From In The Mind Field:
Since the start of the Bush era, soldiers and veterans have been a core part of resisting America’s wars for empire.
In 2004, Veterans for Peace sponsored Iraq Veterans Against the War, which began with seven members. IVAW is now an independent organization with hundreds of veterans and active duty members, chapters in all 50 states and overseas, and continues gaining members all the time. Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are marching in peace demonstrations, speaking out at public events, giving media interviews, organizing active duty soldiers on military bases, and actively helping GI resisters. Anti-war Iraq veterans were featured in a documentary movie, The Ground Truth, and in several other movies about the war. During the Iraq war, over 2,000 active duty troops signed the “Appeal for Redress” calling on Congress to end the war. At the height of the war, the GI Rights Hotline received up to 3,000 calls a month from GIs wanting out of the wars and the military, and an estimated 200-plus soldiers went AWOL in Canada. Courage to Resist helped many service members publicly refuse military orders, including 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, who never served a single day in jail. Now a young PFC, Bradley Manning, stands accused of telling the truth by leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents. All of this combined with the civilian peace movement turned the tide of American public opinion against the Iraq war, and eventually led to bringing the bulk of regular troops home. Thousands of mercenaries remain.
What will happen to the young GIs who refused orders to war or directly resisted the military in other ways? In particular, what will life be like for them afterward? What will their lives be like long after these wars are over, and the country and the world moves on? The experience of the Viet Nam era GI resisters may be very relevant here.
Forty one years ago, I was a soldier in the U. S. Army. I had received orders to Viet Nam, and after much agonized soul searching had decided I wasn’t going to go. I went AWOL for two weeks. I then reported to the Presidio stockade with my lawyer, turned myself in, refused orders, and submitted a limited conscientious objector application (objection to a particular war, not to military service in general or to legitimate military defense of the nation). The Army first pressed three charges against me, for a total of 15 years in prison if convicted. I was prepared to plead guilty to those charges. But the Army instead dropped all the charges, released me from the stockade, and ordered me to report to Oakland Army terminal for shipment to Viet Nam. I escaped and deserted to Canada.
Read more here.