Snared by 'stop loss' program Reservist says, 'I won't fight for profit'

Carl Webb is very clear about what he is doing: "I'm refusing to go to war because I do not believe the U.S. is on the right track. I think this war is not about liberating people, it's about oppressing them. It's a war that's being fought for profit."

Webb is a 38-year-old African Amer ican antiwar activist from Austin, Texas. He is also a fugitive with a federal warrant out for his arrest—for refusing to participate in the war against the people of Iraq.

Webb, who is active with Austin Against War, has been involved in many anti-war and anti-racist activities over the past 10 years.

While it might seem unusual that someone with his activist background would end up in the military, Webb felt he had few other options. He said, "I didn't have a job, I was facing eviction from my home and I needed some extra cash. This was in August 2001 and I thought, 'We've invaded everyone we possibly can invade,' and it was relatively peaceful for the U.S."

His 3-year term of service was scheduled to end in August of 2004. Last July, he received a call from his sergeant. "She said she had bad news--I had been one of the soldiers selected to serve in Iraq. I was stunned and shocked."

Webb was a victim of the stop-loss program. This program, which made its first appearance in the Gulf War of the early 1990s, keeps soldiers scheduled for deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan from leaving when their term of service ends.

"This policy is practically an unofficial draft," he said. "It is conscription against a person's will."

Webb said he initially considered three options: complying, fleeing the country or applying for a conscientious objector discharge.

He realized that he could not comply--he had been opposed to U.S. militarism for many years and could not be part of the war against the people of Iraq.

Exile wasn't really an option for him, either. "I'm not considering exile. I've traveled, I lived in Mexico for like five months and I like it, and I've traveled to Europe and Asia. But all my family and friends are in the States, and I like this country."

Conscientious-objector status wasn't really an option either, Webb said, noting the Army's criteria that must be met--basically, opposition to all wars. "I'm not a pacifist. ... But I've always been politically opposed to U.S. militarism."

The only option left was for Webb to go AWOL, knowing that he would be facing possible jail time. "Prison is something that I never thought would be easy," Webb said, whose brother is in Angola prison in Louisiana for armed robbery. "It never sounded nice."

Still, he insisted that jail is "better than one and a half or two years in a combat zone and better than permanent exile."

Webb is now officially listed as a deserter. He said, "My case is different from some of the other soldiers who have deserted, either because they just don't want to go, or because they think these 'stop-loss' orders are illegal. I tell people that even if there was no stop-loss policy, even if the government wasn't illegally using the reserves and National Guard and retirees as they are, I would still be opposed to this war. I don't think it matters what category of service you're in--whether you're in the reserves, National Guard or the regular army--I think all military personnel should oppose fighting in this war of imperialism."

For more information about Carl Webb, see

By Dustin Langley Published Feb 13, 2005 4:20 PM

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