For the past four weeks, Victor Agosto, already of a veteran of a 13-month tour in Iraq, has been refusing "all orders supporting his unit's deployment to Afghanistan" at Fort Hood, TX, including the order that he deploy with his unit.  --  "Not only does he refuse orders from his superiors almost daily, he has refused conscientious objector status because it undermines his public critique of the war.  'I'm not a pacifist,' explains Victor.  'I just won't take part in another imperialist occupation,'" Holly Lewis reported on Tuesday.[1]  --  Spc. Agosto received a disciplinary "reading" under Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice on May 22 and was charged with disobeying orders and "disrespect."  --  As for how others in the military have reacted, "'People have been supportive,' says Victor."  --  Dahr Jamail also posted an Inter Press Service article about Agosto on Tuesday, explaining another angle of his case:  stop-loss.  --  "Having served three years and nine months in the U.S. Army, Agosto was to complete his contract and be discharged on Aug. 3.  But due to his excellent record of service and accrued leave, he was to be released the end of June.  Nevertheless, due to the stop-loss program, the Army decided to deploy him to Afghanistan anyway."  --  The group Courage to Resist told Jamail that at present the Oakland-based group is "actively supporting over 50 military resisters like Victor Agosto" and is receiving "five to six calls a week just about the IRR [Individual Ready Reserve] recall alone."  --  "The IRR is composed of former military personnel who still have time remaining on their enlistment agreements but have returned to civilian life," Jamail explained.  --  "They are eligible to be called up in 'states of emergency.'  The Army is currently undertaking the largest IRR recall since 2004, despite the recent inauguration of a so-called anti-war president."  --  Agosto is a registered member of Iraq Veterans Against the War.  --  The Austin, TX-based web site The Rag Blog posted a piece on Agosto on May 7.[3]  --  On May 21, Courage to Resist posted a long report on Agosto's case, including a link where donations to his legal defense fund can be made.[4]  --  Sarah Lazare presented evidence of widespread sentiment among the troops against the Afghanistan war escalation that they are now being ordered to wage.  --  NOTE:  No mainstream media is reporting on G.I. resistance....

1.

Afghanistan

REFUSING TO GO TO AFGHANISTAN
By Holly Lewis

Socialist Worker
May 26, 2009

http://socialistworker.org/2009/05/26/refusing-to-go-to-afghanistan
or
http://www.military-world.net/Afghanistan/1454.html

*April 28 2009 at 11:46 am:
Victor Agosto can no longer live a double life.*

Although it read like the first line of a novel, everyone knew the Facebook post was nothing less than Army Spc. Victor Agosto's declaration of independence. His friends at Under the Hood, an antiwar coffeehouse for soldiers in Killeen, Texas, knew what the sentence meant: Victor was going to refuse to deploy to Afghanistan.

But his plan went far beyond excusing himself from what he considered to be another imperialist occupation. Victor would remain on base. He would become a model of resistance, an example to other GIs who might be willing to make a principled stand against an unjust war.

Agosto enlisted in August 2005 after two years of study at Miami Dade College. "I joined for the usual reasons," explained Agosto in an interview. "All the things they tell you about America when you're growing up. But mostly, I was tired of sitting in classrooms. I wanted to do something. I wanted to see the world."

Despite his patriotic upbringing, Victor had become skeptical of the war in Iraq even before his 14-month tour of duty in 2006. "It took me awhile to be against Afghanistan though," says Agosto.

Agosto insists that his stand against the war is not related to his personal experience as a communications specialist at Qayyarah Airfield West, a forward operating base with a 12-mile security perimeter located 200 miles north of Baghdad. "I didn't have any traumatic experiences in Iraq," says Agosto. "I don't have PTSD. I don't have any injuries at all. I was never in any danger."

Agosto takes every opportunity to ground his resistance in a commitment to justice and a desire to take responsibility for the damage already done. During his 24th birthday celebration at Under the Hood café, Agosto explained his feelings about his role in the war: "My job in communications, its effect on human suffering could be even greater than the actions of a combat soldier. My job is to maintain communications infrastructure so troops can complete their missions. Combat soldiers are only responsible for the people they kill. It's difficult to quantify the effects of my actions, how much suffering I've helped make possible."

The animated young woman sitting beside Victor, also a communications specialist, laughs and nudges him. "Man," he says, "I was just worried about getting the job done and getting the hell out of there! Did you really think about all that in Iraq?" Victor's voice is quieter than usual. "I thought about it every day."

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Fort Hood sits against a mesh of strip malls, take-out joints, and patriotic billboards that comprise the city of Killeen. Set more than 80 miles northwest of Austin, the military installation and the city it sustains are isolated by miles of brush and wildflowers, by rolling pastures that eventually crash into the concrete ribbon of Route 35. If Killeen is remote, Fort Hood is another galaxy.

Cynthia Thomas, the manager of Under the Hood, underscores the problem of troop isolation when she courts supporters across Central Texas. "Come visit even if you don't know anything about the military," she says. "We just need civilians to talk with the active-duty soldiers. Many of them have PTSD and traumatic brain injury. They just need to be reminded they're human."

Victor maintains that it is the antiwar movement and the support of his "family" at Under the Hood that ultimately helped him find the courage to resist. But it was the books he read on war and imperialism that gradually changed his understanding of the world and his place in it.

A copy of his Army counseling statement dated May 1, 2009, reveals his transformation. Defying a direct order from his company commander, he stated on record, "There is no way I will deploy to Afghanistan. The occupation is immoral and unjust. It does not make the American people any safer. It has the opposite effect."

Spc. Agosto's clarity of thought may prove to be as beneficial to the antiwar movement as the strength of his conviction. Most resisters, through circumstance or self-preservation, go absent without leave, or AWOL, to get civilian help or avoid incarceration. Victor is still on base.

"My superiors pretty much want me to go AWOL," he explains. "Going AWOL allows them to demonize the absent soldier. If you go AWOL, you lose the ability to defend your resistance. Nobody really knows for sure why you left, so they can just tell everyone you're a coward."

But no one can call Victor a coward. Not only does he refuse orders from his superiors almost daily, he has refused conscientious objector status because it undermines his public critique of the war. "I'm not a pacifist," explains Victor. "I just won't take part in another imperialist occupation."

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Agosto's composure, intelligence, and reserved humor make him a formidable fighter. Before he was a model of resistance, he was a model soldier. In 2008, the army awarded him a medal for good conduct. He even sympathizes with the sergeants swamped by the paperwork produced by his resistance. "I have no vendetta against my superiors," he says. "I just want to be an example for other soldiers."

Victor doesn't refuse all orders, only those aiding the war effort. He does not refuse orders involving "company beautification," minding the barracks, or sweeping the motor pool line.

But on April 30, Victor told his commander that -- "Sir! No, sir!" -- he would not be deploying to Afghanistan. On May 11, he informed his company commander that he would refuse all orders supporting his unit's deployment to Afghanistan.

On May 14, Victor refused to do administrative maintenance on trucks going to Afghanistan. On May 19, when Victor's first sergeant ordered him to attend SRP (Soldier Readiness Processing) to prepare his paperwork and receive the preventative medical treatment necessary for deployment, he refused in front of his entire company.

On May 22, he received his first disciplinary "reading" under Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. He was charged with disobeying orders from a non-commissioned officer and with disrespect to non-commissioned officers. Victor objects. "The disrespect charge is totally bogus," he says. "When I called out my first sergeant on this, he said, 'You disobey my orders, you are disrespecting me.'"

Agosto is well aware that he may be sent to jail any day now. His refusal presents an obvious -- and "unforgivable" -- challenge to a political and military establishment poised for a massive escalation of the war in Afghanistan. The Democratic Senate has just approved a $91.3 billion bill backed by Barack Obama to expand the campaign against Afghanistan. The House has already passed similar legislation, and the two bills must now be reconciled before Obama can sign it into law.

"Politicians aren't going to stop this war," says Victor, who explains that he's not afraid of being punished for refusing to facilitate the slaughter of civilians. "It can only be stopped at the grassroots level. Soldiers are the going to be the ones who have to end it. But community support is crucial. It's difficult to make a stand in solitude."

Back on base, a platoon sergeant warns Victor to "stay away from his soldiers." If the higher-ups at Fort Hood seem nervous, it's for good reason. "People have been supportive," says Victor. "People who disapprove of what I'm doing haven't mentioned it to me." Victor has added an update to his Facebook page. While walking around base, a private asked to shake his hand: "I want you to know that I really look up to you."

This week, a staff sergeant in the same battalion gave him more than compliments: he also refused an order to deploy to Afghanistan, citing Victor as his inspiration.

2.

U.S.: "THERE'S NO WAY I'M GOING TO DEPLOY TO AFGHANISTAN"
By Dahr Jamail

Inter Press Service
May 26, 2009

http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=46978

MARFA, Texas -- "It’s a matter of what I’m willing to live with," Specialist Victor Agosto of the U.S. Army, who is refusing orders to deploy to Afghanistan, explained to IPS. "I’m not willing to participate in this occupation, knowing it is completely wrong."

Agosto, who returned from a 13-month deployment to Iraq in November 2007, is based at Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas.

While in Iraq, Agosto never left his base, located in northern Iraq.

"I never had any traumatic experiences, never fired my weapon," Agosto told IPS in a phone interview. "I mostly worked in information technology, working on computers and keeping the network functioning well. But it was in Iraq that I turned against the occupations. Through my reading, and watching what was going on, I started to feel very guilty."

Agosto added, "What I did there, I know I contributed to death and human suffering. It’s hard to quantify how much I caused, but I know I contributed to it."

Having served three years and nine months in the U.S. Army, Agosto was to complete his contract and be discharged on Aug. 3. But due to his excellent record of service and accrued leave, he was to be released the end of June. Nevertheless, due to the stop-loss program, the Army decided to deploy him to Afghanistan anyway.

Stop-loss is a program the military uses to keep soldiers enlisted beyond the terms of their contracts. Since Sep. 11, 2001, more than 140,000 troops have had tours extended by stop-loss.

A copy of his Counseling Form from the Army, dated May 1, reads, "You will deploy in support of OEF [Operation Enduring Freedom] on or about [XXXXX] with 57th ESB. This is a direct order from your Company Commander CPT Michael J. Pederson."

Agosto posted copies of the Counseling Statements issued by the Army on his Facebook page. Counseling Statements outline actions taken by the Army to discipline Agosto for his refusal to obey a direct order from his company commander.

On one of them, dated May 1, Agosto’s written statement appears: "There is no way I will deploy to Afghanistan. The occupation is immoral and unjust. It does not make the American people any safer. It has the opposite effect."

In another, dated May 18, he wrote: "I will not obey any orders I deem to be immoral or illegal."

On that day, Agosto was ordered to get his medical records in preparation to deploy to Afghanistan. He refused to do so. The Army threatened to take punitive measures, but Agosto wrote on the Counseling Statement, "I am not going to Afghanistan. I will not take part in SRP [Sealift Readiness Program]."

If Agosto continues to refuse orders, he almost assuredly will face court-martial, and likely jail time.

When IPS asked Agosto if he is willing to take whatever consequences the Army is prepared to mete out, he replied, "Yes. I’m fully prepared for this. I have concluded that the wars [in Iraq and Afghanistan] are not going to be ended by politicians or people at the top. They are not responsive to the people, they are responsive to corporate America."

Agosto added, "The only way to make them responsive to the needs of the people is if soldiers won’t fight their wars, and if soldiers won’t fight their wars, the wars won’t happen. I hope I’m setting an example for other soldiers."

Agosto has overtly refused to follow any order that has anything to do with his taking an action that would support the occupation of Afghanistan. For a time, according to Agosto, he was given simple orders to clean the motor pool, or pull weeds.

"They switched that recently," he told IPS, "I’ve continued to be fairly defiant, so on Tuesday I have to meet with Trial Defense Services, which then begins the process of getting an Article 15, which is movement towards being court-martialed, if these reprimands continue."

"If I take the Article 15, I’ll take a reduction in rank and pay. I don’t’ know what is going to happen. I agreed to sweep the motor pool and pull weeds, but nothing else that I feel directly supports the war. I’m not going to follow orders I’m not comfortable with."

Agosto’s case is not unique. The group Courage to Resist, based in Oakland, California, actively engages in assisting soldiers who refuse to deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan.

"Although the efforts of Courage to Resist are primarily focused on supporting public GI resisters, the organization also strives to provide political, emotional, and material support to all military objectors critical of our government's current policies of empire," reads a portion of the group's mission statement.

IPS spoke with Adam Szyper-Seibert, an office manager and counselor with Courage to Resist.

"Currently we are actively supporting over 50 military resisters like Victor Agosto," Szyper-Seibert told IPS. "They are all over the world, including André Shepherd in Germany, and several people in Canada. We are getting five to six calls a week just about the IRR [Individual Ready Reserve] recall alone."

U.S. Army Specialist André Shepherd, who went AWOL after serving in Iraq, has applied for asylum in Germany after refusing military service because he is morally opposed to the occupation of Iraq.

The IRR is composed of former military personnel who still have time remaining on their enlistment agreements but have returned to civilian life. They are eligible to be called up in "states of emergency." The Army is currently undertaking the largest IRR recall since 2004, despite the recent inauguration of a so-called anti-war president.

Szyper-Seibert said that the number of soldiers contacting Courage to Resist has been increasing dramatically in the last year, and particularly in recent months.

"The number of soldiers contacting us is increasing," he explained, "With five to six IRR’s contacting us a week, plus others going absent without leave [AWOL], the numbers are all climbing, as compared to a year ago. Since May 2008, we’ve had a 200 percent jump in how many soldiers are contacting us."

According to Courage to Resist, there have been at least 15,000 IRR call-ups since Sept. 11, 2001, for deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq.

Sgt. Travis Bishop, who served 14 months in Baghdad and is also stationed at Fort Hood, recently went AWOL when his unit deployed to Afghanistan.

Like Agosto, Bishop feels it is immoral for him to deploy to support an occupation he morally opposes.

"I love my country, but I believe that this particular war is unjust, unconstitutional, and a total abuse of our nation’s power and influence," Bishop’s blog reads. "And so, in the next few days, I will be speaking with my lawyer, and taking actions that will more than likely result in my discharge from the military, and possible jail time . . . and I am prepared to live with that."

The reason he made this decision is addressed in his blog.

"My father said, ‘Do only what you can live with, because every morning you have to look at your face in the mirror when you shave. Ten years from now, you’ll still be shaving the same face.’ If I had deployed to Afghanistan, I don’t think I would have been able to look into another mirror again."

3.

The Rag Blog

G.I. VICTOR AGOSTO: 'THERE IS NO WAY I WILL DEPLOY TO AFGHANISTAN'
By Alice Embree

The Rag Blog
May 7, 2009

http://theragblog.blogspot.com/2009/05/gi-victor-agosto-there-is-no-way-i-will.html
OR
http://www.couragetoresist.org/x/content/view/707/1/

[PHOTO CAPTION: Victor Agosto with fan club at opening of Under the Hood Cafe in Kileen, Texas, on March 1, 2009.]

In a photo taken at Under the Hood Café (http://underthehoodcafe.org/) in Killeen, Texas (right), Victor Agosto stands soldier tall, flanked by two older women peace activists from Fort Worth. Victor doesn’t talk a lot, but when he does he reveals a resolve and intelligence that seems far older than his 23 years. Victor has served three years and nine months in the U.S. Army, including one tour in Iraq. His Estimated Termination of Service (ETS) date was until very recently August 3, 2009.

With his impeccable record and accrued leave, he was slated for release at the end of June. That date slipped away, apparent victim to the Stop Loss clause that renders the phrase “voluntary service” meaningless. The Army has told Specialist (SPC) Victor Agosto that he will be deployed to Afghanistan. He has told the Army he won’t go.

Victor’s Facebook page posts the specifics. His Counseling Form dated May 1st states the Army’s position: “You will deploy in support of OEF on or about [XXXXX] with 57th ESB. This is a direct order from your Company Commander CPT Michael J. Pederson.”

Victor’s Session Closing statement is succinct: “There is no way I will deploy to Afghanistan. The occupation is immoral and unjust. It does not make the American people any safer. It has the opposite effect.”

Victor has been something of a fixture at Under the Hood. In the small house turned gathering spot, a free speech zone has been created for GIs, military families, and friends. Coffee, snacks, and GI Rights literature is available.

A large world map featuring U.S. interventions takes up one wall. The first interventions posted were Iraq and Afghanistan. Gradually, more countries and dates have been added: Chile, 1973, the CIA-backed military coup; Guatemala, 1954, the Marine invasion; Iran, 1953, the CIA-backed overthrow of the democratic government.

Under the Hood is a place where GIs can talk, relax, and think. It is the thinking that has brought Victor to his decision. In his words, “The supportive ‘family’ that I have found at Under the Hood helped me muster up the courage to resist.”

[Under the Hood Café is a project of the Fort Hood Support Network. Donations can be made at underthehoodcafe.org.: Rag Blog contributor Alice Embree is a founder of Austin's original underground paper The Rag and serves on the Board of the Fort Hood Support Network.]

4.

TEXAS SOLDIER VICTOR AGOSTO REFUSES AFGHANISTAN DEPLOYMENT
By Sarah Lazare

Courage to Resist
May 21, 2009

http://www.couragetoresist.org/x/content/view/712/115/ (see here for JPGs of Agosto's military counseling statements, including his statements in his own handwriting)

“There is no way I will deploy to Afghanistan. The occupation is immoral and unjust. It does not make the American people any safer. It has the opposite effect.” The words were scrawled in black ink on the bottom of a military counseling statement, a routine piece of paperwork turned in May 1st to the commander of a Ft. Hood, Texas Army unit headed for Afghanistan. It was signed Victor Agosto, U.S. Army.

Agosto is publicly refusing orders to deploy to Afghanistan. Having served in the Army since 2005, including a tour in Iraq, Agosto can no longer bear to serve and says that he is “ready for the consequences, whatever they are.” Since May 11th, he has been refusing all orders directly connected to his unit's deployment to Afghanistan, including an order to track the serial numbers of trucks headed for Afghanistan. He has since been assigned to non-deployment tasks such as sweeping the motor pool and "company area beautification" as he waits to see what the military will do to him.

Agosto’s refusal comes as the first waves of troops are being shipped to Afghanistan under the Obama Administration’s recent escalation. President Obama has ordered 21,000 more troops to deploy to Afghanistan this summer, seeking to more than double the 32,000 deployed to 68,000 in the next few months.

There is scant evidence about how the troops themselves feel about this escalation. The most recent study, a 2006 Zogby poll for Iraq, found that 72% of all U.S. troops there thought the U.S. should immediately withdraw. Many of those same troops are now being asked to fight in Afghanistan.

Calling from the Ft. Hood Army barracks, the 24 year-old Miami, Florida, native spoke in a deliberate, measured voice. He explained that his own opposition to the Afghanistan war developed gradually. Having initially joined the military to “see the world and do something with his life,” he began to doubt the initial justifications for that war before being deployed to Iraq, yet was convinced that the U.S. should stay in that country to “clean up its mess.”

While in Iraq, Agosto worked in communications at the tech control facility and did not see any violence or “ever feel the slightest bit of danger.” Nevertheless, during the last few months of his deployment, his doubts about both Iraq and Afghanistan began to grow. “I came to oppose it the way a lot of people did. I thought about it, read some books. Then I began seeing the role I played in the imperialist framework.”

When he returned to Ft. Hood Texas, Agosto began attending meetings of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), an organization comprised of people who have served in the U.S. military since September 11th, 2001. He also became a regular at Under the Hood, an anti-war G.I. coffeehouse just outside of Ft. Hood, Texas. The coffeehouse, fashioned after the anti-Vietnam War coffeehouse movement of the 60’s and 70’s, provides a space for troops to speak freely, seek help and support, and explore the possibilities of resistance.

“I came to realize that the wars really don’t do what the stated reasons are, which is to make us safer,” said Agosto. “Both occupations fuel the insurgencies in those countries. We are creating 'terrorists' and we are killing so many innocent people.” He argues that the wars are both “power plays” whose real intent is to “establish more control and spread U.S. hegemony.” A few months ago, he decided he wouldn’t go back.

“I’ve worked with Victor for almost a year, and he’s been here at the coffeehouse since the first day,” said Cynthia Thomas, manager and board member of Under the Hood. “When he decided to resist, I completely backed him, knowing the consequences. I completely respect his decision.”

While the military is not forthcoming with information about the number of troops refusing deployment to Afghanistan, statistics suggest military resistance overall is on the rise. Since 2002, the Army has court-martialed twice as many soldiers for desertion and other unauthorized absences per year than for each year between 1997 and 2001. AWOL rates in the Army are at their highest since 1980, with the desertion rate having jumped 80 percent since the start of the Iraq War, according to the Associated Press.

Several individuals have publicly refused deployment to Afghanistan. Blake Ivey, who went AWOL last fall rather than deploy to Afghanistan, has been publicly spoken out against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Benjamin Lewis, a former marine who was recalled from the Individual Ready Reserves, declared that he would not go to Afghanistan or Iraq if asked. He was quietly discharged from the marines last month. Many Afghanistan war resisters have made their way to Canada, where an estimated 250 currently reside.

Victor is taking considerable risk in publicly refusing to deploy. “The worst-case scenario for Victor is a general court-martial and years in jail,” says Jeff Paterson, Project Director for Courage to Resist, an organization that supports troops who refuse to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan.