SEATTLE - An Army sergeant, who slipped away from his unit more than a year ago after deciding U.S. intervention in Iraq was a "war of aggression," was taken into military custody Friday after showing up at Fort Lewis.
Ricky Clousing turned himself over to authorities about 6:30 p.m., said one of his lawyers, David Miner, who was with the soldier.
At a news conference earlier in the day, Clousing, 24, discussed his decision.
"I stand here before you today about to surrender myself, which was always my intention," Clousing told several dozen friends, relatives and war veterans - some conscientious objectors, who gathered in front of a war memorial at the University of Washington campus.
If military police find that Clousing is either a deserter or absent without leave from the U.S. military, he will be sent back to Fort Bragg in North Carolina, the post he walked away from, Fort Lewis spokesman Joseph Hitt said Friday.
Officials at Fort Bragg would not comment on the case Friday.
During less than six months in Iraq, Clousing said he witnessed the "baseless incarceration" and the "daily physical, psychological and emotional harassment" of Iraqi citizens.
He said he also witnessed the killing of an innocent Iraqi man by an American soldier in Mosul, but said when he tried to talk to unit leaders he was treated as an inexperienced soldier who "needed to shut up."
"I saw firsthand the abuse of power that goes without accountability," said Clousing, who has refused to participate in a "war of aggression" that has "no legal basis to be fought."
Clousing joined the Army in July 2002 and was trained as an interrogator with the 82nd Airborne Division, based at Fort Bragg. He deployed to Baghdad in December 2004.
"We Americans have found ourselves in a pivotal era where we have traded humanity for patriotism," Clousing said Friday. "We have traded our civil liberties for a sense of security."
Clousing sneaked out of Fort Bragg in June 2005. In October, his attorney Lawrence Hildes said, they contacted Fort Bragg and later Fort Lewis to try to negotiate a discharge. But neither installation claims responsibility for him, he said.
Finally, Clousing decided to just show up at Fort Lewis.
He could have returned earlier, Hildes said, but it took some time for the young soldier to find an attorney and "he needed some time to figure out what he wanted to do."
Clousing is the latest soldier in Washington state to publicly oppose the Iraq war.
A hearing is scheduled next week at Fort Lewis for 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, who was charged last month with conduct unbecoming an officer and missing troop movement after he refused to deploy to Iraq. Watada has said that after researching the Iraq war, he decided it was illegal.
Clousing's supporters said they respect and admire him for the difficult decision he made to leave the military.
"He will be a free man even if he goes to jail," said former Florida National Guard Staff Sgt. Camilo Mejia, a conscientious objector from Miami Beach, Fla., who was court-martialed and jailed for desertion. "There's no greater freedom than the freedom to do what our conscience tells us to do."
Clousing has said he's not opposed to all war and because of that chose not to apply as a conscientious objector.
"My intent was solely to learn how to come to grips with what I was a part of and what had happened and what is happening," he said, adding counseling failed to help.
He sneaked out of Fort Bragg in the middle of the night, taking his books, clothes and a surfboard.
He left a note on his door, with Martin Luther King Jr.'s quote: "Cowardice asks the question, 'Is it safe?' Expediency asks the question, 'Is it politic?' But conscience asks the question, 'Is it right?' And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but because conscience tells one it is right."