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News ::
Soldier says No to War (english)
21 Feb 2003
Modified: 28 Feb 2003
When I joined the Army, I thought it was used for defense only. Now I find that it has been used rarely for defense, but rather for aggression. It has been used to help build the American Empire. I find that I can not feel any honor, any pride in being part of such a force. I can only feel shame.
Statement for Press Release
Given Monday, February 10, 2003 at 11:00 am. By Michael Sudbury

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press, and everyone: I'd like to thank you for taking the time to come listen to me. I'd also like to thank and acknowledge the People for Peace and Justice who have been instrumental in setting up this rally and press conference. I have requested this conference so that I might speak against this war on Iraq and tell as many people as will listen just what I was prepared to do and why. I will entertain any questions after my statement.

I joined the Army Reserves right out of high school back in 1994. I'm not sure why I did it. The recruiter talked to me just when I didn't know what I was going to do with my life. As I served, I started to feel pride in what I was doing. I felt some honor in knowing that I had chosen to put my life on the line in order to defend the people of this country. As my original contract came to a close, I re-enlisted for another three years in January of 2000. Before that term of service ended at the beginning of this year, I started to reconsider my position.

Over the past year and a half, I have done much thinking. I have considered the general nature of people. What makes society work, what brings it to destruction? I've thought about such ideas for much of my life, but the events of September 11, 2001 were what brought these thoughts to the forefront of my mind. I was shocked that someone would want to hijack airplanes, use them as missiles to destroy a major cultural icon, kill thousands of people, and sacrifice their own lives to do it. I had to wonder, "WHY WOULD THEY WANT TO DO SUCH A THING?"

Why would they do it to America? America is the country that is trying to help everyone in the world. Well, apparently there are people in this world who are not pleased with America. But why are they not pleased? It was obvious to me that if we are to deal with people who do not like us, then it would be a VERY good idea to understand WHY they don't like us. So when I talked to people, I asked the question, "WHY?" So did fellow soldiers in the 786th QM CO that I have been a part of. I was amazed at the answer received every time the question was asked. "The people in the mid-east are fanatics," the answer would come. "They hate America because of its freedoms." "They are evil, America is good."

I had one response then, and I have only grown more certain of it since. BULLSHIT.

Unfortunately, it seems that most people in this country have believed that overly simplistic answer. But I could not accept it. I started to study. I started to read reports from sources OTHER than the mainstream media. I started reading books that were about economics, politics, and the ideas that make society work.

I came to conclude that using force or compulsion to MAKE people be good will NEVER, EVER produce a good society.

This led on to other thinking. I considered the nature of government, and how it is constantly trying to force people to be good. Instead of trying to love, encourage, invite, and teach them.

I started to see that our government, the US Government, was not such a good guy as I had always thought. Now, let me be clear, I think the people of this country are, for the most part, great. But I see a very distinct difference between the people and the government. I found out that the US Government has done many things outside its borders that would greatly ANGER the people affected. I found out that time and time again our Presidents have LIED and even MANIPULATED events in order to get us to go to war. I found out that the US Government supports many tyrannical governments in order to expand its "sphere of influence." I decided that the biggest reason America had come under attack was that some people had become either scared of or angry with the US Government. Scared and angry enough to decide that they would give everything, even their lives, in order to damage it.

The US Government started out very small. But over the past two centuries it has grown because of the industry of the American people to a point that no other government has ever been. It has the most powerful military in the world. It has the most lethal arsenal of weapons the world has ever known. And just like all the big empires have done in their own time, the US Government has conquered and expanded and generally made other people afraid.

Trying to understand why someone would want to hurt the American people is not a matter of excusing their actions, but a matter of survival. I believe I have a much better understanding of why America was attacked than I did a year ago. We have a great system here, one which protects the US citizens from many injustices that could be committed by a tyrannical leader. But it's easy to see why others are afraid of us when you realize that the Bill of Rights stops at the borders.

We will never win a war on terrorism if we keep creating more terrorists.

If we are to survive as a country, we must stop viewing the world as good versus evil. It is supremely arrogant to think that we are the good guys and that anyone who disagrees with us must be evil.

If we truly are the good guys, then we will not go kill thousands of innocents in order to pursue a few who threaten us.

I don't know about anyone else, but I want to be a good guy. I may be idealistic, but I will try as hard as I can to reach the ideal.

I believe that in attacking Iraq, America will be the aggressor nation. I believe that the death of each innocent Iraqi will be a murder committed not only by the soldier who pulls the trigger, but also by everyone who supports this war. Even if we could be assured that only those in the Iraqi army are killed, I would still count each death as the murder of a man who is defending his home.

When I joined the Army, I thought it was used for defense only. Now I find that it has been used rarely for defense, but rather for aggression. It has been used to help build the American Empire. I find that I can not feel any honor, any pride in being part of such a force. I can only feel shame.

Beyond the specifics of this war and this government, I have come to decide that all war is immoral. It will always cause death to innocent lives and destruction of their property. It is a tool to further the interests of some at the expense of everyone else. It is the ultimate use of coercive force and I believe it is never good.

I can not participate in this, or any other, war.

This is a decision that I have come to after much study, consideration, debate, and soul-searching. I informed my commanders of my stand. I informed them that I considered myself a conscientious objector and that I would file an application. I requested assignment to duties which minimally conflict with my conscience. My contracted service time was actually up on the 8th of January of this year, but instead of letting me go they told me I had to stay in the Reserves because of the current situation. They call this decision a "stop-loss." I wish I had known before I signed a contract for a specific amount of time that they could simply ignore that time limit and keep me for as long as they liked. But I suppose that's something all who are considering enlistment ought to think about.

I had not completed the Conscientious Objector application process when my unit received the order on Wednesday, February 5th to mobilize. I was told that I too must mobilize, that we would move out on Monday, today. I was stunned. What was I going to do? I had to wonder, just how strong is my objection? The few days that has passed between then and now have been quite a roller-coaster for me. I rushed to talk to as many people as I could. I wanted to know what the possibilities were. On Friday, I was told that they had decided to discharge me. Thankfully, someone was thinking that I wasn't worth the headache. I was elated and needless to say, extremely relieved. But only three hours later, I received another call and they told me that the discharge was going to be revoked. I can't even describe how dejected I felt then and during the couple of days since. The only thing that kept my spirits up was the knowledge of what I would do come Monday.

I would say no.

I would say no and I would make it as loud and as public as I could, in the hopes that maybe a few more would consider that perhaps they also ought to say no.

And I would take the consequences.

I found out some of the possible consequences. I found out that I could be sentenced to possibly seven years in military jail for disobeying orders and missing a troop movement. This scared me, and my wife of just two weeks, but it did not deter me. If they insisted on ordering me to deploy, then I would say no, and hope for the best.

Thankfully, yesterday, I was told that the discharge that was going to be revoked was not going to be revoked after all. Today I hold in my hands my discharge papers. I am still slightly nervous that they will again change their minds. But I am hopeful that they really won't find any reason to make an example of me.

I realize that this is a less dramatic story than it would have been if I were standing here having disobeyed orders. But I want everyone listening to understand that I think this war is wrong. I would have gone to jail rather than fight in it.

As I close I would like to thank all who have helped me during the last few days. All those who told me I was doing the right thing, and especially all those in my chain of command who argued for letting me go, even if they didn't agree with my beliefs. They took time during the hectic days before mobilization to do their best to deal with me appropriately. I hope that they will not find themselves in any danger nor in a position where they must kill someone. I hope that more people come to see war as I have. I hope that more people will learn to look beyond the simple explanations offered to the explanations that are hidden. I suggest that people who are curious to learn some of these explanations start looking for sources on the internet. There is much there to be found. Realize that each of us is accountable for all that is done in our name.

Thank you. Michael Sudbury


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Comments

SOLDIER WHO QUIT = COWARD (english)
21 Feb 2003
One day you will wake up a prisoner of one or two things..
YOUR SELF or some commie imperialistic regime OR some
other like crew where "choice" is not an option.
Support Our Troops Who Refuse to Fight! (english)
22 Feb 2003
This is a true example of bravery. Let's encourage more soldiers to do the same.
soldier who quit (english)
25 Feb 2003
Bravo! Wish more people would think, especially the President. If I was as brave I'd withhold a portion of my taxes proportional to the Pentagon budget, donating the remainder to a humanitarian group. Hmmm....
A Conscience (english)
26 Feb 2003
It was an interesting letter to read and, if true, gladly read by me.
We live in interesting times and it was interesting to hear a statement from the recent Asian leaders summit point out that the hard work achieved after the fall of the Iron Curtain has been lost.
The American issue that is so dividing the world is one that has been creeping up for some time. If it'd happened overnight, I think we'd find a lot more scared people. The fact is, it seems like a staged affair. Handled by spin, run like a smooth engine.
No one country has the right to instill such uncertainty in the world. In its people, it's economy and its wellbeing.
congratulations (english)
26 Feb 2003
Shame on the commenter who can only call the Michael Sudbury a coward after he gave a well-argued defense of his actions and explained how he would risk jail. On the contrary, Sudbury is a brave man.
more applause (english)
26 Feb 2003
I just want to applaud the thoughtfulness and commitment to morality demonstrated by Mr. Sudbury. If all citizens demonstrated such care in assessing the situation we find ourselves currently in, our dialogue would be so much richer and more potent.
Michael Sudbury is a hero... (english)
26 Feb 2003
... a hero who despite the reality of being jailed for standing up, despite intense indoctrination, from elementary school all the way to infantry school, despite the totalitarian swearing-of-allegiance demanded of children and adults every day in schools and other public institutions across the "land-of-the-fear", despite a corporate-owned press that is hysterically pro-war and pro-empire, he figured out who the evil empire really was and acted on his conscience. That shows not only remarkable independence of mind but great courage. He is an example to all us cowards out here who sit on the fence.
You are a necessity (english)
28 Feb 2003
I commend your actions and courage. The National Guard mobilized against the Viet Nam war as one voice and that had a major impact on bringing that war to a close. Patriotism is not following orders or doing what the President says, whether you are a soldier or civilian. Patriotism means you take a stand to defend the principles of this nation, put forth at this nation's conception. Patriotism means you take action against any anti-American (anti humanitarian) regime, even that regime takes the form of our own government. Unfortuantely, there is also a war raging on the US population. The revisions to the Patriot Act put all of us and our basic life at risk from our own elected officials. The Bill of Rights is not a petty pleasantry, it is an essential component of our democracy. And those rights are guarnteed by law. That the executive branch thinks they can pussy whip the populace into submission is a travesty. The President and his cronies are the true terrorists. And if they succeed in these assaults, foreign and domestic, they will breed more terror and weaken our ability to truly defend ourselves.