Andre Shepherd, 31, has become the first American soldier to seek asylum from the United States in Germany after deserting the US Army. He cited the atrocities and illegalities of the war in Iraq, as well as President Bush’s role in launching an invasion on the basis of “no legal grounds whatsoever.”
He said he had served willingly in 2004, but knowing what he does now, feels he cannot serve a second time. He was working as an Apache helicopter mechanic in Tikrit, but quit after witnessing the “mass of destruction” caused to Iraq by the military machine he was helping to maintain.
Germany was significant
Mr Shepherd said he chose to seek asylum in Germany for several reasons: he was stationed in Germany when he decided to desert and couldn’t find a way back to the US.
Germany was also significant, he said, for the historical context of the Nuremberg trials, which established the principle “that everyone, especially a soldier, is responsible for their own actions.”
Slanted US media
When asked why he joined the military in 2004, when the issue of the war’s illegality was already known, Mr Shepherd said:
“I struggled through life, twice I was homeless. I didn’t have access to the materials that I did when I was in Germany(…) when you look at the media in the United States, it’s completely different than what it is in Europe. It’s always slanted to make everything good, so you keep the war movement going.”
Mr Shepherd said it was the duty of all American citizens to stand up to put an out-of-control government back on the right path and that he didn’t see himself as a traitor.
On being asked about how his actions would strain relationships between Germany and the US, Mr Shepherd said that that was the price Washington had to pay for their follies of the last five years.
It is estimated that around 25,000 Americans have deserted since the war began. Mr Shepherd is aware of the sensitive nature of his case. He says other asylum seekers can expect a hearing after two weeks, but his documents don’t give a firm date. “Hearing date: to be decided,” they say.
For more information: radionetherlands.nl