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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The Sir! No Sir! Blog has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is the Sir! No Sir! Blog endorsed or sponsored by the originator. Links are provided to allow for verification of authenticity.
This article, by Krystalline Kraus, was posted to rabble.ca, November 6, 2009
On November 11, veterans will get only two minutes of recognition -- if people stop to reflect at all -- while the rest of the year their sacrifice is forgotten.
If Canada’s mission in Afghanistan does end in 2011, 35,000 men and women will have served in that theatre -- 133 have been killed thus far -- and the Canadian Forces’ (CF) low estimate is that as many as 2,000 could be returning home with an Operational Stress Injury (OSI) such as PTSD.
These soldiers will return home with, among other things, an OSI or plagued by survivor’s guilt and the pressure to do good by their dead friends; first they bury them and then they bury their own feelings. As the saying goes: Survivors die twice. Massacre at Fort Hood
The problems the U.S. military would prefer to hide violently surged to the public’s attention when Major Nidal Malik Hasan, a 39-year-old U.S. Army psychiatrist, allegedly opened fire yesterday afternoon at Fort Hood, Texas. He is accused of killing 13 people and wounding 30.
A New York Times article features an interview with Hasan’s cousin, who states that he expressed deep concern about being sent to Iraq or Afghanistan; the cousin also notes that Hasan’s job was to counsel returning soldiers suffering with PTSD which gave him an intimate window into the horrors of war. This made him fearful of deploying to either theatre. His cousin also claims he was having second thoughts about his military career a few years ago after other soldiers harassed him for being a Muslim. Bringing the war home After the battle’s over, some scars are more visible than others. But they can’t stay hidden forever, and like tiny landmines they will eventually explode. Nor should they be a hidden shame. Refusing to acknowledge the challenges faced by active duty, reservists or veterans is as insulting as refusing to properly acknowledge the dead; and one presidential visit to inspect a standing army of coffins isn’t enough.
This is the horror of war that society and -- too often -- the anti-war community fail to acknowledge. We cry and lament for the civilian casualties and too often hate the individual soldiers who we insist are cold hearted bastards who enlisted to kill, ignoring the reality of military recruitment tactics that purposefully target young vulnerable teenagers and young adults often from poor and disadvantaged urban centers, rural communities and First Nation reserves with the promise of medallion glory and video-game thrills; or, more simply, the promise of a large sign-up bonus and free healthcare. The damage done by war
The damage from war and our society’s treatment of these heroes is damning. The statistics are explosive.
Exposure to war time violence can cause Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) -- the Canadian government uses the term Operation Stress Injury (OSI) instead of the DSM-IV diagnosis of PTSD since apparently soldiers who “cannot cope” with the reality of war are just “stressed.”
The impact and fallout on troops can be devastating on the soldier and their family. Symptoms of PTSD (or shell shock as it was once called) include persistent frightening thoughts and memories of their ordeal, emotionally numbness, especially with people with whom they were once close. Sufferers may also experience sleep problems or be easily startled.
The Harper government’s military policy paper, 'The Canada First Defence Strategy,' proposes spending $490 billion on the military over the next 20 years. Instead of spending tax payers money on bombs and bullets, money should be invested in veteran specific health care needs, especially better access to mental health services.
Canada’s Chief of Defence Staff, General Walter Natynchuk, has pledged to do more to assist soldiers suffering from OSI, but is quick to blame the military’s warrior culture without acknowledging the systemic refusal to acknowledge how deep the problem runs.
One bright light in the darkness is a new program offered by Veterans Affairs Canada called Operational Stress Injury Support Services (OSISS), which began offering peer-support counseling to returning soldiers of all rank, bars and stripes, including active-duty, reservists and veterans.
In a 2002 NOW Magazine article Terry Allan interviewed Lt.-Gen. Romeo Dallaire (Ret.'d) about the long-term consequences of his war experiences. “Eight years after Rwanda, in daylight and in dreams, Dallaire still hears the cries of wounded children, the weeping of survivors, the voice of the man who died at the other end of a phone line as the general listened. He still can't escape the smell of death, the memories of hacked-off limbs scattered on the ground, and worst of all, he says, the ‘thousands upon thousands of sets of eyes in the night, in the dark, just floating and looking back’ at him in anger, accusation, or eternal pleading.”
Now a Senator, Dallaire has estimated, “about 20 per cent of troops and humanitarian workers on missions like his suffer much the same thing, as do 5 to 10 percent of diplomats. ‘They are casualties … High suicide rates, booze, drugs, pornography, finding themselves on skid row.’
Whisper the word Rwanda and everyone knows the horror you’re referencing, the horror that Dallaire and other Canadian peacekeepers lived through in 1994 while thousands and thousands of the people they were UN mandated to protect did not.
“Ultimately PTSD leads to suicide,” he said. “I tried to kill myself four times.” To suggest that Dallaire, who has been open about his battles with PTSD, is weak-minded or weak willed is an insult to every one of Canada’s heroes. Glass soldiers
Soldiers like to believe they are invinsible, that they are steel warriors. Sure, Kevlar helmets and Molle vests protect the body, but what about the mind and the pride that soldiers often carry that prevents them from seeking help even when their lives are falling apart? Along with mental health issues, returning soldiers often face social and personal problems such as rising incarceration rates.
According to a November 2008 report, 4,000 new cases of PTSD in the UK were reported last year and service personnel on operations are nine times more likely to suffer than those not posted. It also found that women were more vulnerable to the condition, with an eight out of 1,000 chance rather than the four out of 1,000 chance for men.
A UK National Association of Probation Officers report, issued September 25, 2009, stated, “Depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse are behind an alarming rise in the number of former British soldiers ending up in prison, a report says -- and more veterans have had tangles with the law than there are British troops in Afghanistan. It also noted that most veterans don't receive adequate counseling or support when they leave the armed forces.”
The statistics are hauntingly similar for Canadian soldiers. Our heroes are dying, with suicide rates more than double those of the general population. These statistics only include active duty service personnel and do not include reservists or veterans, as the Department of National Defense (DND) does not currently track overall suicide rates despite calls for greater transparency from the public, the media and Canadian politicians like Senator Dellaire.
A Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) investigation found that the suicide rate among Canada's soldiers doubled from 2006 to 2007. Last year, the number of suicides among regular and reserve members of the Canadian Forces rose to its highest point in more than a decade. Veterans Affairs says that the number of vets experiencing some kind of operational stress injury, such as PTSD, has tripled in the past five years, and they expect it to continue rising with Canada's mission in Afghanistan likely to last until 2011. It has also recently pledged to review the way the Department of Defence tracks suicide rates. (For the U.S., the month of January 2009 brought the highest rate of suicide among all branches of the U.S. military and had the highest rates since 1980. Killing overseas and killing our own
If the Department of National Defense and Veterans Affairs Canada are speaking the truth regarding wanting to break the stigma of mental health issues within military, than nothing less than full disclosure and transparency, as opposed to secrecy and shame, regarding suicide statistics is necessary for healing to begin.
Senator Dallaire, in an exclusive interview with the CBC, said, “I mean there are regiments who won't recognize that one of their soldiers who's committed suicide, you know, a year or so after a mission, should go on the list of those who are a casualty of the mission. If you're killed in operation, your name is on the Honour List. But if you kill yourself due to the injury of that operation, then you're not recognized.”
In regards to the military structure, Dallaire blames the middle level functionaries for stalling the disclosure. It is they “who feel that they've got the responsibility of the purses of the government, who feel they've got the responsibilities of not setting up precedents and of applying the rules and so on. They're the ones both in DND and in Veterans Affairs, they are the ones who are making it more difficult,” he said.
If the military demands loyalty from its troops, then the troops should expect loyalty in return, loyalty in good times as in bad, during victory parades and when a soldier breaks down.
Canadians cannot have it both ways; a hero-honouring culture that does not honour its heroes. Neither can the anti-war movement rail against the treatment of civilians, foreign combatants and detainees -- the war overseas -- while ignoring the challenges facing soldiers and veterans who have brought the war home. All are casualties. This is where a new peace keeping effort must begin.
This article, by Krystalline Kraus, was posted to rabble.ca, October 29, 2009
With the war in Iraq still ongoing and the conflict in Afghanistan going from bad to worse, who is paying the price? Can success be measured by piling the dead up against a wall – ours and theirs? How high does the ladder to freedom and democracy have to be?
One hundred and thirty-two Canadians soldiers dead (also, one diplomat and two aid workers) since the 2002 invasion began. Twenty-six dead as of October 28, 2009.
As of July 7, the United Nations recorded over 1,000 deaths in the first six months of 2009 -- 24 per cent more than during the same period last year. Total number of estimated civilian deaths -- direct and indirect deaths from Coalition-led military operations since 2001 -- are 8,436 - 28,028.
As another heavy November 11 approaches, how should we as a society reflect on the horror of war and its horrible consequences?
As the America government hides its military’s dead and abandoning its wounded, is Canada’s treatment of its dead and wounded soldiers any more honourable? Sure, we sometimes allow news broadcasts of ramp ceremonies and we do have public displays like the Highway of Heroes, but how are we as a society really honouring our heroes? Shouting “Support Our Troops!” during recruitment drives and yet not supporting them when they return home -- dead or alive -- is dishonourable, unpatriotic and a disgrace to any society.
Is a two minute pause one a year enough, if people even pause at all on November 11? Lest we forget?
Just yesterday, yet another Canadian forces member -- Lt. Justin Garrett Boyes, 26, of 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, who was only 10 days into his second tour in Afghanistan -- lost his life in Afghanistan, and two more were injured. Did anyone pause when they heard this news?
For Canadian civilians the concepts of honour, duty and sacrifice act as a shield keeping people from recognizing that active duty, reserve and retired soldiers are also casualties of war. For the anti-war community, it’s a hatred of the whole military complex that clouds the eye. Either way, it’s the dead and walking wounded who suffer.
The formula the military uses to dehumanize the enemy blows back on its own recruits, and the first people really dehumanized are the soldiers themselves. If they don’t come home in a box, they often come home broken. How the anti-war movement treats these men and women is a direct reflection on our ability to show concern for the ‘other’ who – for whatever reason -- chose to go to war.
The sooner we acknowledge and understand the true cost of war, the sooner we can take responsibility for our soldiers’ actions and our soldiers themselves.
Our peaceful Canadian society frankly does not want to truly acknowledge the impact and blow back combat has on all involved. Civilians and warriors alike. But this is the only way we as a society can truly heal from these scars and give peace to the victims of combat. Innocent and enlisted alike. Hiding the dead
For all its love of military and patriotism, the United States is quick to hide its dead. There are no American Valkyries to gloriously carry dead soldiers to an anglo-Valhalla. Bodies are instead buried and forgotten under the dirt of censorship, with a state imposed silence like mist that hangs over the public and media.
Last month, U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates had stern words for the Associated Press (AP) for publishing a photograph of a dying Lance Cpl. Joshua Bernard, who was killed in southern Afghanistan from wounds received from a rocket-propelled grenade in a Taliban ambush on August 14, 2009.
In defending its decision to circulate the photograph -- an image of fellow Marines helping Bernard after he suffered severe leg injuries -- Santiago Lyon, the Director of Photography for the Associated Press, said, "AP journalists document world events every day. Afghanistan is no exception. We feel it is our journalistic duty to show the reality of the war there, however unpleasant and brutal that sometimes is."
Writing for Common Dreams, Dave Lindorff chastized the U.S. government for its censorship. “Enough with the censorship! If we are going to be a warlike nation, if we are going to have a public that cheers everytime the government ships off men and women to fight and kill overseas in countries that most Americans cannot even locate on a globe, then let's make sure that everyone at least gets to see the blood and gore in full, including our own, and of course, also the civilian casualties of our military.”
The Bush administration has an equally ugly legacy regarding how it treats its wounded. During the last presidential election, the Bush adminitration took a hit regarding the substandard care wounded soldiers were receiving at the Walter Reed Medical Centre. The scandal resulted in the resignation of Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey and a call for a bipartisan commission to investigate.
Apparently, when an injured soldier salutes or an injured marine shouts “Semper Fi!,” the military doesn’t return the honour. The army marches on, leaving them behind. The wounded warrior project http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org/ describes the feeling in simple painful terms: “The Greatest Casualty is Being Forgotten.” Honour and horror in Afghanistan
The situation isn’t looking much brighter for soldiers serving in Afghanistan. While foreign involvement in Afghanistan had been overshadowed by the war in Iraq, it is back now under the media’s glare.
Grievances concerning the current North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) mission keep rising to the surface. Most recently, Senator Colin Kenny stated he believes the war is doomed to fail unless NATO changes its tactics towards a more diplomatic and political angle. He also noted a Strategic Counsel poll taken July 13-16, 2009 showing that 56 per cent of Canadians opposed sending troops to Afghanistan.
Senator Kenny’s doubt concerning the Afghanistan mission mirrors concerns raised recently in the United States by the top U.S. and NATO commander, General McChrystal, who according to a 66-page document obtained by the Washington Post, which stated that situation is Afghanistan is grim and that without more boots on the ground, the mission, “will likely end in failure.”
Unfortunately, redacting an occupying army into a diplomatic mission is as impossible as magically turning a knife into a spoon. Casualties of shame and censorship
Canadians, while always quick to criticize the U.S. government, have nothing to be proud of in regards to how we treat our casualties of war.
In his recently published autobiography, Former Chief of Defense, General Rick Hillier, outs the current Harper government for its own shameful, unpatriotic handling of Captain Nicola Goddard’s repatriation ceremony. Goddard died from wounds received from a rocket propelled grenade on May 17, 2009 in the dusty Panjwaii district of Afghanistan.
Hillier had intended on a hero’s welcome for Goddard -- the first Canadian female combat death since WW2 and the first woman to die in front line combat in Afghanistan. (Lest we forget the Major Michelle Mendes, who committed suicide in April 2009 while stationed in Kandahar; she should also be considered a casualty of war.)
But in his autobiography, Hillier leveled harsh charges against former Defense Minister, Gordon O’Connor (himself a former military commander, thus adding insult to injury) and the Harper government of disgracing Goddard by attempting to hide her repatriation ceremony from the media and public -- at which the government had some success. This lead to a very public battle that pitted her grieving father against the governments’ recently enacted policy a month earlier of shielding the flag-draped coffins from public view by keeping journalists outside the fenced airfield at CFB Trenton.
He has gone on record, stating: “Officials in the Prime Minister's Office ordered the military to hide the return to Canada of the first female soldier killed in combat because they didn't want her flag-draped coffin seen on the news.”
This article, by Ed Corrigan, was published in The Hamilton Spectator, October 16, 2009.
Members of Parliament Gerard Kennedy and Bill Siksay introduced a private member's bill last month in support of Iraq War resisters. Bill C-440 would make binding on our government very specific directions -- to immediately stop the deportation of Iraq War resisters and to allow them to apply for permanent resident status from within Canada.
Since then, conservative pundits have likened veterans of the Iraq War who have refused to participate in atrocities on Iraqi civilians, and conscientious objectors who cannot morally let themselves kill another human being, to anti-abortion extremists who shoot doctors. Some have even suggested the bill should be contorted to include sanctuary for the criminally indicted U.S. financiers that caused the current recession.
For any rational Canadian, these comparisons are ludicrous at best. Along with Immigration Minister Jason Kenney's spokesperson's hyperbole about "rapists and murderers," they are part of a campaign by the Harper minority to distract from, distort and deny the reality that Bill C-440 responds to a demand by the majority of Canadians in every part of the country, reflected in a similar motion that has already been debated and passed twice in Parliament.
Nonetheless, these criticisms have been levelled and they deserve a response.
The term "conscientious objector" doesn't refer to anyone who objects to anything for any random reason; conscientious objector specifically and only means a member or former member of the military holding certain sincerely held beliefs.
The bill only covers soldiers who refused to participate in wars not sanctioned by the United Nations. Iraq is such a war.
There are good reasons why the majority of Canadians, including Conservative voters, supports these U.S. soldiers who are opposing the Iraq War.
First, Iraq War resisters are refusing to kill, injure or generally do harm to others. Many of them have seen firsthand the U.S. military's treatment of all Iraqi civilians as the "enemy" -- a practice prohibited under international law -- as both morally and tactically bankrupt. When these soldiers have raised objections, their superiors have told them to shut up and just follow orders. Refusing to participate is the only effective method of objection under such conditions.
Second, Iraq War resisters are breaking no Canadian laws. Leaving the military service of another country is not an extraditable offence here nor should it be. Canada welcomed U.S. deserters during the Vietnam War, we're still a sovereign country and we can and should do it again.
Despite the Harper government's desire to model Canada after George W. Bush's America, it has no mandate or authority to turn Canada into an enforcement agent for the martial law of any other nation.
Third, the Harper government's deportation of these soldiers to jail in the United States is an endorsement of the Bush legacy and an attack on free speech. Iraq War resisters are not being punished for desertion, which 94 per cent of time results in an administrative discharge, but targeted for speaking out. Even with President Barack Obama in office, as many as 50,000 troops will remain in Iraq until 2011. Since president Bush left the White House, soldiers such as Cliff Cornell have received harsh sentences of 12 months or more for voicing their opposition to the war.
The Harper minority would not have to go to such lengths to defend its position if it was clear about its true motivation: support for Bush's invasion of Iraq. For hard line neo-conservatives such as Kenney and Prime Minister Stephen Harper who staunchly endorsed Bush and pushed our Parliament to send troops into combat in Iraq in 2003, the deportation and punishment of soldiers resisting participation in this war is a logical extension of the Bush doctrine.
Admitting this truth would mean ignoring consistent public opinion polling that confirms more than 80 per cent of Canadians stand by the decision not to go to war with Iraq (even 59 per cent of Americans agree with our decision). It would also require dismissing the 64 per cent of Canadians who think Iraq War resisters should be welcomed in Canada because the resisters have done the right thing.
After the massive human rights abuses in the Second World War and the Nazi persecution of the Jews, the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg described the waging of aggressive war as "essentially an evil thing ... to initiate a war of aggression ... is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole."
The chief prosecutor at the Nuremberg Tribunal and Associate United States Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson wrote: "No political or economic situation can justify" the crime of aggression.
"If certain acts in violation of treaties are crimes they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them, and we are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us."
Introduction of a bill that will change the law to let Iraq War resisters live here as the majority of Canadians desires is long overdue. For Harper, who admitted during the 2008 election that the Iraq War is "absolutely an error," permitting the resisters to stay would be a wise change of policy on this disastrous and unpopular war.
This fundraising appeal was posted to theWe Move to Canada blog
The War Resisters Support Campaign is asking for your help again. Our fight to secure safe haven for US war resisters in Canada continues. Without critical funds, we cannot win.
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Thousands of US soldiers have refused to participate in the US's invasion and occupation of Iraq, choosing to obey their consciences instead of illegal military orders. Some of these courageous men and women have come to Canada, seeking sanctuary.
The majority of Canadian people believe these veterans should be allowed to live in Canada. On two separate occasions, the Canadian Parliament passed a motion calling on the Government to allow the war resisters to stay. Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his minority government ignored both motions.
Now a private member's bill in support of US Iraq war resisters has been introduced in the House of Commons. If passed into law, Bill C-440 will give the previous motions the force of law.
But what happens until then?
Shamefully, the Harper Government continues to deport war resisters. If forced to return to the US, the war resisters will be court martialled, imprisoned and likely receive dishonourable discharges, the equivalent of a felony conviction.
Until a law is passed allowing the war resisters to stay in Canada, the War Resister Support Campaign must fight each deportation order in court. Even with discounted fees from lawyers sympathetic to our cause, we face thousands of dollars in legal costs.
That's why we need your help.
This is an all-volunteer campaign, so every dollar you pledge (minus a fee for the Fundable service) will go directly towards legal costs for war resisters like Jeremy Hinzman and Dean Walcott.
Jeremy Hinzman was one of the first Iraq War resisters to seek refuge in Canada. Jeremy, his wife Nga Nguyen, son Liam and daughter Meghan, a Canadian citizen, also face deportation. (See photo.) Jeremy says he will go to prison rather than kill innocent people in Iraq, but we believe he should be allowed to live in peace in Canada.
Dean Walcott served two tours of duty in Iraq. He was also stationed at a US military hospital in Germany, where mortally wounded US soldiers and Iraqi civilians lived out their last days. The carnage was ghastly. Dean began having nightmares and became severely depressed.
Once Dean was back in the US, the Marines obstructed his efforts to get help for his depression and post-traumatic stress symptoms, but there was no legal way for him to leave the military. In December 2006, Dean walked away from his base in North Carolina and boarded a Greyhound bus for Toronto.
Dean now trains high school students in computer repair, working for reBOOT Canada, a non-profit organization that provides computers and technical support to charities and low-income Canadians.
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Please help us win our battle to keep US war resisters safe in Canada.
You can pledge as little as $10 or as much as you can afford. We've set a modest goal of $2500. If we reach that goal by the Fundable deadline, your pledge will be charged (in US dollars) to your credit card or PayPal account. If we raise more than $2500, the Fundable campaign will continue until the deadline, and every dollar will go to war resister legal defense.
Supporting war resisters is a concrete way you can support peace, and funds are desperately needed. For more information, see the War Resisters Support Campaign, or the blog we move to canada under the category "war resisters".
With thanks and in peace,
The War Resisters Support Campaign
This paper, by Robin Long, was written while he was incarcerated at the Mirimar Brig and posted to the Blog Free Robin Long, 12 March, 2009.
N 2004, when military resister Jeremy Hinzman applied for refugee status in Canada, the Conservative government stepped in to his Refugee hearing and stated evidence challenging the legality of the War in Iraq can’t be used in his case. However, the U.N Handbook for Refugee’s and the Nuremburg Principles states: a soldier of an Army that is involved in an illegal war of aggression has a higher international duty to refuse service. Said soldier also has the right to seek refugee protection in any country that is signatory to the Geneva Convention. By refusing to allow him- and by precedent ALL other claimants the right to use that argument, they closed the door on that legal avenue for refugee protection.
THE US invasion of Iraq was clearly an illegal war of aggression. The US was not under attack, or the immanent threat of attack from the nation of Iraq, nor was the war approved by the UN Security Council. By taking the stance it did, the Canadian Government implicitly condoned the invasion & continuing occupation of Iraq. Is that what Canadians want? A majority of Americans want it to end and have come to realize it a mistake, at best. Canadians have long known it to be wrong. Why is the minority Conservative government still holding on to the idea, and still deporting war resisters? Why are they separating families and aiding in the imprisonment of morally strong men and women?
IN June 2007, Canada’s Parliament voted on a non- binding resolution to allow war resisters and their families permanent resident status. That vote passed, and in agreement with that vote, a poll of Canadian opinion showed overwhelming support for the resolution. In defiance of parliaments intent and the will of the people, the Conservative minority government, led by Prime Minister Steven Harper and Immigration Minister Diane Finley ignored the bill. The Government stated: All refugee claimants are given a fair chance to plead their case before the Refugee Board, and special treatment to these Iraq resisters were unfair to other claimants. Further, they stated that we are not legitimate claimants because we are from the US, and that the US has a fair and transparent justice system, and that we wouldn’t be singled out for being political.
ON JULY 14th, 2008, in my final attempt to stay in Canada, where my son and community is, Federal Judge Ann Mactavish stated that I didn’t prove I would be treated harshly by the US military for being a politically outspoken opponent to the War in Iraq and Bush Administration policy. She predicted my punishment would be minimal, 30 days in the brig, perhaps. She then cleared the way for my deportation/extradition. She noted only10% of these cases go to Court Martial.
A MONTH later, I was tried in a Court Martial presided over by a judge, a Colonel in the US Army, who has President Bush in her chain-of-command. (She was later appointed by Bush to oversee trials at Guantanamo Bay, no doubt because of her political credentials.
THE ONLY aggravating evidence the Prosecution presented was a 6 minute video of me stating, among other things, that I believed my President lied to me. A political statement. The fact that this was found admissible in court for the charge of Desertion is beyond me. There were no character witnesses brought against me. The ONLY factors the Prosecution wanted shown in determining my sentence was the fact I was political and exercising my freedom of speech in criticizing my Commander-in-Chief.
IT SEEMS like a conflict of interest to have a judge determine my fate when she has to ultimately answer to the President, while I was claiming that same President was a domestic enemy, who used any reason, and manufactured reasons, to invade and wreak havoc in Iraq.
THE JUDGE came back with 30 months- that’s two and a half years for not showing up for work that I believed to be morally objectionable, criminal, and its by far the harshest sentence given to a resister/deserter of the Iraq War.
I was saved from that by a plea bargain that got me 15 months. I STILL get a Dishonorable Discharge (DD). A DD will keep me from many fields of employment, from any Government position to the civilian world. It will make getting home loans all the harder. This is a FELONY CONVICTION- which will make it very hard, perhaps impossible to return to Canada to be with my young family. It is the worst grade of discharge there is.
PEOPLE THAT committed far worse crimes have been getting off with lighter sentences than me. 1st Infantry Division soldier Spec. Belmor Ramos was sentenced to only 7 months after being convicted of conspiracy to commit murder- 4 Iraqi men. I refused to participate in killings, he stood guard while others executed four unidentified Iraqi men, afterwards dumping their bodies in a Baghdad canal on ’07. During his court martial Ramos admitted his guilt, stating: “I wanted them dead. I had no legal justification to do this.” Where is the justice? The system is neither fair nor impartial. Can it really be transparent when you don’t know who is influencing the judge from up the chain of command? Do you see how the military justice system works? – Condone killings with light sentences, but God forbid someone should call President Bush a liar and a war monger. A persons words and political opinion must be far more damaging to the good order of the military if they are anti war and critical of the President, than a soldiers criminal actions in an occupied foreign nation…..
PEOPLE HAVE used the argument that I signed a contract, quite often. I’d like to quote from a letter one o the Founders of our United States wrote to General Washington concerning his thoughts on contracts in April, 1793: “When performance, for instance, becomes impossible, non performance is not immoral. So if performance becomes destructive to the Party, the law of self-preservation overrules the laws of obligations to others. For the reality of these principals I appeal to the true fountains of evidence: the head and heart of every rational honest man.”- Thomas Jefferson. For me to continue in my military contract would have been destructive to me as a person with my views, morals and ideals. Let alone the Iraqi’s, who have died in the hundreds of thousands ….
THE CONTRACT I signed was to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, from all enemies, foreign and domestic, and to obey the LAWFUL orders of the President and those officers over me. I did not sign to be a strong arm for corporate interests or oil. The so called Liberation of Iraq has turned into nothing more than a constant and protracted struggle by the people of Iraq, against forces, seen and unseen, that are trying to impose their will on them in a public war for private power and profit. True freedom is the ultimate expression and condition of a people to control their OWN destiny, not the manufactured variety being offered here. True democracy is not found at the point of a gun. It rises up from within the mass of the people.
IT WASN’T about WMD’s, or we would have found some. It wasn’t about “regime change” or we would have been in Darfur, or Indonesia, or a dozen other countries. It wasn’t about 9/11 because they were from Saudi Arabia. It dosn’t say anywhere in my contract that I would be going to foreign soil, half way around the world, to invade a country that was of no threat to the United States. To risk my life, not in defending the people or Constitution of the United States but creating more enemies for them by being in an occupying force. Iraq, however unhappy under our former ally/client Hussein, was never a real threat. The destabilized nation of Iraq has become a breeding ground and awesome recruiting tool for Al Queda. It has cost the American people an enormous price. Im not talking just te trillion dollar financial burden, but the human cost of the war. The deaths of so many of our brave youth, the missing limbs, the PTSD, the suicides. The invasion has made far more enemies for the United States and made the world a far more dangerous place.
THE ORDER to go to Iraq was not a lawful one. It violates our Constitution. Article IV states that ANY treaty the US is signatory to shall be the supreme law of the land. Last time I checked, the US is signatory to the Geneva Conventions. There are certain laws in that treaty for declaring war, last time I checked, “regime change” wasn’t one of them. A country must be under attack or immanent treat of attack. Neither was true in the case of Iraq. President Bush had no right to interpret the Constitution as he saw fit, on the grounds it was a new world after 9/11, and the 107th Congress had no right to pass HJ Res. 114, which “allowed” the President to invade Iraq. The Constitution was being ignored by the whole lot of them and they were derelict in their duty to uphold it.
THE STAND that the Conservative government of Canada has taken has separated a family, an act totally un-Canadian. I have a young son, a Canadian citizen, and a Canadian partner with MS, left to raise our son while I’m locked in a brig for refusing to participate in a war Canada , in 2003, under a different Government, wouldn’t send troops to. Back then, they saw the holes in Bush’s “intelligence”. By deporting me, and not giving me a chance to leave willingly, I have been barred from entering Canada for at least 10 years. My flesh and blood is there!
The Conservatives are destroying Canada’s tradition of being a refuge from militarism and an asylum from injustices that goes back to the times of slavery. Are they truly representing the people? Who are they working for, really?
THE DAYS of Bush have ended. This new Obama administration has a different view and a different policy. Its now time for Mr Harper to change his view. He should listen to Parliament and the solid majority of his citizens!
Please support the movement to allow War Resisters to stay in Canada and pardon the ones in the US. I ask anyone who reads this: please! Help me return to Canada to be with my partner and son. I want only to live in peace and be in his life.
STOP THE WAR. Peace, love, light.
Incarcerated Prisoner of the US Military
PO BOX 452136, San Diego, CA, 92145
This alert, was posted to the Let Them Stay Campaign Facebook page, August 6, 2009
Iraq war resister Rodney Watson has been ORDERED to LEAVE CANADA by AUGUST 10, 2009.
Full Story: A U.S. Iraq War veteran and war resister who has been living in Vancouver since 2007 has been told to leave Canada by August 10 or face removal.
RICHMOND BC DEMO TODAY: 9:00 a.m. PDT Unit 360, 5951 No. 3 Road Richmond, BCTORONTO DEMO TOMORROW: On Friday, August 7, 4:30 p.m., northwest corner of University Avenue and Queen Street West.
Rodney Watson is a veteran of the Iraq War. After seeing the way Iraqi civilians were being treated by the US, he refused a second deployment, choosing to come to Canada instead. Watson now has a Canadian-born son, and seeks only to live in peace in his new home.
In June 2009, the Immigration Critics from all three opposition parties wrote to Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Jason Kenney, calling on him to honour the will of Parliament and “not to use the Parliamentary recess to disregard the expressed will of the House of Commons with respect to the fair treatment of Iraq War resisters in Canada”. A majority of Members of Parliament voted twice to allow U.S. war resisters to remain in Canada, first in June 2008, then again in March 2009.
Despite this very clear mandate, Minister Kenney and the Harper Government continue to deport Iraq War resisters. Several war resisters already have been deported to the U.S., where two have been court martialed and imprisoned. In addition to Watson, several other war resisters in Canada live under threat of deportation, including Kimberly Rivera, Jeremy Hinzman and Patrick Hart. All are parents of young children.
In January, Minister Kenney publicly denounced U.S. war resisters as “bogus refugee claimants,” revealing the government’s blanket opposition to what is supposed to be an impartial process. The Minister’s blatantly prejudicial comments were promptly denounced by Amnesty International Canada and the Canadian Council for Refugees.
This press release was published by the War Resisters Support Campaign, March 29, 2009
Canadians call on Immigration Minister Jason Kenney to use his authority to act. On Monday evening the House of Commons voted, for the second time in 10 months, to let Iraq War resisters live in Canada. The vote on a motion from the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration directs the Government of Canada to immediately stop the deportation of U.S. Iraq War resisters and establish a program to facilitate permanent resident status for the resisters and their families.
“It’s time for Immigration Minister Jason Kenney and Prime Minister Harper to follow the will of the majority of Canadians and act as directed by Parliament,” said Michelle Robidoux, spokesperson for the War Resisters Support Campaign. “It could be as simple as Jason Kenney using his discretion as minister to grant the resisters’ applications to stay in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.”
The vote in Parliament comes less than a week after Members of Parliament from all three opposition parties held a press conference calling on the Harper government to stop the deportation of Kimberly Rivera, the first female Iraq War resister to come to Canada.
Kimberly Rivera, a former U.S. soldier, deployed to Iraq in the fall of 2006. While home on leave she decided she could no longer participate in the war. She and her family sought refuge in Canada in January 2007. Kimberly, her husband Mario and their three children – including a Canadian born daughter – were ordered to leave Canada by March 26 or face deportation. They won an 11th hour stay from the Federal Court Wednesday evening. Though The Honourable James Russell’s written decision was not immediately released, his verbal ruling explained that war resisters who are deported to the U.S. face disproportionately severe punishment for being public about their objections to the Iraq War.
“This was the fifth time that the court ruled that Iraq war resisters face harsher punishment if they’re sent back to the U.S.,” said Robidoux. “The courts have spoken, Parliament has spoken and Canadians have made their views clear. These conscientious objectors should not be sent back to the United States to face jail time for opposing the Iraq War.” A public opinion poll conducted by Angus Reid Strategies last June found that 64 per cent of Canadians want the government to allow Iraq War resisters to become permanent residents of Canada.
For further information, please contact: Michelle Robidoux, Spokesperson, War Resisters Support Campaign, 416-856-5008; or
Ken Marciniec, Communications Volunteer, War Resister Support Campaign, 416-803-6066, [email protected]
This article, by Anthony Lane, was originally publishd in the Colorado Spprings Independent, April 13, 2009
Since ditching the Army and the Iraq war two years ago, Kim Rivera has seen some things go her way.
The former Fort Carson soldier and her family found a new home in Canada, along with supporters to help them plead their case. From Toronto, the mother of three watched as American anti-war sentiment helped launch Barack Obama to the presidency.
But even as sentiment and sympathy align, the Texas native faces possible deportation, and imprisonment back in the States. Borys Wrzesnewskyj (pronounced rez-NEV-skee), a member of Canada's Parliament, says efforts to stop his country's government from deporting Rivera and hundreds of other Army deserters seem to be going nowhere.
"The government is standing shoulder to shoulder with the former Bush administration," Wrzesnewskyj says.
Given that the Obama administration has shown no sign of easing up on deserters, Wrzesnewskyj says, his question for Canada's conservative government is simple: "Why would you send this mother to prison and separate her from her three small children for taking a principled stand against an unjust war?"
Canada's minority government, led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, has deported at least four U.S. deserters since July over the objection of a majority in Parliament who have voted twice to let the them stay. Robin Long, another Fort Carson soldier, got wide publicity as the first to be deported, and he is now serving 15 months in a California military jail.
Rivera was preparing to be deported March 26 before a Canadian federal judge granted her an emergency stay of removal, based on the similarly harsh sentence she could get in the U.S. She is now waiting to find out if the courts will review her application for refugee status in Canada.
"It gives me another day to fight," Rivera said in a March 25 press conference.
Though Rivera could not be reached for this story, she told the Dallas Observer that she joined the Army mostly to provide a better living for her family than she could by working at Wal-Mart. She later found she objected to the war effort and missed her loved ones.
Her publicity could hurt her if she's deported. Lee Zaslofsky, national coordinator of the Toronto-based War Resisters Support Campaign, says Long's outspokenness against the war could explain his 15-month sentence, nearly twice what another Fort Carson deserter received and longer than those of some soldiers who have admitted to taking part in the murder of Iraqi civilians.
Strictly speaking, desertion is punishable by death during time of war, though the Army has not tried to go that far. The first year of the Iraq war, 2,610 soldiers deserted. That number climbed to 4,698 in the year between October 2007 and September 2008. Most deserters just try to lie low in the States; those who avoid speeding tickets or other law-enforcement contact run little risk of getting scooped up by the Army.
Though many Vietnam-era deserters and draft-dodgers were later forgiven, few expect that to happen for modern-day deserters, particularly while combat continues. And despite Obama's position that soldiers shouldn't have been sent to Iraq to begin with, Army spokesman Lt. Col. George Wright says he's unaware of any plans to change treatment of those soldiers who opted out on their own.
This appeal, by Robin Long, was posted to Courage to Resist, March 2008
In 2004 when Jeremy Hinzman applied for refugee status in Canada the Conservative government stepped in at his Refugee Hearing and said that evidence challenging the legality of the war in Iraq can’t be used in this case. The U.N. Handbook for Refugees and the Nuremburg Principals say:
a soldier of an army that is involved in an illegal war of aggression has a higher international duty to refuse service. They also have the right to seek refugee protection in any country that is signatory to the Geneva Convention.
By refusing to allow him, and by precedent all other claimants, the right to use the argument that the war was illegal, the decision closed the door on that legal avenue for refugee protection.
The invasion of Iraq was clearly an illegal act of aggression. The U.S. was not under attack or the imminent threat of attack from the nation of Iraq. The action was also not approved by the U.N. Security Council. By taking this stance, the Conservative government is condoning the invasion and continuing occupation of Iraq. Is this what Canadians want? A majority of Americans want it to end and have also realized it to be a mistake. Canadians have long known it to be wrong. Why is the minority Conservative government still holding onto the idea and still deporting war resisters? Why are they separating families and being complicit in the incarceration of morally strong young men and women? What message is this sending?
Parliament voted to let war resisters remain
In June of 2007 Canada’s Parliament voted on a non-binding resolution to allow war resisters and their families permanent resident status. The vote passed. In agreement with the vote, a poll of Canadian opinion showed overwhelming support for the resolution. But I defiance of Parliament and the will of the people, the Conservative minority government led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Immigration Minister Diane Finley ignored the bill. The government stated that all refugee claimants are give a fair chance to plead their case at the Refugee Board, and special treatment to these Iraq resisters wasn’t fair to the other claimants. The government has also stated in the past that we are not legitimate claimants because we are from the U.S. which they say has a fair and transparent justice system and we wouldn’t be singled out for being political.
On July 14th,2008 in my final attempt to stay in Canada, where my son and community are, Federal Judge Ann Mactavish stated that I didn’t prove I would be treated harshly by the U.S. military for being a politically outspoken opponent to the war in Iraq and the Bush administration policy. She predicted that my punishment would be minimal and I’d serve at most 30 days in the brig. (This is probably because less than 10% of AWOL cases are brought to court martial.) She then cleared the way for my deportation. Convicted of a felony Less than a month later I was tried in a court martial presided over by a judge who is a colonel in the Army, a person who has the President in her chain of command. (A person late appointed by Bush to Guantanamo Bay no doubt because of her credentials and political position.) The only aggravating evidence the prosecution presented was a 6 minute long video of me stating among other things that “I feel my president lied to me.” (A political statement.) The fact that this was found admissible in court for the crime of desertion is beyond me. There were no character witnesses brought against me. The only factor the prosecution wanted shown in determining a sentence was the fact that I was political and exercising my freedom of speech in criticizing the Commander in Chief. It seems like a conflict of interest to have a judge determine my fate when she has to ultimately answer to the President, while I was claiming the President was a domestic enemy. While I was openly saying in my defense that the Bush administration created reasons to go to Iraq, she had superiors to answer to who answer to the President.
The judge came back with a 30 month sentence; that’s two and a half years for not showing up for work I thought to be morally objectionable, by far the harshest sentence given to a deserter from the Iraq war. The only thing that saved me was a plea bargain for 15 months. I still received a dishonorable discharge. A dishonorable discharge will keep me from ever having a government job and be at a disadvantage in the civilian sector as well. I will have a hard time ever getting a loan for a house or a car. This conviction is also a felony! A felony will make it hard for me to return to Canada to be with my young family. Then again, Judge Ann Mactavish had already made sure I wouldn’t be allowed in for ten year.
People who committed far worse crimes have been getting off with lighter sentences than mine. I refused to participate in killing and got 15 months, but a First Infantry Division soldier, Spc. Belmor Ramos, was sentenced to only seven months after being convicted of conspiracy to commit murder in the case of four Iraqi men. In 2007, he stood guard while others blindfolded and shot in the head four unidentified Iraqi men, afterwards dumping their bodies in a Baghdad canal. During his court martial, Ramos admitted his guilt, stating, “I wanted them dead. I had no legal justification to do this” Where is the justice? The system is not fair and impartial. Can it really be transparent when you don’t know who is influencing the judge from up the chain of command? See how the military justice system works? It gives light sentences for killing, but God forbid someone should call the president a liar and war-monger. In a court martial, a person’s words and political opinions – if they are anti-war and critical of the president – seem be far more damaging to his case than someone’s illegal actions in an occupied foreign nation.
What about the contract I signed?
Often, people have argued that I signed a contract. I’d like to quote from a letter one of the Founding Fathers wrote to George Washington on his thoughts about contracts:
When performance, for instance, becomes impossible, non- performance is not immoral. So if performance becomes Self-destructive to the party, the law of self preservation Overrules the laws of obligations to others. For the reality of These principles I appeal to the true fountains of evidence, the head and heart of every rational man.--Thomas Jefferson, April 1793
For me to continue in my military contract would have been destructive to me as a person with my views, morals, and ideals. The contract I signed was to support and defend the Constitution of the United States from all enemies foreign and domestic, and to obey the lawful orders of the President and those officers appointed over me. I did not sign to be the strong arm for corporate interests of oil. The so-called “liberation” of Iraq has turned into nothing more than a constant and protracted struggle for the people, against the forces that are trying to impose their will upon them for power and profit. True freedom is the ultimate expression and condition of a people to control their own destiny, not the manufactured, force-fed variety being offered to the people of Iraq. True democracy is not found at the end of the end of a gun barrel. It rises up from within the masses. The government manufactured pretenses for the war
The invasion of Iraq wasn’t about WMDs, or else we would have found some. It wasn’t about regime change, or else we would be in Darfur, or Indonesia. (Besides, regime change is not a legitimate reason to go to war.) It wasn’t about 9/11 terrorists because most of those were from Saudi Arabia. It didn’t say anywhere in my contract that I’d be going to foreign soil halfway around the world, to invade a country that was no threat to the U.S. It didn’t say in my contract that I would be called upon to risk my life, not defending the people or the Constitution of the United States, but creating more enemies for our country by being an occupier. The invasion of Iraq has made the world a much more dangerous place.
Iraq was never a real threat. And now the destabilized nation of Iraq has become a breeding ground, an awesome recruiting center, for al Qaeda. And it has exacted a great price from the American people. I’m not talking about the huge monetary price, but the human cost of war, the deaths of so many of our brave youth, the missing limbs, the PTSD, the suicides.
The order for me to go to Iraq was not a lawful one. It violated the Constitution. Article VI of the Constitution states that any treaty to which the U.S. is a signatory shall be the supreme law of the land. The last time I checked, the U.S. was a signing party to the Geneva Conventions. There are certain rules in that treaty for declaring war, and the last time I checked, regime change was not one of them. A country must be under attack or be under threat of imminent attack. Neither was true in the case of Iraq. Former President Bush had no right to interpret the Constitution or the Geneva Conventions simply as he saw fit, and the 107th Congress had no right to pass H.J. Res. 114 which “allowed” the president to invade Iraq. The Constitution was being ignored by the whole lot of them and they were derelict in their duty to uphold it.
The stand that the Conservative government of Canada has taken has separated a family – an act totally un-Canadian. I have a young son, a Canadian citizen. My partner, also a Canadian citizen, has multiple sclerosis and has been left to raise our son alone while I’m locked in the brig for refusing to participate in a war that Canada itself wouldn’t even send troops to. In 2003 the then Liberal government saw the holes in Bush’s intelligence and refused to participate in the invasion. The Canadian government not only deported me, but barred me from entering Canada again for ten years! My flesh and blood is there! Uphold Canada’s humanitarian tradition
The Conservatives are destroying Canada’s tradition of being a refuge from militarism and an asylum for those escaping injustice – a tradition that goes back to the times of slavery. Are they truly representing the people? Who are they working for really? The days of Bush have ended. This new Obama administration has a different view and different policies. It’s time for Mr. Stephen Harper to change his view. He should listen to what his Parliament and a majority of Canadians are saying.
Please support the movement to allow war resisters to stay in Canada and to pardon those in the U.S. Please help me to return to Canada to be with my son. I want only to live in peace and be in this life. Stop the war!
Robin Long, Prisoner L4830R35, NAVCON Brig Miramar