Conscientious Objectors

Awareness is growing regarding the illegality and immorality of the wars of aggression being waged today. For that reason a growing number of individuals are taking a stand based on their conscience and registering as Conscientious Objectors. The article Who is a Conscientious Objector? from the US-based National Interreligious Service Board for Conscientious Objectors explains the subject in detail.

The documentary Soldier of Conscience captures the experience of soldiers' struggles with duty and conscience, through both spoken words and images of destruction in Iraq that, at times, speak more eloquently than any conscientious objector or soldier. The words of four military COs — Camilo Mejia, Kevin Benderman, Aidan Delgado, and Joshua Casteel— serve as a powerful testimony to humanity’s willpower to say no to the violence and killing of war. The pained looks and voices of those who have killed and are willing to kill again remind the viewer that the scars of war are deeper than most of the American public, both those within the military and those who are not, are willing to admit.

The following video excerpt from the film contains testimony from both sides and includes (potentially distressing) footage revealing scenes from the (current) war of actions that have led to the wakening of some individual’s conscience. 

History shows that conscientious actions can stop wars. In the words of the makers of the film Sir No Sir: “In the 1960's an anti-war movement emerged that altered the course of history. This movement didn't take place on college campuses, but in barracks and on aircraft carriers. It flourished in army stockades, navy brigs and in the dingy towns that surround military bases. It penetrated elite military colleges like West Point. And it spread throughout the battlefields of Vietnam. It was a movement no one expected, least of all those in it. Hundreds went to prison and thousands into exile. And by 1971 it had, in the words of one colonel, infested the entire armed services. Yet today few people know about the GI movement against the war in Vietnam.”

The following is a trailer of the film.

By 1971 a massive GI Movement to end the Vietnam war was sweeping through troops, wreaking havoc on the US military. Into that mix came the FTA Show, a caustic, electrifying, sharply antiwar comedy review led by Jane Fonda & Donald Sutherland. As they toured outside military bases from Guam to the Philippines, over 60,000 soldiers cheered and joined the show's call to end the war. The movie of the performance was pulled by the distributors a week after its release and has only now, 35 years later, remerged thanks to filmmaker David Zieger, who used footage from “FTA” in “Sir! No Sir!”

Read what the Los Angeles Times has to say about FTA.

Dear America – Letters Home From Vietnam is a video documentary based on letters written by GIs during the Vietnam War. The documentary includes news and footage from Vietnam and puts the current war in the Middle East into perspective, especially when the experiences, thoughts and feelings of service personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan, communicated through the magazines Military Resistance (formerly GI Special) and Traveling Soldier, are compared with those who fought in that ‘eerily similar’ war in Vietnam.

The responsibility for the continuation of war that rests on the shoulders of each individual soldier is summed up in a song written by Buffy Sainte Marie and recorded by Donovan. (The following video was chosen from several available because of it's fitting image montage.)

The excellent (freely downloadable) book From Warriors to Resistors – US Veterans on Terrorism features the stories of sixteen US warriors-turned-resisters. These sixteen veterans were warriors (one a chaplain and unarmed) for the Army, the Navy, and the Marines. Many of them describe how they came to a deeply disturbing discovery: United States military interventions have seldom been motivated by concerns for national security, democracy, or human rights. In fact, as one veteran observes, “...our government has often confused economic opportunities for national security.” Official rhetoric rarely has matched the reality on the ground. A classic example is the often-heard “war on terrorism” rhetoric. Much has been said of the US's commitment to closing all terrorist-training camps and holding all supporters of terrorism accountable. The reality is that the US government has it’s own terrorist training camps subsidised by millions of US tax dollars every year.

The School of the Americas (SOA) based in Ft. Benning, Georgia, (now renamed as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation) has dedicated itself to training Latin American soldiers in what it calls Low Intensity Conflict (LIC). Also known as civilian-targeted warfare and counterinsurgency, LIC emphasises seeking out so-called internal enemies or subversives, then marking them for intimidation or assassination. Those labeled “subversive” are usually the poor and those who advocate for them—including progressive teachers, lawyers, health care and church workers, and labour and human rights organisers. Because of the high civilian death toll at the hands of SOA graduates it’s known in Latin America as “la escuela de asesinos,” the School of Assassins, and “la escuela de golpes,” the School of Coups due to its involvement in the destabilisation of the region.

See for the latest developments in efforts to close the SOA/WHINSEC.

The following is a letter of solidarity from American conscientious objectors to Israeli conscientious objectors, which demonstrates that underneath all the ideological and cultural differences we share the same fundamentally moral core.

We are US military service members and veterans who have refused or are currently refusing to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We stand in solidarity with the Israeli Shministim (Hebrew for 12th graders) who are also resisting military service. About 100 Israeli high school students have signed an open letter declaring their refusal to serve in the Israeli army and their opposition to “Israeli occupation and oppression policy in the occupied territories and the territories of Israel.” In Israel, military service is mandatory for all graduating high school seniors, and resisters face the possibility of years in prison.

We have also refused to participate in unjust acts of military aggression, and many of us have gone to prison or currently live with that possibility as a result. We believe that resistance to unjust war is a bold assertion of humanity in the face of overwhelming violence.

The Global War on Terror, like the Israeli occupation, is propped up by racism and dehumanization and sets the stage for never-ending war and occupation. We are inspired by the brave refusal of our brothers and sisters in Israel to take part in these destructive policies, and we want to let them know today, December 18th—the day of international solidarity with the Shministim—that they have our deepest respect and support.

In Solidarity,

Stephanie AtkinsonSpecialist, US Army Reserve. Went AWOL to resist October 1990 deployment to Iraq. Discharged in lieu of courts martial.

Chris Capps-SchubertSpecialist, US Army, communications. Went AWOL March 2007 to resist Iraq redeployment. Discharged in lieu of courts martial.

Eugene Cherry Specialist, US Army, medic. Went AWOL June 2005 to resist Iraq redeployment, later won honorable discharge.

Matthis ChirouxSergeant, US Army, journalist. Currently refusing Inactive Ready Reserve recall.

James CircelloSergeant, US Army, airborne infantry. Went AWOL April 2007 following Iraq deployment. Discharged in lieu of courts martial.

Carl DavisonUS Army, security. Refused Iraq deployment in 2008. Served one month in the brig.

Matthew EdwardsUS Army, Resisted Iraq deployment in March 2003.

Stephen FunkLance Corporal, US Marine Corps, logistic support. Went AWOL February 2003 to resist Iraq deployment. Served six months in the brig.

Andrew GorbySecond Lieutenant, US Army, infantry. Discharged May 2007 as a conscientious objector.

Patrick HartSergeant, US Army. Went AWOL in 2005 to resist Iraq deployment and has lived in Canada since.

Ryan JohnsonPrivate First Class, US Army. Went AWOL June 2005 to resist Iraq deployment and has lived in Canada since.

Dale LandryAirman, US Air Force. Went AWOL in 2004 following Afghanistan deployment and has lived in Canada since.

Benjamin LewisUS Marine Corps, mortar man. After two Iraq deployments, now refusing Inactive Ready Reserve recall.

Christopher MagaoayLance Corporal, US Marine Corps. Went AWOL in 2006 to resist Iraq deployment and has lived in Canada since.

Camilo MejiaStaff Sergeant, Army National Guard. Refused to redeploy to Iraq in 2004. Served nine months in the stockade.

Geoff Millard Sergeant, Army National Guard. Went AWOL after a deployment to Iraq 2004-2005.

Brandon NeelyUS Army, military police. Refused recall from the Inactive Ready Reserve in 2007.

Perry O'BrienUS Army, medic. Discharged as a conscientious objector November 2004 following Afghanistan deployment.

Jeff PatersonCorporal, US Marine Corps, artillery control. Refused Desert Storm deployment August 1990. Served two months pre-trial confinement. Discharged in lieu of courts martial.

Chanan SuarezdiazHospital Corpsman, Third Class, US Navy. Discharged following 2004 Iraq deployment.

Hart VigesUS Army, airborne mortar man. Discharged as a conscientious objector following 2003 Iraq deployment.

Dean WalcottUS Marine Corps, military police. Went AWOL in 2007 following Iraq deployment and has lived in Canada since.

David Wiggins MDCaptain, US Army, doctor. Resigned commission near the Iraq border during Desert Storm 1991.

Steve YoczikPrivate, US Army. Went AWOL November 2006 to resist Iraq deployment and has lived in Canada since.

and thanks to Sarah Lazare, Shministit of honor!



"The youth that refuse military service are the pioneers of a warless world."- Albert Einstein

In Israel all high school leavers are required by law to join the Israeli military and perform a period of military service. The Shministim are Israeli teenagers who have been imprisoned for refusing to serve in an army that occupies the Palestinian Territories. Jewish Voice for Peace are campaigning on behalf of the young Israeli prisoners of conscience with a campaign called December 18th, the launch date in 2008 of a global campaign to release them from jail.

The following are photos and testimony of some of the Shministim.


Moriel Rothman - 2012

Age: 23

Location: Jerusalem

Why I am one of the Shministim:

“…But it cannot be said lightly, the time has long passed for gentle language and “hear-able” rhetoric: The Occupation– which is the IDF’s primary function these days- is cruelty and injustice manifest. The Occupation is anti-God, anti-Love and staggeringly, constantly violent. The Occupation is based on a system of racial/ethnic separation that does, in fact, resemble South African Apartheid and segregation in the Southern United States until the 1960s. And this “temporary” Occupation is not “on its way out,” but is rather growing in strength every single day. There is almost zero political will within Israel’s government to end it, and the Israeli public has largely accepted the status quo, in which the occupation is basically a theoretical question, and one of which many have grown tired. But the occupation can only be theoretical if you are not occupied, and thus my refusal to support the occupation by serving in the IDF is also an act of solidarity with Palestinians living under occupation.”

For a more detailed testimony see the article Why I Refuse: On God/Love, Nonviolence and Israel’s Military Occupation of the Palestinian Territories from Rothman's inspiring blog The Leftern Wall.

Name: Alon Gurman - 2012

Age: 19

Location: Tel Aviv

Why I am one of the Shministim:

“ My refusal to serve in the Israeli military, in addition to being a refusal to take part in occupation and apartheid, is an act of solidarity with our Palestinian friends living under Israeli regime, and those who bravely choose to struggle against it.”

Released by the army without being imprisoned 

Name: Noam Gur - 2012

Age: 18

Location: Kiryat Motzkin

Why I am one of the Shministim:

“ For years I have been told that this control is supposed to protect me, but information about the suffering caused due to terrorizing the Palestinian population is omitted from the story…”

First Sentence: April 16 - April 25 2012 (10 days)

Second sentence: April 29th - May 8th (10 days)

Read More:


Name: Tamar Katz 

Age: 19

Location: Tel-Aviv

Why I am one of the Shministim:

“I refuse to enlist in the Israeli military on conscientious grounds. I am not willing to become part of an occupying army, that has been an invader of foreign lands for decades, which perpetuates a racist regime of robbery in these lands, tyrannizes civilians and makes life difficult for millions under a false pretext of security.”

First Sentence: 28th Sept. - 10th Oct. 2008 (12 days)Second Sentence: 12th - 30th Oct. 2008(18 days)Third Sentence: 1st - 22nd Dec. 2008 (21 days)

Read more…


Name: Yuval Ophir-Auron

Age: 19

Why I am one of the Shministim:

“I am convinced that it is no one but ourselves who determines that it is our fate to live by the sword. There is another way, which is not the way of war. This is the path of dialogue, of understanding, of concession, forgiveness, of peace. I believe that a person should take responsibility and feel reconciled to the way he chooses. This is why I shall not join an army behind whose actions I cannot stand and whose behavior I cannot justify.”

First Sentence: 24th Nov. - 5th Dec. 2008 Second Sentence: 12th - 7th - 14th December 2008

Read more…


Name: Raz Bar-David Varon

Age: 18

Location: Tel-Aviv

Why I am one of the Shministim:

“I wasn’t born to serve as a soldier who occupies another, and the struggle against the occupation is mine too. It is a struggle for hope, for a reality that sometimes feels so far away. I have a responsibility for this society. My responsibility is to refuse.”

First Sentence: 3rd - 21st Nov. 2008 (18 days)Second Sentence: 24th Nov. - 30th Nov. 2008 (6 days)Third Sentence: 21st Dec. - 9th Jan 2009

Read more…


Name: Omer Goldman

Age: 19

Location: Tel-Aviv

Why I am one of the Shministim:

“I believe in service to the society I am part of, and that is precisely why I refuse to take part in the war crimes committed by my country. Violence will not bring any kind of solution, and I shall not commit violence, come what may.”

First Sentence: 22nd Sept. - 10th Oct. 2008 (18 days)Second Sentence: 12th - 24th Oct. 2008 (10 days)

Read more…


Name: Mia Tamarin

Age: 19

Location: Tel-Aviv

Why I am one of the Shministim:

“I cannot become part of an organization the purpose of which is to fend off violence by violence, because it stands unequivocally contrary to everything I believe in and to my whole life. There always is another, non-violent option, and it is this option that I choose.”

First Sentence: 28th Sept. - 10th Oct. 2008 (12 days)Second Sentence: 12th - 24th Oct. 2008 (12 days)Third Sentence:5th - 23rd Nov 2008 (18 days)

Read more…


Name: Sahar Vardi

Age: 18

Location: Jerusalem

Why I am one of the Shministim:

“I realize that the soldier at the checkpoint is not responsible for the wretched policy of the oppressor towards civilians, I am unable to relieve that soldier of responsibility for his conduct … I mean the human responsibility of not causing another human being to suffer.”

First Sentence: 25th - 31st Aug. 2008 (6 days)Second Sentence: 12th - 30th Oct. (18 days)Third Sentence: 3rd - 21st Nov. 2008 (18 days)

Read more…


Name: Udi Nir

Age: 19

Location: Tel-Aviv

Why I am one of the Shministim:

“I will not lend my own hand to the occupation and to acts that contradict my most basic values: human rights, democracy and the personal responsibility each and every human being bears towards fellow human beings.”

Sentence: Aug. 21st - Sept. 7th 2008 (18 days)

Read more…

There are also those within the Israeli military (IDF) who have taken the step of non-cooperation. The ‘refuseniks’ reasons are moral, social and political. The moral standpoint against killing civilians is obvious. Bombing and shooting your innocent neighbours, including the children, and destroying their homes and livelihood will not make living together in the future any easier, neither does it make anyone more secure. Shooting and bombing civilians is illegal. Refusing to take part in a war in which the military does those things is an obligation under international law.

Before You Enlist is a counter-recruitment film produced with support from the American Friends Service Committee and Veterans For Peace. The video offers a rational voice to help counter misleading recruitment practices and promises. Straight talk from soldiers, veterans and their family members tells what is missing from the sales pitches presented by recruiters and the military's marketing efforts. (Although the film is aimed at an American audience, the same misleading recruitment practices and promises are used by British recruiters toward young people in schools and colleges.)

The American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker-based group committed to the principles of nonviolence and justice. Their Mission Statement is an inspiration to read and echoes many of the principles communicated by Martin Luther King, Jnr who, although not a Quaker, was moved by the same spirit to work toward reconciling enemies and facilitating peaceful and just resolutions of conflict.

You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train looks at the life of the well-known activist, historian and author, Howard Zinn. Following his early days as a shipyard labour organiser and bombardier in World War II, Zinn became an academic rebel and leader of civil disobedience in a time of institutionalised racism and war. Featuring rare archival materials and interviews with Zinn and colleagues such as Noam Chomsky, the film captures the essence of this extraordinary man who has been a catalyst for progressive change for more than 60 years.

"We must become the change we want to see in the world."- Mohandas Gandhi.

Below are some links associated with conscientious objector/war resister support and information.

War Resisters’ International

Mideast Youth - Thinking Ahead » Support Israel’s Conscientious Objectors

Free Camilo Mejía: GI Resister, Conscientious Objector & Iraq War Veteran

From Warriors to Resisters

Iraq Veterans Against the War

Center on Conscience & War - Extending and Defending the Rights of Conscientious Objectors

Who is a Conscientious Objector?


The Objector: Home of the Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors

Veterans For Peace