Marine reservist won't fight 'immoral' war

LouPaulsen LouPaulsen at
Mon Mar 31 23:08:41 MST 2003,12809,926963,00.html

The first American conscientious deserter 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

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

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, who is being counselled by conscientious
objectors from the 1991 Gulf war. "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."

He 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 rea sons 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 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

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.

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