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Archival Post from Nov 8, 2004 – Press release-Lawton Peace Vigils for Camilo Mejia

This post was created on Feb 8, 2017 to archive the following press release. (Susan Lee was a key volunteer/board member of CCA during this time period).

From: http://web.archive.org/web/20050210101121/http://vitw.org/archives/628

Oklahoma City Contacts:
Nathaniel Batchelder, The Peace House: 405-524-5577
Susan Lee, organizer/activist: ……. © 405-245-1778

“Voices In The Wilderness” Contacts In Lawton:
Kathy Kelly: ……… © 773-619-2418
Steve Kelly: ……… © 877-685-5573

Americans who have served in Iraq as peace witnesses are in Lawton this week to honor and celebrate what they call a courageous stance by Iraq War veteran Camilo Mejia. Mejia served in Iraq with his National Guard Army unit, but, when called to return for a second tour, he refused. Mejia explained that he had seen and even participated in prisoner abuse in Iraq, and had seen civilians killed by mistake. Because of this, Mejia has applied for “Conscientious Objector” status while serving a one-year sentence at Fort Sill’s incarceration unit for refusing to obey orders.

Camilo Mejia’s supporters in Lawton this week have all been to Iraq numerous times with their organization: “Voices in the Wilderness.” Founder of the group Kathy Kelly was in Baghdad when the bombing began and has participated in more than 20 peace delegations. “Americans in the military risk their lives, so why shouldn’t activists for peace?,” Kelly asked, explaining the group’s motivation.

Bert Sacks has come from Seattle, WA. “We are not against anyone in the military serving in time of war,” said Sacks. “Rather, we hope by our peace witness to raise questions to America’s decision-makers about the war policy. We hope they will change the policy and bring our soldiers home.”

Farah Marie from Pennsylvania is 21 years old, and has been on peace delegations to Iraq since she was 19. “So many people my age enter the military to see the world and get financial assistance for college. We must find ways for young people to serve their country, build community, and relieve suffering in the world without killing people and destroying things,” she said.

Nathaniel Batchelder of the Peace House in Oklahoma City said his organization welcomed the national folks to Oklahoma. “They participated in our peace walk on Sunday afternoon and a presentation in a local church on Sunday evening,” he said. “Their testimony about people in Iraq and soldiers they have met remind us how complex and confusing war is.”

Opponents say the war is bad for America. “We think more terrorists are being created in Iraq than can be killed,” said Batchelder. He said the recent issue of the New England Journal of Medicine carried a study estimating that 100.000 Iraqis have been killed in the current war. “It seems the majority killed are bystanders shot or bombed by mistake,” Batchelder said. “Some children in Iraq now say they dream of becoming fighter pilots when they grow up and bombing America,” he said.

“American soldiers in Iraq face many of the same challenges we did in Vietnam,” said Batchelder, a Vietnam vet. “There is no way to distinguish local guerilla fighters from harmless civilians, and the result is death on both sides,” he said. Like Vietnam, the Iraq war is bleeding the US financially because of the distances involved. The distance and complications mean the US must spend 100 times as much as those supporting the Iraqi resistance,” he said.

Websites:
Voices in the Wildernesss — www.vitw.org
Free Camilo Mejia — www.freecamilo.org

“Voices In The Wilderness” Contacts In Lawton:
Kathy Kelly: …… © 773-619-2418
Steve Kelly: …… © 877-685-5573

Oklahoma City Liaisons:
Nathaniel Batchelder, The Peace House: 405-524-5577
Susan Lee, organizer/activist: ………. © 405-245-1778

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CCA Legal Director