What I would like to know is when the US military, for the first time in history, accepted the concept of "selective conscientious objection." Up until now the only person eligible for conscientious objector status in the United States is the person who takes the position that all killing in war goes against his conscience. He must prove that this is a longstanding and absolute rejection of war in its totality. Amish, Mennonites, Quakers, and others who take a totally pacifist position have been given this status on the assumption that there will never be a significantly large enough number of such people to affect the ability of the nation to defend itself. So respecting their conscience is a humane luxury the state can afford.
On Wednesday, Private First Class Naser Jason Abdo was arrested and found with a large quantity of weapons and explosives materials. The incident is a classic example of al-taqiyya, the Islamic doctrine of lying to non-believers. He publicly opposed the 2009 Fort Hood shooting, and now has admitted to planning on doing a similar attack on the same target.
Abdo converted to Islam at age 17, and is described by his peers as being “kind of weird” and a loner. He joined the military, and became part of the 101st Airborne Division based at Fort Campbell in Kentucky. In June 2010, he tried to avoid being deployed to Afghanistan by applying for conscientious objector status. Major media attention followed.
“I began to understand and believe that only God can give legitimacy to war and not humankind. That’s when I realized my conscience would not allow me to deploy,” he wrote in an essay about his application. He also said in an interview that he cannot “involve myself in an army that wages war against Muslims. I don’t believe I could sleep at night if I take part, in any way, in the killing of a Muslim.” He also expressed his opposition to the Fort Hood shooting, saying it was “an act of aggression by a man and not by Islam.”
His request was denied at first, but then approved in the spring. However, things still didn’t go as planned for Abdo. His discharge from service was delayed after child pornography was found on his computer. It has now come out that the material was found after an investigation began when he made anti-American remarks in a language class. This is reminiscent of Major Nidal Hasan, who also made statements exposing his extremism in front of classmates before carrying out his attack and supported releasing Muslims from service as conscientious objectors.
But soldiers, especially those who signed up voluntarily, who refuse to fight in one war or battle while acknowledging that they would fight under other conditions have always been dealt with harshly. It is sometimes execution (if it occurs on the battlefield), usually prison and just possibly, in the most lenient cases, dishonorable discharge. To volunteer to join the army is to give up one's right to decide which wars and battles one is going to fight in - for reasons too obvious to require elaboration.
The refusal to fight other Muslims should be a huge red flashing light for military authorities. A pattern is being established - we are now beyond the one, isolated case. A question for legitimate debate now is whether having Muslims in the armed forces is too much of a risk in a time of war against a Muslim enemy. Nobody has a civil right to be a member of the military. You have to qualify.
One also has to wonder where the order to give Abdo conscientious objector status came from. My guess would be that it was not a career military officer, but a political appointee of the Obama administration. I wonder if anyone will look into this question.