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US soldier disputing Iraq war legality pleads guilty to AWOL charge

[JURIST] US Army Sergeant Ricky Clousing [advocacy website; JURIST news archive], a paratrooper and interpreter who disputed the legality of the war in Iraq [JURIST news archive], has pleaded guilty to going absent without leave for 14 months. A court-martial [JURIST report] in Fort Bragg, NC, on Thursday sentenced Clousing to 11 months' confinement, with all but three months suspended, under a plea agreement that allowed him to avoid a finding of desertion. Clousing abandoned his post at Fort Bragg after reporting abuses committed by fellow soldiers during his five-month stint in Iraq, including the killing of an unarmed Iraqi teenager and the sideswiping of Iraqi civilian vehicles with a military transport. The military disciplined the soldiers implicated in the sideswiping but found that those involved in the shooting acted properly because they could have considered the teenager a threat.

Clousing, a born-again Christian, consulted his superiors, a staff psychologist, a base chaplain, an anti-war hotline, and friends before deciding to go AWOL, but he refused to request conscientious objector status [Selective Service backgrounder] or to claim he was insane or homosexual, as the psychologist allegedly suggested, to receive a discharge. After 14 months AWOL, Clousing turned himself in [JURIST report] at Fort Lewis, WA. In addition to the confinement [AP report], the military will demote Clousing, withhold two-thirds of his compensation and discharge him after the confinement period. The New York Times has more.

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