By Army National Guard Spc.
Eleonai "Eli" Israel
To Resist" --- - Two months ago, I took a stand
that changed my life forever. As a Soldier, a JVB Protective
Service Agent, and a Sniper with the Army who had been in Iraq
for a year (running over 250 combat missions), I refused to
continue to be a part of the occupation. I regret nothing. This
is my story. Currently, as I write this I am sitting in Kuwait,
on "stand-by" to return to the States sometime hopefully this
week. After getting out of the brig last week, I’m now scheduled
to be discharged from the Army within the month. I'm looking
forward to joining forces with anti-Iraq-War movements, such as
Courage to Resist and Iraq Veterans Against the War.
What led me to this place in my
Joining up, the first time
I joined the U.S. Marine Corps
in the spring of 1999, the month of my 18th birthday.
I grew up in the custody of the
state of Kentucky with little contact with my biological parents
since I was 13. I had no family support system and ended up on
the streets, doing what street kids do.
By 16, I had eased into hard
drugs. I had not been to school since the first part of 9th
grade, and I was short on about everything but street smarts, an
untapped sense of ambition, and a tough guy attitude.
When I walked into the
recruiting station I learned that in order to join the Corps, I
would need either a high school diploma or a GED with a
waiver—unless I also had certain college credits. When I told
them that I was 16 and had only completed 8th grade, they
quickly dismissed me, not expecting to see me again.
They were wrong.
Not only did I earn my GED, I
also did a semester at the local college. A year and a half
later the month I turned 18, March 1999, I walked back into the
same recruiting station, spoke to the same recruiter, showed him
my GED and my college transcripts and felt my first real sense
Thirteen weeks after arriving at
Parris Island, I was changed forever. I graduated as the leader
of a platoon squad with a meritorious promotion, and was now
well on my way to a shining career as a Marine.
Then came September 11, 2001.
Re-enlisting for my country
Like many after September 11th I
wanted to serve, again. I felt I owed something more to my
country after my years of training. I trusted my president and
my leadership to tell me the truth. I also trusted my own
integrity. I knew that I would never willingly do anything that
I knew to be immoral or wrong.
I re-enlisted in 2004—this time
in the Army National Guard.
At the time I believed that
those serving in the 'global war on terror' were doing so
because they believed in what they were doing—not because they
were under compulsion by a contract or retained by stop-loss.
After having seen the situation on the ground, I now believe I
was wrong. In 2006, I shipped out to Iraq.
In Iraq I was as a JVB Agent—the
JVB (Joint Visitors Bureau) served as the protective service for
"three star generals and above" and their "civilian
equivalents". This included the Vice President, the Secretary of
Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, their
equivalents in a number of our "allied nations", and others. I
trained for my job as part of this "special unit" prior to
deployment, and I spent the majority of my tour in the company
of the most powerful people connected to the "global war on
Even as a JVB agent, my primary
job was still infantry. On days when we didn't have any JVB
missions, we would be called on for "search and cordon"
operations and other infantry assignments. So, although I worked
at the JVB, I was still on the roster of a sniper platoon tasked
with various missions "outside the wire"—either as "sniper
overwatch" or house raids.
I reasoned that my actions
during these missions were justified in the name of
"self-defense." However, I came to realize my perception was
wrong. I was in a country that I had no right to be in,
violating the lives of people, and doing so without regard to
the same standards of dignity and respect that we as Americans
hold our own homes and our own lives to.
I have taken and/or destroyed
the lives of people who were defending their families from being
the "collateral damage" of the day. Iraqi boys are joining
groups like "Al Qaeda" for the same reason street kids in the
U.S. join the "Cribs" and the "Bloods". It’s about self
protection, a sense of dignity, and making a stand.
The young man whose father and
cousin we "accidentally" killed, and whose mother and siblings
cry every time the tank rolls through the neighborhood, doesn't
care who Osama Bin Laden is. The "militants" we attacked were
usually no different than an armed neighborhood watch group who
didn't trust their government. We didn’t trust the government
either, and we put them in power!
Our own sacrifices, as tragic as
they are (and they are tragic), are dwarfed in comparison to the
carnage that has been brought on the Iraqi people.
"Success" in Iraq is not a
matter of the number of coalition deaths "declining". Success
would be an end of the catastrophe we have inflicted on a entire
society, and restoration of dignity and sovereignty
Iraqis continue to die at a rate
10 to 20 times that of the coalition forces. In Baghdad alone,
five years and $950 billion later, the population suffers power
and water outages that last for weeks at a time. Meanwhile, we
often impose martial law so that no one can leave. The day I saw
myself in the hateful eyes of a young Iraqi boy who stared at me
was the day I realized I could no longer justify my role in the
I envy the soldier who is able
to see the injustice of this war from afar, and has the courage
and conviction to take the stand against it. There will be those
who criticize soldiers for being willing to weigh moral
convictions against political ambition. What matters is making
the stand. Whether you chose not to join the military in the
first place, or you realized after joining that it fell short of
the requisite levels of integrity, the moment you realize the
truth is the moment to take a stand. My moment came with only
three weeks of combat missions remaining during my one year in
Iraq. Moral conviction has no timing.
Taking a stand
I informed my chain of command
of my beliefs. I could tell from that first conversation that
things were not going to go well. I told them that I believed
our presence in Iraq was unlawful. I explained that I no longer
believed in a policy of war and that I would file as a
conscientious objector. Simply put, I could no longer in good
conscience participate in a combat role against the Iraqi
Seconds after the words left my
mouth, my life changed. Inside I had more peace than I had felt
in over a year. I knew immediately that I had done the right
thing. However, I was aggressively disarmed, confined, and shut
off from contacting anyone, including family or an attorney.
I was illegally confined to a
cot in an operations room, placed under 24 hour guard, and
escorted to the bathroom before I was formally charged with
refusal to follow an order two weeks later. I remained confined
until I pled guilty (with little choice) less than a week after
that. I was immediately sent to Camp Arifjan in Kuwait to serve
30 days in a military prison. I was just released from the brig
the other day and I’m now in the process of being "kicked out"
with an "Other Than Honorable" discharge. I regret nothing.
After I told my command my
beliefs, and once they realized they couldn't intimidate me and
that I was serious, they decided that it was going to become an
I had many anti-war friends from
MySpace and other online networks that got wind that I was being
mistreated and it circulated around the world, literally
overnight. Before I knew it, I was dragged into the First
Sergeant’s office and they began yelling and screaming about how
their names were "all over the internet". They didn't try to
deny what was being said about them—that I was being treated
unfairly and that they refused to acknowledge my claim as a
conscientious objector—they were simply mad about the exposure.
Military strikes back
The next day I was told that I
had been "flagged" as an OPSEC (operational security) “concern”.
No reason given. They were hostile and consumed with the task of
making "an example" out of me, and they were looking for ways to
ruin my reputation and credibility.
They spent days typing up pages
of fabricated "counseling statements" to retroactively discredit
my military record. The fact that there were no prior record of
statements made these accusations obviously fake, and they knew
it. They "needed more".
They demanded repeatedly all of
my Internet user names and pass words—MySpace, personal email,
everything. All under the threat that "more charges" would be
brought against me if I refused.
They wanted to read my emails,
all my blogs, everything, in an attempt to find something.
Anything they could use to make it look like I had been giving
out classified information. They wanted to charge me and ruin my
credibility as much as possible, and they desperately needed to
be able to justify my illegal confinement.
Two weeks later, when they
finally realized that they were not going to be able to charge
me with "divulging intel", they finally charged me with a series
of "not following orders". Not only did these include my refusal
to continue combat missions, but ridiculous stuff like "not
standing at parade rest" and "being late for work". You get the
My command eventually offered to
"chapter me out" if I would immediately plead guilty to
everything and accept a summary court martial. My options were
clear. I could play ball, spend 30 days in a brig, and get my
life back. Or I could let them put me back on a fully confined
restriction for the next two months, while they took every
opportunity to make an example of me—to show everyone in the
battalion, "this is what happens if you oppose the war.”
I’ll let them think they won,
The truth will come out, and
there is nothing they can do to hide it. The occupation is a
disaster. I’m convinced that every day it continues that it
makes America, and the Iraqis less safe.
Objecting to the war and
standing up to the military was without question, one of the
best decisions I have ever made. I made a stand that was the
right one, and I have my freedom back as a bonus. Maybe ten
years from now those of us resisting from within the military
today will be seen as some of the first few to speak the truth
and to follow up with action. Even now I have many to remind me
that I'm not alone in my thinking, even a majority of Americans
who know that all the pieces of this conflict simply don't add
Seek the truth. Make the stand
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