While there is no way to tell the exact number of resisters, military statistics indicate that resistance is on the rise. Since 2002, the Army has court-martialed twice as many soldiers for desertion and other unauthorized absences per year than for each year between 1997 and 2001. The Associated Press reports AWOL rates in the Army at its highest since 1980, with the desertion rate (defined as 30 or more days of unauthorized absence) having jumped 80 percent since the start of the Iraq War. More than 150 soldiers have publicly refused to fight in the wars in
Many war resisters are conscientious objectors (C.O.s) who were deterred at early stages of the C.O. application process or ordered to deploy before their C.O. paperwork went through. Just last week, 19-year-old conscientious objector Tony Anderson at
Ivey, who grew up in
Yet once Ivey was in the military, his feelings about war changed. He found it unsettling to chant "Blood, blood, blood makes the grass grow" in basic training, and he wrote a letter home to his mother describing his discomfort. When he was deployed to
The refusal of close friend Ryan Jackson to deploy to
Meanwhile, Ivey continued to research alternatives to war, immersing himself in the texts of nonviolent philosophers. He also got involved in his local community, helping start a chapter of Food Not Bombs, a collective movement to serve free food, mostly vegan and vegetarian, to others. "I want to make a difference in people’s lives," he says.
While his conscientious objector paperwork was being processed, Ivey was ordered to deploy to Afghanistan. Application for C.O. status cannot forestall deployment, but applicants are supposed to be assigned tasks that do not conflict with their C.O. convictions. However, this military directive is subject to ambiguous interpretation, and the commanding officer has considerable discretion in determining appropriate assignments. Furthermore, many conscientious objectors consider deployment to a combat zone by definition ethically compromising.
If Ivey refuses to deploy, he could be charged with "Missing Movement" — Article 87 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice — by a general court martial, punishable by up to two years in the stockade, loss of pay and a dishonorable discharge. There is also the danger that the military might try to pile on charges against him, such as Article 90, "willfully disobeying superior officer," and General Article 134, which covers all conduct "unbecoming" a service member.
Ivey is determined not to go to Afghanistan, and he is working with a civilian lawyer to explore his options. He has also enlisted the support of Courage to Resist, an organization that supports the troops who refuse to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan and has worked with several GIs in similar situations, including Anderson and Jackson.
Ivey’s mother, who lives in Augusta a few miles from where Ivey is stationed, is supportive but worried about her son. "I am concerned because any time someone you care about is in a situation that could cause them turmoil in their life or legal charges, whether they are right or wrong, I am going to worry," she says. "But I would in no way encourage him to do anything different. He is following his moral beliefs, and he has to do that."
Despite the threat of steep punishment, Ivey remains steadfast in his commitment to nonviolence. "I am against organized war," he says. "It is flat-out murder."
Sarah Lazare is the project coordinator of Courage to Resist, an organization that supports military war resisters.