Real American Hero: Ricky Clousing

Soldiers are coming out in droves against the war in Iraq. There is good reason for them to do so. The US invasion of Iraq was and is, immoral, unjust, and downright illegal. The atrocities that are occurring in Iraq on a daily basis are degenerative toward the whole of humanity. The daily violence is traumatic and horrific, for both the Iraqi people and American soldiers, like Ricky Clousing, and Ehren Watada, among others.

The war is wrong. Those who led the USA into the war must be held accountable.
As a tactical interrogator assigned to question detainees at the scene of infantry raids, Ricky did not witness the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. What he did witness, however, was hardly less horrifying: American soldiers indoctrinated to view Iraqis as less than human, as "ragheads" or worse; American soldiers out on the streets of the Iraqi capital ramming the cars of Iraqi civilians for sport; American soldiers laughing as they slaughtered the livestock of local farmers; and American soldiers shooting an Iraqi teenager who had simply made a wrong turn.

Ricky was on patrol when he saw a boy, "probably 18 years old, a small maybe high-school age kid" turn down a road his unit was attempting to secure. The teenager, Ricky said, was quite visibly terrified at the sight of "a whole bunch of Americans with big weapons" staring him in the face. He started turning the car around, but didn't get very far. This is how Ricky described what happened next:
"One of the soldiers in the turret of the humvee behind me just opened up fire on the machine gun on the vehicle. As the vehicle was turning away, all I heard above my head was "pop, pop, pop, pop." This was my first deployment, my first combat experience was that moment right then, and just the sound of machine guns going off over my head. He popped about five or six rounds in the side of the vehicle. Myself and two of the other guys ran over to the vehicle, smashed the window, and pulled the guy out to provide first aid on him… I was looking down at this kid who had just been shot in the stomach for no reason really -- he was trying to leave…I was still just standing there in shock, looking down at this kid, and he looked right up at me. And his mouth was foaming. His stomach was falling out in his hands… I was looking down at this kid, this young boy who was just trying to drive around town and took a wrong turn and tried to go the other direction, was shot at and killed, and I'm looking down at him now. And we made eye contact for about five seconds, and he just looked at me with the most empty, terrified look in his face that will never leave me in my whole life I'm sure."
Ricky Clousing told us on that sunny afternoon in Washington:
"I felt that my involvement in the army, whether it be directly or indirectly, whether in Iraq or training guys to go to Iraq, I was still that piece of machine in the system that was still allowing this war to take place and still supporting that. My actions, whether or not they were on the front line or back safely at home, were still part of the body of the machine that's occupying [Iraq]. So I ultimately felt that the only thing I could do was to leave, so I packed my stuff last June and I went AWOL."
On August 11, 2006, the day he turned himself in, Sgt. Clousing made a simple statement:
"We have found ourselves in a pivotal era where we have traded humanity for patriotism. Where we have traded our civil liberties for a sense of security. I stand here before you sharing the same idea as Henry David Thoreau: as a soldier, as an American, and as a human being, we mustn't lend ourselves to that same evil which we condemn."
Ricky Clousing -- now serving a three-month sentence in a military brig at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina -- is not the only peace hero. Others are making themselves known in growing numbers and you can read about them at the Courage to Resist website. Although we have no way of assessing the numbers from here, I have no doubt that there are also soldiers trying to do the right thing in Iraq.
link: http://www.tomdispatch[...]

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