Updated: Naser Abdo, who now sullies the name of dissent.

This came up on a Google Image search for "conscientious objector." BIG problem.

I wasn’t the only one sunk when we read through this piece about the guy who almost tried another Fort Hood massacre.  Because he was AWOL, and one of us – someone who could have been me – helped him fill out a conscientious-objector application:

Like the soldier charged with killing 13 people in the shootings, Abdo is Muslim, but he said in an essay obtained by The Associated Press the attacks ran against his beliefs and were “an act of aggression by a man and not by Islam.”

Abdo was approved as a conscientious objector this year, but that status was put on hold after he was charged with possessing child pornography. He went absent without leave from Fort Campbell, Ky., during the July 4 weekend.

On July 3, he tried to purchase a gun at a store near the Kentucky post, according to the company that owns the store. Abdo told an AP reporter a week later that he was concerned about his safety and had considered purchasing a gun for protection, but had not yet done so.

I won’t comment on the child-porn charge except for a heavy sigh. But the rest sent me scurrying to my book, to make sure he wasn’t in it. And as a Muslim, he sullies the name of Muslim dissenters, too – like one guy who is, and who was one of the first:

At the very first wave in February Ghanim Khalil, a young Marine who had already served for four years at the Parris Island supply depot, had found his way to the podium among the 500,000 crammed into the New York City demo to shout that he would resist all efforts to deploy him. After he said his piece, Khalil received a warm hug from David Cline, formerly of the Vietnam-era Oleo Strut, who’d retired from 20 years at the post office and become the full-time President of Veterans for Peace.

The case raises far more pressing issues than my book, of course. GI counselors everywhere are wondering if they could have misjudged someone like Abdo, thinking he might be another dissenter of integrity like Ghanim Khalil.  In one Facebook discussion, Gulf War vet Jeff Paterson, said what most of us feel: “I would rather err occasionally on misreading someone’s future intent than to not help someene who needs it.” Still, it’s hard not to feel  betrayed, and many expressed that in that same discussion.

The mission of the advocates is, of course, somewhat different from mine, and yet the same: to see clearly and tell it with conviction. To the extent that Pfc. Abdo’s actions make it harder for anyone trying that for themselves or someone they know, it hurts us all. I think we need to offer the alternative vision.

Update: Iraq Veterans Against the War has issued a statement about Abdo, which I’m reproducing below. It’s going to take all of us to push back against people’s preconceptions.

Abdo is not now and has never been a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War.

In August 2010, IVAW supported his application for Conscientious Objector status to reflect our commitment to protecting G.I. Rights for all service members and access to a fair C.O. application process in accordance with Army Regulation 600-43 andDoD Directive 1300.06. In October, IVAW publicized a statement by Abdo condemning Islamophobia. Finally, in November 2010, Abdo offered his support at Ft. Campbell to SPC Jeff Hanks, whose own battle with combat-related trauma earned him the support of IVAW’s Operation Recovery Campaign.

IVAW has not been in contact with Naser Abdo since that time.

As we await additional information on the details of Abdo’s arrest, IVAW reiterates its commitment to non-violence, as outlined in our 2009 Resolution on Non-Violent and Peaceful Actions. Per the organization’s mission, IVAW supports the health and safety of all American troops, and never condones the threat or use of violence against military or civilian establishments or individuals.

Operation Recovery’s Oleo Strut

About a year ago, Iraq Veterans Against the Wars began a campaign that sounded almost conservative: Operation Recovery, against the deployment of traumatized troops. The celebrated Camilo Mejia, when he and I talked in Philadelphia, was skeptical : “Sounds like the VFW.”

Actually, it’s a sign that IVAW gets it, in a very deep way.

Photo: New York Times

By “it” I mean the confluence of dissent-ingredients I’ve been tracking in my book, most especially the multifaceted effects of combat trauma. This week, a team at Fort Hood in Texas reported on what they saw:

–       We listen to the Military Police Sergeant talk about her soldier that is only 21 years old and after one deployment just can’t function any longer. He needs help and treatment, and their commander makes his every attempt to get help harder as opposed to easier.

–       We listen to the Medic Sergeant talk about the number of suicides and attempted suicides that no one is talking about.

–       We listen to the soldier on extra duty talk about being shot on his third deployment, needing to take pain relievers, running out of pills, taking his wife’s pills to get through the day, and then getting courtmartialed for taking the wrong medication.

–       We listen to the soldiers talk about their non-commissioned officers that are shaken and struggling with anxiety and memories but are gearing up to deploy again.

All of the above is often greeted with “Suck it up and drive on,” at least in the Army. To insist that the Pentagon do otherwise is actually quite a sucker punch to the machine that relies on obedience to that one instruction.

My friend Luis Carlos Montalvan, told TIME Magazine (published this week): “There are 18 suicides a day among veterans. I’d do anything to help prevent that tragedy.” We all know now that the numbers for active-duty guys are just as troubling. Luis and his amazing book (buy it!) are on a mission of essential if non-controversial service. Op Recovery, as I said to Camilo, is just as essential and potentially revolutionary. Dave Cline, founder of the Vietnam-era Oleo Strut, would have been proud of them.