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Friday, October 13, 2006

A matter of conscience


Karen Tam for The New York Times
Sgt. Ricky Clousing after his court-martial Thursday
at Fort Bragg, N.C. Sergeant Clousing, 24, was
sentenced to 11 months in confinement for going
AWOL after becoming disilllusioned with the war in Iraq.


A Soldier Hoped to Do Good, but Was Changed by War

By LAURIE GOODSTEIN
Published: October 13, 2006

FORT BRAGG, N.C., Oct. 12 — Sgt. Ricky Clousing went to war in Iraq because, he said, he believed he would simultaneously be serving his nation and serving God.

Sgt. Ricky Clousing after his court-martial Thursday at Fort Bragg, N.C. Sergeant Clousing, 24, was sentenced to 11 months in confinement for going AWOL after becoming disilllusioned with the war in Iraq.

But after more than four months on the streets of Baghdad and Mosul interrogating Iraqis rounded up by American troops, Sergeant Clousing said, he began to believe that he was serving neither.

He said he saw American soldiers shoot and kill an unarmed Iraqi teenager, and rode in an Army Humvee that sideswiped Iraqi cars and shot an old man’s sheep for fun — both incidents Sergeant Clousing reported to superiors. He said his work as an interrogator led him to conclude that the occupation was creating a cycle of anti-American resentment and violence. After months of soul-searching on his return to Fort Bragg, Sergeant Clousing, 24, failed to report for duty one day.

In a court-martial here on Thursday, an Army judge sentenced Sergeant Clousing to 11 months in confinement for going AWOL, absent without leave. He will serve three months because of a pretrial agreement in which he pleaded guilty.

“My experiences in Iraq forced me to re-evaluate my beliefs and my ethics,” Sergeant Clousing said, sitting stiff-backed in the witness chair. “I ultimately felt I could not serve.”

The case against Sergeant Clousing, a born-again Christian from Washington State, is a small one in a war that has produced sensational courts-martial. The same stark courtroom where Sergeant Clousing testified on Thursday was the site of the courts-martial of Pfc. Lynndie England, who mistreated and posed with naked Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib, and Sgt. Hasan K. Akbar, who rolled grenades into tents of American troops.


Most of the soldiers who are opposing the war in Iraq have already served a tour honorably. Sgt. Clousing didn't go to Canada or remain in hiding. However, most soldiers who go AWOL, 5,000 at the last official county, do not face military punishment unless they take an overt political stand.

posted by Steve @ 1:45:00 AM

1:45:00 AM

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