Kathryn Schulz is the author of the book Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error and writes a companion blog on Slate called The Wrong Stuff. Her interview with conscientious objector Josh Stieber ran last December.
My Country Right or Wrong: Conscientious Objector Josh Stieber on Being Wrong About the Military
By Kathryn Schulz
After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, a 13-year-old kid named Josh Stieber vowed that as soon as he was old enough, he would join the military. His goal: to help protect his country and spread its values of freedom and democracy around the world.
With the war still on when he graduated from high school, Stieber enlisted in 2006 and was deployed to Baghdad in 2007. A devout Christian and a staunch political conservative, Stieber became troubled by the gap between the values he was told the military embodied and those he experienced on the ground.
Partway through his deployment, he realized that his perspective had changed so drastically that he would rather go to prison than remain in the military. Instead, he learned about, applied for, and obtained Conscientious Objector status. (For more on conscientious objectors, see my interview with J.E. McNeil, head of the Center on Conscience and War.)
In the interview below, Stieber, who is now 22, spoke with me about how his expectations and his experiences of military life collided, what it feels when "everything you've defined yourself by has fallen apart," and how George W. Bush and Gandhi each played a pivotal role in shaping his military career.
Read the interview here.