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Soldier Who Didn’t Obey Is Jailed

by James C. McKinley Jr.

HOUSTON — A soldier at Fort Hood who fought his deployment to Afghanistan and stopped obeying orders was sentenced to a month in jail and demoted to private in a military court on Wednesday morning.

Victor Agosto was demoted to private and sentenced to 30 days in jail for disobeying orders. (Associated Press file) Victor Agosto, a 24-year-old signalman with the III Corps, ripped a patch showing his specialist rank off his uniform after an emotional hearing in front of an Army captain in which he had told the court he believed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan violated international law, his lawyer, James M. Branum, said. Later, about 20 antiwar protesters cheered Private Agosto as he was taken to jail, the lawyer said.

“He’s not opposed to all wars; he is opposed to this war, because it is not a war of self-defense,” Mr. Branum said.

Under a plea agreement, Private Agosto will be discharged after he serves his time in jail in Belton, Tex., Mr. Branum said.

Col. Benton Danner, a spokesman for Fort Hood, said Private Agosto technically never refused an order to go overseas. Rather, in May, he refused to report to an office that takes care of the paperwork for overseas deployment, a relatively minor offense. Refusing an order to deploy or deserting during a battle carry much stiffer penalties, he said.

Private Agosto said he lost faith in the war efforts abroad after returning in late 2007 from a 13-month stint in Iraq, in which he worked with computers and saw no combat.

“I realized that the war in Iraq had nothing to do with making Americans safer,” he told The Associated Press in an interview this week. “After I got back, I started feeling guilty about my part in the occupation.”

This year, the Army informed him he would not be discharged in June as he had expected but would be deployed to Afghanistan. He stopped obeying orders then and was assigned to pulling weeds and sweeping up. He also became active in local antiwar protests.

Mr. Branum said Private Agosto’s stand against the wars was unusual in that he informed his superiors of his objections. Other soldiers who disagree with the wars simply break Army regulations to be discharged.
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