“Knowing the war to be unjust and I would not have been able to function fully to the same capacity as I have done the past 19 years of my career as a soldier. It was therefore not an easy decision, nor one taken lightly to refuse to go to Iraq.” Imprisoned for 14 months after refusing to deploy to Iraq in June 2004.
Abdullah Webster first enlisted in the US Army in 1985. He fought in the first Gulf war of 1990-91, and later served as a peacekeeper in Bosnia, Kosovo and Korea. He converted to Islam in 1994. Believing that his religion prohibited him from taking part in any war of aggression, he applied to be treated as a conscientious objector when he was ordered to deploy to Iraq in 2003. Instead he was imprisoned for his beliefs.
The Army justified its final rejection of his application for conscientious objector status on the grounds that his objection was not to war in general but to the Iraq war in particular. According to US Army Regulations, requests for qualification as a conscientious objector will not be favorably considered when such requests are based on objection to a specific war.
After a series of unsuccessful applications to be treated as a conscientious objector, or transferred to non-combat duties, in June 2004 Webster made the courageous decision to be a resister. As a result, he was imprisoned for 14 months on charges of failing to obey commands and missing his brigade’s deployment to Iraq. He was also given a Bad Conduct discharge; his salary was suspended, and despite his 20 years of service (he had been due to retire in 2005) he will lose his pension and other benefits.
After being released from prison, Webster made the following statement about why he had refused to fight:
“Since being out, I have noticed that there are various accounts stating why I’d refused to go to Iraq. I had actually informed my command that we are taught to train soldiers to be Mentally, Physically, and Spiritually prepared for war. As time wore on it transpired that the reason for this war was false – there had not been any weapons of mass destruction. Given the legality of the war it was considered to be unjust and I was not mentally nor spiritually prepared to partake in an unjust war. My faith forbids me from participating in an unjust war which will subsequently result in the taking of innocent life, be they non Muslim or Muslim. I truly believe that I would have been held accountable before Allah (God) if I had gone, knowing the war to be unjust and I would not have been able to function fully to the same capacity as I have done the past 19 years of my career as a soldier. It was therefore not an easy decision, nor one taken lightly to refuse to go to Iraq.
During my time in Fort Lewis and Mannheim I met several soldiers who served in Iraq. I can recall a couple of stories that really cemented the fact that I had made the right decision. One soldier informed me that he was on a convoy and a group of local people was blocking their path. He stopped his vehicle but his commander told him to carry on. The group slowly broke up with the exception of a child blocking their way. The soldier recalled how at night he can still see when his vehicle hit the little child and how the other vehicles behind him kept running over the child’s body. He had informed me that if he could do it all over again he wouldn’t have gone to Iraq. Another story was that a soldier regretted the fact that he didn’t intervene nor took any action when his fellow squad member was raping the wife and daughter of the husband who refused to give them any information during their searches. How could I look my God and my family in the face had I gone and was present at incidents such as these?”