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Some Soldiers Opting Out Of The War

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Protests against the war within the ranks are gaining attention. Soldiers are being asked to return to the war in Iraq. Some are saying they won't go.

Twenty-four-year-old Pablo Paredes spent several years in the Navy before he decided he could not support the war in Iraq.

Pablo Paredes, conscientious objector: "I said, 'This war is illegal. This is immoral more so.' And I'm not going to provide any assistance to that."

In November 2004, he refused to work on a ship sending marines to Iraq. The result was a court martial, and three months of confinement and hard labor.

Now he counsels others at the Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors where more than a third of the calls this year are from soldiers considering going AWOL.

Steve Morse, Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors: "There's increasing numbers of people who have been to Iraq more than once. They're coming back with post traumatic stress disorder. Some of them refuse to go back, will not go back. Many of them are AWOL."

The Pentagon says desertions are down from about 5,000 in 2001 to 2,500 last year. The military doesn't make it easy to obtain conscientious objector status.

Steve Morse: "Many people just give up and go AWOL."

Today, Army Specialist Mark Wilkerson turned himself in at Fort Hood in Texas after going AWOL a year-and-a-half ago.

Spec. Mark Wilkerson, conscientious objector: "I am not willing to kill or be killed or do anything else I consider morally wrong for reasons I don't believe in."

Army First Lieutenant Ehren Watada, possibly the only commisioned officer who refused to go to Iraq, saids he'd fight in Afghanistan, but would choose prison over Iraq.

Lt. Ehren Watada, conscientious objector: "There was a deception and a manipulation of intelligence by the highest levels of my chain of command in order to orchestrate and undertake this war."

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the fight will continue.

Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense: "Today we will not tell 50 million Afghans and Iraqis that because the going is tough, and it is tough, let there be no doubt, that we will abandon them to the beheaders, the terrorists."

These conscientious objectors say they're prepared to accept the consequences of their decision.

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