Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Burning Question of the Day: Refusing to Deploy

The Burning Question of the Day is: Under what circumstances, if any, should a member of the US military be allowed to refuse or "opt out" of a deployment?

Alexis Hutchinson, an Army cook out of Georgia is making news this week after refusing to deploy to Afghanistan. Ms. Hutchinson says that none of her family members were available to care for her 10 month old son, and when she approached her superior with this concern, she was told that she'd have to place her child in foster care while she deployed.

An army representative from the base told the press that a single mother would not be required to deploy if she did not have childcare for her son (which has always been my understanding of the military's policy). However, it does appear that she was arrested, and jailed briefly (and her son placed in protective custody briefly) after she refused to deploy.

In the song "Camilo", State Radio depicts a story about Camilo Mejia, a staff sargent in the National Guard who refused to return to Iraq after a 2-week furlough. He turned himself in a year later, alleged that he was being forced to commit war crimes, and filed for conscientious objector status, which was denied. He was court martialed, and was sentenced to a year in military prison. During his incarceration, he was recongized by Amnesty International, Peace Abby, and the city of Detroit.

Anyway, these stories have made me think a lot about deployment, and I'm curious to hear your thoughts. Certainly, when you sign on to a branch of the armed forces, you're consenting to be deployed at some point. But are there any circumstances in which American citizens should be allowed to revoke that consent?


  1. Well this whole situation is irritating to me. She DID have a care-plan for her child, but I'm wondering why the Army did not require her to have a back up plan?

    I don't think she should be able to "get out of" her deployment. A see a ton of men missing the birth of their children, missing birthdays, Christmas's, and anniversaries and they don't get to say "no" and I kind of feel like this shouldn't be any different. I don't think the Army should force her to deploy and put her child into foster care, and when the care plan didn't work out they should have given her a certain amount of time to get together another plan and then she could continue with her deployment as planned.

    Jesse's leave is from Dec. 16th-Jan 7th. So we should make it home by the 19th and we will leave on the 4th or 5th...

  2. I totally agree with Kait. I think this girl didn't WANT to deploy so they came up with this scheme to get out of it. I mean hello-her mother runs a day care with 14 children but she can't take care of her own grandson? Something sounds fishy to me there. And I'm pretty sure that this girl didn't wake up on Monday and find out she was getting deployed on Tuesday. She had time to figure it out. It's called being a responsible adult. When she signed up for the Army, she knew there was a chance she'd get deployed so if she didn't like it then she should've gotten a job as a cook at a local restaurant.

  3. I don't know much about this, but I was under the impression that if two married adults wanted to join the armed forces and had a dependant, only one of them would be allowed to join. So, it makes sense to me they would require a single parent to prove they could provide childcare in the event of deployment before allowing them to join.

    I think no one goes into any branch of the military without knowing there is at least the possibility of being deployed, and with where we are presently, its pretty much a given. If you aren't prepared for deployment because of your home-life circumstances, then is a job where deployment seems certain the right one for you?

    Like I said, I don't know much about this in general, and know even less about this particular situation, but those are just a few things that occured to me.

  4. I agree with you all that neither the mom nor Mejia handled the situation correctly or appropriately.

    I also agree that in signing up for the armed forces in this day and age, you pretty much have to count on being deployed--and I'd venture to guess that not many people actually WANT to be deployed, because Kait's right--they miss out of birthdays Christmases, anniversaries, etc.

    However, I also believe that there should be narrow circumstances in which after having deployed, people in the armed services should be able to have their contracts re-evaluated, and in some cases, to leave the military early without negative consequences. I think not allowing for that puts our country at risk of someday being in the position of a scary dictatorship a la Hitler in Germany.

    BUT, it's a totally slippery slope both ways!

  5. Before I answer, I should note (full disclosure and all) that I despise the military of this country and militaries in general, and am a devout pacifist. So.

    I'd not heard about Hutchinson; I have to wonder in what nation one must dwell for this to be acceptable. It would surprise me if I read it in a book about Nazi Germany. (The Nazis loved them some families.) That seems like a situation where army officials, not Hutchinson, should be prosecuted.

    Now. As to issues like Mejia. I'm pretty sure that US military regulations allow for soldiers to refuse immoral orders, or orders to commit immoral acts. I certainly know that treaties to which the United States is a signatory require this. Further, I know that, since the Nuremberg trials, "just following orders" is no longer an admissible defense--in fact, the US and its allies EXECUTED Germans in some cases who had "just followed orders." Adolf Eichmann "just followed orders." I applaud any member of the military who refuses to take part in any aspect of our imperialist wars, wars that HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH NATIONAL DEFENSE.

    (I include the invasion of Afghanistan in this statement. 9/11 was not a military attack by another sovereign power; it was an act of terrorism--a criminal act, justifying a law enforcement response, not a war that, in any case, has killed far more civilians than 9/11 did.)

    The problem, of course, with clauses allowing soldiers to refuse immoral orders (the Israeli Defense Forces famously have one, as a direct response to the Holocaust) is that the people interpreting whether an order is moral or not are going to be the same people issuing them. And since war criminals tend to believe they're doing the right thing...

    In any case, I support any member of the US military who refuses to deploy to either of our immoral, imperialist wars. And I hold accountable those who believe their actions are immoral and do them anyway.

    But then, I want war crimes charges against Bush, et al, so I'm an extremist.

  6. I don't know much about the Mejia case so I don't want to comment too much on it.

    But, I really don't think the whole story is out on this mom yet. I honestly believe that she just didn't want to deploy and tried to get out of it this way. Last I heard her mom (the person who was on the original care-plan) came back out to Georgia and picked up the baby and took him back to Oakland with her. So why didn't she keep him to begin with?

    No one wants to deploy, but to me this just sounds like someone who is doing her best to get out of it, and frankly I don't think she has much of a case....

  7. Well Ethan, at least you can admit that you're an extremist ;)

    In any event, I think it's important to support our soldiers--both those who take a stand against immoral military action AND those who fight for our country both here and abroad without performing immoral or illegal acts in doing so.

    And for me, supporting those soldiers is a completely separate issue than supporting the military industrial complex or the president behind them.

  8. I would argue that there is considerably less separation between the "support the troops" mantra and the militarist ideology that supports our foreign wars than we care to admit. Glorification of soldiers is glorification of their actions, i.e., war, and America loves both in equal measures--probably because the last time we had a war that left our own country devastated was so long ago that no one alive remembers it.

    Now, I'm not going to argue that people should be instantly condemned for putting on a uniform, but we should never hold our troops above other human beings simply because they were born in the same artificial geopolitical construct as we were--as we do in the case Iraq, since you never hear about the million-plus Iraqis killed in the war--and we should always question their actions. In this country, calling the troops' actions into question, and holding them personally responsible for, say, the destruction of Iraq's infrastructure during the opening days of Op. Iraqi Freedom, is unpatriotic bordering on Islamocommunism.

    It's also worth considering that, economic draft aside, the people in the US military decided to join the military, whereas the people of Iraq didn't decide to have their country pummeled to rubble by a dying superpower. Yeah, Saddam Hussein was a douche in the first degree, but even he didn't kill people at the rate they've been dying in Iraq since the invasion.

    So, anyway, I'm down with supporting the troops--you know from my blog I'd like to see people in prison for the way soldiers traumatized by combat are (not) helped. People are, ultimately, people, and I'm of the opinion that all human life is precious. (My atheism reinforces, rather than diminishes, this belief, since I figure this is all we got and destroying that is the worst crime anyone can commit.) I just don't like the way that America likes to do it, putting them on a pedestal above all other human beings, and obscuring any thought into the morality of their deeds with flowery words like "service" and "duty."

    Then again, I'm pretty sure this isn't much of a thinking country. Which is why I'm retreating into the artificial world of academia. At least I understand what I'm doing, right?

  9. I should also say that I don't as much believe in nation-states (I mean, I believe in the legal reality of their existence, just not that that should be the case). Certainly, I think it's... ah... foolish--is foolish nice enough?--to feel any kind of allegiance to an entity one belongs to through an accident of birth. It's the same absurdity behind the concept of monarchy.

    So, not only am I an extremist, I'm one of those World Government guys all the libertarians worry about. Gonna getcha!

    Obvious enough yet why I'm going to be an academic?


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