After a one-year service in Iraq left him disillusioned with the US-waged wars, army veteran Evan Knappenberger is now fighting his own battle back home against whet he considers to be America's unethical policies.
"Stop-Loss is an unethical policy," Knappenberger, 22, told the Washington Post on Wednesday, August 29, standing in his military uniform for a week-long "Tower Guard Vigil" in the heart of Washington.
In his six-foot-tall guard tower filled with sandbags and decorated with a large "Funding the War is Killing the Troops" placard, he is protesting the unfairness of the Pentagon's strategy which keeps soldiers in active duty past their original contracts.
As was required when he was on duty in Iraq, he must remain awake, catching up only few hours outside the guard tower to shower, shave and rest.
Last Mod: 29 Ağustos 2007, 22:17
Another way for the military to keep the war raging amid failed recruitment goals is the "inactive reserve" policy, by which former soldiers are getting called up after living years of civilian life.
Knappenberger says these policies have, in effect, created conscripted service in an ostensibly voluntary military.
"How do you tell a 17-year-old or a 55-year-old grandpa that [he's] part of a voluntary military and yet he's being involuntarily extended?"
"It makes no sense, and it's wrong."
Knappenberger conducted a similar seven-night vigil last June.
His campaign is supported by organizations including the Washington Peace Center, Iraq Veterans against the War and Veterans for Peace.
More than 1.5 million US service members have been sent to Iraq or Afghanistan since 2001.
The US Army is facing difficult time in recruiting people, mainly because of the two deadly wars, which scare off potential newcomers.
Since October 2006, up to 1,871 soldiers deserted the army, a rate that if it stays on pace would produce 3,484 desertions for 2007, an 8 percent increase.
Knappenberger said his vigil is partly a self-help therapy for a nightmarish experience in Iraq.
Like many young Americans, he joined the army after 9/11 with a belief that the war is necessary and morally-justified.
"[I wanted] to do something to affect the world in a good way," he recalled.
But when sent to Iraq a year ago, Knappenberger grew more and more disillusioned and started to question what he initially considered a good-cause war.
"I ended up doing things that were pointless and unconsciously malicious," said Knappenberger who was a 17-year-old high-school graduate when he joined the military.
"That scared me."
As an army intelligence analyst in Taji area north of Baghdad, Knappenberger spent 97 days in a tower guard stint and was involved on occasion with the interrogation of suspected terrorists.
"I'm not a trained interrogator, and there was one time I'm yelling a lot at this guy who's a chicken farmer," he recalled.
"That set up moral alarms for me.
"I thought, when did fighting for democracy come down to yelling at chicken farmers?"
In the first on-the-record collective testimonies, 50 US troopers who served in Iraq have spoken out last month to the Nation daily about the brutal atrocities that were rarely reported in the media.
The interviewees said that killing and arresting Iraqi civilians were usually justified by framing them as potential terrorists.
Knappenberger's inside struggle made him clash repeatedly with superiors who weren't happy with his reports on civilian casualties.
Eventually, he was fired for months ago. But for serving in the Army almost four years, Knappenberger was given a general discharge under honorable conditions.
"I used to think it was good that we went in and deposed Saddam," he says on a website dedicated for his campaign.
"I've come to realize that nothing we've done there is good."