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2006-08-31

"I Am Not Willing To Kill Or Be Killed For Something I Don’t Believe In"–AWOL Soldier Refuses to Return to Iraq

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We hear from a soldier who is refusing to fight in Iraq. Mark Wilkerson has been AWOL for more than a year and is turning himself in at Fort Hood in Texas today. In a taped video statement he says, "I am not willing to kill or be killed for something I don’t believe in. My morals said going to Iraq was not the right thing to do." I was not going to live a life of violence." [includes rush transcript]

We end today by hearing from a soldier who refuses to fight in Iraq. The Pentagon estimates that at least 8,000 members of the U.S military have gone AWOL since the start of the Iraq war. Democracy Now recently interviewed one of them–Sergeant Ricky Clousing who was AWOL for more than a year. We talked to him on the day he turned himself in at Fort Lewis in Washington state.

Today we bring you another soldier, Mark Wilkerson who also has been AWOL for more than a year. He is turning himself in at Fort Hood in Texas today. Mark taped this video statement on Tuesday.

  • Mark Wilkerson, speaking from Camp Casey in Crawford Texas. Special thanks to Patrick Phillips of New Spark Media.

Transcript

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

JUAN GONZALEZ: We end today by hearing from a soldier who refuses to fight in Iraq. The Pentagon estimates that an estimated 8,000 members of the U.S. military have gone AWOL since the start of the Iraq war. Democracy Now! recently interviewed one of them, Sgt. Ricky Clousing, who was AWOL for more than a year. We talked to him on the day he turned himself in at Fort Lewis in Washington State. Well, today, we bring you another soldier, Mark Wilkerson, who also has been AWOL for more than a year. He’s turning himself in at Fort Hood in Texas today. Mark taped this video statement on Tuesday.

MARK WILKERSON: My name is Mark Wilkerson. I’m 22 years old. I’m a native of Colorado Springs, Colorado. My experience in the military began from birth, basically, because my dad was in the military, my grandpa was in the military, my grandma was in the Marines. So it was basically just an understanding, an oral understanding, from an early age, that the military was the path I was going to take. So I enlisted my junior year of high school. That was before September 11.

And then, after September 11 happened, my resolve became more solid. I felt that by joining the military, through my experience I would somehow be avenging the deaths of those people who died on that day. I went to basic training at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri. And after I graduated from there, I ended up at Fort Hood, Texas. I was a military policeman, so I was attached to the 720th Military Police Battalion. And in March 2003, we ended up deploying to Iraq.

I was very optimistic about going to Iraq. I supported the President’s decision to go in then. And I felt we would be doing really good things for the people of Iraq. Then I went in and, based on the experiences I had, I just came away with a completely different experience than the one I had. It was like a complete life turnaround for me. I viewed spirituality different, religion. I viewed human relationships different. And I viewed our government different.

I was told that we would be winning the hearts and minds of the people. That was the key to winning the war on terrorism, was winning the hearts and minds of the people who we would be dealing with in Iraq. And when I went there, I started to see that that wasn’t to going happen at all.

A lot of times we would do random raids on homes, because our NCOs or our officers would get bored, so they would order us to raid a whole group of homes. And a lot of times, if the men inside the house, if there was something as little as a knife or a gun, we would haul all the men away. At that point, there was no paperwork done, on a lot of these prisoners. So for all I know, some of these people could still be in prison. And the daughters and some of the younger boys and stuff saw their husbands, their fathers, their grandpas, their brothers, you know, they saw them being dragged away. They don’t know where to. They didn’t know what was going to happen to them. So that’s creating an anger there.

And then, we would delay many of the Iraqis’ daily lives. We would interrupt their daily lives, because we would do checkpoints, where we would search the vehicles. We would search them. And a lot of times this would back traffic up for hours. At the gas stations, we were monitoring the vehicles coming in and out of there, and that would delay the vehicles for several hours. So we were disrupting their daily lives, driving up and down these streets, making them very angry at us. So I can understand when they feel that we’re invaders who have overstayed their welcome, and they’re going to fight back.

Based on the experiences I had in Iraq, I came back, and I saw how much money was being made by members of our government. And I saw how much money was being made by these massive corporations. So I started to put some things together that I had come to know as true. So based on what I learned, I decided that the military and me were no longer one, that I had to separate myself from the military. So I wanted to do it the right and legal way, so I applied for conscientious objector in March of 2004, right after I got back from Iraq. So that process started in March, and it ended in November, with the military saying, "No, you don’t meet the requirements for conscientious objector."

Now, while that was going on, in July of that year, we found out we would be returning to Iraq in January 2005. So, after my conscientious objector claim got denied in November, we filed for a rebuttal. But we were told that this rebuttal, which basically what a rebuttal is, is it’s something that we write up, and we counterpoint every point that they make as to why I don’t meet the requirements, and we argue why I do. I felt it was a very good rebuttal, but the military said that they weren’t going to even review it until I deployed to Iraq again and came back.

So, I was not willing to wait that long. I am not willing to kill. I am not willing to be killed. Or, I am not willing to kill or be killed for something I don’t believe in. My morals said that going to Iraq was not the right thing to do. And I was not going to live a life of violence. I was not going to participant in a war. So I then made the very difficult decision to go AWOL at that point.

AMY GOODMAN: Mark Wilkerson, speaking from Camp Casey in Crawford, Texas. He turns himself in today at Fort Hood, Texas. Special thanks to Patrick Phillips of New Spark Media.

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