Skip to comments.Navy Coward or Conscientious Objector?
Posted on 09/29/2005 11:13:29 AM PDT by bkwells
On September 23, 2005, a small, select group of U.S. Navy officers is scheduled to have an opportunity to help make a very important decision that will potentially affect the good order and discipline in the ranks of all our military Services. Specifically, these officers will recommend the type of administrative discharge to be given to a sailor who has claimed to be a conscientious objector to our ongoing global war on terrorism, and specifically our combat operations in Iraq.
I On December 6, 2004, Navy Petty Officer Pablo Paredes showed up at the San Diego pier where his amphibious assault ship, the USS Bonhomme Richard, was scheduled to deploy to the Persian Gulf, in a black tee-shirt with white letters that read, "Like a Cabinet Member, I resign." At Paredes' request, there were many media representatives at the pier to report his actions.
Pablo Paredes, Photo: Citizens for Pablo
Paredes refused to board the ship, thereby missing his scheduled six month deployment, which is a violation of Article 87 of the Uniformed Code of Military Justice (UCMJ): "Any person subject to this chapter who through neglect or design misses the movement of a ship, aircraft, or unit with which he is required in the course of duty to move shall be punished as a court martial may direct."
In missing his scheduled deployment as he planned and coordinated, Paredes' actions negatively affected many other service members and their families. The most unforgivable affect was to steal focus and attention away from the emotional deployment of over 3,000 sailors and Marines to a combat zone halfway around the world. As a f ire control technician on the Sea Sparrow surface-to-air missile system, Paredes' expertise would be critical to the Bonhomme Richards' self-defense in the Arabian Gulf, which put the ship in the "threat arcs" of Iran 's dangerous
USS Bonhomme Richard. Photo: US Navy
Silkworm anti-ship missiles. Paredes' sudden absence meant either existing shipmates had to pull extra shifts to cover his duties, or another sailor from another ship had to get last-minute orders to deploy in Paredes' place. Either option meant that the ship was deployed to a combat zone in a degraded readiness status.
According to the December 6, 2004 San Diego Union-Tribune, Paredes was very open about his decision to miss the movement of his ship and even spoke to reporters the day before his public demonstration on the pier:
Paredes is a fire control technician manning a Sea Sparrow air defense missile system (Below) that guards against low flying, high speed antiship missiles like the Chinese-designed Silkwork anti-ship missle.
Photo: US Navy
"I'm going to throw my ID in the water and say that I'm no longer part of the military," said Petty Officer Third Class Pablo Paredes, 23. "I want to make a statement, and I want it to be heard."
"He said he was young and naive when he joined the Navy and "never imagined, in a million years, we would go to war with somebody who had done nothing to us."
"He said he thought of smoking marijuana or breaking his leg with a heavy metal rod to try to get a discharge but decided instead to go public with his protest. He said he hopes doing so might inspire other sailors, soldiers and Marines to refuse to take part in the war."
"I know other people are feeling the same way I am, and I'm hoping more people will stand up," he said. "They can't throw us all in jail."
"Paredes, a weapons-control technician from the Bronx, N.Y., said he joined the Navy in 2000 and has 20 months left on his six-year enlistment. He said he was stationed previously in Japan and, until now, did not feel he had a direct role in the war, which he has opposed since its inception."
From researching about Paredes on the internet, I got over 900,000 Google hits. On one hit, http://www.indepundit.com/archive2/2005/05/pablos_pity_par_1.html I discovered that on May 10, 2005, at a public anti-war rally that attracted about 150 persons (including media representatives) in San Diego, Paredes was one of three featured speakers. Rally attendees were given 3x5 index cards on which to write questions for the three speakers. The cards were collected, screened, and then presented to the speakers for response. One card read, "Is there such a thing as a just war, and should the U.S. military be disbanded?" Paredes' response was: "There is no such thing as 'just war.' All militaries should be disbanded, and we should start with the world's largest [meaning the U.S. ?]."
Paredes was tried and convicted at a Special Court Martial on May 11, 2005. At his sentencing on May 12, Paredes read a statement he prepared prior to his trial. It read, in part:
"Your Honor, and to all present, I'd like to state first and foremost that it has never been my intent or motivation to create a mockery of the Navy or its judicial system. I do not consider military members adversaries. I consider myself in solidarity with all service members. It is this feeling of solidarity that was at the root of my actions...I believe as a member of the armed forces that, beyond having a duty to my Chain of Command and my President, I have a higher duty to my conscience and to the supreme law of the land. Both of these higher duties dictate that I must not participate in any way, hands-on or indirect, in the current aggression that has been unleashed on Iraq. In the past few months I have been continually asked if I regret my decision to refuse to board my ship and to do so publicly. I have spent hour upon hour reflecting on my decision, and I can tell you with every fiber of certitude that I possess that I feel in my heart I did the right thing...What I submit to you and the court is that I am convinced the current war is exactly that (illegal). So, if there's anything I can be guilty of, it is my beliefs. I am guilty of believing this war is illegal. I'm guilty of believing war in all forms is immoral and useless, and I am guilty of believing that as a service member I have a duty to refuse to participate in this war because it is illegal."
Paredes was sentenced to a reduction to the lowest rank, two months' restriction to a navy base, and three months of hard labor. The sentence fell short of the government prosecutors' recommendation of nine months' confinement, a bad-conduct discharge, reduction to seaman recruit, and forfeiture of pay and benefits. The maximum punishment for violating Article 87 of the UCMJ is a dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement for two years.
According to the May 13, 2005 San Diego Union -Tribune, "Navy spokesman Sam Samuelson said the guilty verdict sends a message that the Navy is intent on maintaining discipline in the ranks." Granted, this Special Court-Martial conviction, where the maximum permissible punishment for the offense was at least a year in prison, is considered a felony conviction. It will forever be a part of Paredes' record and will likely haunt him throughout his life. From that perspective, I concur with Mr. Samuelson.
However, I disagree that this Special Court-Martial guilty verdict sends a strong-enough that the Navy is intent on maintaining discipline in the ranks. The Navy could have taken the case to a General Court-Martial, which is the only court-martial that can impose the maximum punishment. A Special Court-Martial can only impose imprisonment up to a year, while a Summary Court-Martial can only impose imprisonment up to 30 days. The Navy settled on a Special Court-Martial.
The Navy judge (Lieutenant Commander Bob Klant) at Paredes' court-martial could have imposed a much harsher punishment, including imprisonment. The judge decided on a much lighter punishment than the maximum punishment allowed. From reading many different accounts of the court-martial proceedings, it appears to me that one of the factors heavily influencing the judge's sentencing decision was the prosecutor's inability to de-legitimize one of Paredes' main arguments that the war in Iraq was illegal. Following a difficult prosecution cross-examination of an international law expert, Judge Lieutenant Commander Klant said to the court: "I think the government has successfully proved that any seaman recruit has reasonable cause to believe that the wars in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq were illegal."
In sharp contrast to Mr. Samuelson's comments, a representative sampling of the comments and opinions I researched about the verdict and the imposed sentence certainly lead me to wonder about what the future holds for us in our global war on terrorism:
"...the sentence was an "affirmation" of the right of members of the military to speak out publicly on issues like the war in Iraq..."This is a huge victory. It recognizes, even if only by implication, the legitimacy of acting against an illegal war based on sincere and reasonable beliefs"...And most important, no jail time. That's a significant victory for war-resisters and the peace movement."
On September 23, 2005, an administrative separation board of officers is scheduled to convene to help decide the appropriate level of separation. Since Paredes' court martial did not result in a punitive discharge (i.e. bad conduct discharge or dishonorable discharge), the board must now meet to recommend one of three administrative discharges: honorable, general (under honorable conditions), or under other than honorable conditions.
In my opinion, the board's decision is really a choice of one. Other than honorable conditions discharges are warranted when the reason for separation is based upon a pattern of behavior that constitutes a significant departure from the conduct expected of members of the Military Services, or when the reason for separation is based upon one or more acts or omissions that constitute a significant departure from the conduct expected of members of the Military Services. Included among examples of factors that may be considered are acts or omissions that endanger the security of the United States or the health and welfare of other members of the Military Services, and deliberate acts or omissions that seriously endanger the health and safety of other persons.
From all that I have read and understand about Paredes' case, it is clear that he deserves an other than honorable discharge. I saw nothing about his military record and his anti-military actions that would lead me to seriously consider his military service as honorable.
I see a young man who willingly volunteered for the Navy, and willingly took all that the Navy offered him: a job, a paycheck, technical training, and all the benefits that come with life in the Navy (medical, commissary, etc.). I see someone who says he believes there is no just war and that all militaries should be disbanded, yet he was able to join the military and was content to be a military member until he was ordered to deploy to a combat zone. I see someone who says he is driven by deeply held beliefs, yet he uses the public media to share his personal convictions with the world. I see a man who says he is in solidarity with all military members, yet his selfish actions have deliberately hurt his fellow military members and their families during a time of war. Lastly, I see a man who claims that he was opposed to the war in Iraq since its inception, yet he only started speaking out about his opposition to it when he was ordered to participate in it.
Webster's Dictionary defines 'coward' as a person who lacks courage in facing danger, difficulty, opposition, pain, etc. Despite what his supporters claim he is, I see Pablo Paredes in that definition. I just hope the officers of the administrative separation board see him the same way and show that the Navy is willing to maintain discipline in its ranks.
Lt. Col. Matthew Dodd USMC is a Senior Editor of DefenseWatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please send Feedback responses to email@example.com. ©2005 DefenseWatch. All opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of Military.com.
Coward Pablo Ping.
Coward? Conscientious objector?
I don't know.
But he IS a deserter, and he ought to have the courage of his convictions. Sentence him to the fullest extent.
He should have received the max.
This guys is full of it when he says he never imagined being sent to the Gulf. We had 1-2 Carrier Battle Groups there 24/7 for the last dozen years or so. I say make him reimburse the Gov't for the cost of his training and DD his azz!
"This is easy - COWARD!! He needs a BCD and time in the brig!"
Bingo. He's lucky they aren't thinking of executing him. It is time of war, and he did desert.
And just exactly how does one JOIN the military and THEN become a conscientious objector? He's a coward. Make him serve the rest of his enlisted term in the Brig, then give him the BCD!
(sorry, my HTML/posting skills are rusty....)
Dead on right!
Another vote for coward.
I won't give Conscientious Objector status to anybody that voluntarily joins the military. The enlistment by itself proves that there was no objection.
The irony of this story was that after he refused to ship out, because he didn't want to go to combat, the ship got sent to do humanitarian aid for the tsunami victims. Just the type of thing this tree-hugging 'coward' would have loved to do. Sorry, you missed the boat!!!
Giggle says; "Did you mean: ''Silkworm anti-ship missile''?"
I'm guilty of believing war in all forms is immoral and useless, and I am guilty of believing that as a service member I have a duty to refuse to participate in this war because it is illegal."''
Not only is he a coward but an IDIOT.
What did he think the NAVY was ...
An GAY cruise liner:?
(play Village People "In the Navy")
Throw his butt in the BRIG!!!!!You don't get to pick and choose which lawful orders you will obey!...............
Coward or not, he is a deserter. The book says to throw the book at him. No man escapes from the Law.
"This is easy - COWARD!! He needs a BCD and time in the brig!"
Master Chief he'd fit right in with hanoi kerry
Wait till hanoi kerry signs him up on the payroll with
You mean it isn't?........(USMC dig at Squids).......
Coward, deserter, traitor... take your pick!
We taking votes?
Well, me and my shadow both vote aye and nominate and second him as "Idiotic Coward of the Week"
"He said he was young and naive when he joined the Navy and "never imagined, in a million years, we would go to war with somebody who had done nothing to us." "
Coward? No, he is the emnemy.
Give him anchor duty - while it's submerged.
"But he IS a deserter, and he ought to have the courage of his convictions. Sentence him to the fullest extent."
One thing I truly love about FR is the new words that are created!
Emnemy be SCREWN!
That's bonehead for enemy.
emnity - a feeling or condition of hostility or animosity
enemy - a hostile, foe, opponent
not sure where to put that one
Seems my typo virus has the ability to precede me into a thread.
I was looking at the sidebar link to this thread and was about to click on it, and refreshed my comments page instead.
We shall add Emnemy to the list of words.
Needs an extended definition.
I like it! Can we use it in the furture?
A bad conduct discharge is not appropriate. Only a DISHONORABLE is appropriate for this deserter.
Judge Lieutenant Commander Klant said to the court: "I think the government has successfully proved that any seaman recruit has reasonable cause to believe that the wars in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq were illegal."
Why the hell was this even discussed at the Courts Martial? The Supreme Court has ruled the the Congressional Resolutions on both Afghanistan and Iraq make the wars legal...Case closed.
What the hell kind of commie Judge is this guy?
A concientious objector is opposed to all war, not just a specific one. Very lame excuse. If he wants to oppose Iraq than so be it but he must be responsible for his actions.
Can I pick more than one?
Strip him of his U.S. Citizenship and bribe Iran to give him a home!
That is the difference between the Army and Navy. The Army would have hemmed his butt up in one of our prisons. That is why I xhose the Army.... Discipline that is tough and decisive when needed.
This is a no-brainer: straight to the brig.
"I'm going to throw my ID in the water and say that I'm no longer part of the military," said Petty Officer Third Class Pablo Paredes, 23.
THE NAVY will tell you when they're done with you.
And it might not be for a few more years, coward.
Surf the link.
Hi status as CO is not going to hold water. He must claim that status up front when "DRAFTED".
This is a typical problem with the JAG corps in the Navy. They are way too easy on criminals like this one. I had an airman that was lazy, a thief, assaulted host country women that were dumb enough to date him. We tried to get an OTH on the guy, but the JAG folks wouldn't go for it. After spending literally hundreds of man hours on pushing the case the JAG gave him a general discharge.
Funny thing was that after being discharged he immediately came back to Japan, ran out of money, and started robbing ATM customers and cab drivers. Now he is doing hard time in a Japanese prison.
I'd have a hell of a lot more sympathy for him if he hadn't seemingly done his best to become a celebrity.
He needs to spend many years in the brig, thus keeping him off the speakers' circuit.
Actually, anybody who signs their name on the dotted line, raises their right hand, and then decides to back out deserves execution, especially in a time of war.
And don't give me the old "it's not a declared war" nonsense. This is the 21st century. We have been attacked, and we are at war. Desert in a time of war and suffer the consequences. The same punishment should apply to those civilians who try to demoralize our troops by praising and aiding our enemies.
Sure. Will it be part of a hugh list?
Navy Coward or Conscientious Objector?
This ole Salt would call him "Shark Bait"
He's just a confused kid, 10 years hard labor will help him sort things out.
Exactly ... and traditionally, non-combat billets, including front-line medical service, were assigned to those with consistent pacifist religious convictions who had been drafted into the military.
A devout Quaker or Mennonite wouldn't engage in fistfighting over girlfriends, either. I wonder if this machito makes a habit of principled nonresistence in his personal life? (/sarcasm)
It appears that an attempt is being made to expand the definition of "conscientious objection" so that it can be used to reject any assignment a service member doesn't like. Bad idea!