Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Robert Zabala granted C.O. status by federal court

The de-Baathification commission led by Mr. [Ahmad] Chalabi was set up by L. Paul Bremer III, the American pro-consul who governed Iraq from Mary 2003 to June 2004. Mr. Bremer's very first order was to purge former Baathists from the government, a task that Mr. Chalabi's commission passionately carried out. Mr. Bremer also disbanded the Iraqi Army which, along with the de-Baathification order, has been widely criticized as fueling the insurgency.
But before handing over power in 2004, Mr. Bremer scaled back some of the de-Baathification policy in an effort to bring back teachers, scientists and others with technical expertise, as well as former army officers who could help rebuild Iraq's moribund security forces.

The above is from Edward Wong's "Shiite Cleric Opposes U.S. Plan to Permit Former Baath Party Members to Join Government" in this morning's New York Times (A10 for a high school community member who can use that as a source on a paper due at the end of the month). The point comes far into the article, not at the start, but it's very important. (So important, a member's building her senior research paper around it.)

Wong's article tells you that Chalabi has stated Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani will not endorse allowing former members of the Baath party "to return to government service" and al-Sistani's sentiments come via Chalabi ("the former Pentagon favorite and head of the de-Baahthification commission, who has opposed any serious attempt to roll back the purging of former Baathists").
We could stay with that but we have other things to note. Turning to news of war resistance, Tony Parry's "Judge orders Marine reservist's discharge" (Los Angeles Times) notes a c.o. has been granted -- by the federal court:

A federal judge in San Jose has taken the unusual step of ordering the Marine Corps to grant a reservist's request for a discharge as a conscientious objector.
Lance Cpl. Robert Zabala, 23, said he joined the Marines as part of a family tradition of military service. But he said he was shocked during boot camp here to find such a strong emphasis on killing.
According to court documents, Zabala said he was appalled by the "blood lust" of one officer and broke into tears when shown pictures of dead Iraqis. He said his informal study of Buddhism led him to a belief in the "sanctity of life." Officers of his reserve regiment who initially reviewed his application, filed in June 2004, recommended that he be given a discharge. But a general turned down the application on grounds that Zabala's objection to war was not the product of religious devotion. One officer, according to court papers, thought Zabala might be seeking a discharge to avoid going to Iraq.

Okay, it's time for us to review again. We've been through this crap before (most famously with the 'reasons' for denying Agustin Aguayo C.O. status). This is from the US Selective Service, going over their policy for C.O. status:

A conscientious objector is one who is opposed to serving in the armed forces and/or bearing arms on the grounds of moral or religious principles.
HOW TO APPLY In general, once a man gets a notice that he has been found qualified for military service, he has the opportunity to make a claim for classification as a conscientious objector (CO). A registrant making a claim for Conscientious Objection is required to appear before his local board to explain his beliefs.
He may provide written documentation or include personal appearances by people he knows who can attest to his claims. His written statement might explain:
how he arrived at his beliefs; and
the influence his beliefs have had on how he lives his life.
The local board will decide whether to grant or deny a CO classification based on the evidence a registrant has presented.
A man may appeal a Local Board's decision to a Selective Service District Appeal Board. If the Appeal Board also denies his claim, but the vote is not unanimous, he may further appeal the decision to the National Appeal Board. See also
WHO QUALIFIES? Beliefs which qualify a registrant for CO status may be religious in nature, but don't have to be. Beliefs may be moral or ethical; however, a man's reasons for not wanting to participate in a war must not be based on politics, expediency, or self-interest. In general, the man's lifestyle prior to making his claim must reflect his current claims.

Is it clear? It's not clear to those in the military making decisions because this is the second time religion has popped up. Zabala was denied because his reasons weren't religious -- in violation of the policy. With Aguayo it wasn't thought that he was religious enough or some such crap. Religion doesn't even have to enter into it. That's the policy, the official policy and it is past time that it was followed. I'm sure that won't be the last time we have to review it.

From the AP's "Marine Opposed to War Ordered Discharged" (via Forbes):

Zabala said he was troubled during boot camp in 2003 when a fellow recruit committed suicide and a superior used profanities to belittle the recruit. Zabala said he was "abhorred by the blood lust (the superior) seemed to possess," according to a 2006 court petition for conscientious-objector status.
Another boot camp instructor showed recruits a "motivational clip" showing Iraqi corpses, explosions, gun fights and rockets set to a heavy metal song that included the lyrics, "Let the bodies hit the floor," the petition said. Zabala said he cried, while other recruits nodded their heads in time with the beat.
"The sanctity of life that formed the moral center of petitioner's life was being challenged," his attorney, Stephen Collier, wrote in a court filing.

Robert Zabala is one of the war resisters profiled in Peter Laufer's Mission Rejected: U.S. Soldiers Who Say No to Iraq, pp. 137-183:

Robert Zabala's grandfather was awarded a Purple Heart for being wounded in combat during his service in Vietnam; his mother and father were in the Navy, as were all his uncles; and a cousin was a Marine. Looking for some structure and feeling a sense of duty to his country, Robert decided to sign up for the Marine Corps reserves when he was accepted at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
He graduated from boot camp after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, but as he got to know his fellow Marines during training, he says he began to feel estranged. "Everybody resigned themselves to killing somebody. I started to question -- maybe that's not right."
We are talking on a typically sunny Santa Cruz day in a downtwon park. Robert sits straight-backed at a picnic table. His hair is brush-cut, accenting his steel-rimmed glasses. He is soft-spoken but direct, often referring to notes to check dates as he tells his story.
Robert says he first was caught off guard during physical training. "They teach you how to punch. The instructor says, 'Punch!' The recruits' response is, 'Kill!'" This is typical Marine training. Marines are carefully trained and highly disciplined warriors meant to be used against an enemy the government wants dead.
[. . .]
Then came the sad day when a recruit turned a rifle on himself and committed suicide on the rifle range. Robert was part of an assembly called by a captain charged with reporting the news to recruits. He looks down at his notes, careful to make sure he quotes the captain correctly. "He said, 'F**k him. F**k his parents for raising him and f**k the girl who dumped him.' He went on, attacking this kid's character, insulting his parents for even having sex and bringing this child into this world. It was a total disregard for the sanctity of human life."

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