Monday, July 23, 2007

Agustin Aguayo and Joshua Key

Agustin Aguayo served eight months in a military prison after refusing to serve a second tour in Iraq, but the former U.S. Army medic received a hero's welcome Sunday from antiwar activists in Los Angeles.
Although still somewhat uncomfortable addressing an audience, the soft-spoken, bespectacled Aguayo appeared at a reception in his honor at an art gallery in Highland Park.
The Palmdale resident, 35, has begun touring the country, telling the story of how he went AWOL for 24 days and came to oppose all military service.
At the Highland Park gathering, Aguayo described himself as having "mixed emotions inside," happy to be home but sad that the war in Iraq continues.
"I realized I wasn't just a medic, someone that helps and patches up and heals the wounded. I was much more. I was an enabler of these missions," the Southern California native said.
In an interview after his brief talk, Aguayo described his evolution after he joined the Army in January 2003 to earn money for his education into what he now calls himself on his business card: a "conscientious objector/war resister."

Stuart Silverstein's "War resister gets a hero's welcome" (Los Angeles Times). In the summer and fall of 2006, war resisters became the big news stories for anyone paying attention as Ehren Watada's public stand was followed by others including Darrell Anderson, Ricky Clousing, Kyle Snyder, Mark Wilkerson, Ivan Brobeck, Agustin Aguayo and others. With more on Aguayo, Sandra notes AP's "War resister who spent 8 months in prison gets welcomed in LA:"

The Palmdale resident has begun touring the country to tell the story of how he went AWOL for 24 days and came to oppose all military service.
He said he had "mixed emotions inside," happy to be home but sad that the war in Iraq continues.
"I realized I wasn't just a medic, someone that helps and patches up and heals the wounded. I was much more. I was an enabler of these missions," he said.

And Megan notes this information from "Iraq vet to speak in T.O." (The Acorn) on Aguayos' next speaking event:

Iraq War veteran Agustín Aguayo will speak from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Thurs., July 26 at the Grant Brimhall/Thousand Oaks Library, 1401 E. Janss Road. The program is free and open to the public.
[. . .]
This event is sponsored by Global Exchange Ventura County Supporters, Citizens for Peaceful Resolutions, Veterans for Peace Ventura Chapter 112, ANSWER Ventura County, Luisa Moreno Human Rights Committee of Oxnard and Ventura County Stop the War.
For more information, call (805) 375-9939 or e-mail

Staying on the topic of war resisters, Joshua Key's The Deserter's Tale came out this year and has racked up impressive book reviews. Key's story of his life up to Iraq and what he saw in Iraq, of why he decided the only honorable thing to do was to self-checkout and how he and his family (wife Brandi and their children) decided to move to Canada makes for a highly compelling read. So much so that the US military went to Canada, posed as Canadian police officers, showed up on the doorstep of Winnie Ng looking for him. The book is incredible it turns the US military into star struck fans and groupies. In the latest of a long line of strong and favorable reviews, Phil Shannon's "A soldier's fight against an unjust war" (Australia's Green Leaf Weekly) explains why the book is must reading:

Private First Class Joshua Key watched with gut-twisting disgust as his fellow soldiers kicked around the heads, for sport, of four Iraqi civilians, decapitated by a deluge of gunfire, in Ramadi. The strange feelings, moral doubts and unanswered questions of his six-month tour of Iraq in 2003 straight after the US-led invasion now came to a head. He would, for the time being however, soldier on, staying disciplined and quiet, but inside he had crossed a line, nurturing a growing resolve to reject the war by deserting.
Key's biography, told with unadorned but compelling simplicity, follows the life-altering path of a US citizen who turned from super-patriot to war-resister. Born in 1978 in the small town of Guthrie, Oklahoma, Key lived in a trailer with his dirt-poor mother and wife-bashing step-father. Hard economic and health times on the minimum wage propelled Key to enlist in the US Army in what he now calls the "poverty draft".

Turning to the Iraqis, Martha notes "look who suddenly cares about Iraqis" and steers us to Spencer S. Hsu's "Envoy Urges Visas For Iraqis Aiding U.S." (Washington Post) which details someone who didn't just step into the job of US ambassador to Iraq:

The American ambassador in Baghdad, Ryan C. Crocker, has asked the Bush administration to take the unusual step of granting immigrant visas to all Iraqis employed by the U.S. government in Iraq because of growing concern that they will quit and flee the country if they cannot be assured eventual safe passage to the United States.
Crocker's request comes as the administration is struggling to respond to the flood of Iraqis who have sought refuge in neighboring countries since sectarian fighting escalated early last year. The United States has admitted 133 Iraqi refugees since October, despite predicting that it would process 7,000 by the end of September.

That's from Sunday's paper and, as noted Saturday, it's very difficult for the US to get the support they originally did in Iraq because the stories of betrayal and lies told to Iraqis who acted as interpreters, spies and other functions is legendary. And being seen as someone working with, in any capacity, the US military in Iraq is a death sentence. Some considered to be spies were killed yesterday. From Molly Hennessy-Fiske's "Tribal checkpoint bombed in Iraq" (Los Angeles Times):

A suicide bomber attacked a checkpoint near a planned meeting site of tribal leaders Sunday in a village north of the capital, killing at least three people and injuring 13, the U.S. military said.
Local police put the death toll higher, saying at least five people were killed, mostly young men who had volunteered to defend the area as part of the Taji Tribes Awakening Council, a partnership formed in recent months between tribal leaders and U.S. and Iraqi security forces. About 11 a.m., two men detonated a truck loaded with explosives at the checkpoint in Jurf al Milih, about 10 miles north of Baghdad, according to a military statement. It said the men were attempting to kill a tribal sheik.
Witnesses said the truck was loaded with half a ton of explosives.Kareem Zobaiee, 28, who lives nearby, said he later saw the bodies of the victims at the checkpoint, many of them dismembered by the explosion.
The council, led by Sheik Nair Tamim, meets every few days in members' homes, setting up nearby checkpoints staffed by volunteers, a council member said.

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