”The moment you realize the truth is the moment to take a stand,” writes Spc. Eleonai “Eli” Israel in this account of why he decided to end his participation in the Iraq war and occupation.  --  It happened, he says, “[t]he day I saw myself in the hateful eyes of a young Iraqi boy who stared at me.”  --  That day, Jun. 19, 2007, came with “only three weeks of combat missions remaining during my one year in Iraq.”  --  “Moral conviction has no timing,” Israel says dryly in an autobiographical account posted on the Courage to Resist web site that tells how he came to be in Iraq, some of the things he did there, and what happened to him after he told his commanding officer he would no longer participate in combat missions.[1]  --  A statement posted on the Iraq Veterans Against the War web site the day after he made his decision shows how important the internet was in his ability to get help and call attention to his case.[2]  --  A July update on Eli Israel’s case includes some excerpts of his blog entries written before his decision to refuse further participation in the Iraq occupation.[3] ...

1.

MY STORY
By Spc. Eleonai “Eli” Israel

** The journey of a VIP bodyguard, sniper against the war **

Courage to Resist
August 9, 2007

http://www.couragetoresist.org/x/content/view/335/1/

Two months ago, I took a stand that changed my life forever. As a Soldier, a JVB Protective Service Agent, and a Sniper with the Army who had been in Iraq for a year (running over 250 combat missions), I refused to continue to be a part of the occupation. I regret nothing. This is my story. Currently, as I write this I am sitting in Kuwait, on "stand-by" to return to the States sometime hopefully this week. After getting out of the brig last week, I’m now scheduled to be discharged from the Army within the month. I'm looking forward to joining forces with anti-Iraq-War movements, such as Courage to Resist and Iraq Veterans Against the War.

What led me to this place in my life?

JOINING UP, THE FIRST TIME

I joined the U.S. Marine Corps in the spring of 1999, the month of my 18th birthday.

I grew up in the custody of the state of Kentucky with little contact with my biological parents since I was 13. I had no family support system and ended up on the streets, doing what street kids do.

By 16, I had eased into hard drugs. I had not been to school since the first part of 9th grade, and I was short on about everything but street smarts, an untapped sense of ambition, and a tough guy attitude.

When I walked into the recruiting station I learned that in order to join the Corps, I would need either a high school diploma or a GED with a waiver -- unless I also had certain college credits. When I told them that I was 16 and had only completed 8th grade, they quickly dismissed me, not expecting to see me again.

They were wrong.

Not only did I earn my GED, I also did a semester at the local college. A year and a half later the month I turned 18, March 1999, I walked back into the same recruiting station, spoke to the same recruiter, showed him my GED and my college transcripts and felt my first real sense of pride.

Thirteen weeks after arriving at Parris Island, I was changed forever. I graduated as the leader of a platoon squad with a meritorious promotion, and was now well on my way to a shining career as a Marine.

Then came September 11, 2001.

RE-ENLISTING FOR MY COUNTRY

Like many after September 11th I wanted to serve, again. I felt I owed something more to my country after my years of training. I trusted my president and my leadership to tell me the truth. I also trusted my own integrity. I knew that I would never willingly do anything that I knew to be immoral or wrong.

I re-enlisted in 2004 -- this time in the Army National Guard.

At the time I believed that those serving in the 'global war on terror' were doing so because they believed in what they were doing -- not because they were under compulsion by a contract or retained by stop-loss. After having seen the situation on the ground, I now believe I was wrong. In 2006, I shipped out to Iraq.

In Iraq I was as a JVB Agent -- the JVB (Joint Visitors Bureau) served as the protective service for "three star generals and above" and their "civilian equivalents." This included the Vice President, the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, their equivalents in a number of our "allied nations," and others. I trained for my job as part of this "special unit" prior to deployment, and I spent the majority of my tour in the company of the most powerful people connected to the "global war on terror."

Even as a JVB agent, my primary job was still infantry. On days when we didn't have any JVB missions, we would be called on for "search and cordon" operations and other infantry assignments. So, although I worked at the JVB, I was still on the roster of a sniper platoon tasked with various missions "outside the wire" -- either as "sniper overwatch" or house raids.

I reasoned that my actions during these missions were justified in the name of "self-defense." However, I came to realize my perception was wrong. I was in a country that I had no right to be in, violating the lives of people, and doing so without regard to the same standards of dignity and respect that we as Americans hold our own homes and our own lives to.

DESTROYING LIVES

I have taken and/or destroyed the lives of people who were defending their families from being the "collateral damage" of the day. Iraqi boys are joining groups like "Al Qaeda" for the same reason street kids in the U.S. join the "Cribs" and the "Bloods." It’s about self-protection, a sense of dignity, and making a stand.

The young man whose father and cousin we "accidentally" killed, and whose mother and siblings cry every time the tank rolls through the neighborhood, doesn't care who Osama Bin Laden is. The "militants" we attacked were usually no different than an armed neighborhood watch group who didn't trust their government. We didn’t trust the government either, and we put them in power!

Our own sacrifices, as tragic as they are (and they are tragic), are dwarfed in comparison to the carnage that has been brought on the Iraqi people.

"Success" in Iraq is not a matter of the number of coalition deaths "declining." Success would be an end of the catastrophe we have inflicted on a entire society, and restoration of dignity and sovereignty.

Iraqis continue to die at a rate 10 to 20 times that of the coalition forces. In Baghdad alone, five years and $950 billion later, the population suffers power and water outages that last for weeks at a time. Meanwhile, we often impose martial law so that no one can leave. The day I saw myself in the hateful eyes of a young Iraqi boy who stared at me was the day I realized I could no longer justify my role in the occupation.

I envy the soldier who is able to see the injustice of this war from afar, and has the courage and conviction to take the stand against it. There will be those who criticize soldiers for being willing to weigh moral convictions against political ambition. What matters is making the stand. Whether you chose not to join the military in the first place, or you realized after joining that it fell short of the requisite levels of integrity, the moment you realize the truth is the moment to take a stand. My moment came with only three weeks of combat missions remaining during my one year in Iraq. Moral conviction has no timing.

TAKING A STAND

I informed my chain of command of my beliefs. I could tell from that first conversation that things were not going to go well. I told them that I believed our presence in Iraq was unlawful. I explained that I no longer believed in a policy of war and that I would file as a conscientious objector. Simply put, I could no longer in good conscience participate in a combat role against the Iraqi people.

Seconds after the words left my mouth, my life changed. Inside I had more peace than I had felt in over a year. I knew immediately that I had done the right thing. However, I was aggressively disarmed, confined, and shut off from contacting anyone, including family or an attorney.

I was illegally confined to a cot in an operations room, placed under 24-hour guard, and escorted to the bathroom before I was formally charged with refusal to follow an order two weeks later. I remained confined until I pled guilty (with little choice) less than a week after that. I was immediately sent to Camp Arifjan in Kuwait to serve 30 days in a military prison. I was just released from the brig the other day and I’m now in the process of being "kicked out" with an "Other Than Honorable" discharge. I regret nothing.

After I told my command my beliefs, and once they realized they couldn't intimidate me and that I was serious, they decided that it was going to become an "information war."

I had many anti-war friends from MySpace and other online networks that got wind that I was being mistreated and it circulated around the world, literally overnight. Before I knew it, I was dragged into the First Sergeant’s office and they began yelling and screaming about how their names were "all over the internet." They didn't try to deny what was being said about them -- that I was being treated unfairly and that they refused to acknowledge my claim as a conscientious objector -- they were simply mad about the exposure.

MILITARY STRIKES BACK

The next day I was told that I had been "flagged" as an OPSEC (operational security) “concern.” No reason given. They were hostile and consumed with the task of making "an example" out of me, and they were looking for ways to ruin my reputation and credibility.

They spent days typing up pages of fabricated "counseling statements" to retroactively discredit my military record. The fact that there were no prior record of statements made these accusations obviously fake, and they knew it. They "needed more."

They demanded repeatedly all of my Internet user names and pass words -- MySpace, personal email, everything. All under the threat that "more charges" would be brought against me if I refused.

They wanted to read my emails, all my blogs, everything, in an attempt to find something. Anything they could use to make it look like I had been giving out classified information. They wanted to charge me and ruin my credibility as much as possible, and they desperately needed to be able to justify my illegal confinement.

Two weeks later, when they finally realized that they were not going to be able to charge me with "divulging intel," they finally charged me with a series of "not following orders." Not only did these include my refusal to continue combat missions, but ridiculous stuff like "not standing at parade rest" and "being late for work." You get the picture.

My command eventually offered to "chapter me out" if I would immediately plead guilty to everything and accept a summary court-martial. My options were clear. I could play ball, spend 30 days in a brig, and get my life back. Or I could let them put me back on a fully confined restriction for the next two months, while they took every opportunity to make an example of me -- to show everyone in the battalion, "this is what happens if you oppose the war.”

I’ll let them think they won, for now.

FREEDOM

The truth will come out, and there is nothing they can do to hide it. The occupation is a disaster. I’m convinced that every day it continues that it makes America, and the Iraqis less safe.

Objecting to the war and standing up to the military was without question, one of the best decisions I have ever made. I made a stand that was the right one, and I have my freedom back as a bonus. Maybe ten years from now those of us resisting from within the military today will be seen as some of the first few to speak the truth and to follow up with action. Even now I have many to remind me that I'm not alone in my thinking, even a majority of Americans who know that all the pieces of this conflict simply don't add up.

Seek the truth. Make the stand.

2.

SOLDIER IN IRAQ REFUSES COMBAT MISSION

Iraq Veterans Against the War
June 20, 2007

http://www.ivaw.org/node/1040

Yesterday, June 19, 26 year old SPC Eli Israel put himself at great personal risk by making the courageous decision to refuse further participation in the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Eli told his commanding officer and sergeants that he will no longer be a combatant in this illegal, unjustified war. Eli believes that the U.S. government used the attacks of September 11, 2001, as a pretense to invade Iraq and that “we are now violating the people of this country (Iraq) in ways that we would never accept on our own soil.” Eli is stationed at Camp Victory in Baghdad with JVB Bravo Company, 1-149 Infantry of the Kentucky Army National Guard. This soldier’s decision to refuse orders puts him at great risk, especially because he is in Iraq, isolated from legal assistance and other support. The following is a message that Eli sent yesterday to a friend back home:

“I have told them that I will no longer play a ‘combat role’ in this conflict or ‘protect corporate representatives,’ and they have taken this as ‘violating a direct order.’ I may be in jail or worse in the next 24 hours.

“Please rally whoever you can, call whoever you can, bring as much attention to this as you can. I have no doubt that the military will bury me and hide the whole situation if they can. I'm in big trouble. I'm in the middle of Iraq, surrounded by people who are not on my side. Please help me. Please contact whoever you can, and tell them who I am, so I don't ‘disappear.’”

Eli is taking an incredible risk by refusing orders in Iraq and will most likely be court-martialed. Please help him by contacting his Senator and requesting that he take any steps necessary to support and protect this soldier and ensure that the Army respects his rights and does not illegally retaliate against him.

Senator Mitch McConnell:
http://mcconnell.senate.gov/contact.cfm
Washington Office
361-A Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: (202) 224-2541
Fax: (202) 224-2499

3.

IN IRAQ, SPC ELI ISRAEL REFUSES WAR

Courage to Resist
July 26, 2007

http://www.couragetoresist.org/x/content/view/317/1/

Last month Army Spc Eleonai “Eli” Israel, while stationed at Camp Victory in Baghdad with JVB Bravo Company, 1-149 Infantry of the Kentucky Army National Guard announced that he would refuse any combat role in Iraq. Afterwards, Eli noted “It would have been a lot ‘easier’ for me to simply keep doing combat missions for a couple more weeks, and be done with things. Moral convictions are not based on timing or convenience.”

He is scheduled to be released today from the Theater Field Confinement Facility at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait were he served a 30-day sentence. Eli pleaded guilty to five counts of disobeying orders at a summary court-martial. He expects to receive an Other Than Honorable discharge and to be flown to Mississippi within a couple of weeks. After he's out, he plans on fighting for a discharge upgrade as the officer who sentenced him ignored his application for discharge as a conscientious objector or take into account his prior service.

[June 21, 2007]

On June 19, Army Spc Eleonai “Eli” Israel put himself at great personal risk by making the courageous decision to refuse further participation in the U.S. occupation of Iraq. The 26-year-old from Arlington, Virginia told his command that he will no longer be a combatant in this illegal, unjustified war. Eli believes that the U.S. government used the attacks of September 11, 2001, as a pretense to invade Iraq and that “we are now violating the people of this country (Iraq) in ways that we would never accept on our own soil.” Eli is stationed at Camp Victory in Baghdad with JVB Bravo Company, 1-149 Infantry of the Kentucky Army National Guard and intends to seek a discharge as a conscientious objector.

Yesterday, Eli’s urgent message from Baghdad buzzed around the Internet:

“I have told them that I will no longer play a ‘combat role’ in this conflict or ‘protect corporate representatives,’ and they have taken this as ‘violating a direct order.’ I may be in jail or worse in the next 24 hours. Please rally whoever you can, call whoever you can, bring as much attention to this as you can. I have no doubt that the military will bury me and hide the whole situation if they can. I'm in big trouble. I'm in the middle of Iraq, surrounded by people who are not on my side. Please help me. Please contact whoever you can, and tell them who I am, so I don't ‘disappear.’”

After receiving support and advice from a number of organizations, including Courage to Resist and Iraq Veterans Against the War, Eli has sent this update today:

“Thank you for your support. I am currently ‘OK,’ thanks in no small part I'm sure to the voices that have spoken up in the name of peace. I don't know what the military's next steps are going to be, but my deeply held beliefs prevent me from participating in this or any other war. . . .

“I have been in Iraq for over a year. I have served in combat. I have been awarded the Combat Infantry Badge, for my actions in Combat. I have been recommended for other medals, that I will now probably never see (nor do I want). . . .

“It would have been a lot ‘easier’ for me to simply keep doing combat missions for a couple more weeks, and be done with things. Moral convictions are not based on timing or convenience, and I thank all of you for your being here for me now.”

Over the last few months Eli has been blogging from Iraq via MySpace to friends about his experiences. His MySpace tag line proclaims, "I have seen 'war', and I want no part of it." No doubt that it was voices such as his that led the Army to crack down on “unauthorized” military bloggers recently -- and ban MySpace altogether from military networks.

Here are a few excerpts of Eli's recent posts to friends:

“I could spend the rest of my time here (shooting, getting shot at, and watching my friends get killed and maimed) ‘wondering’ why the Bush/Cheney administration lied to me. But I really don't think that I have to understand in full what their interests were in order to understand that they were not my interests, either as a soldier or as a civilian.”

“I want you all to know, that most of us that are over here, came to Iraq, with the very best of intentions, and really thought that the Iraqi people wanted us here. Now that I'm here, I realize that they want to work it out themselves, and I know we should respect that.”

“One guy lies about the reason for sending me to Iraq, and then tries to keep me here even after he's caught. Another guy actually believes that we can make up reasons as we go, and still wants to believe the original lie. The third guy realizes it was a lie, but thinks it's the people who were told the lie -- and who paid the greatest price for it (those wearing uniforms) -- that should be blamed for not making the lie out to be ‘OK’ in the end. This war is and was lost, but not by the military.”

“I'm attune enough to know that even the kindest Iraqi families that manage a ‘wave’ to me as I pass by (when not done in fear), do it because my smile lets them know that I'm only doing my job, and that I'll try my best not to let my weapons of war hit their children when I have to defend myself that day.”

“There are a lot of military personnel here who are trying their best to protect as many Iraqis as we can while we are here, and trying to do as much good as humanly possible until we do leave. Many U.S. soldiers here have risked their lives protecting Iraqi families, and even shielded Iraqi children with their own bodies in the midst of street wars. You can be proud of that. Don't let the blow to our self-image that the current problems have caused make us forget that we are a good people, and it is us, the true Americans, who are going to fix this and make it OK.”

Eli is taking an incredible risk by speaking out and pledging to refuse orders in Iraq. As Eli has been working as a bodyguard to high-ranking officers and civilian VIP’s, it’s unlikely that the military will keep him in such high-profile role, regardless of what other actions they take against him for his courage to resist.

We need to do everything we can to ensure that the Army respects his rights and does not illegally retaliate against him.

Supporters are asked to contact Eli’s senator Mitch McConnell to ensure that his rights are respected. Senator Mitch McConnell, 361-A Russell, Senate Office Building, Washington DC 20510. Phone: (202) 224-2541. Fax: (202) 224-2499

--Portions of this article by Iraq Veterans Against the War.