WASHINGTON — A former Army journalist recalled to active duty this month refused to report to his new assignment Sunday night, citing his opposition to the Iraq war.
Matthis Chiroux, who served five years in the Army before separating last summer, said he expects and welcomes legal action resulting from his refusal, calling U.S. operations in Iraq an illegal occupation.
"I don’t feel like I’m doing anything illegal at all," he said. "We basically have no cause for military presence in Iraq.
"I’m making this decision because I believe my first loyalty is to the higher ideals of this country, which are being blatantly violated by our leaders."
Army officials said he faces charges of failure to report and desertion for the move, although no legal action has been taken yet.
He was scheduled to report to Task Force Marshall at Fort Jackson, S.C., by Sunday but instead held a news conference in the nation’s capitol to confirm his intentions not to return to the Army.
Chiroux, a sergeant, served overseas at several posts during his enlistment but spent only six days in Afghanistan and none in Iraq.
Since last August he has been attending college and working with Iraq Veterans Against the War but was recalled from the Individual Ready Reserve pool this year.
Two years ago, 1st Lt. Ehren Watada refused to deploy to Iraq with his unit, citing similar opposition to the war and was court-martialed. But a court case against him ended in a mistrial, and charges against him are still pending.
Several other active-duty members of Iraq Veterans Against the War have promised to leave the service or refuse to deploy if sent to Iraq, and last month they protested on Capitol Hill to highlight what they called an unjust occupation of Iraq. Chiroux said he is confident that a reasonable court would not find him guilty of any wrongdoing.
"It’s not about what job I’d do," he said. "Any order to deploy there is unlawful."