At Nuremberg the plea of, “I was just following orders” was not accepted by the tribunal. That raises the question: What are soldiers to do when faced with orders they know to be against international law and basic morality? Today, reports of U.S. troops refusing orders, of active duty soldiers refusing deployment and speaking out against the wars and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan have trickled into the mainstream media. What makes GIs deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan decide to resist, file for conscientious objector status, or even serve prison sentences to avoid taking part in these wars and occupations? There are devastating societal consequences beyond the many deaths and severe physical and psychological wounds. Suicide rates and domestic violence among returning vets are high. As the wars drag on more and more GIs are asking questions and are resisting.
Dahr Jamail is an award-winning independent journalist who went to Iraq to report on the war and occupation. He is the author of Beyond the Green Zone, The Will to Resist and The End of Ice: Bearing Witness and Finding Meaning in the Path of Climate Disruption. His articles appear in Truthout.