Back from the fighting, a US vet tells all and refuses to serve
Camilo Mejia joined the Army in 1995 to get college assistance and new experiences. Following a three-year hitch, he joined the Florida National Guard, partly for promised tuition assistance at Florida’s state universities. Mejia, a Nicaraguan citizen, had moved permanently to Miami with his mother when he was 18 years old and is a permanent resident with a green card.
On March 15, 2004, after six months’ duty in Iraq, Staff Sergeant Mejia decided to leave the military and talk about what he saw. His first engagement was a public rally and press conference at the Peace Abbey near Boston, MA. The next day, he submitted a formal application for discharge as a conscientious objector (CO) to Maj. General William G. Webster, Jr., commanding general of Ft. Stewart, Georgia. Mejia provided details of the torture and abuse of detainees he witnessed at Al Assad prison, adjacent to Baghdad’s International airport, in early May 2003.
After his CO application was filed, no one from General Webster’s staff contacted Mejia regarding his allegations. Facing court martial for desertion of duty in Iraq, Mejia based his defense partially on international law violations he witnessed when his unit mistreated Iraqi detainees five months before the period covered by Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba’s May 2004 report on Army torture at Abu Ghraib prison.