Friday, February 22, 2008

Soldier gets 6-month sentence for refusing to deploy to Iraq

Stars and Stripes, Feb. 22, 2008

By Seth Robson

Seth Robson / S&S
Spc. Benjamin Stewart, center, leaves the Vilseck Court house after being convicted Wednesday of missing movement. He received a six-month prison term and a bad-conduct discharge.
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VILSECK, Germany — A soldier who refused to deploy with his unit to Iraq because of a “deeply held personal belief” that he should not take a human life will spend the next six months in jail before being thrown out of the Army.

Spc. Benjamin Stewart, 25, of the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, pleaded guilty Wednesday to missing movement on Jan. 7, 2008, when he was scheduled to deploy to Iraq. Stewart had already been convicted — and reduced in rank from sergeant to specialist — of being absent without leave when the bulk of the regiment deployed last summer.

Stewart told the court that he refused to deploy because of what he experienced during his last deployment to Mosul, Iraq, from 2004 to 2005.

“I saw a mother and her infant child get killed in crossfire. I saw children lose their limbs in a car bomb. One boy lost an arm and another lost both legs,” he said.

After that mission, Stewart said, he decided he could not deploy again.

“I’m not a pacifist or peacenik or against the war in Iraq. From the beginning, I believe the war was justified, (but) I could not live with myself if I killed another person,” he said.

Continued . . .

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