Tue. Jul 23rd, 2024

U.S. military members discuss seeking conscientious objector status over support of Israel in Gaza

By 37ci3 Jun21,2024


Death of a 6-year-old child Indian Rajab He drew international condemnation after coming under Israeli fire in Gaza in February – but active US military airman Larry Hebert Jr. for this incident hastened his decision to receive conscientious objector status. US Army.

“She’s almost like my daughter and it was something that was very hard to understand that all these kids have dreams and aspirations and lives that most of us live and want and to support what’s going on is completely unreasonable. In an interview with NBC News, Hebert said that he was working directly on the operation of the US arms sales to Israel.

Active duty U.S. military personnel Larry Hebert is wrapped in a keffiyeh with his daughter at his home in Rota, southern Spain, on Thursday.
Active duty U.S. military personnel Larry Hebert is wrapped in a keffiyeh with his daughter at his home in Rota, southern Spain, on Thursday.Laura Leon for NBC News

After witnessing the images of death and destruction in Gaza, senior US military official Juan Betancourt said he could no longer ignore the US government’s role in the war, including its arms supplies, diplomatic communications and intelligence.

“I see thousands of innocent civilians being slaughtered,” Bettencourt said in an interview in San Antonio, Texas, “while the whole world watches through their smartphones.”

A new phase in the long-running Israel-Hamas conflict began on October 7 last year when armed militants crossed the border from the Gaza Strip into Israel, a close US ally, and began a devastating massacre that left 1,200 dead. 240 collateral. Israel’s retaliatory military offensive has increased calls for a ceasefire increase in civilian population according to local authorities, it killed more than 37,000 Palestinians.

Hebert and Bettencourt, who enlisted six years ago and are stationed in Rota, Spain, are both in the U.S. Air Force and are now on the docket for being conscientious objectors over U.S. support for Israel. In Gaza. The servicemen made it clear that this was their personal opinion and chose not to appear in uniform when interviewed on NBC News’ “Nightly News” to emphasize that they were not speaking on behalf of the Air Force.

Hebert and Bettencourt, who joined the military in 2022, said the scale of the atrocities made them question their involvement in the military system, which they believe has helped perpetuate the high death toll. Both of them called Israel’s attack on Gaza “genocide” and said that not only them, but also many Americans are worried about the images from the region.

U.S. Air Force Airman Juan Bettancourt with a miniature Palestinian flag in San Antonio, Texas, on Thursday.
U.S. Air Force Airman Juan Bettancourt with a miniature Palestinian flag in San Antonio, Texas, on Thursday.Mosheh Wins / NBC News

Domestically, President Joe Biden has faced political pressure this week over Washington’s support for Israel rejects Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s accusation of “hiding weapons and ammunition” in recent months. There are also families of hostages taken by Hamas militants shared video their abduction.

But the proliferation of Gaza scenes on social media platforms has made it impossible to ignore the realities of war, Betancourt said.

He explained that witnessing the devastation up close was the “explosive factor” in his decision to conscientiously opt out of military service. He said that he is far from feeling these feelings alone.

Bettencourt's application for conscientious objector status is still pending.
Bettencourt’s application for conscientious objector status is still pending.Mosheh Wins / NBC News

“I hope that our leaders see that the war crimes that are taking place, the thousands of videos of crippled children that are coming into our phones, are changing the conscience of the American people, both inside and outside the military,” he said.

A turning point for Bettencourt was the death this year of 25-year-old US Airman Aaron Bushnell. he burned himself An open protest against the war was held in front of the Israeli embassy in Washington.

“It was a very desperate move,” he said. While Bushnell’s memorial did not mention the war or explain why the soldier immolated himself, Bettencourt said he felt obliged to “put a little Palestinian flag on his desk” in front of him.

Bettencourt’s application for conscientious objector status is still pending. But he said he could no longer honestly serve an administration he believed violated U.S. and international law.

It’s a time-consuming process, and he’s still packing six essays in which he had to explain and justify his beliefs. “From there, my leadership goes up to the secretary of the Air Force,” he explained. “So far, my management has been understanding and accepting of my conscience.”

Inquiries regarding conscientious objector status are handled by senior Pentagon officials. When granted, most service members receive an honorable or general discharge and can continue to receive their benefits. But requests are resolved individually.

The Air Force says it has acted on 36 conscientious objection requests since the start of 2021. 29 of these applications were granted.

U.S. military serviceman Larry Hebert, who lives with his family in the southern Spanish town of Rota, took the photo on Thursday.
U.S. military serviceman Larry Hebert, who lives with his family in the southern Spanish town of Rota, took the photo on Thursday.Laura Leon for NBC News

By coming forward, Bettencourt and Hebert said they hope to help shift U.S. policy away from wartime support for Israel.

“A particular value they try to instill in us is honesty,” Hebert said. “And the Air Force portrays us as doing the right thing when no one is watching. “For me, I think most of us are wrong while everyone else is watching.”



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