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A U.S. Army medic on trial for refusing to return to Iraq

Mar 6, 2007 — WUERZBURG, Germany (Reuters) - A U.S. Army medic on trial for refusing to return to Iraq with his unit pleaded guilty on Tuesday to going absent without leave and missing his deployment but denied charges of full desertion.

Mexican-born combat medic Agustin Aguayo, 35, faces up to seven years in prison, a dishonorable discharge and loss of pay for leaving his base in Schweinfurt, Germany, in September 2006, and failing to deploy with his unit.

His case comes at a time of waning support for the Iraq war in the United States and follows the high-profile trial in February of First Lieutenant Ehren Watada — the first known court-martial of a U.S. Army officer for publicly refusing to serve in Iraq. Watada's court-martial ended in a mistrial.

"I missed the movement," Aguayo said at his court-martial in the Bavarian city of Wuerzburg. "Yes, I deliberately stayed away from the battalion area."

He faces two and a half years in prison for going absent without leave and for being missing in movement but that could rise to seven years if he is found guilty of desertion.

Aguayo, who has fought for three years to be recognized as a conscientious objector, served one term as a medic in Iraq in 2004, during which he said he refused to load his gun while on guard duty.

He failed to show up when his unit redeployed to Iraq last year and then fled his base, going missing for several weeks before turning himself over in California.

Aguayo's attorney said his attempts to be recognized as an objector could make a difference in the sentencing although he could not use that as a defense in the trial.

"We are not dealing with a person who just says 'I do not like the Iraq war so I won't go'," his civilian attorney David Court told Reuters.

"We are dealing with someone who is saying 'I won't go to Iraq. I won't go to Afghanistan. I won't go to Somalia. I won't go to Bosnia. I don't believe in war'."

A deserter is defined by the U.S. Department of Defense as a member of the armed forces who is absent from their unit or post without authorization, quits their unit to avoid duty or enlists improperly in another service. It can also apply to people who are absent without leave for 30 straight days or more.

The Department of Defense recorded a total of 4,494 deserters in 2005, according to official data.

In addition to Aguayo and Watada, there have been several similar cases, including that of British Air Force doctor Malcolm Kendall-Smith, who was sentenced to eight months in jail last April for refusing to go to Iraq.

Amnesty International said it had sent a delegate to observe the court martial proceedings to assess whether Aguayo would be a prisoner of conscience if convicted and imprisoned.
He refuses to be deployed anywhere on the basis that he does not believe in war? Why did he join the Army then? If you want to join the army as a nurse or surgeon and stay in a hospital patching people up, because you don't want to kill anybody, that's fine.

He should have joined the peace corps.
Well, there is evidence that going into war zones as a soldier turns people into objectors - a turn in conscience.

During the first world war, soldiers were shot due to the signs of what we now call post traumatic stress disorder. It was called cowardice then and those soldiers were shot.

I suggest, that this soldier has had a turn in conscience and that he therefore refuses to go to war (although I do admit that as a medic he is a non combatant...).

Perhaps in eighty years time we will understand these people better.

Iraq is a lie since no WMD have been found and is, in my opinion, an illegally started war.
Chief_Joseph said:
He refuses to be deployed anywhere on the basis that he does not believe in war? Why did he join the Army then? If you want to join the army as a nurse or surgeon and stay in a hospital patching people up, because you don't want to kill anybody, that's fine.

He should have joined the peace corps.
I agree with you Chief! :thumright:
Medic is convicted and sentenced to 8 months in prison.


A U.S. Army medic who jumped out a window of his base housing and fled to California to avoid a redeployment to Iraq was convicted of desertion Tuesday at a court-martial. He was sentenced to eight months in prison.

Spec. Agustin Aguayo, 35, who testified that he refused to return to Iraq because he believes war is immoral, admitted to a charge of being absent without leave but was unsuccessful in contesting the more serious desertion charge.

He and his attorneys turned to each other and smiled as the judge, Col. R. Peter Masterton, read out the sentence. The maximum allowable was seven years.

Aguayo, assigned to the 1st Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team, served a year as a combat medic in Saddam Hussein's home town of Tikrit in 2004 after the military turned down his request to be considered a conscientious objector.

In a shaky voice, Aguayo told the court at the Army's Leighton Barracks, near Wuerzburg, that his convictions led him to flee his base rather than go back to Iraq with his unit. After jumping from a window of his base housing in Germany on Sept. 2, he traveled to his home in California, where he surrendered at Fort Irwin about three weeks later.

"I respect everyone's views and your decision. I understand that people don't understand me," he testified. "I tried my best, but I couldn't bear weapons and I could never point weapons at someone."

Aguayo added, "The words of Martin Luther come to mind, 'Here I stand, I can do no more.' "

Masterton sided with prosecutors in finding Aguayo guilty of desertion. He also was convicted of missing a troop deployment. Because Aguayo has been jailed for 161 days while awaiting trial, he could be free within a few weeks.

Masterton also ordered that Aguayo be reduced in rank to private, forfeit his pay and receive a bad conduct discharge after serving his sentence.

Aguayo enlisted in 2002 to earn money for his education. Although military operations in Afghanistan were underway and debate about invading Iraq had begun, he said he never thought he would have to fight.
sounds like a good decision to me. Regardless of the original justifications for going into Iraq, the situation now is completely different and I do not see how it could be argued as illegal to be ordered to go.

If he really felt that he should refuse the order, the only way I would have had any respect for him, is if he stood in front of his CO and told him to his face. running away just makes him look 'chicken'.


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