This is an abridged version of the statement made by Petty Officer 3rd Class Pablo Paredes during his military court-martial in San Diego, Calif., on May 12. Although Paredes was found guilty of refusing to board his ship bound for Iraq, the Navy judge declined to send him to jail.
It has never been my intent or motivation to create a mockery of the Navy or its judicial system. I do not consider military members adversaries. I consider myself in solidarity with all service members. It is this feeling of solidarity that was at the root of my actions.
I am convinced that the current war in Iraq is illegal. I am also convinced that the true causality for it lacked any high ground in the topography of morality. I believe as a member of the Armed Forces, beyond having duty to my Chain of Command and my President, I have a higher duty to my conscience and to the supreme law of the land. Both of these higher duties dictate that I must not participate in any way, hands-on or indirect, in the current aggression that has been unleashed on Iraq. In the past few months I have been continually asked if I regret my decision to refuse to board my ship and to do so publicly. I have spent hour upon hour reflecting on my decision, and I can tell you with every fiber of certitude that I possess that I feel in my heart I did the right thing.
This does not mean I have no regrets. I regret dearly exposing the families of marines and sailors to my protest. While I do not feel my message was wrong, I know that those families were facing a difficult moment. This moment was made in some ways more difficult by my actions, and this pains me. That day on the pier, I restrained myself from answering the calls of coward and even some harsher variations of the same term. I did so because I knew this wasn’t the time to engage these families in debate. I thought that I became in many ways a forum in which to vent their fears and sadness.
I feel, even with all the regrets and difficulties that have come as a result of my actions, that they were in fact my duty as a human being and as a service member. I feel in my mind and heart that this war is illegal and immoral. The moral argument encompasses all wars as intolerable.
I have long now been an ardent reader of independent media, and, in my opinion, less corrupted forms of media. These folks are very educated in matters of politics and are not on the payroll of any major corporate news programming. They all do what they do for reasons other than money, as they could earn much more if they joined the corporate-controlled ranks. I have come to trust their research and value their convictions in assisting me to form my own. They have all unanimously condemned this war as illegal, as well as made resources available for me to draw my own conclusions, like Kofi Annan’s statements on how under the UN Charter the Iraq War is illegal, like numerous sources and reasons why the war is illegal under international as well as domestic law.
I read extensively on the arguments and results of Nazi German soldiers, as well as imperial Japanese soldiers, in the Nuremberg and Tokyo Trials, respectively. I came to an overwhelming conclusion supported by countless examples that any soldier who knowingly participates in an illegal war can find no haven in the fact that they were following orders, in the eyes of international law.
Nazi aggression and imperialist Japan are very charged moments of history and simply mentioning them evokes many emotions and reminds of many atrocities. So I want to be very clear that I am in no way comparing our current government to any of the historical counterparts. I am not comparing the leaders or their acts, not their militaries nor their acts. I am only citing the trials because they are the best example of judicial precedent for what a soldier/sailor is expected to do when faced with the decision to participate or refuse to participate in what he perceives is an illegal war.
I think we would all agree that a service member must not participate in random unprovoked illegitimate violence simply because he is ordered to. What I submit to you and the court is that I am convinced that the current war is exactly that. So, if there’s anything I could be guilty of, it is my beliefs. I am guilty of believing this war is illegal. I’m guilty of believing war in all forms is immoral and useless, and I am guilty of believing that as a service member I have a duty to refuse to participate in this war because it is illegal.
I do not expect the court to rule on the legality of this war, nor do I expect the court to agree with me. I only wish to express my reasons and convictions surrounding my actions. I acted on my conscience. Whether right or wrong in my convictions, I will be at peace knowing I followed my conscience.
Paredes’ complete statement is available at truthout.org.