Judge Orders Discharge of Conscientious Objector from the Marines

On March 29, United States District Court Judge James Ware of San Jose, CA, ordered the discharge of Bay Area reservist Robert Zabala from the Marines as a conscientious objector. Zabala brought suit in Federal Court seeking a discharge after the Marines had refused to grant his application for discharge as a conscientious objector to war. The court ordered that Zabala be discharged in 15 days.

Zabala applied for discharge on the basis of conscientious objection and was recommended for discharge by everyone in his chain of command. Two chaplains and the investigating officer who reviewed his claim found him sincere. Nevertheless, the Commandant of the Marine Corps denied his application. The court found that the Commandant had no "basis in fact" for denying the application.

Zabala developed his objection to war through experiences in boot camp and drills in 2003 and 2004. He had five sets of experiences that helped to crystallize his realization that he was an objector to war. These experiences showed how the military as an "organization trains to kill human life," and "places mission accomplishment above human life." He came to realize that life is sacred. He began studying Buddhist teachings, such as "Victory breeds hatred. The defeated live in pain. Happily the peaceful live giving up victory and defeat;" and "I will be mindful and reverential with all life, I will not be violent nor will I kill."

Zabala also began volunteering with the Santa Cruz Resource Center for Nonviolence, and worked on their counter-recruitment campaign. "The court agreed with me that my sincere and deeply held opposition to war justified a discharge," Zabala said. "I hope that other service men and women who have similar feelings against war will be encouraged by this decision." His attorney Steve Collier said "This decision shows that the military cannot ignore opposition to war within its own ranks. When sincere objectors to war won't fight, the military has got to follow the law and release them."