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Killeen THIS RESIDENTIAL subdivision, on the western fringe of a Central Texas town, is an unlikely home for even one lonely individual philosophically opposed to war. Most urban geographers would agree that this is Middle America: row after row of one-story, brick veneer houses, with property lines clearly demarcated by hurricane fences and two cars and a basketball goal in nearly every driveway. And what makes this place different from the suburban tracts that form so many generic linear cities along freeways connecting Dallas and Fort Worth. Houston and Galveston, or San Antonio and San Marcos is that this subdivision is a privately owned extension of the “largest mobile armor post in the Free World.” Just north of the Westpark entrance, across State Highway 190, is the entrance to Fort Hood, the 217,337-acre Army post, which includes for tank and infantry training a full-scale replica of a WorldWar-II-vintage German town. The fort houses two full divisions and is home to 37,000 soldiers. Last February one of those 37,000 soldiers broke ranks. If this Killeen subdivision is an unlikely place to find a conscientious objector, Captain David Wiggins is an unlikely conscientious objector. The 28-year-old physician graduated from West Point in 1984, and from New York Medical School at Valhalla in 1988. At both schools he finished in the top 10 percent of his graduating class. In an report filed by three of his Fort Hood superior officers in January 1990, Wiggins is described as “Clearly one of the Army’s very best flight surgeons.” “Promote ahead of contemporaries and select for an ophthalmology residency at the earliest possible time,” the review panel recommended. “This is one doctor we need on active duty. Unlimited potential.” A month after the report was filed, Captain David Wiggins told the Army he didn’t want a promotion; he wanted out. Somewhere between West Point and Westpark something about David Wiggins had changed. “I am applying for conscientious objector status because I have come to the conclusion that it is immoral and futile to attempt to defend freedom through the use of military force,” Wiggins wrote in a statement submitted to his commanding officer on February 27. He was prepared to file earlier, but didn’t want to appear to be protesting the U.S. invasion of Panama last December, his commanding officer wrote. David Wiggins is, by birth, RomanCatholic. But he doesn’t cite any Aquinine theory of a just war, he doesn’t quote Merton, More, or any of the Thomases. Wiggins arrived at his pacifist conclusions on his own; his philosophy is of the personal and pedestrian variety. “I started West Point when I was 17, almost 18,” Wiggins said in an interview. “I thought then that American democracy was what we should spread throughout the world and that the war was good if we were fighting it. I was a young guy and hard-chargin’ and that’s what I believed.” At West Point, Wiggins wrote in his personal statement to his commander, he saw a lot that changed his thinking. The system, as he began to perceive it, is based on power: “In West Point cadets, I saw that the world is full of people willing to abuse power for satisfaction or personal gain…. Morality is overlooked, ignored or rationalized…” If West Point made him an agnostic, medical school nudged David Wiggins toward a complete crisis of faith. “My medical studies taught me a great deal about life in general,” Wiggins wrote. Healing and voluntary participation in an institution whose mission is killing seemed somehow incompatible. After completing his residency at Walter Reed Military Hospital in Washington, D.C., Wiggins was assigned to the Sixth Cavalry at Fort Hood, and from Central Texas he watched the Berlin Wall, the Soviet bloc, and his belief in his chosen career crumble: “I’m only 28 and I’d grown up believing my whole life was really devoted to defending my country against the communist threat the Evil Empire. And here this most powerful evil empire fell apart. Not from being conquered through warfare, but because the people inside that country had had enough of a repressive government. So I saw that there was a way out. I really did. What had been troubling me for a long time is that there didn’t seem to be any way out. Here I know I’m doing this and it’s terrible, but it really seems to be necessary. At that point, I really lost all belief that it was necessary at all. And I went in and applied for C.O. status right then. On November 28 federal District Judge Walter Smith of Waco denied Wiggins’s appeal of an Army Conscientious Objector \(,,.b .s i ew … er DECEMBER 21, 1990 VOLUME 82, No. 25 FEATURES Prime-Time Politics By Dave Denison 4 Body Snatchers By Debbie Nathan 1 0 Agents of Abuse By Louise Palmer 12 DEPARTMENTS Dialogue 2 Editorial 3 Social Cause Calendar 9 Books and the Culture Ridiculous and Sublime By Steven G. Kellman Homeboy Memories By Michael King Change of Heart By Diana Claitor 18 19 21 Afterword Political Geography By Jim Norwine 22 Cover photo: Captain David Wiggins by Alan Pogue. A Notice to Our Readers It is the time of year for the Observer staff to take what we like to think of as a one-week break. Our next issue will be dated January 11, 1991. Review Board ruling, which declared that Wiggins is not a valid conscientious objector. Though all of his supervising officers at Fort Hood wrote that they considered Wiggins to Continued on page 16 EDITORIALS The Army Loses a Doctor THE TEXAS OBSERVER