Shepherd, who enlisted in the military in 2004, served six months on a forward operating base near Tikrit. About the Iraqis, Shepherd says, "Some had the look of fear, while others looked outright angry and resentful. . . . I began to feel like a cruel oppressor who had destroyed the lives of these proud people.
"Our unit did a lot of good things, giving schools books and bringing clothes to children. These actions helped my conscience a bit, but I kept thinking to myself, 'Had we not invaded, would these people need this aid now?'"
Shepherd began researching the causes of the Iraq War, and the wider so-called War on Terror. Eventually, perhaps inevitably, he lost faith in the mission. He says: "Saddam Hussein was admittedly a dictator. However, he was not leading his country to produce any sort of weapon that could be used against the United States government and its citizens.
"When I asked my sergeant about this, he told me that many in the Army also had questions, but it was their duty to serve. That may be true, but signing up voluntarily does not mean I should stop thinking or having a conscience."
When the deployment ended, Shepherd's unit returned to Germany, and he began to investigate the options available to an US soldier who questions the morality of war. As we know, in practical terms, there are none.
After months of deliberations, on April 11, 2007, Shepherd packed his things went AWOL. It is believed he is the first US soldier to apply for asylum in any European nation.
You can read more about Shepherd's story and hear a 30-minute interview with him here.
Connection e.V. is the German peace group supporting Shepherd. They are appealing to all people of peace and conscience to help support their struggle. Here's the English-language version of a letter from them.
On Nov. 26, 2008, AWOL US soldier André Shepherd applied for asylum in Germany. His tour of duty in Iraq caused him to acknowledge that he could no longer take part in an illegal war which is contrary to the international laws of human rights.
Because he does not fit the American military regulations' definition of a conscientious objector, he decided to go Absent Without Leave and apply for asylum in Germany. In his application he pointed to the directive of the European Union, from October 2006. This directive protects persons who remove themselves from such wars or actions which are against human rights, and then must fear persecution.
In light of the potential outcomes for an AWOL American soldier, his decision is courageous. The United States and Germany have a long friendship with many military and economic ties. Criminal prosecution hangs over him, even after the election of the new U.S. President Barack Obama. In a similar case, U.S. military resister Robin Long was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment after his deportation out of Canada.
Currently, André Shepherd is waiting for the decision of the German Federal Office of Migration regarding his application for asylum. He needs political and financial support.
Through Connection e.V., you can sign an appeal to the German government, send a solidarity postcard to Shepherd and donate to his legal defense fund.
Many thanks to Courage To Resist, Military Counseling Network and Connection e.V. for their work on behalf of André Shepherd, and on behalf of all the soldiers who are choosing not to fight.