The incendiary insider’s story of a progressive-thinking war resister versus America’s unforgiving “military machine.”
Mejía, 31, seems to have inherited his rebellious nature from his Nicaraguan parents, both active in the Sandinista political resistance. Raised as a “privileged child of the revolution” after the Sandinistas took power in 1979, he faced a xenophobic Costa Rican society when his mother relocated there in 1992. School days were lonely and rough, so he wasn’t sorry to move to Miami at age 18 when his grandmother, a naturalized citizen, got him permanent resident status. He enlisted in the Army at 19 because the military would pay his college tuition after three years of active duty. Fulfilling his remaining five-year commitment with the National Guard, he was told he would be sent to war only in the instance of a “devastating attack” on the United States. So it was a shock when the military deployed him to Iraq in 2003. Mejía’s curiously dialogue-driven account of the war often strains credibility and ultimately grows tedious, though there’s descriptive skill present in his eye-opening guided tour through military life. That life worsened over time. On duty in ar Ramadi (central Iraq), he found his service hobbled by poor management direction, sandstorms, ambushes, relentlessly gruesome bloodshed, internal power politics and the increasing absence of basic human compassion. After eight months as a sergeant, guiding his squad through deadly terrain on defensive frontlines, Mejía went underground in the U.S. rather than return from a two-week leave. He surfaced in March 2004 to publicly denounce the war in Iraq and announce that he now refused to serve there. He was court-martialed and sent to jail for a year in a highly publicized trial that remains unresolved today. Mejía recounts this alarming story with a sophisticated mix of brio and prudence, hoping to revolutionize the restrictive military regime that imprisoned him.
Timely, courageous and cautionary.