Lately, I have spoken a lot about dishonorable men, women, and generals. Every day becomes a litany of dishonorable acts with terrible consequences for those on the ground, in Iraq.
Today I want to talk about some men, soldiers and sailors, who have honored their country, its citizens, and the many before them who served a once honorable and democratic nation. These men, individually and as a group, represent the public face of those Americans, citizen soldiers of conscience, who refuse to obey illegal orders, and those who will not play silent witness to criminal acts perpetrated by the military.
Each of these men have, for reasons of conscience, put themselves in harms way, via the military 'justice' system.
Sgt. Frank Ford was a National Guard counter intelligence officer stationed in Samarra.
On the fifteenth of June, 2003. Sgt. Ford reported to his commanding officer that he had witnessed five incidents of torture and abuse of prisoners.
The officer, Capt. Victor Artiga, gave Ford thirty seconds to retract and forget about his report. Sgt. Ford refused to retract his report. Ford was immediately relieved of his weapons and security clearance, meaning that he could no longer function as an intelligence agent.
36 hours later, Sgt. Ford was strapped to a gurney and secretly, without orders, flown first to Kuwait and then to Germany and later to the States. Altogether, he was kept isolated in locked mental wards, for eight months. All of the numerous psychological tests revealed nothing but a normal individual with no mental health problems.
So, that is the new American Way? Your intelligence guy tells you the truth about something important, but it isn't what you want to hear. So, just lock him up in a mental institution. No messy charges to defend. Hell, it worked for the Russians.
Ford was honorably discharged and is now retired from the military after thirty years of service. Sgt. Ford retired as a senior NCO with many years of active duty service.
You can find a detailed and very interesting account of this story at Democracy Now.
It is an interview with David DeBatto, a writer and former intelligence officer who served in Iraq. The Sgt. Ford story is far from over.
Next on my list of Honorable Soldiers, is a Sailor, Petty Officer 3rd Class Pablo Paredes. Paredes joined the Navy when he was 18. Out of school and not sure what to do next, Pablo was pursued by a Navy recruitment officer who was determined to get his kid.. Pablo enlisted in the Navy.
That was in 2000. Now, twenty three, Paredes is a mature well spoken young man who has done a lot of growing and a lot of learning since the Navy got him, at 18. He finds himself in an untenable situation, serving a purpose that he believes to be utterly wrong and destructive.
This article is an interview with the young man who speaks better for himself than I can. You can read or watch the interview here, at Democracy Now. I watched the interview twice. I was struck by the honesty and the simple courage of this young man. He reminds me of people I knew, a long time ago, the last time America attempted to put down a colonial insurrection.
Petty Officer Paredes is not leaving the country. He is not hiding out or attempting to avoid the Navy. He is simply refusing to lend himself to the continuing crime being committed in Iraq. I imagine he has turned himself in or will when he has the right lawyer in his camp. This is not the sort of thing you use a JAG lawyer for.
Mr. Paredes made it very clear that his work for the Navy exposes him to no combat danger. His decision is based not on personal fear but a sense of personal responsibility.
He also made it very clear that he will be returning to the Navy to face charges.
Contrary to what the howling war lovers will scream, personal fear is not often a big factor in such decisions. If it were, Pablo would just be quiet, do his job, and finish his enlistment, which is nearing it's end. No fuss, no muss, no going to jail and no less than honorable discharge to create future employment problems.
I will have more to say about these two men and many others of their ilk over the next while. These men are the embodiment of the kind of courage that America, as a nation, needs to relearn.
For those of you whose morals and principles are so thin, so warped that you would call men such as Pablo Paredes a coward, I invite you to actually stop and think about this.
Pablo had nothing to fear from just doing his job until his time was over. The course he has chosen to take has much to fear in it. Think about that and then think about your definition of courage and coward.