Army deserter seeks asylum in Germany over Iraq

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – A U.S. soldier who deserted his unit to avoid returning to Iraq has applied for asylum in Germany, saying the Iraq war was illegal and that he could not support the “heinous acts” taking place.

Andre Shepherd, 31, who served in Iraq between September 2004 and February 2005 as an Apache helicopter mechanic in the 412th Aviation Support Battalion, has been living in Germany since deserting last year.

“When I read and heard about people being ripped to shreds from machine guns or being blown to bits by the Hellfire missiles I began to feel ashamed about what I was doing,” Shepherd told a Frankfurt news conference Thursday.

“I could not in good conscience continue to serve.”

He was there for six months. In an aviation support battalion. Now, Murdoc has never even been to Iraq once, but helicopter mechanics aren’t exactly in combat every day.

The specialist was posted to Germany in 2005 where he undertook desk jobs, but he gradually began questioning the justification for the Iraq war and began worrying he would be sent back to serve there, said Huber.

“That’s when he went AWOL,” he added.

So he wasn’t even actually scheduled to go back. Went AWOL just in case.

Where do we find such men?


  1. I’m sorry, but I have a hard time respecting this person’s choice to leave his unit in harm’s way while he ran off to Germany. If he chooses to file a CO request, that’s fine. I don’t have a problem with that, but going AWOL and then doing it? That isn’t right. The army let’s you know up front that you may be involved in activities where people get killed. If you don’t want to be part of that, don’t take the coin and THEN get squeamish. MC-network, is that part of MCC? I grew up in a mennonite church, and my dad was a CO during the Vietnam Era, but he still did 1w service rather than be part of the military. Nothing wrong with that, and I respect him for standing by his convictions. What I don’t get is those that stand up, swear the oath, and then back out. It’s a VOLUNTEER army. If you’re just doing it for the bennies, you need to stay out.

  2. Chad,

    Concur. I have no problem with anyone who is a genuine CO. I have known several in my life and found them to be above board, and willing to do alternate service if needs be.

    However, this idiot is no different than any of the “winter soldier” or “ivaw” crew. They have an agenda and are willing to do or say whatever it takes in order to accomplish it.

    This guy likely had a little honey in Germany and didn’t want to leave it behind. Now he’s found some willing supporters in the anti-war clueless crowd and is spewing out their talking points in order to try and save his @ss.

  3. Among the battery of tests, interviews, and questionaires we all go through to enlist, I recall being asked very specifically (and likely more than once) whether or not I was a CO.

    I had ample opportunity to say I wouldn’t fight if called upon, and for that matter had ample opportunity to say “not interested” the first time the recruiter called me.

  4. If I was a CO…why the hell am I in ROTC?

    Seriously? Guy should’ve left the service before he did this.

  5. Why does this even make the news? I guess we need to show both sides of the coin every so often. But to me it seems as relevant to others as myself deciding to walk out of the office I work at! Then it makes headline news.

    This is in no way a negative in your direction Murdoc… I like the discussions on this site… I’m simply moaning about Reuters! I don’t look forward to the day when I can look up the personal lives of the worlds average Joes on Reuters.

    p.s. I do also agree with the comments on this guy being silly for joining in the first place!

  6. “p.s. I do also agree with the comments on this guy being silly for joining in the first place!”

    I cringe everytime I read such a response to a soldier leaving/quiting/deserting the military. Answer me this…is he any different than the 100+ or so soldiers who commit suicide per year in order to get out of the military? Is he any different than the 5,000 Army soldiers who desert per year?

    Why is it that some people are so stuck on asking “if he didn’t want to kill why did he join in the first place?” That’s like asking, “If he/she didn’t want children why did they have sex in the first place?” Or, “if he/she/the country didn’t want to go bankrupt why did they spend money they didn’t have in the first place?” Why is this commitment to be a soldier so much more “sacred” and “unbreakable” than, say, a commitment to stay married to the same person until you die?

    The only thing “voluntary” about today’s military is your initial act of signing a contract that is not actually a contract. you are “volunteering” to sacrifice your civilian life for a life in the military. Sometimes your life is not the only valuable thing you lose as a result of enlisting. Is it not honorable to admit you no longer want to participate in the killing of another? why are we not celebrating anyone who has decided not to kill? There are hundreds of jobs and thousands of places to serve in the military where you are in no danger of killing or being killed. But that does NOT excuse you from taking the responsibility of what your war does to others when you bring it to them.

    Individual reasons for joining the military are varied and valid for each individual at the time of enlistment. I would safely bet that most join for their own self-interest. College? $40,000 bonus? Job security? Serving the country? Fun? Travel? Adventure? The same goes for your individual reasons for marrying. But marriage doesnt mean you’ll have sex every day, your wife will always bring you a beer and the paper, and your kids will love you and obey until they’re 21. Being a soldier is entirely a different world and a different culture. Even if you have loved ones in the military or if you’re a military brat you still dont have much of a clue of what it means until you’re in uniform. And, even then, it sometimes doesnt register. Being a soldier doesnt mean you’re protecting your country, serving your country or doing good. You might assign that value but, in the end, it’s all BS. Being a soldier means trying to stay alive while attempting to close in and kill the enemy. You can read and digest that description all you want but it’s only an intellectual exercise until you are actually holding a loaded weapon, or loading bombs and bullets on a helicopter, and are faced with carrying the burden of what that ordnance does to human flesh.

    For those who have changed their mind about being soldiers, and, yes, it is not only legal but honorable to do so, the reality of the military culture is that YOU CANNOT QUIT. So, yes there are reams of regulations for hardship, conscientious objection, etc. HOWEVER, in military culture, like in Vegas, the house holds all the cards and your chance of getting out successfully, for any valid reason, is slim to none.

  7. Marc,
    Your second paragraph makes me wonder, how would you define the concept of “personal responsibility?”

  8. TrustButVerify: Good question. “Personal responsibility” as a concept is wonderful. Like the concept of “world peace”. Something to reach for but heavily dependent upon who is doing the reaching. Responsible to who? If the “government” is ordering me to go to war as a soldier but, for whatever reason, I realize/learn/discover that I can no longer participate in the death and destruction then am I to ignore my conscience and follow orders no matter what? There are some folks who may take that route. Others will choose differently.

    Just as in marriage. If you are on the receiving end of spousal emotional/physical abuse that will not/can not stop, what is your personal responsibility? If you lose your job and can no longer pay your medical bills do you spend your life to pay it all back or do you declare bankruptcy? What is your responsibility?

    Taking a life, being responsible for the death of another human, is a BIG deal. It’s HUGE. So any action or behavior that may result in death or destruction must be taken extremely seriously. I will agree that some individuals believe “taking an oath” and “signing a contract” are much higher responsibilities than taking a life.

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