A US soldier is to face a court-martial today for refusing to fight after exploring the teachings of Jesus. Travis Bishop, a sergeant who fought for 14 months in Iraq, rejected an order to deploy to Afghanistan after he reflected on the ethics of war and studied the Bible.
He is being charged with failing to obey orders and going absent without leave. He has filed for Conscientious Objector (CO) status.
Bishop says he had already had doubts about the USA’s wars during his time in Iraq, when “there was a big difference between our reality out there and what was in the news”.
After returning to the US, he was told to deploy to Afghanistan. He started reading the Bible "to get right with my creator before going”.
It was then that his mind changed firmly. “Through my reading I realized all this goes against what Jesus taught and what all true Christians should believe”.
He underwent what he described as a “a religious transformation” and “realised that all war is wrong”.
Bishop’s lawyer James Branum, who has represented a number of war resisters, argues that the USA’s actions in Afghanistan are illegal, as they are neither in self-defence nor authorised by the UN Security Council.
Another US soldier, Michael Kern, who fought in Iraq before rejecting the occupation, said recently that “Once I realised I was a terrorist to people in Iraq, it wasn’t a hard decision”.
He added that “My whole unit feels as I do, but are afraid to speak out because they don't know there is support for those of us who speak out against the war."
However, the Pentagon has admitted that in the five years following the invasion of Iraq, there was an 80 per cent increase in desertion rates from the US army.
Bishop hopes that his stand today will remind soldiers with doubts that they are not alone.
“Choice is the first thing they take away from you in the military,” he says, "You're taught that you don't have a choice. That's not true.”