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International | Anti-War

A Just Desertion, Absent soldier hidden aboveground
by By CYDNEY GILLIS, Reporter, Real Change News ( rchange [at] speakeasy.org )
Friday Aug 25th, 2006 1:25 PM
Carl Webb's days of looking over his shoulder for military police have come to an end. Two years ago, a unit that Webb was assigned to in the Texas Army National Guard shipped out to Iraq. But the 40-year-old practical nurse from Austin says the war is wrong, so he let the unit go without him, expecting a warrant to be issued for his arrest.
Instead, on July 28, the Guard sent Webb a letter telling him that he'll get a dishonorable discharge Tuesday for serious misconduct, “in particular,” the letter states, for “your failure to report to active duty as required coupled with your deliberate avoidance of numerous Texas Army National Guard representatives who have made repeated attempts to contact you.”

If the Army National Guard was looking for him, Webb says with a giggle, they were't looking too hard: After months of lying low in Tennessee in 2004 and 2005, Webb went public with his desertion, talking to newspapers, giving speeches, and being interviewed on “Democracy Now!” and National Public Radio.

Webb, who came to Seattle last week for the national Veterans for Peace Convention, doesn’t think he’s alone. The Army has already acknowledged it has more than 6,000 deserters. Webb believes it could be as many as 15,000 — something he says the Army would like to keep a lid on. So, except for a few high-profile cases, Webb says most deserters aren’t reported, much less prosecuted.

Whether by oversight or design, that’s what happened in Webb’s case. Just weeks before his discharge date in 2004, he was “stop-lossed,” or extended, and ordered to ship out to Iraq with a different unit.

After failing to deploy, Webb says he called the National Lawyers Guild about his options. He says he was advised to wait a month or so until his name had dropped off the active-duty roll. At that point, he was told, he could turn himself in as a deserter and ask for a dishonorable discharge in lieu of a court-martial — a strategy that could be available to Sgt. Ricky Clousing, the 24-year-old Army interrogator from Sumner who left his Fort Bragg, N.C., base a year ago rather than be redeployed to Iraq. Clousing surrendered himself at Fort Lewis on Aug. 12.

One hitch in Webb’s case: The unit never reported Webb missing. After waiting two months, he says he called the unit’s administrative offices in Texas to ask why.

“The sergeant on the phone said, ‘Look, you’re not the only soldier that didn’t show up,’” Webb recalls.

“When people are being called up with the stop-loss program,” he says, “they are being assigned to other units that are missing personnel” — such as a medic he was ordered to replace in the other unit. But, “they don’t report all those soldiers,” he says.

Webb says it’s ironic how much easier this makes life for deserters. Though he hid for a few months in Tennessee and later embarked on a speaking tour at churches and schools across the Northeast, Webb has led a fairly normal life in the past two years.

While he was in Tennessee, he says he lived off the rest of his $3,000 enlistment bonus and the final checks the Guard sent to his Austin address. For the past three months, the federal government has actually employed him as a census worker in Austin.

Though he signed a contract with the Guard, Webb says he feels no obligation to fight in Iraq — a message he wants to share with other soldiers.

“I will fight in a war and have nothing against violence if it’s for a good cause,” Webb says.

“In this case, it is not a good cause,” he says. “This is a war of imperialism. It’s about oil and money.”

“That’s exactly what I’m saying to other soldiers: You as an individual, you have an obligation to decide whether your government is wrong or right and whether or not you’re going to back it.”

http://www.realchangenews.org/2006/2006_08_16/ajustdesertion.html


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