Camilo Mejia

As one of the buffoons at CBS-TV’s 60 Minutes II introduced a segment last June: “We first met Sergeant Mejia earlier this year when he was still AWOL—absent without official leave. He went AWOL, he told us, because he was morally opposed to a war that has killed or wounded nearly 5,000 United States soldiers. Mejia’s commanding officer and fellow National Guardsmen told us a different story: that he went AWOL because he’s a coward.” (“The Price Of Desertion“)

The word right now is that the former Florida National Guardsman, the first member of the American military to be convicted of desertion from the war in Iraq, and bona fide Prisoner of Conscience Camilo Mejia has just been released from Oklahoma’s Fort Sill military prison within the past 48 hours, having served something like seven-and-a-half months of a one-year sentence meted out in late May, 2004.

Well. At the moment, I can’t find any reports in circulation that tell of Mejia’s early release. But I am more than happy to let the gentleman speak for himself (“Regaining My Humanity”):

To those who are still quiet, to those who continue to betray their conscience, to those who are not calling evil more clearly by its name, to those of us who are still not doing enough to refuse and resist, I say “come forward.” I say “free your minds.” Let us, collectively, free our minds, soften our hearts, comfort the wounded, put down our weapons, and reassert ourselves as human beings by putting an end to war.

Returning to 60 Minutes II, and to the way these stalwarts of the “liberal” American news media laid out Mejia’s plea for conscientious objector status, notice that only two points of view, and therefore only two options, were recognized:

The Military’s: A person rejects state violence because, when all is said and done, he is a coward
The Refusenik’s: A person learns the hard way that war is both costly and painful for the soldiers conducting it

Now. How about a third option? A fourth? A fifth?

For starters, might we not try to remember that American wars are also costly and painful for the victims of the American soldiers conducting them? Indeed. That American wars and the warmaking institutions that produce them without end—soldier, after soldier, after soldier—are costly and painful for the world? Or, better yet: Might we not try a little harder to recognize that wars and everything they touch are vile and wrong—the “most noxious complex of all the evils that afflict men“?

It’s a crying shame that so little is being reported in the mainstream American media about the act of conscientious objection, and the more than 5,000 Americans—some conscientiously, some not—that are refusing to put on a military uniform. (It’s hard to say what the actual number is. But I suspect it’s quite a bit higher.)

But it is a far greater shame that the rejection of military service—the rejection and renunciation of war—of the practice and the institutions of state violence—remains channeled into rhetoric about the costs and suffering that a particular war has caused. Not among the victims of the war within the foreign country over which it has been criminally waged. But the victims back home.

As if coming out against American state violence were a difficult and profound position to take. As if reaching it were deeply irrational. Even absurd. And required some sort of existential leap. Some sort of dark passage through the gates of death, purgatory, and rebirth. Like baptism into a new life. A new world. As if opposition to war—to the monumental predations and deprivations it entails—were anything other than the most obvious, the brightest, and the clearest option available to us. Like embracing the morning sun.

Regaining My Humanity,” Camilo Mejia, CODE PINK (Women for Peace)

AWOL From Iraq,” 60 Minutes II, March 31, 2004
Deserter GI Gets Year In Jail,” Associated Press, May 21, 2004
The Price Of Desertion,” 60 Minutes II, June 2, 2004

An Open Letter to President George W. Bush, Irene Khan, Secretary General, Amnesty International, June 14, 2004

Where are the American Conscientious Objectors?” Baruch Kimmerling, www.dissidentvoice.org, February 14, 2005

Mortality before and after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: cluster sample survey,” Les Roberts et al., The Lancet, posted October 29, 2004
SIPRI Yearbook 2004: Armaments, Disarmaments, and International Security, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Oxford University Press, 2004)
The War and the Intellectuals,” Randolph Bourne, 1917

Facade Project, Carrie Iverson, at the Chicago Printmakers Collaborative Bldg.

Camilo Mejia,” ZNet, February 17, 2005

Postscript (November 18): According to a report released by the U.S. Government Accountability Office yesterday (Nov. 17—here just reproducing the GAO’s own summary):

DOD’s active, reserve, and National Guard components met most aggregate recruiting and retention goals for enlisted personnel from fiscal years (FY) 2000-2004. However, for FY 2005, 5 of 10 components—the Army, Army Reserve, Army National Guard, Air National Guard, and Navy Reserve—missed their recruiting goals by 8 to 20 percent. Most of the components met their aggregate retention goals for FY 2000-2004, but the Navy experienced shortages in FY 2005 of up to 8 percent. Also, factors such as the shrinking numbers of new recruits in delayed entry programs and the use of stop loss, which delays servicemembers from leaving active duty, indicate that the components may experience future recruiting challenges.

All components exceeded authorized personnel levels for some occupational specialties and did not meet others. Specifically, GAO found that 19 percent of DOD’s 1,484 occupational specialties were consistently overfilled and 41 percent were consistently underfilled from FY 2000-2005. While the components offered reasons why occupational specialties may be over- or underfilled, GAO believes that consistently over- and underfilled occupational specialties are a systemic problem for DOD that raises two critical questions. First, what is the cost to the taxpayer to retain thousands more personnel than necessary in consistently overfilled occupational specialties? Second, how can DOD components continue to effectively execute their mission with consistently underfilled occupational specialties? In FY 2005, almost 31,000 more servicemembers than authorized served in occupational specialties that have been consistently overfilled. GAO determined that it costs the federal government about $103,000 annually, on average, to compensate each enlisted active duty servicemember in FY 2004. In contrast, DOD was unable to fill over 112,000 positions in consistently underfilled occupational specialties, raising concerns about the validity of the authorized personnel levels. DOD requires the active components to report on critical occupational specialties for recruiting and retention, which amounts to at most 16 percent of their 625 specialties. However, DOD does not require them to report on their noncritical occupational specialties, and does not require the reserve or National Guard components to report on any of their 859 specialties. Consequently, DOD does not have the necessary information to develop an effective plan to address the root causes of the components’ recruiting and retention challenges.

DOD has taken steps to enhance recruiting and retention, but lacks information on financial incentives provided for certain occupational specialties. GAO found that the components offered financial incentives to servicemembers in consistently overfilled occupational specialties. However, because DOD only requires the components to provide minimal justification for their use of financial incentives, it lacks the information needed to provide assurance to the Secretary of Defense, Congress, and the taxpayer that the increasing amount of funding spent on recruiting and retention is appropriately and effectively targeted to occupational specialties for which the components have the greatest need.

Military Personnel: DOD Needs Action Plan to Address Enlisted Personnel Recruitment and Retention Challenges, U.S. Government Accountability Office, November, 2005. (Also see the accompanying ABSTRACT.)

Postscript (November 23): For a monumentally disappointing—though very American—reason for ending a war:

The End Of The War,” Robert B. Reich, CommonDreams.org, November 23, 2005

Not because an enlightened decision has been reached about the immorality and the criminality of the resort to state violence to rule the world, to seize what other people have, and to compel them to obey.

But because the $$$$$ just might not be there to keep this latest instance of the resort to state violence afloat over the long-term.

Postscript (December 17): Am placing into circulation a lovely little item that originated with the friend of a friend of a friend.

It recounts an exchange between an U.S. Army Recruiter (i.e., a Mr. Irfan) looking for enlistees with some expertise in the Arabic language, and one of this Recruiter’s respondents, who politely turned down the offer.

Please note that I’ve taken the liberty of removing the Respondent’s name. (Though I believe that in the case at hand, the Respondent would have been proud for his name to have remained.)

By the way, something tells me that after his initial query, Mr. Irfan never replied.


Good morning [Soandso],

I was looking at your resume and I have a Job that I think you might be interested in. I’m looking for translator for the Arabic language, the job is in Iraq you will be translating for the US army. We are offering a great salary ($ 150,000.00 – $ 158,000.00 subject to change) plus benefits. If you are interested in this position please let me know. Also Please feel free to forward my information to any friends or family that may be interested in this position.

Thank you.

Job Description


Provide operational Arabic language support to U.S. Army linguist operations in IRAQ. Provide general linguistic support for military operations. Interpret and translate written and spoken communications. Transcribe and analyze verbal communications. Perform document exploitation. Scan, research, and analyze foreign language documents for key information. Translate and gist foreign language documents. Identify and extract information components meeting military information requirement list criteria. Provide input to reports. Linguist may be required to travel worldwide as ad hoc missions dictate.

An excellent command of Modern Arabic or Arabic-Egyptian as well as strong verbal and written American English skills (grammar, vocabulary, idiomatic expressions, and spelling); linguist work products are prepared in English. A 4/4 Arabic in listening/reading comprehension rating, according to the ILR scale and as measured by the DLPT or comparable language test vehicle, is required.

Must hold a current U.S. passport. Or a U.S. Green Card (subject to different terms). Must possess a SECRET security clearance or be clearable to SECRET. Must be willing to travel/deploy/work in various locations worldwide. Familiarity with and ability to conduct oneself in accordance with the local culture and customs. Willingness to work shifts and extended hours in support of 24 x 7 Operations.

4/4 Arabic DLPT rating. Skilled in one or more Arabic dialect

Additionally a pre-existing SECRET security clearance. A thorough knowledge of cultural, economic, geopolitical, and military issues of the area and surrounding region. Previous operational experience as linguist in support of government operations. An ability to operate standard and specialized office automation equipment to process foreign language material. Experience in US military is helpful.

To get started in processing either contact me, or provide me with the following Information.

Full Name:
Home Address :
Place Of Birth:
Date Of Birth:
Contact #(s):


Dear Mr. Irfan:

Thank you for contacting me regarding the Arabic Linguist With Secret Clearance For Iraq job. Your offer of $ 150,000.00 – $ 158,000.00 is obviously tempting, but unfortunately I must decline. For one thing, I do not enjoy participating in the torture of other human beings. I also believe that the Army was established to defend the US, not to attack other countries. We are supposed to have a Defense Department, not an Offense Department. So taking part in wars of aggression that are not declared by the Congress of the United States is worse than illegal: it is wrong.

Judging from the kind of salary you are offering, I must conclude that it is desperation time now for the war mongers at the Pentagon. Did the Pentagon suddenly realize that it needs some basic mode of communication with the Iraqis other than the bullets and the bombs? For most tax payers in the US, taxes are not meant to be squandered on useless wars.

I would like to offer you now a job that is enormously rewarding on the personal level, but does not pay any money. The title is “Peace Advocate.” If you are interested in this position, please let me know. Also, please feel free to forward my information to any friends and colleagues at Calnet Inc. Here are the job requirements:

Job Description

Provide operational peace advocacy for the global peace movement. Work to bring the US into the world court in order to make it more difficult for our leaders to commit war crimes.

Required skills:

1. Must have the ability to speak truth to power.
2. Must keep an open mind and an open heart.
3. Must have the strength not to resort to violence.
4. Must have the ability to question his/her superiors.
5. Must not have security clearance.
6. IQ must be substantially higher than Iraq war recruits.

How about joining the peace movement and those of us who seek law, order and sanity?

I am eager for your reply.


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