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!
Disclaimer: In accordance with title 17 u.s.c. section 107, this material is distributed without profit for research and educational purposes.
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 James Dao, was published in the New York Times, August 28, 2009
A restive antiwar movement, largely dormant since the election of Barack Obama, is preparing a nationwide campaign this fall to challenge the administration’s policies on Afghanistan.
Anticipating a Pentagon request for more troops there, antiwar leaders have engaged in a flurry of meetings to discuss a month of demonstrations, lobbying, teach-ins and memorials in October to publicize the casualty count, raise concerns about the cost of the war and pressure Congress to demand an exit strategy.
But they face a starkly changed political climate from just a year ago, when President George W. Bush provided a lightning rod for protests. The health care battle is consuming the resources of labor unions and other core Democratic groups. American troops are leaving Iraq, defusing antiwar sentiments in some quarters. The recession has hurt fund-raising for peace groups and forced them to slash budgets. And, perhaps most significant, many liberals continue to support Mr. Obama, or at least are hesitant about openly criticizing him.
“People do not want to take on the administration,” said Jon Soltz, chairman of VoteVets.org. “Generating the kind of money that would be required to challenge the president’s policies just isn’t going to happen.”
Tom Andrews, national director for an antiwar coalition, Win Without War, said most liberals “want this guy to succeed.” But he said the antiwar movement would try to convince liberals that a prolonged war would undermine Mr. Obama’s domestic agenda. Afghanistan, he said, “could be a devastating albatross around the president’s neck.”
But there is also a sense among some antiwar advocates that Mr. Obama’s honeymoon with Democrats in general and liberals in particular is ending. As evidence, they point to a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll showing that 51 percent of Americans now feel the war in Afghanistan is not worth fighting, a 10-point increase since March. The poll had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.
“We’re coming out of a low period,” said Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the antiwar group Code Pink. “But as progressives feel more comfortable protesting against the Obama administration and challenging Democrats as well as Republicans in Congress, then we’ll be back on track.”
The Obama administration has opposed legislation requiring an exit strategy, saying it needs time to develop new approaches to the war. “Given his own impatience for progress, the president has demanded benchmarks to track our progress and ensure that we are moving in the right direction,” a White House official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The October protest schedule is expected to include marches in Washington and elsewhere. But organizers acknowledge that it may be difficult to recruit large numbers of demonstrators. So groups like United for Peace and Justice are also planning smaller events in communities around the country, including teach-ins with veterans and families of deployed troops, lobbying sessions with members of Congress, film screenings and ad hoc memorials featuring the boots of deceased soldiers and Marines.
“There are some that feel betrayed” by Mr. Obama, said Nancy Lessin, a founder of the group Military Families Speak Out. “There are some who feel that powerful forces are pushing the president to stay on this course and that we have to build a more powerful movement to change that course.”
The October actions will be timed not only to the eighth anniversary of the first American airstrikes on Taliban forces and the seventh anniversary of Congressional authorization for invading Iraq, but also an anticipated debate in Congress over sending more troops to Afghanistan. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the commander of American forces in Afghanistan, is widely expected to request additional troops, beyond the 68,000 projected for the end of the year, after finalizing a policy review in the next few weeks.
The antiwar movement consists of dozens of organizations representing pacifists, veterans, military families, labor unions and religious groups, and they hardly speak with one voice. Some groups like Iraq Veterans Against the War have started shifting their focus toward Afghanistan, passing resolutions demanding an immediate withdrawal of troops from there. Others, like VoteVets.org, support the American military presence in Afghanistan, calling it crucial to fighting terrorism.
And some groups, including Moveon.org, have yet to take a clear position on Afghanistan beyond warning that war drains resources from domestic programs.
“There is not the passion around Afghanistan that we saw around Iraq,” said Ilyse Hogue, Moveon.org’s spokeswoman. “But there are questions.”
There are also signs that some groups that have been relatively quiet on Afghanistan are preparing to become louder. U.S. Labor Against the War, a network of nearly 190 union affiliates that has been focused on Iraq, is “moving more into full opposition to the continuing occupation” of Afghanistan, said Michael Eisenscher, the group’s national coordinator.
“President Obama risks his entire domestic agenda, just as Johnson did in Vietnam, in pursuing this course of action in Afghanistan,” Mr. Eisenscher said.
Handfuls of antiwar protestors can still be seen on Capitol Hill, outside state office buildings and around college campuses. Cindy Sheehan, for instance, has set up her vigil on Martha’s Vineyard while Mr. Obama vacations there. But many advocates say a lower-key approach may be more effective in winning support right now.
An example of that strategy is an Internet film titled “Rethink Afghanistan,” which is being produced and released in segments by the political documentary filmmaker Robert Greenwald. In six episodes so far, Mr. Greenwald has used interviews with academics, Afghans and former C.I.A. operatives to raise questions about civilian casualties, women’s rights, the cost of war and whether it has made the United States safer.
The episodes, some as short as two minutes, are circulated via Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and blogs. Antiwar groups are also screening them with members of Congress. Mr. Greenwald, who has produced documentaries about Wal-Mart and war profiteers, said the film represented a “less incendiary” approach influenced by liberal concerns that he not attack Mr. Obama directly.
“We lost funding from liberals who didn’t want to criticize Obama,” he said. “It’s been lonely out there.”
Code Pink is trying to build opposition to the war among women’s groups, some of which argue that women will suffer if the Taliban returns. In September, a group of Code Pink organizers will visit Kabul to encourage Afghan women to speak out against the American military presence there.
And Iraq Veterans Against the War is using the Web to circulate episodes of a documentary, “This Is Where We Take Our Stand,” filmed in 2008 at its Winter Soldier conference, at which veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan testified about civilian casualties, combat stress and other tolls of the wars.
The group’s leaders say they do not expect many people to take to the barricades against the administration any time soon. But that will change, they argue, as the death toll continues to rise.
“In the next year, it will more and more become Obama’s war,” said Perry O’Brien, president of the New York chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War. “He’ll be held responsible for the bloodshed.”
6:00 PM End the War! Vigil & Leafletting, Lytton Plaza University Ave. & Emerson St. Palo Alto CA 94301
Join us in marking the sixth anniversary of a war that should never have happened. We will hear from a few speakers and then leaflet passersby, urging them to contact the White House and Congress. With our economy in collapse -- and millions of people losing jobs and homes -- we cannot keep wasting billions of dollars -- nor any more young lives -- on two tragic and fruitless wars.
St. Augustine, Florida
6th Anniversary of Iraq War Candlelight Vigil/Thursday, March 19th, 6:30 PM at the gazebo in the center of La Plaza de La Constitucion.
We will circle the inside of the gazebo with the updated wall of names, set up a flag at half mast, play taps and hold a candlelight vigil with the reading of the names of all troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Candles will be available.
End the War Rally, 4:30 pm
Gather at Capitol Annex, 514 W Jefferson, and then march to Boise
City Hall, 150 N Capitol Blvd. for a rally.
5:30 pm to 7:30 pm, Watertown Square
LET US NOT FORGET!
We are fighting two wars in which thousands of US soldiers have died or have been wounded and hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians have been killed and wounded.
We are spending BILLIONS on these wars while teachers are not hired, houses are not built, and families go without food, shelter, and healthcare; and as an economic depression brings more and more unemployment, foreclosures, and despair.
Bring candles and signs that reflect your feelings about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, our spending priorities, and our economy.
Sponsored by: Justice with Peace Task Force of Watertown Citizens for Environmental Safety, Newton Dialogues on Peace and War, and Waltham Concerned Citizens. If you have questions, please call 617-926-8560, mailbox 2.
Fort Lee, New Jersey
4:00PM - 6:00PM Join us in Fort Lee for a special peace vigil as we call for an end to the war in Iraq War. The vigil will be held at the corner of Lemoine Avenue and Bruce Reynolds Blvd
East Patchogue, New York
7:30 PM - Prayer Service for Peace and Reconciliation ALL ARE WELCOME.
New York, New York
1:00 PM = Union Square, New York City, marching to Times Square, New York City 14th & University Place New York City NY 10011
Rally & march to protest US escalation of war in Afghanistan; bombing of Pakistan; continuation of secret rendition. Join the first national anti-war protests of Obama's War on Terror.
6:00 PM - International Youth Hostel Down-Under Room 891 Amsterdam Ave @ 103 St. New York NY 10025,
Screening of Operation Lysistrata, the inspirational anti-war documentary of a worldwide theatrical protest of the Iraq War will be screened along with refreshments and invited guest speakers. Six years too many into this war, rededicate to activism against war and for social & financial justice with this inspiring film!
Noon, Philadelphia City Hall (west side, 15th & Market Sts.) Vigil for Peace with the Walk for a New Spring:reading the names of U.S. and Iraqi war dead; Celeste Zappala, whose son, Sherwood Baker was killed in Iraq, April '04; music; and walk-around City Hall, prior to Mayor's Appeal for Disarmament. Organized by the Brandywine Peace Community and Catholic Peace Fellowship. Call 610-544-1818 for more information.
This article, by Eric Ruder was posted to Socialist Worker.org, July 11, 2008
CLEVELAND--Some 400 antiwar activists gathered for the National Assembly to End the Iraq War and Occupation on June 28 and 29.
Some attendees came as individuals, while others were representatives of national antiwar organizations, local or regional peace coalitions, and groups of antiwar veterans and military family members. Organizations in attendance included United for Peace and Justice, ANSWER, Troops Out Now Coalition, U.S. Labor Against the War, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Veterans for Peace and Military Families Speak Out, among others.
Conference participants took up many of the issues facing the antiwar movement. The assembly decided on a call for a national day of action on October 11, as well as a week of actions from December 9 to 14.
One of the many issues addressed by the assembly was the inclusion of the demand to end the U.S. war and occupation of Afghanistan alongside opposition to the war in Iraq, given that these conflicts are both aspects of the U.S. drive to dominate the Middle East.
The assembly also agreed to express its opposition to any attack on Iran, including the use of sanctions or other sorts of threats and coercive measures against Iran's sovereignty, and to take action against such attacks, whether carried out by the U.S. directly or by its proxy Israel.
Participants elected a 13-member administrative body to carry out decisions of the assembly and take up issues that there wasn't time to resolve during the weekend.
Despite opinion polls indicating broad antiwar sentiment in the U.S. population, there have been no major national antiwar mobilizations since January 2007. What's more, many activists have decided either to take a wait-and-see approach during this election year--or have been caught up in the enthusiasm for the Obama campaign.
Some conservative voices in the antiwar movement defend this state of affairs--at the Cleveland meeting, Leslie Cagan, representing United for Peace and Justice, said in her speech that the movement was in good shape as it exists now. But for many others, there is enormous frustration and a recognition of the need for a unified, mass movement to challenge the war planners in the White House, Congress and the Pentagon.
The assembly sought to address this frustration. Yet it will require substantial new forces--built from the grassroots, in neighborhoods, on campuses and in cities--to revive the movement and create the necessary foundation for sustained organizing at the national level.
It's important for antiwar activists to support any and all efforts dedicated to ending these barbaric wars of occupation--and keeping the U.S. from starting new ones. The success of antiwar formations at a national level will continue to require, first and foremost, the patient work of building networks of activists at the grassroots and taking actions locally that can be the building blocks for a national movement.
This article and the accompanying photographs (by Jamie Lehane) were posted to nycindymedia.org, July 11, 2008
Dear Canada: Let War Resisters Stay
60 people gathered outside the Canadian consulate on Avenue of the Americas July 9 to call for the Conservative Party-led government of Canada to honor the House of Commons measure that calls for asylum and residency for United States war resisters living there.
At the end of the protest, petitions were delivered to the Canadian consulate expressing support and solidarity with war resisters in Canada, as well as calling on the Canadian government to follow the will of their citizens by halting deportation proceedings against members of the U.S. military who have taken a stand against the Iraq War.
As the Indypendent reported in a June 26, 2008 article titled “G.I. Resisters Face Legal Limbo in Canada,” the non-binding measure in support of war resisters was passed on June 3, 2008. It followed a December 6, 2007 recommendation from the Canadian Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration to implement a program to allow war resisters in Canada to legally stay there.
The protest, with members of the War Resisters League, Code Pink, the Granny Peace Brigade, United for Peace and Justice, and more, followed a call from Courage to Resist to organize vigils outside Canadian consulates across the United States. 14 other cities in the U.S. heeded their call, from Dallas to Los Angeles to Philadelphia and more. The War Resisters League spearheaded the New York City demonstration.
The Granny Peace Brigade sings
There was little police presence, with only one NYPD officer visible on a bicycle.
Signs held up by the demonstrators best summed up the vigil’s message: “Dear Canada, Let War Resisters Stay.”
Corey Glass, a former sergeant in the National Guard of California, was scheduled to be deported July 10. That day, he was granted a stay of removal from the Federal Court of Canada, allowing him to reside in Canada for at least another two months.
Matthis Chiroux, a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War and a Brooklyn College student who refused to deploy to Iraq two and a half weeks ago, had a message of solidarity for Corey Glass.
“Corey Glass is a hero of the human cause,” Chrioux said. “The Canadian government should embrace him as such…Corey, though I have never met you, know you are my hero and a true hero for this country.” Chiroux is awaiting arrest, imprisonment and trial for his courageous stand against the Iraq War.
The Federal Court of Canada’s decision to allow Glass to stay in Canada for now followed another positive decision for U.S. war resisters. The Federal Court has ordered the Immigration and Refugee Board to take up Key’s case once again, saying that the IRB had rejected his application for refugee status on a narrow basis. According to the War Resisters Support Campaign, an advocacy group for resisters in Canada that provides them with legal and moral support, “the court found that Key was required to systematically violate the Geneva Conventions as part of his military service in Iraq.”
“[Resisters] need to be protected and respected for their refusal to commit war crimes and to continue killing in an illegal and immoral war,” said Jenny Hines, a member of Code Pink and the Granny Peace Brigade. The Granny Peace Brigade added some melodic tunes to the demonstration, signing “1,2,3, what are we fighting for? First it was WMDs, then democracy.”
Matthis Chiroux, IVAW member
Although the two court decisions in favor of U.S. war resisters has given the growing movement hope, the Canadian government is currently trying to deport resister Robin Long. Long is currently jailed in the town of Nelson, British Columbia, and Canada is scheduled to deport him next Monday. Nelson, B.C. is also the current residence of resister Ryan Johnson. Bob Ages of the Vancouver chapter of the War Resisters Support Campaign told the Canadian-based Globe And Mail that what Prime Minister Harper is trying to do is “kidnap war resisters and get them into the hands of George Bush.”
“It doesn’t sound like [Harper] wants to [follow the House of Commons measure], but who knows? We need to exert pressure right now, and show that the Canadian population doesn’t want [resisters to be deported], the U.S. population doesn’t want this…It’s time to end the U.S. occupation of Iraq, and support these courageous soldiers who are putting international law in their conscience,” said Matt Smucker, an organizer with the War Resisters League.
This press release, written by John Bruhns, was published by AfterDowningStreet.org, April 9, 2008
Yesterday, when General Petraeus testified before the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees he made it crystal clear that the Bush Administration intends to keep a minimum of 140,000 U.S. troops in Iraq at least through the end of its term. This position was sharply criticized by some on Capitol Hill. But we've heard all this before.
What's urgently needed is less talk and effective action by members of Congress. They have it in their power to stop this war, if they use it. They can refuse to allocate additional money for the war.
They can also co-sponsor and then vote for HR 5507, introduced by the leaders of the Out-of-Iraq Caucus. This is a strong bill that requires the rapid removal of all U.S. troops and security contractors from Iraq. It repeals the original authorization for the use of military force, bans permanent military bases, supports funding for Iraqi reconstruction, requires closure of all detention centers operated by the U.S. and contains many other valuable provisions including anti-torture language.
Without peace movement support, this bill will languish. The same members of Congress who complain loudly about the failure of the Bush strategy have been too timid to back this important remedy.
This article, by Gerry Condon, was originally published in ZMagazine, March 23, 2008
When Private Jeremy Hinzman crossed the border into Canada in January 2004, he became the first AWOL GI to seek refugee status there. The U.S. Army had denied his request to serve in a non-combat role as a Conscientious Objector. They forced him into a tour in Afghanistan, and then ordered him to deploy to Iraq. Four years after fleeing the country, Hinzman, his wife and one-year-old son are facing the possibility of deportation back to the United States.
In March 2005 Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board denied Hinzman’s refugee claim. Notoriously conservative in its determinations, the Refugee Board refused to consider the illegality of the Iraq War and declared that the court-martial and imprisonment that awaited Hinzman in the U.S. did not amount to “persecution” for his political beliefs.
Brandon Hughey, the second AWOL GI to seek refuge in Canada, was also denied refugee status, as have at least a dozen other U.S. war resisters—and counting.
Although Canada has never granted refugee status to anyone fleeing persecution in the United States, Hinzman, Hughey, and their Canadian supporters continued undaunted in their quest for political refugee status. Their lawyer, Vietnam War resister Jeffry House, appealed in Canada’s Federal Courts, eventually going all the way to the Supreme Court. But on November 15, 2007 the Supreme Court of Canada announced that it would not hear the war resisters’ appeals.
Seeking refugee status, however, “was never the only arrow in our quiver,” says Lee Zaslofsky, coordinator of the War Resisters Support Campaign, and one of 30,000 Vietnam War resisters who have become Canadian citizens. “We have pursued a two-track strategy from the beginning. Even while we fought in the courts for refugee status, we were working on the political front to build popular support for sanctuary and to win the support of the various political parties.”
The war resisters’ political strategy bore its first fruit last December 6 in Canada’s House of Commons. After hearing eloquent testimony from former U.S. Army Sergeant Phillip McDowell, along with representatives of the Mennonites and Quakers, the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration adopted a motion calling on the government to allow war resisters to stay in Canada. The motion, which also calls for a halt to deportation proceedings, passed by a 7-4 vote, with all of the opposition parties united against the ruling Conservatives.
The Committee’s motion, which was broadened to include resisters of all wars not sanctioned by the UN, reads as follows: “The Committee recommends that the government immediately implement a program to allow conscientious objectors and their immediate family members (partners and dependents), who have refused or left military service related to a war not sanctioned by the United Nations and do not have a criminal record, to apply for permanent resident status and remain in Canada; and that the government should immediately cease any removal or deportation actions that may have already com- menced against such individuals.
The passage of this motion was the first good news they had received in some time. “This shows a willingness of the opposition parties in Canada’s Parliament to come together to ensure that none of these resisters is returned to the U.S. where they face court martials, incarceration, and possible deployment to Iraq,” said Zaslofsky.
Campaign organizer Michelle Robidoux sounded a more cautionary note. “I want to make sure that nobody leaves thinking that this is won. It’s very important that we understand that now the work begins…. [The passage of this motion] does not mean that people can stay immediately. It means that there is a political opening here—it’s a significant poli- tical opening.”
“What we need,” continued Zaslofsky, “is for the Liberal Party as a whole to take a stance on this. Together (the three parties) have a majority and if they act together they can put something through the House of Commons.
Poll Reveals Support
Coming only weeks after the disappointing decision by the Supreme Court, the Committee’s affirmative vote felt like a miracle. But it was no fluke. For four years the War Resisters Support Campaign, comprised of unions, churches, artists, and activists, has been organizing across Canada with the slogan “Let Them Stay.” The war resisters themselves have spoken hundreds of times, collectively, in community meetings and in the media.
Demonstrations were held across Canada and the U.S. in support of war resisters, January 25-26, 2007—photo from www.resisters.ca
The extent of the Campaign’s success was demonstrated in a June 2007 poll showing that nearly two-thirds of the people of Ontario supported the war resisters. Of the 605 Ontarians who responded to the pollsters’ questions, 64.6 percent said U.S. soldiers should be allowed to settle in Canada while only 27.2 percent said they should be sent home. The poll results were broken down by gender, age, location, and party support. Each demographic was supportive of the war resisters, with 74 percent of NDP voters, 71 percent of Liberal voters, and even 53 percent of Conservative voters saying, “Let them settle in Canada.”
Shirley Douglas, a Canadian actor and mother of actor Keifer Sutherland, agreed. “This poll shows that the Canadian tradition of welcoming Americans who dissent from the policies of war is still important to us,” said Douglas. “The Canadian government should move now to make it possible for war resisters to settle in this country as so many did during the Vietnam War.”
U.S. war resisters in Canada are very encouraged by this showing of popular and parliamentary support. The Committee’s motion must now be put before the entire House of Commons where it is hoped that the opposition parties will once again unite to pass it.
In the meantime, Jeremy Hinzman has received his Pre-Removal Risk Assessment. His case is being reviewed and within months he may be given an order to leave Canada. On yet another track, Hinzman is appealing to the Immigration Minister to allow him to remain in Canada on “Humanitarian and Compassionate” grounds, along with his wife, Nga Nguyen, and their son, Liam, now five, who has spent most of his life in Canada.
“It’s great that people all across Canada and the U.S. are coming out to show support for the war resisters,” said Patrick Hart, a former sergeant in the U.S. Army who came to Canada in 2005 with his family. “My family could be told we have to go back to the States anytime now. My wife Jill and I just want to be able to live here in peace and raise our son, Rian. We hope that the politicians will let us do that.”
Hart and fellow resisters Robin Long and Corey Glass have all received their Pre-Removal Risk Assessments, a step toward deportation.
While a majority of Conservative party voters in the Ontario poll were sympathetic to the plight of U.S. war resisters, that is not the position of the minority Conservative government. In 2003, Stephen Harper, Canada’s current prime minister, was a vocal proponent of Canada joining the U.S. war against Iraq. Fortunately, a sizable majority of the Canadian people saw things differently and the Liberal government at the time declined President Bush’s invitation to join the “Coalition of the Willing.” Harper now denies he ever supported the Iraq War.
But Canada’s Conservative prime minister is an ardent advocate for the U.S.-initiated war in Afghansistan, where Canadian soldiers are an important part of the NATO deployment. The previous Liberal government first sent troops to Afghanistan in 2001 and Harper’s Conservatives have extended that mission until February 2009 and are pursuing an additional extension, while exhorting the European members of NATO to send additional troops.
With more and more Canadian troops dying in Afghanistan, and a scandal raging over the torture of prisoners captured by Canadians and handed over to Afghan (and possibly U.S.) forces, the majority of Canadians are against this war. In fact, opposition to the Afghanistan War may be a major factor in forcing a federal election, possibly as early as this spring. Ultimately, it may take a change at the top of the Canadian government to ensure a safe haven for war resisters. With the Liberal Party in disarray, however, progressive Canadians worry that the Conservatives might return to power.
U.S. Antiwar Movement Joins Sanctuary Campaign
So it was with a mixture of optimism and urgency that the War Resisters Support Campaign organized a “pan-Canadian” day of action on Saturday, January 26, two days before the Parliament would reconvene. Events were held in at least 11 Canadian cities—from Victoria, British Columbia to Halifax, Nova Scotia. People listened to speeches, watched antiwar films, and wrote letters to government officials and party leaders. In several cities, they marched to the post office and made a show of mailing the letters.
In Toronto, the Bloor Street United Church filled up with hundreds of supporters. When Jeremy Hinzman was introduced, the crowd greeted him with a prolonged standing ovation. He then reminded listeners of the reasons he came to Canada in the first place and thanked the Canadian people for their tremendous support.
In the U.S., the war resister advocacy group Courage To Resist coordinated solidarity actions on Friday, January 25 to coincide with the pan-Canadian actions. Vigils were held outside Canadian Consulates in New York, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, DC. Delegations met with Consular officials and delivered copies of thousands of names of people in the U.S. who have signed petitions and letters to the Canadian government.
Significantly, the January 25 vigils and delegations were the first nationally coordinated actions in the U.S. in support of our war resisters in Canada. Groups that joined Courage to Resist and the War Resisters Support Campaign in making this a successful day included Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace, War Resisters League, Iraq Veterans Against the War, DECOI, Veterans for Peace, Raging Grannies, Project Safe Haven, Twin Cities Peace Campaign, Truth in Recruiting, Payday men’s network, Global Women’s Strike, North Texas for Justice and Peace, United for Peace and Justice, and others.
United For Peace and Justice promoted these actions via email to its entire national membership. Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) did the same, and IVAW members were front and center at many of the vigils around the country.
“As veterans of the Iraq war, we have a special role to play in supporting our war resisters,” said Chanan Suarez-Diaz, president of the Seattle chapter of IVAW. “Whether they are in Canada, Germany, or the U.S., whether they are AWOL, in the brig, on active duty, or in legal limbo like Lt. Ehren Watada, they need and deserve all of our support.”
Many of the resisters are, of course, also Iraq veterans themselves. They survived one tour but went AWOL when ordered back a second time. IVAW members have made several trips to Canada to visit their fellow veterans and they are making arrangements for some of them to testify via satellite television at the Winter Soldier hearings being organized for March 13-16 in Washington, DC. Iraq veterans are also mobilizing members and supporters to reach out to active duty GI’s, including at Fort Lewis, Washington.
War Resisters Still Coming To Canada
Estimates of the number of U.S. war resisters in Canada range from 200-300. Approximately 50 of them have applied for refugee status.
AWOL GIs continue to make the trek north. They can still enter Canada as visitors and then apply for refugee status, which gives them immediate legal status in Canada as long as their refugee claim is pending, possibly a year or more. Refugee claimants are eligible for social assistance in some provinces and for Canada’s free national healthcare.
War resisters thinking of coming to Canada are advised to call the War Resisters Support Campaign so that Canadian supporters know they are on their way. This is increasingly important because Canadian border guards at some points of entry are reportedly profiling AWOL soldiers and discouraging them from entering, even putting them on the phone with their commanding officers. In such a case, a war resister can claim refugee status right at the border, and the Canadian authorities will respect this. Otherwise, it is preferable to enter Canada and see a Canadian lawyer before making a refugee claim.
“This is a complicated business,” says Zaslofsky. “Actually, the first thing we tell people who call for advice is to call the GI Rights Hotline and find out all their options.”
Some AWOL GIs may actually be eligible to be discharged from the military without further punishment, and experienced counselors can help them do that. Such an outcome is arguably preferable to an uncertain future in Canada without the ability to travel home to the U.S. to visit family or friends.
In case Canada does deport war resisters back to the U.S., the antiwar movement must be prepared to defend them, legally and politically. Some might call it amnesty. Some might call it justice or human rights or solidarity. The bottom line is that nobody should be punished for refusing to fight in an unjust war. By energetically supporting all war resisters, we can help bring an end to the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and make it more difficult to launch such wars in the future. That should be our goal.
Today, we'd like to highlight the actions that will be taking place on March 19th, the anniversary of the U.S. "shock and awe" assault on Iraq, the day on which five years of horrifying death and destruction began.
March 19, Mass Nonviolent Direct Actions in Washington, DC: We've marched, we've vigiled, we've lobbied -- it's time to put our bodies on the line in large numbers. We encourage everyone who can to join us in DC, on Wednesday, March 19th, to be part of the day of action, or to assist in support work. We are working to have delegations from all 50 states take part in this massive day of action.
March 19, Local Actions Throughout the Country: While we are working hard to have a large turnout in DC on March 19, it is also necessary to be visible and vocal in our local communities on that day.
Congress will not be in session and so our representatives and senators will be in their home districts/states. We are aiming to have at least one action in each of the 435 congressional districts. We encourage those who are not able to make it to DC on March 19 to organize and participate in local actions. These events will vary in location and character -- some will be vigils, others civil disobedience actions, some will be held at congressional offices, others in town squares -- but they will all be tied to the actions in Washington and sending the same message to the policy makers: It is time to end this war and occupation!
Our activities to mark the 5th anniversary are designed to offer new opportunities for people to publicly express their opposition to the war. We believe the anti-war movement must use the 5th anniversary as the beginning of a renewed and bolder effort to finally bring this war to an end. This is a challenging call to action, but it is urgent that we mark the 5th anniversary in as strong a way as possible to help ensure that ending the war in Iraq remains a central issue in the public discourse throughout this year.
We need your help to make all of this happen. Here's what you can do:
Spread the word. Circulate this message as widely as possible! Post a 5 Years Too Many web button on your website or blog.
Make plans now to join us in Washington on Wednesday, March 19th. Visit www.5yearstoomany.org/march19dc for more info and to register to join us in DC. The call for the actions in Washington is included below -- please share it with your friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, people you go to school with and everyone else you know and encourage them to make the trip to DC.
Get involved in local March 19 organizing. If you can't get to DC, check out what's happening in your area on March 19th and get involved. If you don't see anything listed yet for your area, start planning something now. We have lots of ideas for action you can take locally that day. Post the details of your action on our calendar so others can join you.
Make the most generous donation you can today. Please help give UFPJ the resources needed to organize and support both the DC and local actions. Every contribution you make is immediately put to good use.
Finally, we will soon be sending information about the other major 5th anniversary event we are supporting -- the Winter Soldier hearings being organized by Iraq Veterans Against the War. Please keep your eyes open for email from us with more details on how you can get involved in solidarity activities in your area.
Leslie Cagan, National Coordinator, UFPJ
Take Action in the Nation's Capitol on Wednesday, March 19
March 19th will mark the beginning of the 6th year of the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Enough is enough! We are organizing creative, nonviolent acts of civil disobedience in Washington, DC, to interrupt business as usual for those promoting and profiting from war and empire building. Focusing on the pillars of war , our actions will take place at multiple sites, demonstrating the real costs of war and offering visions for a more just and sustainable world, a world at peace.
If your organization would like to help mobilize people from your area to go to DC for March 19, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Information on civil disobedience trainings, etc. coming soon!
Five years of war and occupation in Iraq ... at what cost?
A country in shambles with 650,000 to 1 million Iraqis dead or wounded, 4,000,000 displaced, families and communities ripped apart. Nearly 4,000 U.S. service people killed and over 40,000 wounded, many then neglected by our government. All the while U.S. corporations reap huge profits as they plan to control Iraq's oil.
Over $1.2 trillion spent on death and destruction while at home millions of uninsured have no access to affordable healthcare, public infrastructure is collapsing, the housing mortgage crisis is growing, unemployment is rising and the Gulf Coast has yet to be rebuilt.
Continued abuses on our natural environment with corporate greed protected. The Arctic and Greenland melting before our eyes, Indigenous cultures and peoples being destroyed, extreme climate events -- all tied to the addiction to oil.
Torture, illegal surveillance, domestic spying, erosion of civil liberties. A criminal administration with a Congress and judiciary no longer offering adequate checks and balances. The Constitution, with its articles of impeachment, rendered irrelevant and disregarded.
And now threats of an attack on Iran and escalation of the U.S. military operation in Afghanistan. False claims of weapons of mass destruction, while all along the WMDs have been right here in the U.S.
These Are the Times in Which We Live. This Is Our Time to Respond.
We Will Not Be Silent!
On March 19 -- Join the Nonviolent Action and Civil Disobedience in Washington, DC
United by common demands and organizing principles, groups are encouraged to participate in nonviolent mass actions and/or organize their own actions in coordination with others. There could be sit-ins, die-ins, blockades, pray-ins, bike blockades, street theater, poetry readings, puppets, speak-outs and more at government agencies, war profiteers, corporate media, military recruitment centers, or other pillars of war and empire in DC. Unleash Your Imagination!