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May 20, 2004
The Handy And Media-Friendly Excuse For All Deserters

Fox News reports on a soldier who deserted his unit by failing to return from leave who now faces a court-martial. However, the soldier plans on using two different and interesting defenses for abandoning his unit while it currently serves under fire in Ramadi, Iraq. Can anyone guess which one will get all the media attention he could wish?

A U.S. soldier charged with desertion for leaving his unit in Iraq contended Thursday at this court-martial that he did not commit a crime because the Army had improperly failed to discharge him. Staff Sgt. Camilo Mejia, an infantry squad leader in the Florida National Guard, acknowledged disobeying his commanders' orders to return to Iraq in October after a two-week furlough.

Mejia said he asked to be discharged under a National Guard regulation barring non-U.S. citizens from serving more than eight years. Mejia, who joined the Army nine years ago, has dual citizenship in Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

Mejia's request garnered an immediate refusal, and he received orders to return to his unit at the end of his leave. Instead, Mejia simply disappeared for five months while his unit continued fighting in Iraq on the front lines, gradually losing about a third of its strength to combat injuries. In fact, Mejia specifically avoided using credit cards or his cell phone to avoid being traced. When he finally turned himself in, Mejia had the nerve to file for conscientious-objector status -- in a volunteer army.

However, the citizenship issue is just Mejia's warm-up. For the main course, Mejia plans on keeping the interest of every newspaper editor in the country with a hint of Abu Ghraib:

Mejia testified his war experience had convinced him he no longer wanted to fight. "I did have problems in Iraq," Mejia said. "I don't believe I'm allowed to speak about these things here, but I did not agree with many things."

When he turned himself in March 15, Mejia said he was upset at seeing civilians hit by gunfire and at seeing an Iraqi boy die after confusion over which military doctor should treat him.

In his objector application, filed March 16, he also claims he saw Iraqi prisoners treated cruelly [emph mine] when he was put in charge of processing detainees last May at al-Assad, an Iraqi air base occupied by U.S. forces.

As a non-commissioned officer, the unit looked to Mejia for leadership and support. Instead, Mejia bailed on them and now wants to paint them as war criminals to get himself off the hook for desertion. After all of the media exploitation of Abu Ghraib (with a big assist from some willing Senators looking for the media spotlight), plan on hearing this excuse from any others who go over the hill this year.

Mejia could wind up doing a year in prison for desertion. However, as Mejia demonstrates by crapping all over his fellow soldiers on his return to the US, he has a great career in politics after he gets out.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 20, 2004 10:35 PM

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