Soldier refuses Armys order to go to Iraq

PHILADELPHIA — Carl Webb, a U.S. soldier who had re-enlisted in 2001, found out two weeks before his contract was up in 2004 that the Army was extending his enlistment — without his consent — under what it calls its “stop loss” program. The Army told Webb to report for training with the Texas National Guard at Fort Hood in preparation for going to Iraq.

“I knew at that moment I could not go to Iraq,” Webb explained to his audience at Calvary Church here March 28. “I did not want to be part of a killing machine in an unethical and illegal U.S. aggression.”

Without telling anyone, Webb left the Army, where he had been a medic for 12 years. This January, Webb received an e-mail message from Fort Hood telling him that he is now listed as a deserter.

He believes the stop loss program is illegal because it forces GIs to serve in Iraq beyond the length of their contract.

“With more than 1,500 U.S. soldiers dead and over 10,000 wounded in Iraq, the U.S. Armed Forces is struggling to replenish its ranks,” said Webb. Recruitment for the National Guard is down 40 percent. Military recruiters are aggressively targeting high schools in Black and Latino communities.

Webb is among more than 6,000 military personnel listed as deserters and facing up to five years in prison. During time of war, deserters can face execution. This law has not been enforced since World War II, but can be activated at any time, although right now the Army doesn’t have enough forces to find and arrest deserters.

Webb said he doesn’t believe the politicians will ever end this war. The solution is to build such a strong antiwar movement that the government will have no other choice but to bring the troops home. “We need a counter-recruitment movement immediately,” Webb said.

“Recruiters will promise youth anything in order to get them to sign up. Young people see joining the armed services as just another exciting job or a way to get college money or health care benefits,” he said. “They don’t really think about war or what war is about.”

He suggested parents request that no military recruiters be allowed information about their children or be allowed to talk to their children. Parents should also support programs that inform youth about the realities of war and the draft. They can demand that these groups have access to high schools equal to military recruiters.

“There are signs that a draft will be initiated in the future,” Webb said. “The Selective Service is establishing offices in the individual states.”

Asked why he didn’t register as a conscientious objector, Webb said, “Most service people who apply are rejected and then can face a court martial for refusing an order.” He offered thanks to those who have helped him and encouraged everyone to support war resisters as a way to stop the war in Iraq.