May 25, 2012: Act of Conscience: Why I Threw Back My 'Global War on Terror' Medal by Shawna Foster
"I was a Nuclear Biological Chemical Weapons Specialist for a war
that didn't have any Weapons of Mass Destruction! So I deserted. I'm one
of the 40,000 people that left the United States Armed Forces because
this is a lie!
Those were the words I screamed into a microphone before thousands of people as I threw my Global War On Terror Service
medal back to NATO. I had to throw it because no one from NATO came out
to get it, and the police wouldn't allow us up to the barricade. Their
fear of us -- US war veterans who challenge ten years of US war-making
and publicly advocate for peace -- is symbolic of their fear to confront
I threw my medal back, though, in fact, I never deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan.
How was I even awarded this medal? Any service member who served in
active duty after 9/11 was awarded this medal for NATO's Global War on
Terror. Why? If you didn't know it, terrorists are everywhere, anywhere,
and can strike at any time. Even in Omaha, Nebraska, where I waited to
be deployed. Terrorists could have been there and so I was awarded this
I threw back my medal because there is no 'global
war on terror'. For that to be true, I'd have to be afraid. But, I am
not afraid and I reject the peddling of fear that our leaders and media
have fostered for more than ten years. When our nation becomes afraid,
we are forced to do things we would rather not - like spend trillions of
dollars on endless wars. Tragically, more than three thousand innocent
people were killed on 9/11 at the hands of criminals and political
terrorists. In response, our national leaders fabricated a war of lies
that led to the death of thousands of US service members. We've been
responsible for the death of 33,000 civilians living in Afghanistan.
Tragedy beget massacres when we responded with fear and military might.
And after 9/11, fear came to rule as true courage was sidelined.
I am not afraid anymore. I do not believe in the 'global war on terror'.
I will not be made a coward by my government to hurt other people
because I have been hurt. Instead, I will stand up as a United States
citizen and disobey unlawful orders to perpetuate war. Ben Franklin once
inferred that those 'who sacrifice liberty for security, deserve
neither.' I agree. The United States has not "won" a war since War World
II - instead, its imperial interests and rush to war have only bred
international scorn. We go to war zones and the weapons often aimed at
us are the ones we sold our "enemies" in the last war. If the United
States truly wants to protect its people, it should courageously
emphasize peace, not exploit the NATO mandate to justify unilateral
Take your medals back NATO. Do the right thing. Disband the outdated
military alliance and form a new coalition that fosters peace, not war.
Adjust to a world beyond the Cold War and stop using 'terrorism' as an
excuse to perpetuate endless wars and ever-growing military
expenditures. Brokerage of peace is a more potent weapon against
militant extremists than occupations and standing armies. NATO, you have
made the problem worse, and I refuse to be a part of it.
As one who has rejected this false military campaign, I dare you to do
the same. I dare you to be brave enough to hold yourself to account. I
dare you to do the right thing: build a path towards peace and lead us
away from war. I dare you to take my medal back.
Shawna Foster is a veteran of the US National Guard where she served
as a Nuclear Biological Chemical Weapons Specialist. She now organizes
with Iraq Veterans Against The War.