Thursday, March 20, 2008

The 15 Minutes of Camilo Mejia

Sgt. Camilo Mejia was one of the first US soldiers to refuse orders to deploy to Iraq. As an Army staff sergeant, he fought in Iraq for five months but refused to go back after returning home. He spent five months in hiding before surrendering to the military. He served 8 months in prison and was released.

He is also the author of Road From ar Ramadi.

Mejía has joint Costa Rican/Nicaraguan citizenship but has lived in the USA since 1994. He decided to join the armed forces one year later, aged 19, serving as an infantryman from 1995 to 1998. He then continued his contract as a reservist in the Florida National Guard. He was deployed to Iraq in April 2003 and deserted while home on leave in September 2003.

Contrary to progressive blog beliefs Camilo did not join the military to get US citizenship. He was given permanent residency status in 1994 when his grandmother in Florida, who had become a naturalized US citizen, obtained permanent residency status for Camilo and his mom who were living in Costa Rica (his parents had separated years before). Permanent residency status gave him the right to live and work permanently in the United States - he didn't have to join anything.

Oh wait, some progressive blogs believe he joined for college benefits, although in 1994 grants and funds for minority students were at their highest, plus Pell grants and students loans. I've known too many young people from the '90s who obtained degrees by working their way through college. The "I joined for college benefits" is a small minority. It's the promise of travel and adventure that captures most young people. Camilo had dropped out of college and enlisted, then after his active duty in the '90s he signed up for the Florida National Guard. Again, he didn't have to join anything.

Mejía's parents were both Nicaraguan Sandinistas; Camilo's father, Carlos Mejía Godoy, was the singer associated with the Sandinista movement and his songs were the music of the Nicaraguan workers and revolutionaries. Mejía Godoy was a vice-presidential candidate in the last Nicaraguan election.

According to 32-year-old Camilo's myspace these days he's busy with "Activism (mostly antiwar), writing, reading, walking, talking, watching movies, spending time with friends and family, and spending time with my daughter, Samantha ... "

... when he's not traveling to speak in New England and California, etc. about how "this war was based on lies" although when he deserted in September 2003, 80-90 percent of the sheople were still supporting the war and expecting WMD to be found any day.

In the 1960s the men and women I knew who refused the draft or deserted - sacrificed something. They left the country, left friends, family. They went underground, gave up normal lives. Some spent long stretches in military prison. Today's soldiers who refuse spend a few months in jail sifting through book deals, lining up a lecture schedule, raising funds for defense and creating foundations to their own "cause."

I sometimes wrestle with what I feel toward guys like Mejía. Guys who enjoyed the benefits of the US military until they had to get their hands dirty. Men whose own accounts of atrocities grow with every story they read in the news; when they're not "reading, walking, talking, watching movies." Guys who become the heroes of the "left" until the next 15 minutes hero comes along, while soldiers like Alan Lewis are forgotten.

I know you'll think I've gone stark-raving rightwing mad - but I don't see honor in guys like Mejía - I see another type of sociopath - not the kind that throws a puppy off a cliff, or rapes and murders a 14 y/o girl in Iraq - but an antisocial dickhead who deep down really doesn't give a shit about anything other than his own ego and finding the easiest way out, upon which he will capitalize for as long as he can.

Alan Jermaine Lewis - Milwaukee

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