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, originally posted to VVAW.NET, was forwarded to the blog by David Zeiger, November 11, 2009
Please Don't Thank Me For My Service - Veterans Day Any Year
I can see That Wall in DC. I'm thinking of those two hundred names and faces I can't remember, eighteen and nineteen year old boys from my Basic Training company, "Killed In Action" before their 19th birthdays. I've seen their names on that wall while looking for my own.
Every time I hear, "Thank-you for serving!" I want to reply, "Fuck You!"
For which of the following are you thanking me:
a) learning how to do field abortions on "pregnant gook girls";
b) Being part of a military that is responsible for millions of deaths in Vietnam;
c) Refusing orders to Vietnam;
d) Participating in the GI Movement;
e) Thinking for myself;
f) Not thinking for myself;
g) Following or not following orders?
As a member of the United States Army from 1965 - 1970, I was NOT defending America, our allies, your families or friends. America was NOT being attacked by the Vietnamese, much in the same way that America is NOT being attacked by Iraqis
I for one, do NOT thank current soldiers for their service in Iraq or Afghanistan! I thank and honor those who repudiate this nation's militarism. I thank Iraq Veterans Against the War for their thought, action and lives. I thank those veterans who organized and testified at the IVAW Winter Soldier Hearings last year and who continue to give witness to atrocity and mayhem. ivaw.org/wintersoldier/testimony
On Veteran's Day, I salute, in addition to IVAW, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Veterans For Peace, The National Liberation Front of Vietnam, WWII Allied Forces led by General Dwight Eisenhower; I salute Resistance Fighters against the nazi's throughout Europe; Resistance movements from South Africa to South Harlem, from Philadelphia to Nicaragua where my government spent millions attempting to overthrow a democratic government who's president had the nerve to be critical of the United States.
I do salute those who choose to defend America. Go get the bad guy, McCain will tell you right where he is, but why thank anyone for killing tens of thousands of civilians cause you can't find the right cave and invaded the wrong nation? Was their a right nation to invade? Should I thank today's soldiers for being lied to and believing in that lie? Perhaps their "good intentions" deserve a salute?
On this Veteran's Day, I again salute those veterans, from the armed forces of all nations who use their training, intelligence and compassion to seek ways in which our governments can find peace without increased militarization of the globe and our ways of life.
You may thank me, and I'd be honored, for my resistance to imperial war, for my support of the National Liberation Front of Vietnam, for my continued activism that nourishes my soul and gives me reason to live and create. You may thank me for encouraging young men and women to think for themselves and to resist deployment orders.
Just don't blindly thank me for anything you don't know about.
Perhaps that's why I can't seem to find my name on that Wall in a waking state.
An Open Letter to the Peace/Anti-War Movement from Iraq Veterans Against the War, Military Families Speak Out, and Veterans For Peace
After six years of war and the historic election of a new President, we as veterans, military and Gold Star families felt an urgent need to reach out to the larger peace/anti-war movements to make our position on Iraq clear during this time of political and economic uncertainty. Iraq Veterans Against the War, Military Families Speak Out and Veterans For Peace continue to stand together in our demand to Bring the Troops Home Now! We ask all those who have stood with us in the past to stay faithful to the cause.
President Obama has announced a plan to gradually reduce troop levels in Iraq. Many in the peace/anti-war movements are breathing a sigh of relief, and suggesting that it is time for us to scale back our efforts to bring an end to the occupation of Iraq. But for our troops on the ground, their families and the Iraqi people, the nightmare continues. They need all of us to stay in the struggle. IVAW, MFSO and VFP have been long united in our call for an immediate and complete end to the occupation of Iraq and will not shift our stance under any circumstances.
President Obama's plan will result in more casualties and suffering for U.S. troops, their families and Iraqis. To the American public facing hard times here at home, two and a half more years of occupation may not sound like that long -- but for our troops and their families it means two and a half more years of fear, pain, and separation in a war and occupation based on lies.
Hundreds of the troops deployed in the next two and a half years will not come home alive. Many more will return forever scarred by deep wounds to their bodies, minds, and spirits. Well over a million Iraqis have died as a result of this war -- many more will be killed as the occupation continues.
We cannot afford the cost of empire. Today we are in the midst of the worst economic crisis most of us have seen in our lifetimes. Yet our government continues to allow the occupation to drain $10 billion a month from our nation's coffers. Meanwhile, veterans and military families struggle to put food on the table and get decent housing and adequate medical care. Women and men who risked their lives for this country are often forced to fight tooth and nail to get health care from an underfunded and overburdened Veterans Administration. Hundreds of thousands of veterans are homeless.
The occupation of Iraq is the source of the violence not the solution. Living under occupation the people of Iraq are held back from taking control of their own lives to determine their destiny. The continued U.S. military presence there is a cause of the violence they face, not its solution. U.S. continued interference contradicts the principles of democracy and self-determination our country was founded on.
IVAW, MFSO and VFP will continue to keep pressure on Congress and the President to bring all our troops home from Iraq NOW, ensure that veterans receive the care they need and deserve, and that the U.S. provides resources to rebuild a country we destroyed. But we cannot do that alone. We need your help to reach out to the vast majority of the American people who are completely isolated from the realities of this war. Please don't abandon this struggle or shift your position before the occupation is over and our veterans and the Iraqi people are on the path to healing.
Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) was founded by Iraq war veterans in July 2004 at the annual convention of Veterans for Peace (VFP) in Boston to give a voice to the large number of active duty service people and veterans who are against this war, but are under various pressures to remain silent. From its inception, IVAW has called for: Immediate withdrawal of all occupying forces in Iraq; reparations for the human and structural damages Iraq has suffered, and stopping the corporate pillaging of Iraq so that their people can control their own lives and future; and dull benefits, adequate healthcare (including mental health), and other supports for returning servicemen and women. IVAW's membership includes recent veterans and active duty servicemen and women from all branches of military service, National Guard members, and reservists who have served in the United States military since September 11, 2001.
Military Families Speak Out is an organization of people opposed to the war in Iraq who have relatives or loved ones who are currently in the military or who have served in the military since the buildup to the Iraq war in the fall of 2002. Formed by two families in November of 2002, MFSO now has over 4,000 member families. MFSO's national chapter, Gold Star Families Speak Out includes families whose loved ones have died as a result of the war in Iraq.
Founded in 1985, Veterans for Peace is a national organization of men and women veterans of all eras and duty stations spanning the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), World War II, the Korean, Vietnam, Gulf and current Iraq wars as well as other conflicts cold or hot. It has chapters in nearly every state in the union and is headquartered in St. Louis, MO. Our collective experience tells us wars are easy to start and hard to stop and that those hurt are often the innocent. Thus, other means of problem solving are necessary. Veterans For Peace is an official Non- Governmental Organization (NGO) represented at the U.N.
This article, by Tony Perry, was originally published in the LA Times, January 14 2009. This version was found on Lexis-Nexis, January 14, 2009.
Antiwar activists have taken up the cause of an Army deserter who was deported from Canada and is now being held at the brig at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.
Two dozen members of Military Families Speak Out and San Diego Veterans for Peace protested Tuesday afternoon outside the base in support of Robin Long, a onetime Army private who was sentenced in August to 15 months behind bars and a dishonorable discharge.
The activists support Long's view that the Iraq war is illegal and say his sentence is particularly cruel because it could prevent him from returning to his sick girlfriend and their 2-year-old son in Canada. Canadian law makes it difficult for convicted felons to enter Canada.
"Here's a guy who did what his conscience told him to do," said Dave Patterson, who was in the Air Force during the Vietnam War.
"Why do we need to put him in prison? That's crazy."
Long, 25, of Boise, Idaho, enlisted in 2003 and deserted in 2005 when his Ft. Carson, Colo.-based unit was ordered to Iraq. He fled to British Columbia and applied for refugee status on the grounds that, as an opponent of the war in Iraq, he would suffer irreparable harm if returned to the United States.
Long's application was rejected and he was deported in July. His court-martial case is on appeal to a military appeals court. Also, activists have appealed to President-elect Barack Obama to pardon Long.
Long was the first U.S. service member who sought sanctuary in Canada to be deported. His deportation caused a political controversy in Canada because it seemed to signal a reversal of Canada's welcoming attitude toward deserters and draft resisters from the U.S. during the Vietnam war. About half a dozen American service members in Canada are now believed to be facing deportation.
As the Long case continued, the lower house of the Canadian parliament passed a nonbinding motion calling on the government to allow U.S. deserters to remain in Canada.
The Conservative Party government has not followed that policy.
In Canada, Long met a Canadian woman, fathered a child and opened a business encouraging water conservation by replacing grass lawns with less thirsty plants. His attorneys believe that Canada and the U.S. military have dealt harshly with him as an example to other troops.
"It's such a waste," said James M. Branum, Long's lawyer.
Joel Guberman, an immigration lawyer in Toronto who is not involved in the Long case, said a deportation order and a criminal conviction will make it difficult, but not impossible, for Long to return to Canada.
Guberman said Canadian law allows three avenues of appeal: Long could seek a "waiver of admissibility" based on the argument that desertion from the U.S. Army is not a serious crime in Canada. He could wait five years and assert that he has been rehabilitated. Or, he could get a hearing after being sponsored for return by his girlfriend, a Canadian citizen.
"It's not quite as dire as I'm hearing," he said in a telephone interview.
Military rules prohibit brig prisoners from talking to reporters. But before he was deported, Long was quoted on an activist website as saying, "Regardless of what hardships I go through, I could have put Iraqi families through more hardships. I have no regrets."
This article, by Carol Smith, was originally published in the Seattle Post Intelligencer, August 6, 208
A group of local veterans hopes to launch a coffeehouse near Fort Lewis where soldiers – both active-duty and out of the military – could brew both good java and good company.
The coffeehouse would be a safe place, off base, where GIs and their families could go for support, information about their rights and a chance to express what's going on in their lives, said Mateo Rebecchi, 24, a student at Seattle Central Community College and member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, one of the coffeehouse backers.
"We're trying to reach out to soldiers who feel they have nowhere to go," he said.
The coffeehouse would be the third such effort around the country, said Molly Gibbs, a community organizer who has worked with Veterans for Peace and other Seattle advocacy groups.
Rising concerns about the effect of longer deployments, the increase in post-deployment suicide rates, sexual assaults in the military, PTSD and employment have created a need for a place where people can go to share experiences and find resources to cope, she said.
These kinds of coffeehouses have a time-honored tradition in the post-Vietnam era, said Gibbs, whose first job in the mental health field was with Vietnam vets, every one of whom came back "indelibly shaped" by that experience. Something one of them told her has stayed with her and kept her motivated to help veterans connect.
"I had a friend who was a medic in Vietnam," she said. "He told me, 'I left who I was over there – I never came back.' "
The coffeehouse, which has yet to be named, is still in the fundraising stages, said Rebecchi, who estimated $30,000 is needed to launch and operate the first year. The group is hoping to nab space in an abandoned coin-operated laundry near the base. The cafe also would serve up music, movies, poetry slams, lectures and access to legal help.
Rebecchi said one of the main goals of the coffeehouse is to inform soldiers and veterans of their rights and to encourage them to speak their minds, even if they don't agree with official military policy.
One of the best things the community can do for soldiers, and soldiers can do for each other, is to listen to each other's stories, Gibbs said. Time and again, she's heard from veterans and active-duty military that what they needed most when they got back from a deployment was a chance to share what happened to them and have it be heard in a nonjudgmental way.
Rebecchi hopes the climate of the coffeehouse will encourage more military members – both active duty and not – to consider ways to end the war in Iraq.
Rebecchi served a four-year tour in the Persian Gulf with the Coast Guard before being honorably discharged. He said he began questioning the war effort while he was deployed.
"Ultimately, what's going to stop it is the GIs standing up and saying, 'We're not going to fight anymore,' " he said.
The coffeehouse effort, which also has been endorsed by Seattle Veterans for Peace, Citizen Soldier, Sound Nonviolent Opponents of War, Fellowship of Reconciliation and Physicians for Social Responsibility, is holding a fundraiser at the Richard Hugo House in Seattle on Aug. 25 from 7 to 9 p.m., featuring Tod Ensign, director of Citizen Soldier and co-founder of the Different Drummer Internet Cafe near Fort Drum in upstate New York.
This was originally distributed by Canada Newswire, July 9, 2008
The major U.S. organization representing 7,000 U.S. veterans has issued a public "Thank You" to the people of Canada and an appeal to the government on behalf of Corey Glass and other U.S. Iraq War conscientious objectors seeking refuge.
Veterans for Peace (VFP) whose members fought in WW II, the Korean, Vietnam and Iraq wars says: "Thank you, Canada, for providing a safe haven for young American men and women who, although they were in the military, decided they could not in good conscience participate in the illegal and immoral U.S. war and occupation of Iraq."
Expressing concern over the possible deportation of Corey Glass and other conscientious objectors, VFP warns that "if they are forced to return to the United States, they will be imprisoned only because they refused to fight in an immoral war."
VFP is joining with Courage To Resist and Project Safe Haven to organize actions at the Canadian Embassy and Consulates in 13 U.S. cities on Wed., July 9.
The War Resisters Support Campaign is calling on peace movements and concerned citizens in Britain, France, Germany and around the world to urge the Canadian Government to respect the June 3rd historic parliamentary motion calling for an end to deportations and the opportunity for conscientious objectors to apply to remain in Canada as permanent residents.
Veterans For Peace National Convention, August 27-31, 2008
Ramada Mall of America, 2300 East American Boulevard, Bloomington, Minnesota, 55425.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
All Day - Board Meeting
1pm - 5pm - Agent Orange Seminar
Thursday, August 28, 2008
10am – 12pm – Opening Ceremony
12pm – 2pm – Lunch on your own
2pm – 3:15pm – Workshops
3:30pm – 4:45pm – Workshops
5pm - Bus transportation to Sunset Supper
6pm – 9pm – Sunset Supper on Historic Nicollet Island (included in registration)
9pm - Bus Transportation back to Ramada Inn
9am – 11:45am – Business meeting
11:45am – Lunch Buffet (included) and Speak Out
Evening: Banquet (included)
Sunday, August 31, 2008
9:30 – 11am - Closing ceremony
12 noon - Hotel Check-out
2:00 p. m. Sunday August 31, 2008 to 2:00 p. m. Monday September 1, 2008 - 24 Hour Fast and Reflection for Peace at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, 840 E. 6th St., St.Paul MN
Convention Tribute to Dave Cline
At the 2008 Convention in Minneapolis / St. Paul, there will be a special tribute to David Cline and others that have passed since the 2007 convention. You are encouraged to bring photos and other memorabilia to help remember the life and memory of David Cline. If you have any questions about this project, please contact Barry Riesch at email@example.com
Protest the RNC
Many of our local community organizations have acted to encourage you to attend our convention, such as the AFL-CIO retiree’s council, St. Paul Trades and Labor Assembly AFL-CIO, the 4th district Democratic Delegate Council and others.
Several of our members are volunteering to coordinate housing for members attending the VFP Convention staying on for the Republican Convention.
Sunday, August 31 – Street program planned by VFP Chapter 115 and member David Harris
Monday, September 1 - St. Paul Trades and Labor Assembly has planned a Labor Day celebration
Monday, September 1 - An anti-war march
Tuesday, September 2 and Wednesday, September 3 - A Peace Island Conference, Concordia University, St. Paul - http://www.peaceisland.us
45,000 Republican delegates are scheduled to be in town and 15,000 journalists are to be here. We have something to say and here is the place to say it!
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, 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.