A Marine lance corporal who said he had an aversion to killing and participating in war must be released from the military as a conscientious objector, a federal judge ruled.I have to admit that I have mixed feelings about this story. The fact that Zabala's Drill Instructor thought that he had the right to engage in a profanity-laden diatribe against a dead recruit in front of a literally captive audience is appalling. The display of the "motivational clip" set to heavy metal music is equally appalling; it is an attempt to engender an emotional frenzy rather than develop the calm and professional demeanor that is the hallmark of the Corps.
The Marine Corps Reserves must discharge Robert Zabala, 23, by mid-April, under the ruling.
Zabala said he was troubled during boot camp in 2003 when a fellow recruit committed suicide and a superior used profanities to belittle the recruit. Zabala said he was "abhorred by the blood lust (the superior) seemed to possess," according to a 2006 court petition for conscientious-objector status.
Another boot camp instructor showed recruits a "motivational clip" showing Iraqi corpses, explosions, gun fights and rockets set to a heavy metal song that included the lyrics, "Let the bodies hit the floor," the petition said. Zabala said he cried, while other recruits nodded their heads in time with the beat.
"The sanctity of life that formed the moral center of petitioner's life was being challenged," his attorney, Stephen Collier, wrote in a court filing.
U.S. District Judge James Ware, who served 13 years in the Army Reserves, said he was convinced of Zabala's sincerity about his struggles to "reconcile the demands of duty with the demands of conscience."
Zabala, a student at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who followed some Buddhist-related traditions, was previously denied conscientious-objector status after applying in 2004, court records show.
At the same time, I think Zabala misses the forest for the trees. If you value your life, you must confront those who seek to take that life from you; the Marines are simply America's premiere institution dedicated to this principle. And while individual Marine leaders may do things that one may rightfully find appalling, the institution itself serves a clear moral purpose. Zabala says that "the sanctity of life" is his moral center, yet he ultimately blanches at what the Marines must do to protect that sanctity.
At the most fundamental, the enemy lives by a death code and we do not. In the face of this truth Zabala has elected to become a pacifist. He has taken a stand that if practiced by all in the West would allow evil to win without so much as a fight. Of all the evils presented in this story, it is this one that I find to be the most vicious.