Forty Athens County residents signed a group letter to the secretary of the  Army this past week as a way of protesting human rights abuses in the U.S. military. The letter urged the Honorable Francis Harvey to recommend  discharge for soldiers who have served honorably in Iraq but refuse to redeploy because their experience  there convinces them the Iraq war is immoral and against international law.  At least six such G.I.'s are  currently facing court martial or doing time
in jail.

Local letter signers were responding to an invitation from  the Athens-based  People for Peace and Justice group. It observed International Human Rights Day Dec. 8 with a public demonstration at the Athens Co. Courthouse focused  on the threatened rights of freedom of speech and conscientious objection to  war among U.S. military personnel. The G.I.s involved cited particular
abuses such as intimidation of Iraqi civilians, being ordered to shoot innocent drivers and passengers at checkpoints, and seeing detainees  tortured and imprisoned for months without charges. (Coalition forces are currently holding 28,700 detainees in custody.) When these G.I.s have  reported such abuses to their superiors, they have not seen those  responsible held accountable. In most cases they have felt compelled to go  AWOL (absent without leave) rather than return to Iraq for a second tour. Later most have gotten lawyers and turned themselves in to face trial.

One  officer, Lt. Ehren Wtada, may get a 4 year prison sentence for refusing redeployment and speaking repeatedly to the media about his anti-war convictions. MP Mark Wilkerson was denied conscientious objector status after a year's service in Iraq. Gold Star mother Cindy Sheehan said of him, "… what he saw there changed him to such a degree that he couldn't in good conscience return again… He has already done what has been asked of him and fulfilled his oaht…Soldiers are put into harm's way… for reasons we have come to find were fraudulent. The social contract between the U.S. government and our society and the soldier who serves has been broken."

Iraq war experiences and contact information on G.I. war protesters is available at
For more information on Athens People for Peace & Justice,
contact Helen Horn at 698-8625 or Rod Nippert at 448-3071