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André Shepherd, Iraq War Resister, Applies for Asylum in Germany

Shepherd has been living underground in Germany for nearly two years; he applied for refugee status on the grounds that the Iraq War is illegal.

U.S. Army Specialist André Shepherd, who went AWOL after serving in Iraq, has applied for asylum in Germany. Shepherd refused military service because he is morally opposed to the Iraq War.

"It is a sickening feeling to realize that I took part in what was basically a daily slaughter of a proud people," said Shepherd at a press conference announcing his application for asylum. "I am remorseful for my contribution to these heinous acts, and I swear that I will never make these mistakes again."

Shepherd, who has been living underground in Germany for nearly two years, applied for refugee status on November 26th on the grounds that the Iraq War is illegal.

This makes Shepherd the first Iraq War Veteran to apply for refugee status in Europe. His case may have profound implications for the growing ranks of troops who are refusing to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Who is André Shepherd?

Shepherd did not set out in life intending to build a career in the military. He grew up in Cleveland, Ohio and went to school at Kent State University, where he studied computer science. He graduated in 2000 in the midst of the dot-com bubble burst, and he found himself unable to get a job in his field. Shepherd embarked on a litany of odd jobs to get by, including working fast food, stuffing envelopes, couriering, and selling vacuum cleaners. Yet it often wasn't enough to cover his basic living expenses.

In the summer of 2003, Shepherd ran into an army recruiter who told him of the army's benefits: free travel, healthcare, and free housing. "At the time, I was living in my car, so that sounded appealing," said Shepherd.

On January 27, 2004, Shepherd decided to join the army. "At that time, I didn't have the knowledge I have now. All I had was pretty much what the mass media was telling me and what the Bush Administration was saying on the mass media," said Shepherd.

Shepherd was trained in Apache helicopter repair and sent first to Achach Germany, then to Iraq, where he was stationed from September 2004 to February 2005.

"While I was in Iraq, the first thing I noticed was when the local population would come on our base. Usually when you liberate a people, they are overjoyed to see you, they are happy to see you, they would welcome you with open arms," said Shepherd. "When I would see the Iraqi population, they didn't look like they were in any way happy to see us. They looked like either they were afraid of me or if I turned my back without my weapon, they would probably want to kill me. That started me thinking."

Shepherd started talking to soldiers on his base and was shocked to learn that many did not understand why they were there and did not see any benefit. He began doing research and started seeing "inconsistencies between what the Bush Administration was saying and what was actually happening."

Eventually, Shepherd began analyzing his own contribution to a war that was making less and less sense to him. "My job appeared harmless until one factors in the amount of death and destruction those helicopters cause to civilians in Iraq," he said.

"Once I pretty much figured out the truth, that this war was nothing more than a fraud, not only on the American people but the entire world, I resolved within myself that I would no longer go on another deployment to Iraq," he said in an interview with Courage to Resist, one of the many U.S.-based organizations rallying support for him.

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