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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 6/8/15

Thou Shalt Not Kill

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Then, in early February of 2014, he went online to the website of the Center on Conscience & War, led by Maria Santelli and Bill Galvin. Soon he contacted the two activists and told them he was a conscientious objector.

Everything about the military culture, from its celebration of violence and hypermasculinity to its cult of blind obedience, began to disturb him. He was disgusted by the military's exploitation of Filipino women who worked in the numerous bars and clubs near the base where he was stationed in South Korea.

"Filipino women were brought over to sing in the bars," he said. "They were great singers. They worked in bars where Korean women had been 'comfort women' during the Japanese colonization. The bar owners took the passports of the Filipino women. ... Soldiers bought drinks and sexual services from these exploited women. I had a big issue with that. It demonstrated a lack of values."

When he was off base he would meditate in Buddhist temples. That helped, he said, to keep him sane.

Although Army regulations required that his application be sent to the Department of the Army Conscientious Objector Review Board (DACORB) within 90 days, it took more than 200 days for the document to arrive there. On Dec. 16, 2014, he was granted status as a conscientious objector and an honorable discharge. But the deputy assistant secretary of the Army for review boards, Francine Blackmon, unilaterally overrode the DACORB determination and denied his application, even though Army regulation AR 600-43, Par. 2-8, states that a review board decision is final. Now, in a final bid to achieve conscientious objector status, he has turned to the American Civil Liberties Union.

"I have obeyed the rules during the whole process," he said. "But in the military there is a double standard. If I do not obey the regulations I get court-martialed. If they do not obey the regulations nothing happens. It is I who suffers. If I lose this last bid I cannot reapply."

This will be his last bureaucratic battle with the Army. He has followed the rules for two years. He will not, he said, be in the Army in 2017 at the scheduled end of his tour.

"If I'm forced to remain in the Army, I expect to eventually receive an order that I -- as an objector -- will be unable to comply with, resulting in a court-martial."

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Chris Hedges spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than 50 countries and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times, for which he was a foreign correspondent for 15 years.

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