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2005-04-26

War Resister Pablo Paredes Denied Conscientious Objector Status

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An investigating officer has recommended to deny Navy sailor Pablo Paredes’ request for conscientious objector status. In addition, his request for Other than Honorable discharge in lieu of trial was also denied. His court martial is scheduled for May 11. Pablo Paredes he joins us on the line from California. [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Reverend Wallis, we’ve just been joined on the telephone by a U.S. Navy sailor. His name is Pablo Paredes. He refused to get on the ship to go to Iraq in California, and he has just been denied conscientious objector status and will be court-martialed on May 11. Pablo Paredes welcome to Democracy Now!

PABLO PAREDES: Thank you, Amy. I’m glad to be here.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us. Can you talk about what just happened? We’re also in the studio with Reverend Wallis.

PABLO PAREDES: Well, it’s — the conscientious objector package has been denied at the local level, which means it’s a recommendation for denial, but usually that pretty much trumps everything. And beyond that, they’ve gone ahead with the idea of the court-martial and they’re pretty much just going to ignore the conscientious objector package. That can take sometimes even up to two years to get approved. So, what they’ve done is they’ve accepted the denial at the first stage, and kind of taken it as reason to say, 'Well, we don't have to pay attention to it anymore. We’ll just move right along with the court-martial.’

AMY GOODMAN: Now, this is despite recommendations from the Navy Chaplain, the Navy Staff Psychiatrist as well as your colleagues and theirs?

PABLO PAREDES: Right. Despite very strong recommendations from their own colleagues, the Navy Chaplain went as far as to say that it was morally imperative. People that work strictly with conscientious objection packages have said it’s the strongest recommendation they have ever seen. And, beyond that, even the investigating officer who recommended denial of it, went as far as to say that she felt everything I said was sincere and convicted in the hearing and based most of her problems with my package on a handful of statements made to media, which obviously showed one side of what she wanted to get across.

AMY GOODMAN: Why are you saying, 'no,' that you won’t go? And can you describe what you did on December 6?

PABLO PAREDES: Sure. On December 6, you know, a culmination of a lot of thought and a different point of view for about two-and-a-half years in Japan kind of occurred, and I decided not to — I decided to refuse to board the Bonhomme Richard. The Bonhomme Richard is an LHD. What they do is they ferry marines to wherever they’re needed, and in this case they would have gone to the Gulf, and the marines would have made their way to Iraq. What happened is I got to the point where even that kind of involvement in this war and in any war just became something that I couldn’t do anymore. I couldn’t, you know, enlist in. So I refused to board the ship, and I wanted to do it very publicly so that hopefully mainstream media would have an excuse to cover some anti-war — some dissent, some voices of resistance.

AMY GOODMAN: Why are you so opposed to going, and what did you think you would be doing when you signed up to be a U.S. Navy sailor?

PABLO PAREDES: Well, about four-and-a-half years ago when I did sign up, I had a very different outlook on life, and a different kind of maturity in my morality. And the Navy and the army and all the branches accepted that that can happen to a person. I mean, it’s pretty clear that who you are at 18 and who you are beyond that are two very different ballgames. So, at 23, I’m somebody that can’t fight in a war, and at 18 I was somebody that didn’t think about those things. And that’s probably the major aspect as to why, you know, my perspective is different today. And, you know, I can’t justify war. I have become somebody who looks at things in a very broad scope and a very human way, and, you know, in that context, I don’t think anybody could ever accept war as a means for anything.

AMY GOODMAN: Reverend Wallis, as you listen to Pablo Paredes, you’re traveling around the country. What about this reaction, this level of resistance in the military? Pablo is certainly not alone.

JIM WALLIS: Pablo, thank you. Thank you, Pablo. I’m talking to Iraqi veterans a lot. They’re coming back. Some went to the war believing they were there to defend their families against a nuclear 9/11 or whatever. And now they’re coming back and saying, 'This wasn't true. This was all based upon a lie, and we’ve all been changed forever.’ Many have been killed. Many more wounded, and we’ve all been changed forever, they say. There’s a conversation we need to have with — our warriors are sent to fight and then forgotten. They come home and no one cares. No one cares. I think congregations, really, ought to surround people like Pablo. I mean, he’s 23 and he’s making this kind of stand. Our congregations ought to welcome our warriors home and let them say what they saw. Let them have their voice. Because this war simply was not just — not just a mistake. It was a mistake. It was a diversion. It was a distraction. But it was wrong. It was morally wrong, theologically wrong, religiously wrong. And I admire young people like Pablo who didn’t just say it was wrong but put themselves at risk, to act on what — Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers," not the peacelovers. "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God." Well Pablo, I think, fits that description pretty well.

AMY GOODMAN: Pablo, you’re going to be court-martialed on May 11, yet there are major plans for May 10. You can talk about that?

PABLO PAREDES: Say the last part of that? There are major what?

AMY GOODMAN: There are major plans for May 10 around the country, recognizing what is going to happen the day after the court-martial. Can you talk about these plans of protests?

PABLO PAREDES: Sure. Well, everyone that’s been kind of supportive of what I’ve done along the way, most of the activist community locally and people that I’ve gotten a chance to reach out and my brother’s gotten a chance to reach out to in New York and even beyond are really, really, really wanting to show their support at this moment; and they’re really also wanting to obviously take advantage of the situation as a chance to air some dissent and to rally around it. So, locally in San Diego on May 10, there’s going to be some event. We’re going to rally — try to kind of consolidate the voice of dissent which — and give it a megaphone. So, what’s going to happen is Camilo Mejia, who’s already served a year in prison for his dissent and for his opposition to this war, basically for his humanity, is going to be here to speak out. Aidan Delgado, who is also a military — an ex-military member who submitted a conscientious objector package and was approved, and now speaks out on what he saw and the atrocities that led him to become a conscientious objector. And obviously, I’m going to tell my side of the story. And so, it’s a very, you know, very human argument that I think, you know, crosses partisanship and crosses politics. So, I really hope that we get a voice and, beyond that, a lot of people are very into the idea of doing some protests, not just here, but people want to come down from other places and, you know, that’s what America was built on, so …

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you for joining us. Do you have a website where people can get the latest information on your case?

PABLO PAREDES: Yes, my brother has made a website. It’s called www.swiftsmartveterans.com.

AMY GOODMAN: Swiftsmartveterans.com.

PABLO PAREDES: That’s right.

AMY GOODMAN: And Reverend Wallis, are religious leaders — You’re saying that congregations should rally around those who’ve come back from Iraq, also Pablo Paredes who is refusing to go. Are religious leaders talking about standing up for these conscientious objectors whether they’re recognized like — as the registered — recognized like that by the military. I mean, people like Camilo Mejia, who served close to a year in prison (the Florida Army National Guardsman who went to Iraq, came back, then refused to return after leave)?

JIM WALLIS: Sojourner has organized a thousand vigils on the second anniversary of the invasion of Iraq all over the country, very powerful vigils. We’re going to do that again now around Memorial Day. And this time the focus will be on the veterans, Iraq war veterans coming home have really been abandoned, have really been just cut loose; and so, I think congregations have to really surround them and then out of that, let them tell their story, one. Two, talk about how this — the occupation, American occupation and control in Iraq will never lead to a serious transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqi people. And thirdly, we’ve got to talk about what led up to this war in Iraq, this policy, the neoconservative foreign policy, this demonstration of raw American power, that our security is premised on absolute U.S. military supremacy. This is in direct contrast to the Prophets. I say in the book, Micah has a very different vision than Donald Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld says security comes only by military supremacy. Micah says there is no security except for common security. We won’t beat our swords into plowshares, our spears into pruning hooks until everyone has their own vine and their own fig tree, which means you got to drain the swamps of injustice in which these mosquitoes of terrorism breed or you’ll never defeat terrorism. Micah and Rumsfeld present very different visions. We have to offer not just a protest, but a very different vision of how we find security in this kind of world.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you very much for being with us, Reverend Wallis. I know tonight you will be with Cornel West at Princeton University.

JIM WALLIS: My buddy, Cornel West. Prophetic religion as a counter to nationalistic religion, fundamentalist religion and theocracy. Republican theocracy is not the answer to our problems as we saw in Louisville last night. But prophetic group religion, talking about justice and peace and the kind of welcoming inclusing moral discourse on politics, that’s an inclusive view of faith. That’s what I think is the future.

AMY GOODMAN: Reverend Wallis is author of_God’s Politics: A New Vision for Faith and Politics in America_. I also want to thank Pablo Paredes for joining us, just found out that despite positive recommendations from the Navy Chaplain and Staff Psychiatrist that he has been denied conscientious objector status at least at a local level and now it makes its way up. He will be court-martialed on May 11. Thank you both for being with us.

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