Women Resisting War
War Resisters League Peace AwardSince 1958, WRI's US section War Resisters League honours a person or organisation whose work represents the WRL's radical platform of action with the WRL Peace Award. Recipients have included peace agitator A.J. Muste, civil rights activist Bayard Rustin, feminist and pacifist theorist Barbara Deming, Plowshares movement founder Daniel Berrigan, Gulf War Resisters, and many others. The 2006 Peace Award goes to Women Resisting War from within the US Military.
In late November, 2001, Anita Cole received her discharge from the U.S. Army as a conscientious objector (CO) to war.
Before I entered the military, I felt as many people do. Generally speaking, I felt murder was wrong, but at times I considered killing unavoidable and even justified, such as in war.
I am a person of intense conviction. My parents raised me believing that service to society - volunteering time and donating resources - is a moral imperative. Since I was a child, I have always been grateful that I am an American citizen and felt everyone should serve his or her country. The Armed Forces appealed to me as a meaningful, shared public effort. After graduating from college I decided to join the Army. I was not motivated to join the military for - nor did I receive - college loan repayment or any other monetary incentive. At the time of my enlistment, I felt full of pride and deeply fulfilled by my commitment to serve my country.
During Basic Training, bayonet training coupled with the mantra, "What makes the grass grow? Blood, blood, blood makes the grass grow," shocked me. But even at the time, I thought if I were called to war, then I would embrace the warrior spirit, too
In August 2000, I was sent to the range to qualify on my assigned weapon, the M-16A2. I was deeply tormented and traumatized as I fired a deadly weapon at human silhouettes. Perceiving my obvious distress, one sergeant tried to offer me encouragement saying, "Come on, you're a killer!" At the time, I was so distraught that I was not able to qualify.
I told myself that I would only be, "poking holes in paper." This act of willful self-deception enabled me to qualify; however, the range NCO's words, "Come on, you're a killer," have continually haunted me. This comment cemented in my mind my objection to my duty as a soldier.
My conscience, ensuing meditation and reading, and introspection have compelled me to honor the true nature of my self. I will not be able to live in any sort of peace if I kill, let others kill, or support any act of killing in my thinking or in my way of life...In other words, I am a conscientious objector in the literal sense.
A female African American Army vet who applied for CO status.
"I joined the Army thinking that I was, quite possibly, upholding some of the mightiest of ideals for the greatest, most powerful country on this earth. Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage; these are the seven Army values, values that I wanted to be able to say that I cherished and possessed... There had to be some good that would come of the carnage, in the end. But this is where I made my mistake, because in war there is no end. We are still in Germany, we are still in Korea, we are still in Bosnia, hell, we're still in America. The list goes on and on, and the only things that are determined are who will stay and who will go, who will live and who will die, who will rule and who will serve."
I am a SPC in the Texas Army National Guard. I was born in Milwaukee, WI and I am 22 years old. At age 19 I enlisted in the Guard as a cook because I wanted to experience military life. When I enlisted I believed that killing was immoral, but also that war was an inevitable part of life and therefore, an exception to the rule.
After enlisting I began the slow transformation into adulthood. Like many teenagers who leave their home for the first time, I went through a period of growth and soul searching. I encountered many new people and ideas that broadly expanded my narrow experiences. After reading essays by Bertrand Russel and traveling to the South Pacific and talking to people from all over the world, my beliefs about humanity and its relation to war changed. I began to see a bigger picture of the world and I started to reevaluate everything that I had been taught about war as a child. I developed the belief that taking human life was wrong and war was no exception. I was then able to clarify who I am and what it is that I stand for.
The thing that I revere most in this world is life, and I will never take another person's life. Just as others have faith in God, I have faith in humanity
I have a deeply held belief that people must solve all conflicts through peaceful diplomacy and without the use of violence. Violence only begets more violence.
Because I believe so strongly in non-violence, I cannot perform any role in the military. Any person doing any job in the Army, contributes in some way to the planning, preparation or implementation of war.
For eighteen months, while my CO status was pending, I have honored my commitment to the Army and done everything that they asked of me.
Now I have come to the point where I am forced to choose between my legal obligation to the Army and my deepest moral values. I want to make it clear that I will not compromise my beliefs for any reason. I have a moral obligation not only to myself but to the world as a whole, and this is more important than any contract.
I will exercise my every legal right not pick up a weapon, and to participate in war effort. I am determined to be discharged as a CO, and while undergoing the appeals process; I will continue to follow orders that do not conflict with my conscience until my status has been resolved. I am prepared to accept the consequences of adhering to my beliefs.
Kelly Dougherty, 27, of Colorado Springs, Colorado, served with the National Guard in Kuwait in February 2003 and then served in Iraq from April 2003 to February 2004. She was stationed in southern Iraq, near the city of Nazaria.
Before I even found out I was going to Iraq, I was completely against the idea of going to war with Iraq and I couldn't believe the reasons that were being given - the weapons of mass destruction and the league of terrorists and all of that. When I first got to Iraq, one of the things that I was really struck by was the poverty there - and how poor the population was and how little they had, and how much had been destroyed by this war and previous wars.
And when I left, things hadn't much changed for them - things actually got worse. Lots of people still didn't have any water. ... We weren't helping them at all. And to add, the continual degradation of the area - not only by the insurgents - but you don't hear every day how the Iraqi people are suffering at the hands of the U.S. Military, and how so many people are arrested or detained, shot and killed, or whatever - that are completely innocent, or that are trying to go about their daily business. So I think all that really solidified my views that the war was wrong, and first-hand how violence just creates more violence. We're really not accomplishing anything positive there.
I saw, a lot of times, abuses of power by people in the military - using excessive, unwarranted force against the Iraqis because they could get away with it.
And after a while we got some riot control stuff, what's called "less than lethal" ammunition - bean bag shots for guns, and rubber bullets and smoke grenades. I saw a lot of abuse of those things, like indiscriminate firing with rubber bullets, because you know it's probably not going to kill someone. So, for some it was funny to do drive-by shootings with rubber bullets. And the things are no joke! It could kill someone, like a small child. ... Or if it hits you in the face. ... It's something you don't play with.
Abstracts taken from: http://www.alternet.org/story/24076/
"I was a lost Native," Tina Garnanez reflected on her journey in the Army.
Tina grew up on a Navajo reservation and attended public school in Farmington, New Mexico. The only daughter of five children raised by a single mom, Tina enlisted when she was 17, to get money for college.
"I wanted to attend college, and I knew that between my family situation and being from the reservation, I had few options to get a college education."
Tina was stationed in Kosovo in March 2003 when U.S. Planes started bombing Baghdad.
In July 2004, Tina was deployed to Iraq. Tina had already completed her tour of duty, but the Army can extend a soldier's enlistment through a policy known as stop-loss.
As a medic in Iraq, Tina transferred patients from the ambulances into the hospital where she saw the high cost of war. "I saw disfigured bodies, limbs blown off, soldiers who lost their sanity."
She also traveled with convoys delivering medical supplies to bases. On one of these convoys, Tina barely escaped an explosion. A bomb exploded and dust, rocks, shrapnel flew everywhere.
"I was so angry. Not angry at the Iraqis, but angry at the reason I was there. For what, I asked myself? My mom would have received a triangle-folded flag in exchange for her only daughter."
She knew at the moment that she could no longer serve in this war. "I'm done," she said, "I am not fighting for anyone's oil agenda."
Tina is home in Silver City, New Mexico, honorably discharged. "I really wish I never went into the military. I now have Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder. I jump at everything."
Tina says she speaks to a lot of high school students about why the recruiters target poor, minority students. These youth are looking for a way out, out of the ghetto, out of poverty, out of places where there is little hope for advancement. "The military is not the only option but it's usually only the military recruiters that are there in schools."
Tina has struggled to understand how she as a Native American could be part of the same machine that nearly exterminated the Native Americans. "Broken treaties. Forcing us on reservations. I was a lost Native."
But Tina Garnanez has found her way as part of a growing movement of soldiers speaking out against the war in Iraq.
Tina Garnanez interviewed by Christine Ahn, Women of Color Resource Center, War Times; Tiempo de Guerras