A lot of people question how I can be a sergeant in the Army, giving my oath true weight, and believing in its values, and still be a member of IVAW.
It's easy. I believe in the Army's purpose-it is to defend our country and protect the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. I don't think its purpose is foreign wars we can't win. Its true purpose is noble, and has been subverted by armchair soldiers, politicians who have never had to serve. They don't know these values, and they don't live them-but I do. And here's why they support, rather than contradict, what I'm doing now as a member of IVAW.
Loyalty: Bear true faith and allegiance to the U.S. Constitution, the Army, your unit, and fellow soldiers.
Nowhere in this list does it say "the current leadership of your country, and their political decisions". I am loyal to my fellow soldiers; I do not want them to die in a purposeless war. I am loyal to the Army; I do not want it to be weakened on multiple fronts and taken away from its true purpose, defense of the nation. I am loyal to the Constitution; a Constitution which is under attack by men who have not sacrificed to protect it. I bear true faith and allegiance to these, most particularly the Constitution which founded our nation.
Duty: Fulfill your obligations
Our highest obligations as soldiers is our obligation to our country and the flag we salute. Our obligation as citizens and patriots compels us to defend our country in any way we can-against its destruction as well as its dishonor. The Iraq War, and the way it is being prosecuted, dishonors us in the eyes of the world, and even worse, dishonors us to ourselves.
Respect: Treat people as they should be treated.
Treat the people of the United States as well as the people of Iraq with respect. They deserve to be treated according to their status: if they are prisoners of war, then treat them with the full dignity accorded POWs. If they are criminals, then give them trials. Innocent until proven guilty: we do not lose our values when we step away from our shores.
Selfless Service: Put the welfare of the Nation, the Army, and your subordinates before your own.
Being a member of IVAW is hard. It is hard to stand up, to devote effort and time to an organization committed to what is right, when your leadership so firmly believes that it is wrong. It's hard to face the intimidation and harassment that many members of the active duty military face when they begin to speak out on what they feel. It's hard to stand up and tell your higher ups that they are committing crimes. But the welfare of the Nation, our continued survival as an honorable country, and the continued survival of the Army depends on some of us standing up, and saying, "Sir, no Sir!" That we will not participate in illegal acts, and we will report them when and where we see them. We will not train our soldiers to commit them, and will train our soldiers to follow the honorable path. And the honorable path now, the hard service, means standing up and speaking the truth, so that legislators can begin to realize it, and bring us home.
Honor: Live up to Army Values
Honor is living up to all the Army Values, but it is even older than that. It is the thing you have when you have nothing else left. It is all you need: it should be the cornerstone of a soldier. It is phrased as living up to all the Army Values, because if you lack even one, you cannot be an honorable soldier. It is the ability to look yourself in the mirror at the end of the day and know you have done all that you can, and that you have not had to reproach yourself for anything.
Our leadership is currently dishonorable. By their bending of the torture legislation to allow what they want to take place, they are attempting to put a stain upon our honor that will take at least a generation to erase. As soon as our soldiers have fulfilled their usefulness to them, leadership shuffles them away, with "personality disorders" instead of PTSD treatment. Benefits are cut, while contractors reach huge rewards. This is not taking care of the people who have given their all to the country. It is dishonorable, and the only way to restore that honor is to stand up against the people who are doing so and will do so again.
Integrity: Do what is right, legally and morally.
The things that the political leadership of this country are trying to do right now are neither legal nor moral. The acceptance of torture, the belief that once Americans go beyond their borders, they no longer have to hold to the beliefs that shaped our nation, 'baiting' with weapons caches, and other such tactics at the very least skirt the fine line of legality: they are definitely not moral. Claiming that it is okay to treat people dishonorably because they are not an organized force fighting against us is simply wrong, as is the argument that they are not citizens and therefore do not deserve the protections of the Constitution. We are the good guys! We do the right thing, even if others don't, and if our leadership does not understand that, it needs to. It needs to pull out of this war, and cease its immoral actions, to bring itself in line with the country's beliefs and principles.
Personal Courage: Face fear, danger, or adversity (physical or moral)
It does not take physical courage to stand up and fight against injustice in this fashion. Most members have not been physically attacked-the cowards who attack people for their beliefs have gone after a father of a dead servicemember instead (Carlos Arredondo). But it does take moral courage. It takes moral courage to stand up for what you know to be true and right, moral courage to say that the country is steering in the wrong direction, and you are committed by your oath to turn it around. It takes moral courage to resist a war that your leadership believes in, or to stand against your entire platoon and state that you will not treat a prisoner with anything less than full dignity. And it takes moral courage to be counted, here, to let people insult you for perceived cowardice, when the truth is that you, like I, may not be against all wars, all places, all times.
But hopefully you, like I, like many committed and dedicated members of the military community, are against this one.