On November 17, at the Front Gate of Fort Benning, Georgia, Army
National Guard Specialist Katherine Jashinski announced her opposition to war
and refused deployment to Iraq. She became the first woman conscientious
objector of the Iraq war to make a public statement against militarism.
At her press conference, organized by Iraqi Veterans Against the War and
Veterans for Peace, Jashinski described her �slow transformation into
"At age 19 I enlisted in the Guard. Like many teenagers who leave
their home for the first time, I went through a period of growth and soul
searching. . . . I started to reevaluate everything that I had been taught
about war as a child. Because I believe so strongly in non-violence, I cannot
perform any role in the military. Any person doing any job in the Army
contributes in some way to the planning, preparation or implementation of war.
Now I have come to the point where I am forced to choose between my obligation
to the Army and my deepest moral values. I will not compromise my beliefs for
any reason. I am prepared to accept the consequences of adhering to my
Katherine applied for conscientious objector status in 2004. After 18
months of stalling, the Army denied her claim and ordered her to weapons
training in preparation for deployment to the Mideast.
Father Roy Bourgeois, founder of the School for the Americas Watch;
Aidan Delgado, from Iraqi Veterans Against the War; J.E. McNeil with the Center
for Conscience and War; Aimee Allison, Gulf War resister, all spoke at the
press conference on Katherine�s behalf.
I talked with Ms. Allison after the event, and she explained the special
significance of Katherine�s public act of courage.
�I am a military counselor with PeaceOut.Com. I am the only woman
counselor out of 20 others, and I routinely get calls and e-mails from women
who are stationed in Afghanistan and Germany. I know many women who are afraid
to speak publicly because they do not want to be harassed. They don�t want
their families to suffer. And they know the military can destroy a C.O. case.�
She went on, �A lot of women I counsel do not even know it is legal to
be a conscientious objector. Some women take drugs. Some get pregnant to buy
time. Some just go AWOL. Only a few are able to get through the arduous legal
process -- through the harassment, the lost paper work. The military takes a
long time and grants few discharges.�
Katherine�s courageous action could make a difference, Aimee said.
�I talk to so many women who think there is nothing they can do because
they have not seen other women act.
�All of us who support war-resisters know that the woman�s voice in the
military is really decisive. The administration cannot fight the Iraqi war
without women. Women are 20 percent of the military. They may be in support
roles predominately. But in an urban war, there is no rear. Women are in the
same combat positions as men. Women are attached to fighting units. The women
are not just victims; they are perpetrators.�
Aimee raised questions about the issues of feminism within an
institution of organized violence, an institution that subjugates other nations
and commits atrocities. What is the meaning of feminism in such a context?
�We are part of the first generation that was born and raised on
feminist ideology. How can we deal with the question of equality within the
armed forces without first asking: what is our goal? What is the goal of the
�If equality is nothing more than becoming the same as men, then what we
are doing is stripping away our own identity as women. It all leads to Abu
Ghraib,� Aimee suggested. �Is that what feminism is about? There must be
somewhere else we can turn.
�We need a conversation about women and war, about where women want to
be. And that conversation won�t happen until there are war resisters.
Now Katherine Jashinski has taken her stand. �She is showing remarkable
courage,� Aimee said.
Paul Rockwell is a columnist for In Motion Magazine.