AUSTIN, TEX., DEC. 12 -- Army Capt. David Wiggins, a West Point graduate and doctor scheduled to depart for Saudi Arabia Monday, is on the 13th day of a hunger strike at Fort Hood to "make myself useless to the Army."
When a federal court rejected his appeal for discharge as a conscientious objector Nov. 30, Wiggins said he ate a pizza, then began his fast.
Wiggins, 28, said that he is not specifically opposed to U.S. involvement in the Persian Gulf and that his decision to become a conscientious objector was not based on events there. For the last year, he said, he has tried unsuccessfully to convince the Army that he no longer believes in military solutions to the world's problems.
"Their basic attitude toward me is 'just let him starve,' " Wiggins said from Fort Hood in Killeen, 60 miles north of Austin. He added that he plans to continue his hunger strike in Saudi Arabia.
Wiggins first applied last February for conscientious-objector status, months before U.S. military involvement in Saudi Arabia. Included in his discharge application was an offer to reimburse the government for money spent on his military training and education.
Wiggins's application worked its way to a review board in Washington where it was denied, although it was determined that he was sincere in his beliefs. That led to his appeal in federal court.
"I was very quiet and professional when I started this in February, and that didn't get me anywhere," Wiggins said. "Now I can go to jail or just forget about it, and I don't want to do either of those things. The only action I can take while I'm still in the service is this hunger strike."
Wiggins said his move toward pacifism began when communism in Eastern Europe started crumbling. "That did one thing," he said. "It convinced me that nonviolence can bring about change.
"I was taught from birth that communism would destroy us. Now I understand that the people in Russia are the same as us, even if their government is bad, and change can come if we have patience."
Wiggins has continued to see patients and make hospital rounds daily. "I'm beginning to feel a little tired," he said. "But I'm not worried about it yet." An Army doctor examines him each day to determine whether he should be hospitalized.
Wiggins said he doubts that the Army will relent. "Based on my dealings with the Army, nothing will change until they just can't use me," he said. "Military reasoning isn't based on right or wrong but on win or lose. If I'm discharged now, they lose. And they have to win."
Wiggins is preparing to go to Saudi Arabia Monday, although he noted that he is quickly becoming more of a liability to the Army.
"I'll do my job as a doctor, but I won't contribute to the killing," he said. "If there is a sick or hurt person on either side, I'll take care of them."