Contents: The Sir! No Sir! blog is an information clearing house, drawing on a wide variety of sources, to track the unfolding history of the new GI Movement, and the wars that brought the movement to life.
Where applicable, parallels will be drawn between the new movement and the Vietnam era movement which was the focus of the film Sir! No Sir!
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This article, by Krystalline Kraus, was originally posted to Rabble News, June 4, 2008
Canadian MPs – the majority opposition representing the majority of Canadians – stood in support of Iraq war resisters when they voted to pass an asylum motion yesterday in Parliament.
Liberal, NDP and Bloc MPs (137 in total) stood in favour – literally stood up to vote as procedure dictates, though for a second the line of MPs could be confused for a makeshift honour guard of sorts – of the "war resister" motion. From the ranks of the Conservative Party, 110 MPs stood against. They did not look happy. Perhaps because they knew Bush would not be happy (first it was former White House press secretary Scott McClellan's wicked Iraq criticisms and now this northern dissent. Someone is going to bed angry!)
The motion, first presented to Parliament on May 29 by NDP MP Olivia Chow, was based on an earlier Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration motion (Standing Order 108(2)) in December 2007.
It called for the creation of a special government program to "allow conscientious objectors and their families ... who have refused or left military service related to a war not sanctioned by the United Nations … to apply for permanent resident status."
The motion also called for the government to immediately "cease any removal or deportation actions that may have already commenced against such individuals." Let them stay!
There are currently an estimated two hundred Iraq war resisters, either underground or declared, living in Canada.
This group of men and women, a true motley crew of ages, ranks, family status and political affiliation, have been living and working in Canada since 2004, when the first war resister, Jeremy Hinzman, crossed the border into Canada after his U.S. conscientious objector application was denied and he ran out of other legal options.
Since then, the community of resisters and community members has been doggedly fighting for their right to remain in Canada.
As Hip Hop MC Mohammad Ali raps on a track on his latest CD, their request is simple: "three little words / let them stay!"
Iraq war resister Robin Long, who currently resides in B.C., was excited by the vote. He felt that Canadians were making a strong stand against a war that the UN declared was illegal.
"I feel a small but growing and powerful group of people have woken up and are taking a stand ... and these people are going to wake everyone else up, leading the people back to power and away from the corporate agenda Bush," he said.
In defence of their choice – for which they have faced death threats for desertion to taunts calling them disloyal cowards – resisters note that not only did the UN declare the Iraq war illegal, but their decision is also supported by the Nuremberg Principles which allow soldiers the moral right and responsibility to refuse orders. In this case, war resisters state they are making the moral choice to seek refuge in Canada since their actions are in concurrence with international law (that the invasion of Iraq was illegal and they refuse to fight in an illegal war).
Charles Bradford McCall, another Iraq war resister living in B.C., said that today's passed motion was "a major step in support of ending this current age of oppression that stems from the U.S. government."
"I hope now that many more U.S. soldiers will decide to make a definite stand against the current regime and the U.S. military. This is the beginning of a new resistance. I will remember this day forever," McCall said. Saving Sergeant Corey Glass
While yesterday's motion is non-binding, Lee Zaslofsky of the War Resisters Support Campaign (WRSC) noted that the motion was morally binding.
NDP MP Olivia Chow expressed hope that the Harper government would recognize the will of the House majority – and thus, the will of the Canadian people – and follow through on the motion.
But the strong opposition shown by the Citizenship and Immigration minister, Diane Finley, and the Conservative government puts this in doubt.
Jeff House, lawyer to many of the resisters, said the motion sends a clear signal to the Conservative minority government. "It is now clear that the Canadian people welcome U.S. Iraq war resisters, and that, in a democratic country, that should be the end of the story. A government which represents Canadians will agree to create a mechanism to allow Iraq resisters to stay," he said.
The motion came to pass as an attempt to prevent Iraq war resister Corey Glass's deportation (and the impending deportation of others), which is set to occur on June 12. If the Conservative minority government chooses to ignore the motion, then Glass is still under the gun (as part of the motion demands the government immediately rescind Glass's deportation order). Canada's resister history
The motion, in its entirety, would return Canada to its role of accepting conscientious objectors – and taking a stand against U.S. military aggression - as it did during the Vietnam war.
According to the WRSC, between 50,000 and 80,000 Americans sought refuge in Canada during the U.S. war in Vietnam. Pierre Trudeau, then Prime Minister of Canada, granted them sanctuary. The Canadian public is calling on the current Harper government to do the same. There is already parliamentary precedent in place.
In 2003, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien refused to allow Canadian troops to fight in the United States' coalition of the willing.
Alexandre Trudeau, son of Pierre Elliott Trudeau and director of the documentary film Embedded In Baghdad, supports his father's legacy and Canada's opposition to the Iraq war. "We must not forget that the invasion of Iraq was a war justified only by lies, greed and stupidity for which permission was not sought nor granted to the Bush administration by the United Nations."
"Those Americans who served in Iraq and have come to Canada to avoid being pressed into further participation in the indignities of the American occupation there are brave men and women of principle who should be given a chance to become landed in Canada," Trudeau concluded.
Yesterday's vote in Parliament marked an important step on the long road to realizing that key demand of the war resisters' supporters, summed up in those three little words: let them stay!
BAGHDAD - A military jury on Feb. 10 convicted an Army sniper of murder and sentenced him to 10 years in prison for killing an Iraqi civilian who wandered into the hiding place where six Soldiers were sleeping.
Sgt. Evan Vela, 24, was found guilty of murder without premeditation, of aiding and abetting in planting an AK-47 on the dead man's body and of lying to military investigators about the shooting. He had faced a possible life sentence.
Vela showed no emotion when the verdict was read, but he asked the jury for mercy before it broke to decide his sentence. He apologized to the court, the Army and one of the sons of Genei Nasir al-Janabi, the man he shot with a pistol in May
"When I came to Iraq, I didn't come to do anything wrong," Vela said, reading from a handwritten statement. "I failed my standards, your standards and the standards of the Army. All I can say is I'm sorry and ask for mercy."
Vela has been in confinement in Kuwait since July 1. That time will be credited to his sentence, the judge said. He also was sentenced to forfeit all pay and allowances and will receive a dishonorable discharge. The case was automatically referred to a military appeals court.
Vela's trial was the last of three snipers in the unit accused in a series of shooting deaths south of Baghdad that defense lawyers said happened under command pressure to increase kill counts and, perhaps, employ questionable tactics in doing so.
In September, Gary Myers, then an attorney for Vela, claimed that Army snipers in Iraq were under orders to "bait" their targets with suspicious materials, such as detonation cords, and then kill whoever picked up the items.
The Army has declined to confirm that any such program existed, saying it does not discuss tactics used in the field.
While it does not appear the alleged baiting played in this case, James Culp, Vela's attorney, and others have argued the program may have encouraged the Soldiers by blurring the legal lines in a complex war zone.
Vela and several of his fellow Army snipers testified that they were confused and exhausted after more than two days of trekking in high temperatures through the rough terrain near Iskandariyah, a mostly Sunni Arab city 30 miles south of Baghdad.
On the morning of May 11, the six Soldiers had gone to sleep inside their "hide" - where snipers can observe targets without being seen - when al-Janabi stumbled upon them, they recounted.
The snipers detained al-Janabi and the man's 17-year-old son Mustafa. They freed the boy, but minutes after he walked off, the commander ordered Vela to shoot the father. The Soldiers said al-Janabi was making noise and they feared he was trying to attract the attention of a group of military-age males they thought they saw nearby.
"It's a simple case," said Capt. Jason Nef, one of two military prosecutors. "The reason is because Vela confessed on the stand that he lied. He confessed he killed an unarmed Iraqi."
Culp said the case was anything but simple because of the extreme mental and physical fatigue that affected the snipers' actions.
"This was an accident waiting to happen," Culp told the jury of seven men and one woman in his closing argument. "These men were extremely, extremely sleep deprived and nobody was thinking clearly."
After the verdict, Mustafa, who had testified at the court-martial, said he was impressed with the U.S. military court system.
"I find the Americans have more fairness than the Arabs," he said. "Their system is so fair that even if the judge were (Vela's) family member, he would have been convicted."
Mustafa reminded jurors before they began sentence deliberations of the pain he, his mother and five siblings have endured.
"I know this criminal has a family, a wife and children," he said. "Just like they will miss him, we also miss our father. So I hope you will consider that and please not forget about us."
Asked whether the killing of his father might prompt him to join the insurgency, Mustafa shook his head, saying he only wanted to harm "that one person who killed my father - I would cut him to pieces.
"But not all Americans. The Soldiers like those working in the court and those who have escorted us around here, I would never wish any harm on them," he said.
Two other members of Vela's unit were acquitted of murder charges in al-Janabi's shooting or other killings that occurred around the same time.
Jorge G. Sandoval, who was a specialist at the time but had his rank reduced to private as part of his sentencing, was found not guilty in September of killing two unarmed Iraqis in April and May. He was convicted of planting evidence on one of the men.
Sgt. Michael A. Hensley was acquitted of murder in all three deaths, but he was convicted of planting evidence by placing a rifle with al-Janabi's body.
Hensley said the unit had been pressured by his commanders to wrack up kills. His unit had been in Iraq for only a few months and had taken up to 25 casualties without inflicting much damage on insurgents, he said.
"They were tired of people getting killed and us not getting any kills in return," Hensley said. "There was definitely some pressure. If we came back from a mission and we didn't get kills, we were talked to."
Vela is the latest U.S. service member convicted of killing civilians. In one of the most prominent cases, four Soldiers were found guilty in the March 12, 2006, rape and slaying of an Iraqi girl and the killings of her parents and sister in Mahmoudiya, about 20 miles south of Baghdad.
Source: Associated Press
So, an Iraqi is only worth 10 years?
After reading this article, I came across a conversation board on the topic. What I read shocked me.
"its collateral damage for pilots....murder for soliders on the ground"
"If he hadn't lied and tried to cover it up, his sentence would have been much lighter (about 2 years).
The baiting of Iraqis into American sniper traps is not relevant to this case. The Army Medical Corps report, issued May 6, 2007, is."
"And if the iraqi went in there with a bomb straped to his waist and detonated it, The soldier would be charged with deriliction of duty for not doing his job. UN EFEN BELIEVABLE.. ITS WAR DAMN IT."
It is clear how these people feel. Keep in mind, the people that I have quoted are either military or ex-military.
War is no excuse for committing murders. It is no excuse to bait innocent civilians. This sniper should get the same treatment that he would recieve if he had committed this act stateside.
That's my opinion. Take it as you will. WE SHALL OVERCOME.
“You are a disgrace not only to your country but I'm sure your family is so proud of their deserted son. You know, since your father and grandfater were proud to serve. Keep your ass in Canada. What a loser you are. Guess you forgot about all the others that died to give you this great country. Oh, and by the way dont drop the soap when you get to Levenworth.
Petty Officer 1st Class Daniel Driggers (USCG)”
Well, petty officer 1st class Driggers, I do apologize that you feel so, but in defense of myself, let me debunk everything that you just said.
“You are a disgrace not only to your country but I’m sure your family is so proud of their deserted son.”:
I am protecting my nation by doing what I have done. I am also supporting my fellow soldiers that are serving in this war. By leaving and making it clear that I will not conform to this act of hate committed by my government, I make it clear that there are soldiers with conscience and that we (soldiers) should be kept safe in our own borders, and not in some country that we have no business in. And no, my family aren’t supportive.
“You know, since your father and grandfater were so proud to serve.”
Well, Daniel, I refuse to make the same mistakes that past generations have made before. “One that does not know history is bound to repeat it.” I try my best to learn from my family’s past, and it is in my family’s interest that I not go to another country and commit war crimes, possibly dying or coming back as most do, suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. My life and sanity are worth more than a politician’s salary. Also, my father never served.
“Keep your ass in Canada. What a loser you are.”
You got it buddy. I love Canada, and I will probably choose to stay here as long as I can. And whether I am a loser or not is up to you.
“Guess you forgot about all the others that died to give you this great country.”
You probably believe The Vietnam War was for the protection of democracy, don’t you? America has never participated in a Just war other than The Second World War, if that. In fighting against the War in Iraq, I am honoring those that have needlessly lost their lives.
“Oh, and by the way don’t drop the soap when you get to levenworth.”
Daniel, this is probably the most original and hilarious warning I’ve ever been given. You, my friend, should probably just stay in the Gulf of Mexico where you can do our nation some good by keeping alcoholics from piloting boats.
Despite this man’s objections… WE SHALL OVERCOME
Brad McCall is running from the United States government, and wants everyone to know.
McCall, a Dothan native, now lives in a house in Vancouver, Canada, with several anti-war sympathizers who took him in about six months ago after he ran away from the Army.
His critics call him a coward. His supporters say he is brave. He simply calls himself a war resister.
But you can’t call him a draft dodger. He joined the Army on his own in Louisville, Ky., in 2006, and said he supported the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan and Iraq. But after a few weeks in basic training he said he changed his mind when he heard the stories from soldiers returning from a tour in Iraq.
“They were telling us all of the things they did over there; things where you would have thought you were listening to the Nazi tribunals,” McCall told the Dothan Eagle in a telephone interview.
“Innocent people were dying, more of them than the terrorists. That’s when I realized I couldn’t go over there and be a part of that.”
And that’s when McCall said his political views changed as well.
“When I joined up, I agreed with our mission, which was we were fighting terrorism,” he said. “And I agreed that we were looking for weapons of mass destruction, taking a tyrant out of office and bringing freedom to a people that had never known freedom before.
“But now I see the war as being about money to line the pockets of politicians and corporations. It’s a battle over (expletive), pretty much.”
He said he also believes the terrorists have been provoked by the actions of the United States.
“The terrorists we’re fighting are really just guys protecting their neighborhoods,” he said. “If someone came to where I was living like that, I would get my gun and protect my family as well.”
Ozark Mayor Bob Bunting, a 30-year Army veteran who served two tours in Vietnam and was shot down multiple times by enemy soldiers, said McCall deserves to be punished for desertion.
“Mr. McCall administered an oath when he joined the Army,” Bunting said. “That oath obligated him to defend and support our Constitution. I have no use for deserters and perhaps his critics have found the right name to call him.
“What will it take to make believers out of the many who do not understand we are a nation at war, against an enemy made up of fanatics (who are) bound, determined and prepared to destroy this nation and the freedoms we have fought and sacrificed our youth for more than 200 years? Mr. McCall is a deserter and should get no less than what deserters of past wars received.”
McCall said he applied for conscientious objector status, but was denied because his objections were born out of political beliefs and not religious ones.
He was assigned to A Company, 1/67 Armor, 4th Infantry Division, and was scheduled to be deployed to Iraq in June 2008. So, McCall fled to Canada in September 2007.
McCall grew up in south Dothan, close to Cottonwood. He attended school in Cottonwood and Slocomb before dropping out and finishing as a home schooler. He said he “partied too much” in Dothan and had moved to Kentucky to live with his brother. He said he joined the Army because he needed money for college.
“I didn’t really realize what I was getting myself into,” he said.
McCall’s choices have alienated him from his family, whom he refers to as “conservative.”
McCall’s brother is a pastor and his sister in North Carolina is married to a pastor. They still talk, but conversations are often awkward and tense, he said.
McCall is expected to go before a Canadian Court later this month where he has applied for refugee status. He expects to lose, then he predicts a long appeals process. He said he hopes the political climate in Canada changes before his appeal options run out. If it does, he plans on living the rest of his life in Canada.
If it doesn’t, he said he is willing to serve time in a military prison as a war deserter.
“If somehow I get deported, then I guess I will be serving some time in Ft. Leavenworth,” he said. “Do I think that’s fair? No, because I’m standing up for my moral right to make decisions for myself. But I’ll do it.”
According to the Associated Press, the Army classified 3,301 soldiers as deserters in 2006. Military law allows for war-time deserters to be put to death, although that has not happened since 1945. Some are court-martialed and spend time in prison. Many others are dishonorably discharged.
This was originally posted to Brad McCall's blog, February 10, 2008
"Here's the deal with the situation in Iraq. I don't believe in our reasons for being over there. I don't believe in our reasons for staying over there, but the fact remains that we ARE over there, and there are young American soldiers dying over there."
This is a direct quote from an e-mail I recieved from another soldier in my unit, who is still in the unit awaiting deployment to Iraq. Here's some more of what he said...
"I know you're a 'good guy' McCall, and I know that insurgents are pissed cuz we're over there and want us to leave. Personally I don't want to go over there, I'm trying to go to West Point and get some college in man and avoid dying unnecessarily. I don't want to die in Iraq and have my tombstone say
Died in Iraq from IED while serving with A Co 1/67'"
This is the mindset of an American soldier? Why is he fighting? He is fighting because it is all he understands. He has been trained to do a job...no questions asked. He thinks that by doing his job, no matter what the situation, everything is fine. Afterall, he did sign a contract.
But, he has a conscience. Yes, that conscience is qualmed by the training that he has recieved...just for that reason...but it is obvious that he is doubting what his job pertains to. He is on the brink of making the right choice.
But will he make that choice? Honestly, I doubt it. You see, the military is built so that men, and women, have no chance to speak out against what is obviously wrong. In the Army there was this saying: "Out of sight, out of mind". Most lower ranking soldiers live on that principle. They believe that the quieter they stay, the smoother they will flow through, and essentially, the quicker they will get out. They are afraid to speak out. They know what can happen.
I knew what would happen when I spoke up. I knew that when I requested Conscientious Objector status I would be made into a mockery. And it came to fruition. As soon as news got out, the fun started. "Hippy", "Commie", "Shit-bag", and "Faggot" were only a few. But I kept fighting. I knew what had to be done, and I also knew that as a soldier, standing up for right was the way to go.
Why can't more men go the route that I have taken? Because it is a hard, hard road to travel down. Losing all rights in the nation of one's birth is only the beginning, and losing the support of one's family certainly isn't the end.
If I went to the United States border crossing right now, I would be arrested. That's right. As a matter of fact, a couple of weeks ago a man hired to transport my vehicle back to the United States was held at gunpoint by a U.S. border guard because he was suspected of being me. Am I really that dangerous?
My being here in Canada is a true blessing. It's a lot better than being in a prison in the United States.
By now, you are probably very curious about what my crime is. Well, in short, I am guilty of desertion. That's right, I deserted the United States Army. But if one digs a little more deeply into what I have done, they may learn the truth of the matter: I am a victim of an unjust system.
I joined the U.S. Army on August 28, 2006, after learning that not only would I be serving my country, as every young man should, but that I would also be receiving benefits such as: Tricare universal healthcare, a $400,000 life insurance policy, a $37,000 Montgomery GI Bill, a $10,000 signing bonus, a dependable monthly income, and, last but not least, career training for when my contract reached its completion. As a 19 year-old kid recently independent from his parents, one might say that I needed what they were offering me. And I took it.
I went through the system fairly smoothly. No discipline problems. No UCMJ actions. No Article 13s. I was just another private swimming through a sea of conformity, trying not to stand out. (Although, when you read Voltaire on your breaks, I guess you’re going to stand out a little). I was stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado. A soldier in A Company, 1/67 Armour, 4th Infantry Division, I soon became a central focus for many jokes. I was referred to by my fellow soldiers as a "hippie", "commie", and "faggot" – just to name a few. Times were, well, quite depressing.
Then came the stories from Iraq. Men in my unit who had already served in Iraq were one day explaining the various situations that they had encountered while "down range". One Sergeant explained how he shot a man in an alleyway just for being out after dark. He expressed how easy it was to kill "hajjis" once you did it for the first time. I listened as one soldier told how a specialist in my unit kept a human finger in his wall locker during his entire tour of duty. The laughing ensued as I heard the story of a soldier in another company eating the charred flesh of an Iraqi civilian, the unfortunate victim of an IED attack aimed at American forces. I thought about how callous these men had become, and how horrified I was at the idea of disrespecting human life in such a manner. This is when doubt began to flood my mind.
I began to regret ever signing the dreadful contract that imprisoned me. I became a recluse from my family. I began a rebellion of the mind, realizing that I was no longer a staunch defender of my nation, but that I now wore on my shoulder an emblem of hate and greed. I found alternate news sources to rely on, seeing that up until this point in my life I had relied on conservative news reports. I was building a new me, and the new me could not become an animal, accustomed to the needless loss of human life. So, when I realized that my tour of duty in Iraq was soon approaching, I immediately asked my chain of command for conscientious objector status. I was laughed at.
After repeatedly being told that my claim would be denied, I began researching alternate methods of living freely, without the guilt of forcing the will of imperialism on an innocent people. And then I learned of Canada. Dearest Canada. Pierre Trudeau described Canada as being a "refuge from militarism." After all, hadn't over 100 000 Vietnam era draft resisters fled to Canada? And what better place to go than a place with over 50 000 of those original "war resisters" still living and prospering within its borders. And so the decision was made. I was preparing for Canada.
Nervous is an understatement to describe the way I was feeling when I arrived at the Canadian border. But I had confidence, knowing that thousands of Americans crossed into Canada every day. There was no need for me to worry. But later, as I was being driven to the Surrey jail in handcuffs, I understood that something was amiss.
I had been drilled at the border. An officer by the name of Marcotte had interviewed me and told me how I would be in jail during my entire brief stay in Canada, until American authorities would come to pick me up. The acting superintendent, John Cumblidge, asked me repeatedly to return to the United States of my own free will, and that there was no point in attempting to stay in Canada. But I knew in my heart that I belonged here. I knew that I had a mission, and that was to fight for my right to moral choice. So, after a gruelling refugee application process, and a two-night stay in jail, I was released. I stepped into the Vancouver rain as a new, free man. I was different, no longer able to be subjected to the rising tide of conformity. The time had come for me to take a stand.
Yes, I had volunteered. Yes, at the time, I completely agreed with the mission in Iraq. No, I did not understand the full scope of things, and how horrific the situation truly is. I know, I should have never signed my contract. But at the time, I knew no better.
A change of heart, some would call it. A change of soul is more like it. For today, as I sit here in Vancouver, Canada, I am a different person. I no longer consider myself to be an American, for my country, in not granting me the freedom to moral choice, has betrayed me. And seeing that, so far, the Canadian government has denied the refugee claims of others like me, I guess that I am at loss for a country to call my home. But it is a lot better for me to be without a nation than to be a war criminal.