With so much talk about the war in Iraq, it seems that there is something being forgotten- the troops. While generals make orders and politicians profit, there are ordinary people, like my neighbor, like my friends brother, and like Robert Austin, who must do the fighting. It only makes sense to talk to some of these troops.
While Rob was not sent to combat, he was almost sent to Iraq. Rob is militantly opposed to the war and was so while he was in the army, which is why he applied for conscientious objector status. At a party for Rob, several of his army buddies were there, celebrating with anarchists and anti-war activists. I talked to one of them, and he told me the lengths people go to get out of an army they don’t believe in. This former army man told me how he failed five drug tests on purpose before they kicked him out. He had gotten into radical politics through punk music and wanted out of the army. The army was so desperate to keep soldiers they kept a man who tested positive for heroin, cocaine and other drugs. Eventually he got out, but it goes to show the dissent in the military.
The anti-war movement supports the troops because we know the history of troops opposing the war. From Iraq Veterans Against the War to Vietnam Veterans Against the War, to Russian troops who refused to fight for the Czar leading to the Russian revolution of 1917.
ASU: Tell us a little bit about your military service. When and why did you join?
Rob: I joined the National Guard in April of 2000. I was seventeen, had low self esteem, and I wanted to make a “difference.” I remember high school being very competitive and believing the notion that life is over without college. During high school I was a poor student. I found myself learning about issues not discussed in class. I had no idea what I wanted to do in life. I remember talking to a recruiter who was speaking with my sister. I was sixteen years old and the military seemed more romantic than reality. My father is a Vietnam Vet and would not allow me to join active military service.
Though I understood the reality of conflict more than fellow students, the military seemed like it would instill what was needed for me to get ahead. I remember my sister was getting good grades, and having a family that can’t possibly be able to afford to send my two sisters and I to school I decided to enlist. I was told that the purpose of the National Guard was to help the nation in crisis. I liked the idea of being there to help others in the case of Floods, hurricanes, wild fires, and tornadoes. The last time my unit had been called up was the Korean War. The Guard was an escape for me. It did help me gain confidence in myself, yet the negatives far out way the benefits. I joined and chose to be an 11bravo (infantry) with a $5,000 dollar sign on bonus which I never received.
ASU: You served time at Ft Polk LA. Tell us a little bit about what it was like there, what you did, and what your attitude and the attitude of your fellow soldiers about the war in Iraq.
Rob: I was deployed for a second time to Ft. Polk La to train soldiers to go to Iraq. We were told about the deployment while on annual training (two weeks a year) in Poland. Though the unit forgot to get plane tickets back, we got home and had a week and a half to get family life in order before deploying. Usually on active duty, soldiers live in barracks that are kind of like dorm rooms. We lived in warehouses that fit 116 people, and had Constantia wire around the perimeter. The conditions were more like prison.
Our job was very interesting. We would dress in civilian clothes and go to different towns in a training area called the box. I discussed with soldiers who were going to Iraq. Many had already gone and were being deployed for a second time. I found that many did not want to go, and support seemed to be lacking. I remember talking with a soldier from 2ndacr (armored cavalry) and we told me how they used to carry drop guns (they had ak47s in the back of their humvees and if they killed a noncombatant they would throw the AK 47 on the body, take a picture and report it as a combatant). Soldiers from the 1st Calv informed me that their commander ordered gun runs on protester (gun runs refers to a helicopter strafing the ground while firing heavy automatic weapons).
ASU: Tell us about going conscientious objector. What is it? Did you ever apply for it? Is it a realistic option for military personnel who oppose the War? How likely is it that someone who applies for CO will get it? How would someone apply for CO if they wanted to?
Rob: On January 3rd of 2005 I filed for conscientious objector. I requested to be discharged from the military because my beliefs did not allow me to participate, or train for war. I saw my commitment to the military as a direct violation of my beliefs. As a believer in natural law, and transcendental perspectivism I could not support my involvement in the military in anyway. I question the idea of what is murder? I talked to several soldiers who enlisted to kill and maim. Why were they any different than a hit-man? Objectively they had enlisted in an organization they ordered them to commit these acts whether they agreed or not. Whether wrong or right, against will and desire you are ordered to fight. I believe in direct action and responsibility. Imagine if soldiers decided if they wanted to fight. What a perfect way to end wars that are against public desire. A counter argument is often brought up were others claim that if the country was attacked there has to be an armed force to defend the state. How many people would protect their communities if attacked?
To file for conscientious objector the person has to believe that all war is immoral or killing another. One can not only disagree with one conflict and attempt to be granted with conscientious objector. There are two kinds of CO. 1A (the person holds a belief against killing and your moved to a no combative role but retained in the military), and 1-0-A (your direct role whether combative, or no combative afflicts with your beliefs discharging you from the military). Soldiers are usually discharged under honorable or general discharge. I would recommend CO for several reasons. Close to 50% of those who apply for CO win their case. Check out The G.I rights hotline for more info. CO claims are backed by personal statements, testimonies, a meeting with a Chaplin, psychological examine (because if you’re not participating in war you must be crazy, and a hearing. Many times people are kicked out during the medical exam. I would recommend researching depression, anxiety, and social anxiety. You might be looking and kicked out on the spot.
ASU: You asked me before to give you a chance to talk about food. So tell me about food. What’s a good recipe for something vegetarian or vegan?
Indian Tacos/Fry bread & topping
A Native American dish dating from the beginning of the forming of the 'reservations', when the government allotted only staple items to be distributed. Cornmeal, flour, salt, sugar, milk powder. There are about 16 thousand different recipes for Fry bread. Everyone makes their own a little differently, and you can find a bunch of good recipes on the Net. This is just the one I like the best. The topping originally used ground beef or turkey, but I experimented and found you can do just as well without it.
Ingredients for Fry bread:
3 c. flour 3 t. baking powder 1 t. salt
1/2 t. sugar 2 c. warm water. 1 t. shortening. (NO BUTTER.)
Mix all dry ingredients, then toss in shortening, mix well. Add in water, stir till dough-like. Then get down and dirty and knead it, add flour if it's too sticky. Beat it, punch it, mix it up, tear it, smush it. This is a GREAT recipe for aggressive days, and I was once told that the more you abuse the dough, the better it tastes. Dust hands with flour, tear off handfuls of dough, roll into ball, press into disc, deep-fry till golden brown. To keep them warm: Put three or four on plates, cover with paper towel or paper plate, put in oven on lowest setting.