No Medals for Agustin Aguayo
Doing the right thing can be costly, but in the end one can at least sleep at night.
Ask Spc. Agustin Aguayo, 35, a U.S. citizen born in Guadalajara, Mexico, who was just sentenced by a US military court in Wurzburg, Germany.
His crime was a gut feeling shared by a growing number of ordinary citizens and soldiers alike: President Bush’s war in Iraq isn’t their war.
His conscientious objector (CO) status denied on appeal, Aguayo went absent without leave, or AWOL, last September before a second deployment to Iraq. He had been told he would be taken there in shackles if necessary.
The medic was given a bad conduct discharge, sentenced to eight months in a military prison and stripped of his pay. It could have been worse, as he faced a possible seven years in jail.
Agustin Aguayo says that when he first joined the Army in 2002, he still believed in the US government and he never expected to be in the news. On Tuesday, he was once again a top story as he was convicted for refusing to kill people he doesn’t know and who have done nothing to him, his family or his country.
In an interview with Democracy Now, before he turned himself in last year, Agustin Aguayo said: “It's not my job to decide who's going to live or who's going to die. That's something that I’ve had to deal with morally and that I’m convinced of. Nothing is clearer in my mind that war is wrong. And I won't be a tool of war anymore.”
Aguayo had applied for CO status before his first deployment in February 2004 but that was rejected.
At the time he felt killing was wrong. But according to his wife, Helga Aguayo, it wasn’t until he was in Iraq and read a book on its history that came in a care package “that he realized that the war has essentially been created for the personal gain of a few people.”
In an excellent interview by Gillian Russom titled “The Court Martial of Agustin Aguayo,” Helga added: “What he told me was that for a few corporations, it's in their best interests to keep the chaos going in Iraq.”
“When my husband enlisted, we were very ignorant. We had both graduated from college and had no idea about history or the military. Now, our eyes are wide open,” Helga Aguayo told Russom.
“In the movies, Hollywood glamorizes the military and makes them look like such heroes, but when he started training, he realized, ‘I'm training to kill people,’" added Helga.
Camilo Mejia, a young Nicaraguan born US solider, was another similar case. Mejia’s wake up call came in Iraq and he wasn’t about to go back on a second deployment. He has since dedicated himself to speaking out against the war.
If Aguayo and Mejia and the thousands like them that have left their posts, or refused to deploy in Iraq, knew what they were getting into beforehand they may have never enlisted.
Recruitment officers promises of money for college, fast track citizenship, or “to be somebody” lose ground when a young person comprehends the cruelty of taking part in an unjust war against a civilian population.
However, once they are on board the pressures on them are intense and it takes real courage to fly in the face of them as Aguayo and Mejia did.
While so called deserters may find themselves with fewer options in a society where education and decent employment are a privilege, at least they can sleep at night.