May 20, 2008

Soldier refuses to deploy to Iraq

After a brief appearance in front of the partisan Congressional Progressive Caucus, U.S. Army Reserve Sergeant Matthis Chiroux openly declared that he intends to refuse a lawful order to deploy with his unit to Iraq in June.

Chiroux will not be the first nor the last soldier (and I use the term loosely) to refuse to deploy to Iraq, usually on grounds that he considers it an illegal war. I have some news for the young sergeant - he does not get to pick and choose the wars in which he wants to serve. I remember a great line from the movie Crimson Tide - "We're here to defend democracy, not to practice it."

Chiroux is a veteran with at least one combat tour to his credit - he served in Afghanistan. Here are his words:

"I stand before you today with the strength and clarity and resolve to declare to the military, my government and the world that this soldier will not be deploying to Iraq. My decision is based on my desire to no longer continue violating my core values to support an illegal and unconstitutional occupation. I refuse to participate in the Iraq occupation."

Sergeant Chiroux is a volunteer - he enlisted in the Army in 2003 - the United States was already at war. Deployments to combat zones should not come as a surprise. Here is an excerpt from the oath he took when he enlisted in the armed forces of the United States:

"…I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic...."

I took that same oath almost four decades ago. These are not mere words – they define who we are, they define the social contract between the armed forces and the people of the United States. In the ensuing decades, I was sent to wars, conflicts and “police actions” in Vietnam, Lebanon, Iraq, the Persian Gulf and Bosnia. Did I agree with all these operations or commitments? Maybe, maybe not – it did not matter. When you take the oath, you commit to defend the Constitution and obey the orders of those above you.

Refuse to serve, pay the price. The photo above should be Chiroux's new home - the United States Disciplinary Barracks, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

It is interesting that this declaration comes just before Memorial Day, when we honor our fallen comrades. It is insulting that we talk about a potential deserter at the same time.