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September 2009

Volume 6, Issue 3

SOUND OFF Military Counseling Network


Content: • In their words – page 2

• The Will to Resist: Review of Dahr Jamail's new book on GI Resistance – page 3

• The current state of MCN affairs: Marius v. Hoogstraten page 4 • How to Give,

How to Get:

Contact and donation information for the MCN office – page 6

Struggle of Conscience by Daniel Hershberger

It could be seen as commendable that the U.S military has in its regulations the possibility of a soldier becoming a conscientious objector to war. Afterall, many in the civilian crowd bristle at the idea of someone getting out of their military contract early, regardless of the reason, no matter if a supposed conscience played a role or not. Many of those who hear about our work are surprised that soldiers can get out based on a change of conscience. "You mean, they can become CO's, even though they signed up voluntar­ ily?" they ask. "But, they signed up for it." And therein lies the surprise, if it can be called that, that such a discharge exists. Basically, the U.S military ac­ knowledges that a soldier can be changed enough through his or her ex­ periences that he or she can go into the military in full support of the mis­ sion, and come out having a fixed, firm and sincere objection to war in all form. The military itself acknow­ ledges this capacity, even when many civilians do not. The surprise is not long lasting. As soon as one looks past the "on­paper"

facts of a conscientious objection discharge, and helps a soldier down this path, the military's facade of benevolence soon fades away, and reality sinks in. Rather than benevolance, the discharge exists (as do all discharges) out of expediance, so that the military can release those who will no longer help complete the ever important mission. It would be dangerous, both in the physical sense and in terms of morale, to have Private Pyle refusing to carry a weapon and conversing with his buddies about how the taking of life is im­ moral. Although the discharge exists, it is by no means cut and dry. Not every soldier who would meet the criteria is informed that such a dis­ charge exists. Soldiers are given false information about the pro­ cess, or are even told that such a discharge does not exist. Merely meeting the criteria of a CO dis­ charge does not mean that one will be granted. Even when informed of their abil­ ity to apply for CO status, the pro­ cess gets no easier. It has been my experience here at the Military Counseling Network that you can never predict the outcome of a case. Some soldiers that have oozed sincerity were denied, and some cases lacking the power punch of credibility one recieves with a combat tour in Iraq or Afgh­ anistan were deemed sincere and granted discharge. ..continued on page 6..



In their own words

"The Army trains you to be this way. In bayonet training, the sergeant would yell, 'What makes the grass grow?' and we would yell, 'Blood! Blood! Blood!' as we stabbed the dummy. The Army pounds it into your head until it is instinct: Kill everybody, kill everybody. And you do. Then they just think you can just come home and turn it off." Kenneth Eastridge, 24, who was allowed to return with his unit for a second Iraq tour in 2006 despite PTSD, a relentless drug and alcohol problem, and pending criminal charges, is now doing 10 years for accessory to murder.

"Recruit training is not being conducted any differently than it was before. It's not like all of the sudden this is happening. I think it has to do with the Marine Corps not wanting to admit to the public what it takes to train somebody ... to go to war."

Sgt Jarrod Glass, Marine drill instructor found guilty of abusing recruits, explaining how he and his fellow drill instructors, also being charged with the abuse and mishandling of recruits, have been singled out as the Marine Corps tries to show the public that it is taking recruit abuse seriously.


By Daniel Hershberger

One of the main differences between the GI Rights movement during the Vietnam war and the current Iraq War has to do to with the composition of the military. During Vietnam, it was the draft that gave a certain credibility to the soldiers that were deciding to question their involvement in the war. In the era of a professional military, an era where members of the United States Military sign up voluntarily (even if persuaded to do so by a life situation that appears to offer no better way), it is easy for the civilian population to take lightly a soldier questioning the morality of the wars in the Middle East. After all, they signed up for this. They knew what they were getting into. In this way, some of the most powerful stories are shrugged away, stories about the war from the people in the war. Thankfully, to the eye and ear that are willing to see and hear, these stories are available. In The Will to Resist, Dahr Jamail, author of Outside the Green Zone, examines the U.S. military's impact on the very people fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan 足 the soldiers themselves. What he describes is a brutal system that teaches young recruits to dehumanize


"the enemy" and each other. From a military culture of misogyny, homophobia, racism, and intimidation to a system that "chews `em up and spits `em out," (battle wounds, stop足loss, and veteran's benefits be damned), Jamail interviews scores of veterans and active duty soldiers who've come to realize they can't "be all they can be" if they are killing civilians, dodging bombs, struggling with traumatic brain injuries, or plagued by suicidal urges. Jamail documents the soldier's experiences in their own blunt language, giving the war, and swelling internal resistance, an immediacy and realism the U.S. Military would rather go unexamined, but is increasingly hard to ignore. With detail and clarity, Jamail describes how a growing number of soldiers are resisting by refusing orders, speaking out, acting up, coming out (of the closet), writing, blogging, demonstrating, and just plain saying "no" to wars in which they find themselves being used as disposable pawns. Some of the stories Jamail tells are shocking, some are depressing, while others are inspiring, irrepressibly human and unexpectedly brimming with promise. The soldiers in The Will to Resist offer hope at a time when

America's war足making seems to be accepted as "just one of those things." Even if the American public is too busy, too indifferent, or too desensitized to offer any meaningful resistance to the ongoing American occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, there are a growing number of military personnel who will. To those who have followed the work of the Military Counseling Network, a few of the names and stories in the book will be familiar. To those who have been involved in the GI Rights movement, most of the stories and experiences will sound familiar, as the experiences that Jamail describes are real, have happened, and are continuing to happen as more and more soldiers continue to be changed by their experiences.



What the big sandy Empire experience looks like from Bammental. You kind of have to squint to see anything at this distance. By Marius van Hoogstraten

Having just arrived in Bammental in order to work for the Military Counseling Network I learned things were “quiet”. Not many soldiers call or write to MCN these days. And it’s not only us: Iraq Veterans Against the War is noti­ cing a drop, as is the GI Rights Network in the Continental USA. For some reason, sol­ diers feel less inclined to apply for Conscien­ tious Objector status, or to make a break for it and call us for advice on what they can do next. I’m told this is pretty normal in summers. Ap­ parently, it’s much more bearable to receive notice that you will be sent into a hostile cli­ mate to walk patrols all day with 60­70 pounds of equipment under the constant threat of leth­ al violence in summer than in winter. Rumor also has it it’s more comforting to return to a sunny Germany with fifteen months of sandy sweaty hell to digest than to a snowy Germany. I can imagine there’s a difference. But there has to be more going on. I climbed the highest mountain I could find and strained my eyes south­east, in the direc­ tion of Iraq and, a little further, Afghanistan. And then west, to the USA. What’s happen­ ing? What is it that makes soldiers feel like staying in? What do America’s wars look like from the Bammental (and thus the Military Counseling Network) perspective?

1.The wars have been going on for very long. The US invaded Iraq over six years ago and Afghanistan almost nine years ago. A typical enlisted soldier has signed for four years of active duty and four years of reserve duty.

The Author.

Even with stop­loss orders in effect, that means by far most boots on the ground are those of soldiers who enlisted after the invasion. I don’t mean to say that watching the news in the US is an adequate preparation for the horrors of counterinsurgency warfare, but perhaps the voice in the back of a soldier’s head saying “you signed up for this; you knew the US were at war; there was no way you could expect not having to fight.” Maybe.

2.The Iraq surge is over, the Afghanistan surge hasn´t started.

Troops are starting to be pulled out of Iraq, and the ones that are there aren’t (taking a leading role in) patrolling the cities anymore now that the urban centers of Iraq have been turned over to Iraqi security forces. The Afgh­ anistan surge is still under discussion. This might mean that the strain on the troops is di­ minishing ­ although with fifteen­month tours of duty, it’s still considerable I’m sure. ..continued on page 5..


3. The economy.

With the state of the economy currently pretty miser­ able, the military remains a safe bet. “You may not like the military,” that voice may go, “but if you leave, where are you going to go? How will you pay your bills?” It comes as no surprise that the military has a much easier time reaching its recruitment and retention goals than before.

4. No units stationed in Germany are deploying soon. According to the best of our information, everyone is either out in Iraq (not in much of a situation to think things over), practicing here in Germany (happy to be out of Iraq), or on leave (same). I guess when the troops currently deployed will come back, or when the ones stationed in Germany will be about to leave, we’ll be hearing from them. Maybe. It’s also interesting to con­ sider that Afghanistan might be supplied directly from the Continental US now that Russian airspace has been opened up.

Deadliest Month For U.S. Troops Since Start Of Afghan Occupation


5. The Commander in Chief has changed.

Whether you like him or not, I imagine having Obama as a Commander in Chief is something of an improvement compared to that one president who started two unwinnable wars in less than two years. With promises of a complete Iraq pullout as soon as 2010 and what kind of looks like a reluct­ ance to send many more troops to the ‘Stan, I can imagine many troops would decide to sort of wait it out and see what happens. I personally can’t imagine any of this will remain so for long. The escalation of Afghanistan and the perpetual mess in Iraq will necessarily pull the German bases back into the game, and will show that there are certain essential qualities of a Com­ mander in Chief that change less than one might desire. For all those soldiers that decide that even though they signed up for it, and even though they might not have great chances getting a civilian job, that is a better prospect than to be ordered to do things they no longer believe are right – for all of them, we are ready.

Jul 31 By Paul Tait (Reuters)

A U.S. service member was killed as the deadliest month for foreign troops in the Afghanistan war drew to a close, the U.S. military said on Friday, with commanders vowing to continue the fight despite the toll. The death in southern Afghanistan brought to 40 the number of U.S. troops killed in July, by far the heaviest monthly toll in the 8­year­old war. The worst previous month for U.S. forces was in September 2008, when 26 were killed. The latest death occurred in a firefight with insurgents in southern Afghanistan on Thursday, the U.S. military said, without giving further details. At least 70 foreign troops have been killed in July. Britain has suffered its worst battlefield casualties

since the 1980s Falklands War, with the 22 troops killed in the month taking its total losses in Afghanistan to 191, 12 more than were killed in the Iraq war. The United States has around 62,000 troops in Afghanistan, out of a total foreign force of about 101,000. U.S. forces are set to rise to some 68,000 by the end of the year.

Contact Info


Military Counseling Network Hauptstr. 1 D­69245, Bammental Germany Phone: +49 (0) 6223­47506 E­mail: Website:­ Blog:­


Deutsches Mennonitisches Friedenskomitee (DMFK) Hauptstr. 1 69245, Bammental Germany


..from page 1.. It can be a catch twenty­two. Be passionate and outspoken about your be­ liefs, and risk being seen as an antagonist by the command. Staying quiet, and not causing problems, however, is often interpreted as insincerity or weakness. At the end of the day, even with the criteria stipulated in a Dept. of Defense Directive that is fleshed out in each branch of the armed forces, the final fate of a CO case is quite subjective. It is on this path of uncertainty that MCN helps soldiers to know their rights, and to offer the information and support that they need. While the process is often subjective, we help them prepare the best they can, in order that they stand the best chance possible of being afforded the discharge that the military regulations grant them.

Contribute Financially


Mennonite Mission Network Mennonite Mission Network P.O. Box 370 Elkhart, IN 46515­0370 USA


Bank Account:


Kontonr. 21240069, Kreissparkasse Heilbronn, BLZ 620 500 00 Attn: “MCN”

Please send check with note that includes: • Name of individual or group • Date • Mark for “EU 108: MCN” • Signature

◊ MCN Staff – Daniel Hershberger, Marius van Hoogstraten ◊

Sound Off September 2009  

In this issue: the ebbs and flows of work in the Military Counseling Network office; a review of Dahr Jamails book "The Will to Resist"; the...