Jewish Pilot Dismissed from Marines for Refusing to Defend Arabs in War

Lt. Tony Homayoun Moradian, a helicopter pilot raised as an Orthodox Jew, will be dismissed from the U.S. Marine Corps for refusing to fight a war in defense of Arabs, a military judge ruled Saturday.

Moradian, who was born in Iran, was found guilty of leaving a troop ship at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 10 that was taking his light-attack helicopter squadron to the Persian Gulf for Operation Desert Storm. He was sentenced to the equivalent of a Storm. He was sentenced to the equivalent of a dishonorable discharge and a $3,000 fine.

During his court-martial at Camp Pendleton, near San Diego, the 26-year old Moradian said that “being brought up as an Orthodox Jew, being aware of the animosity of the Arab-Israeli conflict and considering myself a Zionist, (I couldn’t see) going and defending an Arab nation that doesn’t believe in my right to exist. But I wanted to be a Marine.”

The Los Angeles Times, which ran the story Sunday under the headline ” A Collision of Faith and Duty,” reported that defense witnesses described Moradian as an outstanding and dedicated Marine. His loyalty to the corps was equaled only by his deeply rooted religious convictions, one witness testified.

Moradian’s brother, Ibrahim, said, “All his life, he wanted to be a pilot — that’s what he dreamed and lived for. On one side he was a Jew. On the other, he loved the Marine Corps.”

Religious faith and military duty were never in conflict until the escalation of the confrontation with Iraq, the defendant testified. Even then, he said, he believed that he could find a solution and do his duty.

‘I’M NOT A COWARD’

“I’m not a coward, nor am I afraid to take part in any battle,” said Moradian, who became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1985. “I knew I had a duty to this country and I thought I had come to peace with myself. But once I got aboard the ship., I found those duties overwhelming.”

After leaving the troop ship, Moradian caught a commercial jet to the mainland and immediately reported to the Marine base at Camp Pendleton. He realized he would be punished for what he called a desperate decision, but he hoped he would be allowed to continue his military career.

“I always wanted to be one of you,” Moradian said at the trial, reading from a prepared statement. “I never wanted to give anyone any reason to treat me differently. I’m proud to be an American,” he said.

During the trial, the government prosecutor, Maj. Carlos Baldwin, upbraided Moradian, charging that “his tour in the Marine Corps is remarkable only for its selfishness All he wanted to do was fly — under his terms and conditions,”

Baldwin added that many female Marines had served in the Gulf war to defend Arab countries whose women do not enjoy equality.

The executive officer of Moradian’s unit, Maj. George Trautman, testified that its effectiveness was weakened by Moradian’s absence and that all 43 helicopter pilots in the squadron saw combat duty in Kuwait.

“He tarnished the reputation of the unit and hurt morale,” Trautman told the Times outside hurt morale,” Trautman told the Times outside the courtroom.

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