Army National Guard Specialist Katherine Jashinski announced her opposition to war and refused deployment to Iraq last month at Fort Benning, Ga.
She became the first women conscientious objector of the Iraq war to make a public statement against militarism. At her press conference, organized by Iraqi Veterans Against the War and Veterans for Peace, Jashinski described her “slow transformation into adulthood.”
“At age 19, I enlisted in the guard. Like many teenagers who leave their home for the first time, I went through a period of growth and soul searching,” she said. “I started to reevaluate everything that I had been taught about war as a child. Because I believe so strongly in non-violence, I cannot perform any role in the military... Now I have come to the point where I am forced to choose between my obligation to the Army and my deepest moral values. I will not compromise my beliefs for any reason.”
Jashinski applied for conscientious objector status in 2004. After 18 months of stalling, the Army denied her claim and ordered her to weapons training in preparation for deployment to the Mideast.
Father Roy Bourgeois, founder of the School for the Americas Watch; Aidan Delgado, from Iraqi Veterans Against the War; J.E. McNeil with the Center for Conscience and War; Oakland’s Aimee Allison, Gulf War resister, all spoke at the press conference on Jashinski’s behalf.
I talked with Allison, a military counselor with PeaceOut.com, after the event, and she explained the special significance of Jashinski’s public act of courage.
“I am the only woman counselor out of 20, and I routinely get calls and e-mails from women who are stationed in Afghanistan and Germany,” she said. “I know many women who are afraid to speak publicly because they do not want to be harassed. They don’t want their families to suffer ... Some women take drugs. Some get pregnant to buy time. Some just go AWOL. Only a few are able to get through the arduous legal process.”
Jashinski’s courageous action could make a difference, Allison said.
“I talk to so many women who think there is nothing they can do because they have not seen other women act,” Allison said. “All of us who support war resisters know that the woman’s voice in the military is really decisive. The administration cannot fight the Iraqi war without women. Women are 20 percent of the military. They may be in support roles predominately. But in an urban war, there is no rear. Women are in the same combat positions as men. Women are attached to fighting units. The women are not just victims; they are perpetrators.”
Allison raised questions about the issues of feminism within an institution of organized violence, an institution that subjugates other nations and commits atrocities. What is the meaning of feminism in such a context?
“We are part of the first generation that was born and raised on feminist ideology. How can we deal with the question of equality within the armed forces without first asking: what is our goal? What is the goal of the military? If equality is nothing more than becoming the same as men, then what we are doing is stripping away our own identity as women. It all leads to Abu Ghraib,” Allison suggested.
“We need a conversation about women and war, about where women want to be,” she said, noting that conversation won’t happen until there are war resisters.
Now Jashinski has taken her stand. “She is showing remarkable courage,” Allison said.