This story has been updated. Please scroll down for the latest.
Last night an Army private was apprehended last night near Fort Hood, Texas, allegedly in possession of bombmaking materials. Early reports say Pvt. Nasser Abdo, a Muslim-American, was slated for discharge as a conscientious objector (CO). But his separation was held up because of child pornography charges, and he’d gone AWOL from his base in Kentucky. He appears to be the same soldier interviewed by Headline News in this clip:
And according to a right-wing military blog, Abdo also may have connections to a prominent antiwar advocacy group. John Lilyea of This Ain’t Hell says he’s written about Abdo before as well as an attorney connected with Iraq Veterans Against the War who worked with Abdo on his bid for CO status, which included a now-defunct fundraising website, Freenasserabdo.org. (The video above was posted by a YouTube user freenasserabdo.)
Additionally, IVAW appears to have featured Abdo on its website and used his writing about about Islamophobia in the military in a press release. One commenter on This Aint Hell has identified himself as an IVAW member who “read Abdo’s statement” at a public event put on by the antiwar group. “I have never met him and don’t know him,” the commenter—who calls himself Army Sergeant—writes. “I don’t remember how the statement came to us. He is not an IVAW member, and I did not know him—he was at that point just a random Muslim CO. Maybe there’s a good lesson there not to promote people you don’t actually know, and I’ll be thinking about that one.”
The full story isn’t clear yet. The “bombmaking devices” Abdo possessed apparently amount to “firearms and smokeless powder,” which aren’t all that uncommon among folks in Texas (no, seriously). And This Ain’t Hell certainly has an axe to grind when it comes to Muslims, the military, and antiwar groups. Nevertheless, if Abdo had bad intentions, the pacifist left will likely be the subject of some serious attacks from the right. Or perhaps even Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.).
UPDATE, 5 P.M. EDT, JULY 28: CNN reports that Abdo, who hails from Texas, told arresting officers last night that he wanted to stage an attack against US troops at Fort Hood. The tip about his whereabouts came to authorities from Guns Galore, the Killeen, Texas, shop where he purchased ammunition and six one-pound cans of smokeless gunpowder…and where Maj. Nidal Hasan also purchased the weaponry he used to kill 13 soldiers at Fort Hood in 2009. The information was provided to CNN by the office of Rep. John Carter (R-Texas), the conservative chairman of the House Army Caucus.
A profile of Abdo on the antiwar site CourageToResist.com says he became a conscientious objector after “I studied Islam and Islam’s commitment to peace, [and] I developed an entirely new perspective on war and conscience”:
Speaking out as a Muslim, Abdo is against war and has been working with nonviolent antiwar organizations including the War Resisters League and Quaker House in Fayetteville, NC on building public support for his objection to war on the grounds of Islam.
Several Muslim-American organizations in the U.S., such as the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation, have been key supporters of Pfc. Abdo’s claim for Conscientious Objector status based on the principles of Islam…
In the story, Abdo also gave this account of experiences in uniform:
In the U.S. military, Pfc. Abdo experienced a great deal of harassment and discrimination from his fellow servicemembers: “Early in basic training… one soldier repeatedly insulted me and Islam saying, ‘Go pray to your god that doesn’t exist or your pedophile prophet.’…During the training cycle I persistently reassured my comrades that my religion did not make me an enemy of theirs or an enemy of the state. The climax of this harassment occurred when my comrades all made a concerted effort to get me an unwanted discharge because I was not welcome in their ranks.”
Mother Jones is awaiting comment from Iraq Veterans Against the War.
UPDATE 2, 5:20 P.M. EDT, JULY 28: Jose Vasquez, the executive director of Iraq Veterans Against the War, tells Mother Jones that the group “had contact with Abdo three times, and he’s not a member and never has been.” After being introduced to Abdo’s story by Courage to Resist, IVAW linked a CNN story about him on its website and read a statement of his about Islamophobia at an event last October, and he appeared at an IVAW function on Fort Campbell, Ky., to support the CO status of another soldier. “If these allegations are true, this is pretty much the opposite of being a conscientious objector. Any move toward violence is against what all conscientious objectors stand for,” Vasquez said. He added that the group is committed to nonviolence and has said so in a resolution, which is linked on the IVAW website in a new statement on the Abdo arrest.
Vasquez acknowledged that the arrest might drive conservatives to place greater scrutiny on the anti-war organization. “No matter what we say, whether we have been combat veterans or not, there’s going to be folks that are just opposed to us on principle,” he said.