Synopses & Reviews
The inspiring story of the nationally known soldier who fought in Iraq and was brave enough to face jail rather than return to fight again.
As the American occupation of Iraq continues with no end in sight, Camilo Mejía has become a nationally recognized voice in the ever-growing peace movement. After serving in the Army for nearly nine years, he was the first-known Iraq veteran to refuse to fight, citing moral concerns about the war and occupation. His principled stand helped to rally the growing opposition and embolden his fellow soldiers. Despite widespread public support and an all-star legal team, Mejía was eventually convicted of desertion by a military court and sentenced to a year in prison, prompting Amnesty International to declare him a prisoner of conscience.
Since his release, the celebrated soldier-turned-pacifist has traveled around the country and the world to speak against the war. Now he tells his own story, from his upbringing in Central America and his experience as a working-class immigrant in the United States to his service in Iraqwhere he witnessed prisoner abuse and was deployed in the Sunni triangleand time in prison. Far from being an accidental activist, Mejía was raised by prominent Sandinista revolutionaries and draws inspiration from Jesuit teachings. In this stirring book, he argues passionately for human rights and the end to an unjust war.
"Meja, a veteran of the Iraq conflict, became an antiwar hero when he refused to return to his unit and was court-martialed in 2004 for desertion. His memoir is a blend of compelling war narrative and dubious soapboxing. Meja's claim to conscientious objector status, after eight years in the U.S. military, months of combat and a long campaign for a discharge, rings rather hollow. The son of prominent Nicaraguan Sandinistas, he takes a view of the insurgents' 'fight for self-determination' that seems nave ('[t]here seemed to be a unity that spread through the differences among Iraqis') and his prose is laced with clunky rhetoric about 'the imperial dragon that devours its own soldiers and Iraqi civilians alike for the sake of profit.' Most powerful are his firsthand experiences of prisoner abuse, senseless patrols that invite insurgent attacks, discord among his demoralized comrades and their careerist officers, and the constant brutalization of Iraqis by paranoid, trigger-happy GIs. (In one incident, an irate soldier arrests an eight-year-old rock thrower, who is then beaten by a local man desperate to appease the vengeful Americans.) Those stories add up to an indelible portrait of the dirty war in the Sunni triangle and Meja's painful confrontation with his immoral complicity in it. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Staff Sgt. Mejia became the new face of the antiwar movement in early 2004 when he applied for a discharge from the Army as a conscientious objector. After serving in the Army for nearly nine years, he was the first known Iraq veteran to refuse to fight. He was eventually convicted of desertion by a military court and sentenced to a year in prison.
About the Author
Camilo Mejía grew up in Nicaragua and Costa Rica before moving to the United States in 1994. He joined the military at age nineteen, serving as an infantryman in the active-duty Army for three years before transferring to the Florida National Guard. He fought in Iraq for five months. He currently lives in Miami.