The first American conscientious objector

Sabri Oncu soncu at
Tue Apr 1 03:21:02 MST 2003

Marine who said no to killing on his conscience

Fighting not to fight

Duncan Campbell in Los Angeles
Tuesday April 1, 2003
The Guardian

The first American conscientious objector from the Iraq war will
give himself up at a marine base in California this morning. He
said he believed the war was "immoral because of the deception
involved by our leaders".

Stephen Eagle Funk, 20, a marine reserve who was due to be sent
for combat duty, is currently on "unauthorised absence" from his
unit. He faces a possible court martial and time in military
prison for his action.

"I know I have to be punished for going UA," Mr Funk told the
Guardian in an interview before surrendering to authorities, "but
I would rather take my punishment now than live with what I would
have to do [in Iraq] for the rest of my life. I would be going in
knowing that it was wrong and that would be hypocritical."

Mr Funk, who is originally from Seattle and is half Filipino, was
approached by a recruiting officer last year. At the time, he
said, he was depressed after dropping out of a biology course at
the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. He was
working part-time for a vet and in a pet shop.

His family and friends were surprised by his decision, he said,
because they had known him to have liberal political views and
not to have been interested in the military.

"I wanted to belong and I wanted another direction in my life,
and this seemed to offer it," said Mr Funk. "They told me I would
be able to go back to school [university]." Recruits have their
college fees paid once they complete their service.

"The ads make the armed forces look so cool - 'Call this number
and we'll send you a free pair of boxer shorts' - and a lot of
kids don't realise what's involved," he said. Although he
graduated from the famously tough marine boot camp in San Diego
and excelled as a rifleman during the 12-week induction period,
Mr Funk said he had started to have doubts about military service
during his training.

"Every day in combat training you had to yell out 'Kill! Kill!'
and we would get into trouble if you didn't shout it out, so
often I would just mouth it so I didn't get into trouble." The
recruits were also encouraged to hurt each other during hand-to-
hand combat training. "I couldn't do that so they would pair me
up with someone who was very violent or aggressive."

Mr Funk said many recruits were envious of those who were being
sent to the Gulf. "They would say things like, 'Kill a raghead
for me - I'm so jealous.'"

As a Catholic who attended mass most Sundays during training, he
eventually decided to take his concerns to the chaplain. "He
said, 'It's a lot easier if you just give in and don't question
authority.' He quoted the Bible at me and said, 'Jesus says to
carry a sword.'

"But I don't think Jesus was a violent man - in fact, the
opposite - and I don't think God takes sides in war _ Everyone
told me it was futile to try to get out."

At shooting practice, although he scored well, the instructor
told him he had an attitude problem: "I was a little pissed off
and I said, 'I think killing people is wrong.' That was the
crystallising moment because I had never said it out loud before.
It was such a relief."

He became concerned about the reasons for the conflict in Iraq.
"This war is very immoral because of the deception involved by
our leaders. It is very hypocritical." He is opposed to the use
of war as a way of solving problems.

"War is about destruction and violence and death. It is young men
fighting old men's wars. It is not the answer, it just ravages
the land of the battleground. I know it's wrong but other people
in the military have been programmed to think it is OK."

Mr Funk, who is being counselled by conscientious objectors from
the 1991 Gulf war, said he had gone public to try to dissuade
other young people who had not thought through their reasons for
joining the forces. "All they [the military] want is numbers.
What I'm doing is really trying to educate people to weigh their
options - there are so many more ways to get money for school."

He added: "My mum had a gut feeling it wouldn't work out."
Although he does not know what punishment awaits, "it's a risk
I'm willing to take".

This morning, accompanied by his lawyer and former conscientious
objectors from previous wars, he will arrive at his home base in
San Jose, change into his uniform and give himself up.,12271,926965,00.html

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