Kimberly Rivera, Pregnant Mom of 4, Sentenced to Military Prison for Refusing to Serve in Iraq April 30, 2013Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Tags: aaron mate, amy goodman, Canada, canada government, conscientious objector, Democracy Now, Iraq war, james branum, Kimberly Rivera, roger hollander, Stephen Harper, War Resisters
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Private First Class Kimberly Rivera — a conscientious objector and pregnant mother of four — has just been sentenced to military prison for refusing to serve in the Iraq War. Rivera was on a two-week leave in December 2006 when she decided she would not return to Iraq for a second tour of duty. She and her family fled to Canada in February 2007, living there until their deportation back to the United States last year. On Monday, a military court sentenced her to 10 months behind bars. Her fifth child is due in December. We’re joined by Mario Rivera, Kimberly’s husband and now the primary caretaker of their four young children, and by James Branum, a lawyer who represents Kimberly and dozens of other conscientious objectors.
AARON MATÉ: We turn now to the case of Private First Class Kimberly Rivera. She is a conscientious objector and a pregnant mother of four children, who has just been sentenced to military prison. Rivera first deployed to Iraq in 2006. During a two-week leave back in the U.S., she decided to refuse a second tour of duty in Iraq. In January 2007, Rivera and her family packed up their car and crossed the border into Canada. She was later charged with desertion and faced up to five years in prison if convicted. Well, on Monday she was sentenced to 14 months. Under a pretrial agreement, she will serve 10 months of that sentence.
This is Kimberly Rivera speaking late last year about her case.
KIMBERLY RIVERA: If you want to know, my biggest fear is being separated from my children and having to—having to sit in a prison for politically being against the war in Iraq.
AMY GOODMAN: Since their arrival to Canada in early 2007, Kimberly Rivera, her husband and two children settled in Toronto. She had two more children there and made several attempts to legally immigrate. Canada’s War Resisters Support Campaign championed the case, drawing endorsers including Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu. But Canadian officials refused. In August, they ordered the Rivera family to leave the country or face deportation. A provincial lawmaker representing Rivera’s Toronto district, Cheri DiNovo, condemned the order.
MPP CHERI DINOVO: As the member of Parliament for Parkdale-High Park, which is home to a number of war resisters, I know Kimberly personally. I see her in our—in our neighborhood, see her with her family. I know that she participates in the community. She’s a volunteer. She works with children. And she is a person who has shown great integrity and courage and principle. Surely, she is exactly the kind of person that we want to embrace and welcome here in Canada. Canada has a proud history of welcoming conscientious objectors from other wars in the past. Why not now? Especially given that this is a war that Canadians are proud not to have participated in.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Ontario lawmaker Cheri DiNovo speaking last August.
Kimberly Rivera turned herself in at the U.S.-Canadian border just days later. She’s now on her way to a military prison for 10 months. Her fifth child is due while she’s behind bars.
Well, we’re joined right now by her husband, by Mario Rivera. He will now become the primary caretaker for their four young children. We’re also joined by James Branum, the defense attorney who represented Kimberly during her court-martial yesterday, Monday, at Fort Carson. He’s also represented dozens of other conscientious objectors, is legal director for the Oklahoma Center for Conscience and Peace Research. They’re speaking to us from the Tim Gill Center for Public Media in Colorado Springs, home to Rocky Mountain PBS and KRCC public radio.
We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Mario, you’ve just come out of the court yesterday. Can you respond to the sentencing of your wife Kimberly to 10 months in jail for refusing to return to Iraq and go to Canada instead?
MARIO RIVERA: I think it was severely harsh, and I personally feel that the judge already made up his mind before the trial had even started. It’s just too much. The kids need her.
AARON MATÉ: Mario, tell us about the reaction of your children. How have they handled this whole ordeal? And what did they say yesterday?
MARIO RIVERA: As soon as they found out yesterday, they broke down into tears. Just the thought of being away from their mother for—sorry, for 10 more months; they’ve already been gone for eight months out of her life, so it’s difficult.
AMY GOODMAN: Mario, how old are your kids, and what are their names?
MARIO RIVERA: Christian is 11, Rebecca is eight, Katie is five, and Gabriel is two.
AMY GOODMAN: James, James Branum, you’re her attorney. When she was in Iraq, she turned to a chaplain to say she could not do this, that she could not, when she looked at Iraqi children, she said, open fire?
JAMES BRANUM: Yes, she talked to the chaplain, expressed her concerns. She said that she didn’t think she should—could pull the trigger, if asked to. And this is a critical issue, because she was a gate guard at FOB Loyalty in Baghdad. Her job was a critical—critical thing, as far as security coming on and off the base. And so, she felt that she morally could not do what she was asked to do; at the same time, she realized that she would put other soldiers in danger if she didn’t pull the trigger when the time came. She talked to a chaplain about it. The chaplain largely pushed her aside, did not give her the counsel that she really needed. And so, when she came home on leave, she took other steps. And it’s unfortunate that she did not get the legal advice and information she needed to seek status as a conscientious objector.
AMY GOODMAN: So when she—
JAMES BRANUM: That said—
AMY GOODMAN: James Branum, so when she said this to the chaplain, he didn’t say, “There’s a way you can legally do this: You could apply for a CO status”? Instead he argued with her?
JAMES BRANUM: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: So she didn’t know the process?
JAMES BRANUM: The chaplain was very, very resolute that Kim—that she needed to stay there, she needed to fulfill her mission, instead of giving her the spiritual counsel she needed at that moment. Instead, this chaplain told her basically, “Suck it up. Continue on.” And that was—that was not the advice she needed at that moment. She needed to know her rights. She needed to know AR 600-43 gives her the right to seek status as a conscientious objector. She didn’t know that.
AARON MATÉ: James, so 10 months in prison—how does this sentence compare to sentences to other resisters? And is there an exception here, by given the fact that she’s pregnant and is due in December? How does that factor in?
JAMES BRANUM: We don’t know. The judge doesn’t really give the rationale for why he made the decision he did. We do know there have been some resistance cases that have received greater sentences. As long as 24 months has been given. But many other resisters receive little jail time or no jail time. And people that desert, generally, over 90 percent do no jail time at all. And so, we feel that Kim was singled out.
Another thing, the prosecutor at trial said that he asked the judge to give a harsh sentence to send a message to the war resisters in Canada. And we feel that was—the Canadian government, in deporting Kim, said she would not face any serious punishment because of her political and conscientious objection to war. And in reality, that’s exactly what happened. That was the prosecution’s argument, that because she spoke out against the war, she therefore should be punished.
AMY GOODMAN: Mario, you live in Colorado, is that right, with your four children?
MARIO RIVERA: No, the four children are in Texas right now. I came up here in March, originally, because that was when the trial was supposed to have been. Unfortunately, my mom fell ill, and it was pushed back until yesterday.
AMY GOODMAN: So, how will you raise the four kids alone? How are you going to do this over the next 10 months?
MARIO RIVERA: I don’t know. It’s going to be difficult. I’m just going to have to do my best and try to keep it together and keep them together and just help them be strong.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you both for being with us, and Mario especially. I know this was very tough for you to come on today. Mario Rivera, Kimberly Rivera’s husband—she serves her 10-month sentence; he becomes the primary caretaker for their four young children. She will be serving that time—where? In California?
JAMES BRANUM: We believe it will be in Miramar. One other critical thing to mention is there is an ongoing campaign to have her released on clemency grounds. Information on that—
AMY GOODMAN: We’ll link to that website at democracynow.org.
An update on Kimberly Rivera and other U.S. Iraq War resisters November 23, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Iraq and Afghanistan, Peace, War.
Tags: Canada, Canada Tories, desmond tutu, harper government, Iraq war, jason kenney, Kimberly Rivera, roger hollander, Stephen Harper, war resister
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It has been a period of intensive work on many fronts since the Harper government told Kimberly Rivera and her family they had to leave Canada.
In spite of a national mobilization with events in 8 cities, an op-ed in the Globe and Mail by Archbishop Desmond Tutu in support of Kim, and tens of thousands of people writing letters, faxing, sending emails and phoning Immigration Minister Jason Kenney calling on him to let the Riveras stay in Canada, the Conservative government forced Kim and her family – including two children born in Canada – to leave this country.
But Kim’s case confirmed once again that there is a broad and deep support for the stand that Kim and other U.S. war resisters have taken in refusing to participate in an illegal and immoral war. And we are more determined than ever to build on the support for Kim to give voice to that majority of Canadians who opposed the Iraq War and who want a provision made for US war resisters to stay in Canada.
Below is a brief update on Kim’s situation, and an APPEAL to help the War Resisters Support Campaign continue to mobilize in support of the many other U.S. war resisters who still face the threat of deportation. •
Following her arrest, Kim was taken to Fort Drum, N.Y. and shortly after, to a county jail. After several days she was transported to Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, Colorado. She is separated from her husband and four young children who are in Texas and are missing Kim terribly. In a recent interview, Kim’s husband Mario Rivera explained how difficult it has been for himself and, especially, for the children to be separated from their mother.
“I explained to them that Mommy is away for a while and she will come back as soon as she can. Katie thinks she’s lost and wants to go rescue her. She is anxious and nervous about it. She closes herself off from people as she’s missing her mom real bad… Gabriel too. He misses his mom real bad. He holds a picture of her and kisses it and tries to reach through the picture to grab her.”
Kim and her family are receiving support from the U.S.-based organization Courage to Resist as well as the War Resisters Support Campaign, and there is a dedicated group of supporters in Colorado Springs who visit her regularly at Fort Carson. James Branum, who has worked on many U.S. war resister cases, is Kim’s civilian lawyer. Supporters in the U.S. have been working hard to facilitate Kim’s family visiting her in Colorado Springs.
• There are still many other U.S. war resisters and their families in Canada who are facing the threat of deportation, and we urgently need to continue to build support for them. The Harper government’s attack on the Rivera family has produced a groundswell of support for war resisters in Canada. Many people were disgusted and angered by the scene of Conservative MPs applauding the news that Kim and her family had been forced to leave the country on September 20th. In their push for increasing militarization of Canada, the Conservative government is criminalizing war resisters and silencing anti-war voices. Millions of Canadians disagree with this. The outpouring of support for Kim has shown once again that people care deeply about this issue, and many are prepared to take action for war resisters. We need to keep up the pressure to achieve what two votes in Parliament and a majority of Canadians have demanded: that Canada should enact a provision to allow U.S. war resisters to stay in Canada.
Over the next weeks and months, the War Resisters Support Campaign will be initiating a broad outreach campaign to build on the mobilization of the past few weeks. A signature ad by prominent Canadians including Andy Barrie, Alexandre Trudeau, John Polanyi and many others will publicly call on the Canadian government to stop deporting U.S. war resisters. And we will continue to build the campaign to repeal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney’s discriminatory Operational Bulletin 202: http://resisters.ca/resources/
To do all of this, WE NEED YOUR SUPPORT! Please consider making a contribution to the War Resisters Defense Fund, which will allow us to carry out this work. To donate on-line please click on this link: http://resisters.chipin.com
Or you can send a cheque to:
War Resisters Support Campaign 427 Bloor Street West, Box 13 Toronto, ON M5S 1X7
The stakes are high for those US soldiers who have risked their futures by refusing to participate in a war Canadians rejected. The Harper government threatens to rip apart their families and facilitate their ‘rendition’ to harsh punishment, as they did to Kim Rivera. The Conservatives are determined to close the door on the tradition of Canadian asylum for US war resisters, and to override the overwhelming opposition to the Iraq War, by driving Iraq War resisters out of Canada. But they have NOT succeeded in changing public opinion on either front. That is because of war resisters’ voices, and the movement of people who support them. We need to make sure those voices continue to be heard in the period ahead.
War Resisters Support Campaign – www. resisters.ca – 416.598.1222 – firstname.lastname@example.org Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s op-ed in The Globe and Mail: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/commentary/dont-deport-war-resister-kimberly-rivera/article4544856/
Ottawa turns its back to U.S. soldiers September 22, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
Tags: Canada, desmond tutu, Iraq war, jack todd, jason kenney, Kimberly Rivera, michelle robidoux, roger hollander, Stephen Harper, war resister
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Photograph by: Luc Rinaldi , The Canadian Press
U.S.war resister Kimberly Rivera was deported on Thursday. She was arrested when she presented herself at the U.S. border point near Gananoque, Ont., and is reportedly being detained at Fort Drum, near Watertown, N.Y.
Rivera’s deportation and arrest brings to an end a lengthy legal battle to allow the mother of four to remain in this country. Despite an international outcry, including an open letter from Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa pleading that she be allowed to remain in Canada, the Iraq War resister was sent back to the U.S. after Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney refused to halt her deportation order. The two youngest of Rivera’s four children were born in Toronto, where she lived with her family. The War Resisters Support Campaign, which has been fighting to convince the Stephen Harper government to allow Iraq War resisters to remain in Canada, estimates that she will have to spend at least a year in prison. Her husband and children crossed into the U.S. separately on Thursday, because Rivera did not want her children to see her being arrested by the military. Rivera, an army private who had already served one tour in Iraq in 2006, came to Canada in 2007 because she was about to be deployed to Iraq again. She was the first female American war resister to flee to Canada. Rivera’s deportation was a bitter and dispiriting defeat for those who have sought to reverse the government’s stance toward those who fled here because of their opposition to the war in Iraq. A potluck supper was also held in Vancouver this week to mark three full years that Rodney Watson, a decorated veteran of the Iraq War, has been living in sanctuary in a Vancouver church. Neither Rivera nor Watson were available for interviews this week. Rivera could not speak to the media, because interviews given by previously deported war resisters Robin Long and Cliff Cornell were used as evidence against them at their court martials. Watson, worn down by his three-year ordeal and depressed by Rivera’s fate, also was reluctant to talk. “Just because we end up on the losing side,” said Sarah Bjorknas, a Vancouver activist who has worked closely with Watson during the past three years, “doesn’t mean we’re on the wrong side.” It doesn’t. But overcoming the stubborn intransigence of Harper’s right-wing government may be impossible, no matter what international pressure is brought go bear. It’s a far cry from the precedent established under Liberal prime ministers Lester B. Pearson and Pierre Trudeau, who faced down the pressure exerted by U.S. presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard M. Nixon to allow an estimated 100,000 American war resisters (this writer among them) to come to Canada during the Vietnam War. Under Harper, the War Resisters Support Campaign has waged long but ultimately unsuccessful battles for one resister after another, only to see them deported to face court martials in the U.S. The difficulty, according to the campaign’s spokeswoman, Michelle Robidoux, is that Kenney “continues to intervene by telling immigration officers to red-flag U.S. soldiers who are applying for asylum as criminally inadmissible. We think that has tainted the whole process and the government should withdraw that directive.” Watson has worried publicly that the deportation orders will cause the eventual breakup of resisters’ families – which, he claims, is part of the reason he cannot leave the First United Church in Vancouver, because he doesn’t want to be taken away from his wife and son. Among the luminaries urging the Harper government to reconsider, the most prominent is Archbishop Tutu, who outlined the case for allowing conscientious objectors to remain in forceful terms: “The deportation order given to Ms. Rivera is unjust and must be challenged. It’s in times when people are swept up in a frenzy of war that it’s most important to listen to the quiet voices speaking the truth.” Harper and Kenney, however, turned a deaf ear to all objections. The news that she had been deported, in fact, drew an appalling cheer from the Conservative benches in Parliament on Thursday. “Our government does not believe that the administration of the president or the president himself in any way, shape, or form, is going to persecute Ms. Rivera,” said Rick Dykstra, Kenney’s parliamentary secretary. “In fact, she has had every opportunity in this country, despite the fact that not one of the applications from an American war deserter has been successful in Canada. Each and every one of them has been upheld by the Federal Court, in terms of the Immigration and Refugee Board denying them.” Ken Marciniec of the War Resisters Campaign, however, said that Rivera’s arrest proves exactly the opposite: that conscientious objectors are being persecuted. So, while the war in Iraq may have been based on a lie (the alleged presence of weapons of mass destruction in Saddam Hussein’s arsenal) and it may have been illegal, immoral, ruinously expensive and destabilizing to the entire region, U.S. soldiers whose conscience would no longer permit them to serve in that war are still not welcome here. Asked why the Harper government has followed a policy so at variance with the precedent established during the Vietnam War, Bjorknas said “that’s really a good question. I used to think they were just trying to appease (George W.) Bush. “But now that (Barack) Obama is president, I think it must be something else. Maybe it has nothing to do with the U.S. at all and more to do with delusions of grandeur. It seems they’re dismissing collaboration with the (United Nations) and trying to show off by going their own way on issues like Iran. They’re not following the U.S. now, they’re not following any lead but Israel.” An online poll taken by the CBC last week showed Canadians were in favour of allowing Rivera to remain in Canada, by a relatively slender margin of 51.6 to 46 per cent, with the remainder undecided. But it’s not an issue that is going to shift many votes, which is why Canada’s policy is likely to remain unchanged unless there is a change in government. Meanwhile, the image of Canada as a kinder, gentler, more compassionate version of the U.S. is taking an international beating. At no time in our recent history has a Canadian government so aggressively wrapped itself in the trappings of the Canadian Armed Forces. It should be noted, however, that while Rivera and Watson served in Iraq and Watson is a decorated combat veteran, neither Harper, Kenney nor Defence Minister Peter Mackay ever served in the military. email@example.com
Jack Todd is a U.S.-born war resister who left Fort Lewis, Wash., and made his way to Canada at the height of the Vietnam conflict.
Canada Orders War Resister to Be Deported Back to US August 30, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
Tags: Canada, Iraq war, Kimberly Rivera, roger hollander, war resister
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Kimberly Rivera must leave Canada by Sept. 20
A war resister who has been living in Canada for the last five years has been ordered deported back to the U.S., an immigration board said Thursday.
Kimberly Rivera is seen with her family in this undated photo. Courtesy of Resisters.ca.
Kimberly Rivera, reported to be the first female U.S. war resister, had served in Iraq in 2006 but sought refuge in Canada in 2007.
Rivera is the mother of four children, the two youngest born in Canada.
She must now leave the Canada by Sept. 20.
“While in Iraq losing soldiers and civilians was part of daily life. I was a gate guard. This was looked down on by infantry soldiers who go out in the streets, but gate guards are the highest security of the Forward Operation Base. We searched vehicles, civilian personnel, and military convoys that left and came back every hour. I had a huge awakening seeing the war as it truly is: people losing their lives for greed of a nation and the effects on the soldiers who come back with new problems such as nightmares, anxieties, depression, anger, alcohol abuse, missing limbs and scars from burns. Some don’t come back at all.”
“On December 21, 2006 I was going to my room and something in my heart told me to go call my husband. And when I did 24 rounds of mortars hit the FOB in a matter of minutes after I got on the phone…the mortars were 10-15 feet from where I was. I found a hole from the shrapnel in my room in the plywood window. That night I found the shrapnel on my bed in the same place where my head would have been if I hadn’t changed my plans and gone to the phone.”
She began questioning everything: “Why am I here? What am I giving my life for? How am I helping my comrades and Iraq’s people? What harm do I see here that would affect the safety of my family back home? Is what I am doing self-defense or aggression?”
That night an Iraqi civilian friend of Kimberly’s was badly wounded. “All I know is she was in very bad shape. The shrapnel hit her in her mid section and she was put on life support. That’s the last I heard from her sisters before I left.”
The following Saturday she watched as an Iraqi father came to the base with a little girl about 2 years old to put in a claim for loss due to Army negligence. The little girl was shaking very hard. “You could see tears of trauma running down her face. No weeping, no whining, just tears. . I was seeing my little girl. I wanted to hold her so bad, but I was afraid of scaring her more and I didn’t want to do that.”
In Canada once more, U.S. troops fleeing a war May 24, 2010Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Iraq and Afghanistan, Peace, War.
Tags: Afghanistan War, anti-war, AWOL, Canada, canada parliament, charlie diamond, deserters, draft dodgers, gerard kennedy, Iraq war, jason kenny, jeffry house, jeremy hinzman, judy keen, Kimberly Rivera, michelle robidoux, peace, peace activists, roger hollander, Stephen Harper, War Resisters
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|By Adrien Veczan for USA Today|
|Iraq war deserter Kimberly Rivera, with one of her children, attends a war resisters support meeting in Toronto with Charlie Diamond, center, a Vietnam War objector and Phil McDowell, who went AWOL after being ordered back to Iraq under the Army’s “stop-loss” policy.|
TORONTO — Patrick Hart came here in 2005, when he couldn’t face a second deployment to Iraq. A U.S. Army sergeant with almost 10 years of active duty, he would rather stay in Canada forever than return to a war he thinks is wrong.Hart, 36, knows that some people think he is a traitor, but he has no regrets. “I’ve bled for my country, I’ve sweated for my country, I’ve cried myself to sleep for my country — which is a lot more than some people who are passing judgment on me have done,” he says. “I would rather go sit in prison than go to Iraq.”
In Canada today, the political climate and immigration policies are less hospitable for the new deserters than during the Vietnam era. The conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper refuses to give asylum or refugee status to those U.S. troops seeking sanctuary here, although Parliament on Tuesday will debate a bill that would let them stay.
Deportation, court martial and prison are imminent threats to Hart and about 200 other U.S. troops seeking sanctuary in Canada. Despite being members of an all-voluntary military, some oppose the war in Iraq so strongly they are willing to leave their country behind — much like Americans of an earlier generation who crossed the border in the 1960s and ’70s to avoid serving in Vietnam and built new lives here.
Some of the draft dodgers and deserters of the Vietnam era, most of them now graying Canadian citizens, are helping the young deserters fight legal battles and find work and housing.
“They understand,” Hart says.
In Canada today, the political climate and immigration policies are less hospitable for the new deserters than during the Vietnam era. The conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper refuses to give asylum or refugee status to those U.S. troops seeking sanctuary here, although Parliament on Tuesday will debate a bill that would let them stay.
Charlie Diamond was 23 when he fled to Canada from Connecticut in 1968 to avoid going to Vietnam. By then, the war was unpopular in both countries. Americans were marching in the streets in protest and young men were burning their draft cards.
Now 64 and a Canadian, he is reciprocating for the welcome he found here.
“I want my country once again to be a refuge from militarism,” says Diamond, who has joined others who refused to fight in Vietnam — they prefer the term “resisters” — in the War Resisters Support Campaign.
Canada did not support the American invasion of Iraq, and polls show that most Americans also believe the war was a mistake. Today’s deserters enlisted “in good conscience,” Diamond says, “thinking they were defending America when in fact the whole thing was a lie.”
Young men who left the USA to avoid serving in Vietnam were widely accepted by Canadians and a network of fellow war opponents who helped them find shelter and jobs. Under Harper, Canada’s government has tightened immigration policies, and every Iraq deserter who has applied for refugee status has been turned down. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney says that “being a deserter from voluntary military service in a democracy does not, in any way, meet the … definition of a refugee.”
In March, Kenney proposed more limits: Immigration appeals for people from countries with good human rights records would be heard only by the Federal Court, ending deserters’ chances of winning in lower courts, and failed claimants would be deported in a year instead of the current four years.
Most of the Iraq war deserters in Canada are in hiding, says Michelle Robidoux, spokeswoman for the War Resisters Support Campaign. The group is in touch with more than 40 of them. Two others were deported, tried and sentenced to prison in the USA. Some returned home voluntarily.
More than 50,000 Americans old enough for military service came to Canada to avoid the draft and the Vietnam War, says John Hagan, a Northwestern University sociology and law professor who was among them and wrote a 2001 book, Northern Passages, about the exodus. About half remain in Canada today, he says, despite President Carter‘s 1977 amnesty offer, which applied to draft dodgers but not deserters.
U.S. military officials have little sympathy for those who abandon their posts.
“Desertion places an undue burden on the unit, it sets a poor example for others, but worst of all it cuts to the very root of military virtue — mutual support and confidence,” says Air Force Col. Kenneth Theurer, chief of the military justice division.
Few soldiers desert or go AWOL, says Army spokesman Wayne Hall, but those who do take part in “self-centered acts that not only affect the soldier but also in a time of war may put other soldiers’ lives at risk. Soldiers serve in an all-volunteer Army because they chose to.”
Since the Iraq war began in 2003, the Army has convicted 693 soldiers of desertion and 2,657 of being absent without leave. From fiscal 2003 through 2008, the Marine Corps had 6,448 deserters. From fiscal 2003 through March 29 the Air Force had 260 deserters. From 2003 through the end of March, 9,869 people deserted from the Navy.
The War Resisters Support Campaign — formed when Jeremy Hinzman, an Army paratrooper, deserted in 2004 and went to Canada — raises money for deserters’ legal bills, holds rallies and collects signatures of support across the country.
It’s a deeply personal cause for many of those who refused to go to Vietnam. Working with Iraq deserters “breaks your heart,” says Bill King, 63, a musician and producer who came to Canada in 1968 to avoid being sent to Vietnam. “You flash back to when you were that age.”
‘Human nature question’
Jeffry House, a lawyer who represented Iraq deserters before Canada’s highest court, came here in 1970 after he was drafted for service in Vietnam. He believes the arguments he made in court are valid: “A soldier ought not to have to participate in an illegal war, even a soldier who has joined up voluntarily.”
At their first meeting, House says, Hinzman said he joined the military because he wanted to defend his country, but called the Iraq War bogus. “That’s a word we would have used,” House says. “I started to think, you know what? This guy is right.”
Gerard Kennedy, a Member of Parliament, is the sponsor of the bill that would make U.S. troops who had a “crisis of conscience” in Iraq eligible for Canadian citizenship. “There’s a basic moral, human nature question here,” he says. “Do we always, under all circumstances, want our military personnel to follow orders or do they have some rights?”
Kennedy believes most Canadians agree with him. Non-binding resolutions urging that U.S. military deserters be allowed to stay in Canada were approved by Parliament in 2008 and 2009. A 2008 poll found that 64% of Canadians favored giving deserters a chance to become permanent residents of Canada.
Toronto lawyer Alyssa Manning, who represents about 20 U.S. troops, says judges often are receptive to evidence that those who come to Canada face tougher punishment by the U.S. military when they return to the USA. But Harper’s government, she says, is “adamantly and actively opposed to the war resisters being able to stay in Canada.”
That’s ominous news for Phil McDowell. He joined the Army in 2001, after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and served in Iraq for a year. A few weeks after he was discharged in 2006, he was notified that he would be sent back to Iraq under the Army’s “stop-loss” policy — an involuntary extension of his active-duty service. He rejoined his unit, but he couldn’t go back to Iraq. He came to Canada instead.
It was a wrenching decision, one McDowell, 29, at first considered “an outrageous thing to do.” But he had soured on the Iraq war: There were no weapons of mass destruction there, as the Bush administration had claimed, and McDowell hated the way average Iraqis were treated by coalition forces, as well as the reports of abuse of Iraqi inmates at Abu Ghraib prison by U.S. troops.
“No matter what, I was not going back to Iraq,” he says.
McDowell found the War Resisters Support Campaign online and sought its help when he arrived. He regrets missing family weddings and funerals, but he has a job installing solar panels and says he could make his life here, even if it means never going home to Rhode Island.
He’s also “absolutely” prepared for deportation and prison, he says. To McDowell, those who came to Canada instead of going to Vietnam are a source of reassurance that “something’s going to work out. … Life goes on, and they’re a good example of that.”
Kimberly Rivera feels the same way. She went to Iraq with her Army unit in 2006. Three months later when she was home on leave, she decided she couldn’t return. In 2007, she came to Canada. Rivera, 27, who is from Mesquite, Texas, lives here with her husband, Mario, and their three children. She has received two deportation notices; those are being challenged in court.
Rivera says it’s hard to live with the knowledge that some people think she’s a coward. Coming to Canada “was very, very hard. Not only am I giving up everything that I know and love — everything — but there’s a possibility I would never be able to go back.”
If she’s forced to return, she says, “I’ve prepared myself mentally to take whatever punishment they have in store for me.”
Different eras, same choices
Dennis James never went back. He was drafted in 1969 and moved to Canada when his medic training shifted to rifle drills to prepare him for deployment to Vietnam. If he were to return, even now, he would have to report to military officials and face desertion charges, he says.
Like many Americans who stayed in Canada after Vietnam, James, 64, says its “atmosphere of welcoming and respect for people” made him feel at home.
James is deputy clinical director of the addictions program at Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and is not active in politics. Even so, when he’s asked whether he feels a kinship with the former U.S. troops who have come here to avoid Iraq, he replies, “I do.”
Others from the Vietnam era are helping Iraq deserters. Tom Riley, 63, is from Baltimore but was living here when he received his induction notice in 1970. He refused to report for duty.
Today, the longtime social worker feels an obligation to help troops who don’t want to fight in Iraq, and they’re eager to hear his story. “It’s quite interesting for them to know that there was a former generation that made the same choices,” Riley says.
Carolyn Egan, 60, president of the Toronto Steelworkers Area Council, came here in 1970 with a partner who was ducking the draft. She believes men and women who refuse to fight in Iraq “had the courage to say no” to an unjustified war, she says.
Diamond, a Quaker who works with Toronto’s homeless, hopes his adopted country “will have the courage to do what we’ve historically done. … I see what war and violence does. It’s made the United States a very ugly country. I don’t want Canada to go that route.”
If Canada accepts this generation of deserters, it will be because of the efforts of Diamond and others who refused to go to Vietnam, says Jesse McLaren, 31, a doctor who belongs to the War Resisters Support Campaign.
The older activists, he says, “add historical and moral force to the campaign.”
Support War Resister in Canada March 18, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Iraq and Afghanistan, Peace, War.
Tags: Afghanistan War, anti-war, Canada, canada refuge, canada war resisters, canadian parliament, Iraq war, iraq war resisters, jason kenney, Kimberly Rivera, peace, robin long, roger hollander, Stephen Harper, u.s. iraq war resisters, war resister, woman soldier
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TORONTO — Two members of Parliament who met Sunday with an Iraq army deserter court-martialed after fleeing to British Columbia are hopeful their San Diego prison visit reignites debate about allowing others to take refuge in Canada.
New Democrat Olivia Chow and Liberal Borys Wrzesnewskyj spent 45 minutes discussing the issues around Robin Long’s deportation and learning about his condition behind bars.
Long, 25, who the Toronto MPs call a “war resister,” was deported from Canada in July 2008 after fleeing to avoid serving in Iraq – the first deserter to be sent back to the U.S. by the courts.
“The (incarceration) conditions are acceptable, but what’s unacceptable is the fact that this young man, as a consequence of taking a principled stand, is spending 15 months of his life while he’s in his 20s in prison,” Wrzesnewskyj said from San Diego.
“It coincides with the key formative years of his young Canadian son who’s two years old. That’s a terrible thing to do to someone.”
Long’s deportation occurred one month after Chow initiated a motion urging that U.S. military deserters be allowed to stay in Canada.
Parliament passed the nonbinding motion but so far the Conservatives have ignored the directive.
With three more deserters facing the possibility of deportation, Chow plans to re-introduce the motion when Parliament resumes next week.
It comes almost exactly six years after the Iraq war began.
“Hopefully we can debate it again,” she said. “And we certainly hope that (Prime Minister) Stephen Harper will not ignore the will of Parliament one more time.”
When the two MPs and a representative of the War Resisters Support Campaign entered the barbed wire-enclosed Naval Consolidated Brig Miramar to speak with Long they discovered a young man who continues to hold an unshaken belief in the rightness of his cause, Wrzesnewskyj said.
“There didn’t seem to be any hint of anger or vindictiveness, he seems like a well-balanced young man and hopeful,” he said.
But there were several issues raised in the meeting that alarmed the group, who now believe Canada’s methods in deporting Long may have worsened his prosecution.
Long told them he was driven across the border in handcuffs and not allowed to enter the country and surrender on his own will, which potentially opened him up to more serious charges.
Long also alleged that citizenship and immigration officials had compelled him to hand over original military documents, stating they would be returned.
When instead he later only received copies, he faced charges of handing over military documents to a foreign power.
Finally, Long said that during his trial, a three-inch stack of documents quoting him speaking out against the war and captured by Canadian media were used as evidence against him.
The MPs said they hope details of the meeting give Parliament greater impetus to act, now that three more deserters face potential deportation.
Veteran Kimberly Rivera, in her late 20s, is a mother of three still breastfeeding her newest born, but she could be ordered to leave by March 26.
After her first tour of Iraq, she fled to Canada to avoid future assignments.
“She spoke of her disillusionment when she did her tour of Iraq, when she saw the destruction of property, of homes,” Wrzesnewskyj said.
“When she saw the loss of civilian life, when she saw young Iraqi children shell-shocked by what was going on around them, and as she saw them building hatred towards Americans.”
Also facing deportation are Jeremy Hinzman and Patrick Hart.
Copyright © 2009 The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.
Canadian Government Continues Ouster of US War Resisters February 15, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
Tags: Afghanistan War, afghanistan war resisters, Canada, canada deportation, canada refuge, canadian council refugees, carolyn egan, cliff cornell, den walcott, harper administration, illegal war, Iraq war, iraq war resisters, jeremy hinzman, joshua key, Kimberly Rivera, matt lowell, nuremberg principles, Patrick Hart, project safe haven, robin long, roger hollander, sarah lazare, Stephen Harper, War Resisters, war resisters support
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America’s neighbor to the north is erecting barriers to Iraq War resisters seeking asylum
In the past weeks, the Harper Administration has moved swiftly to push U.S. Iraq War resisters out of Canada, issuing removal orders to five more resisters who had resettled up north. Two have recently been forced out of the country, and the rest continue their appeals through the Canadian Courts. This adds to the growing number of U.S. war resisters in Canada who are being threatened with deportation and eventually U.S. military court martials and imprisonment.
“According to the Nuremberg principles, people have the right to a free conscience,” said Ryan Johnson, a former soldier who refused deployment to Iraq and resettled in Canada in June 2005. “We should be allowed to stay based on that.”
Since the beginning of the Iraq War, dozens of U.S. troops resisting service in Iraq have applied for refugee status in Canada, on the grounds that, were they handed back to U.S. military custody, they would face persecution for refusing to participate in an illegal war. Several Afghanistan War resisters have also made Canada their home, with an estimated 200 U.S. war resisters currently residing in that country.
Cliff Cornell, who resettled in Canada after refusing to deploy to Iraq in 2005, returned to the United States when the Canadian government denied him a stay of removal. He was arrested by U.S. border police last week and taken to a county jail in Bellingham, Washington. Following a community vigil at the jail, Cornell was released and given five days to travel to Ft. Stewart, Georgia on his own accord. He is expected to face court martial, and supporters have set up a defense fund to cover his legal fees.
The 28 year-old from Mountain Home, Arkansas refused to go to war because “it just didn’t feel right,” he told his supporters at a 2005 rally in Canada. “I don’t want to be killing innocent people.”
Chris Teske, a former U.S. Army paratrooper and infantryman who refused recall to Iraq after serving two tours in Afghanistan, also left to the United States after receiving removal orders. Teske was not arrested crossing the border and is currently consulting legal counsel to turn himself in.
“It seems as hard as I try to forget the institution which enslaved me, they have not forgotten about me,” Teske said in a January 2009 statement. “I have been denied at every turn in my immigration process. I have now been ordered to leave Canada.”
Three other resisters-Kimberly Rivera, Patrick Hart, and Dean Walcott-were issued deportation proceedings in recent weeks, which they appealed through the Canadian judicial system. They have won temporary stays, which will likely delay deportation a few months and could possibly lead to successful appeals.
Several more war resisters-including Jeremy Hinzman, Joshua Key, and Matt Lowell-have been fighting deportation orders for months and have thus far avoided deportation. In a remarkable legal victory, a Federal Court in Canada rejected the reasons given by the Immigration and Refugee Board for denying refugee status to Joshua Key and ordered a new hearing. Hinzman, who arrived in Canada with his wife and son over five years ago, will have an appeal hearing on February tenth. Last year his wife Nga gave birth to a baby girl, who is a Canadian citizen.
The flurry of removal proceedings follows the July 2008 deportation of Robin Long, a former soldier who resettled to Canada rather than deploy to Iraq with his unit. Long was handed over to U.S. military custody, where he was court martialed and sentenced to 15 months of confinement in August, 2008. He was the first resister to be deported from Canada since the Vietnam War.
The government’s actions fly in the face of Canadian popular opinion. Canadians are overwhelmingly in support of allowing war resisters to stay, with 64 percent in favor of granting them permanent residence, according to a June 2008 Angus Reid Strategies poll. In June 2008, a resolution was passed in the Canadian Parliament to allow war resisters apply for permanent residence in Canada. Yet, the minority conservative Harper government has refused to implement this non-binding resolution, and the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) has moved forward with issuing deportation orders to resisters who have applied for asylum.
Jason Kenney, Canada’s new Minister of Citizenship, Immigration, and Multiculturalism, has come under fire in recent weeks for referring to war resisters as “bogus refugee claimants.” He stated in a January 2009 interview, “I don’t appreciate people adding to the backlog and clogging up the system whose claims are being rejected consistently 100 per cent of the time.”
“The Canadian Council on Refugees and other similar organization have spoken out, saying that Iraq War resisters are certainly legitimate refugee candidates and that this is government interference in the refugee process,” refutes Carolyn Egan, of the War Resisters Support Campaign in Canada.
“The U.S. war and occupation of Iraq is now universally recognized as illegal, or at least plain wrong-even by President Obama,” said Jeff Paterson, a Gulf War Resister and Project Director of Courage to Resist, a U.S.-based war resister support organization. “Canada as a nation saw this truth before many Americans did. There should be no question that resisters to unjust war are deserving of refuge from prosecution and deployment.”
Once issued by the government, the deportation orders are being fought through the Canadian court system. “Recent legal decisions made by the federal courts have been influenced by Canadian popular opinion,” said Gerry Condon, a Vietnam War resister and organizer with Project Safe Haven. “Support for war resisters has done a great deal to slow down the deportation proceedings.”
Condon noted that even as these deportations are taking place, new war resisters are arriving in Canada. “It is still possible for AWOL GIs to go to Canada,” said Condon. “They can apply for refugee status and expect at least a year of freedom in Canada. It is not easy, but it beats going to war or jail.”
War resisters in Canada have been met with widespread support from anti-war activists in the U.S. and Canada. The War Resisters Support Campaign in Canada organized an emergency week of action in response to the deportation proceedings, and supporters from the U.S. and Canada appealed to Canadian authorities to allow war resisters to stay. Courage to Resist has helped coordinate solidarity efforts in the United States and is raising legal funds to help defend those who have already been deported.
“We certainly haven’t stopped the deportations, and we may be seeing more in the coming months,” said Condon. “But the struggle to support war resisters will continue on both sides of the border.”
To donate to Cliff Cornell’s legal defense, visit: www.couragetoresist.org
Tags: Afghanistan War, Amnesty International, Canada, canadian parliament, Chris Teske, cliff cornell, dean walcott, house of commons, Iraq war, jason kenney, Kimberly Rivera, Patrick Hart, refugees, robin long, roger hollander, Stephen Harper, War Resisters
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The Honourable Jason Kenney
“…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.”
That motion further recommended that the government should:
“…immediately cease any removal or deportation actions that may have already commenced against such individuals.”
Since then, on July 15, you allowed Robin Long, a United States soldier who had fled to Canada after refusing to take part in the Iraq War, to be deported.
Upon his return to the U.S., Robin was punished for acting on his objections to this unsanctioned war by refusing to fight and for speaking out while he was in Canada.
He is now serving a 15-month jail sentence as a prisoner of conscience and was given a felony conviction that will cause him hardship for the rest of his life—including preventing him from visiting his Canadian son in Ontario—because you did not stop him from being deported.
Canada has a well-founded tradition of welcoming war resisters such as Robin and the estimated 200 other U.S. soldiers who have sought refuge here since the Iraq War began.
Now more than ever, it is obvious that Canada made the right decision not to take part in this unnecessary conflict and even you, Mr. Prime Minister, have agreed that the Iraq War is
“absolutely an error”
Amnesty International wrote to you, Minister Kenney, earlier this month to communicate its condemnation of the,
“…forced removal from Canada of individuals who conscientiously express their opposition to serving with U.S. forces in Iraq” because it “does not generally believe that there are reasonable options open to individuals who conscientiously object to military service with U.S. forces in Iraq.”
As a country, Canadians continue to face a major economic crisis that demands the utmost attention. Members of Parliament need not be distracted from the task at hand by matters that should have been solved previously, nor should time be wasted re-taking decisions that have already been taken by our democratically elected representatives and are supported by the majority of Canadians.
With five Iraq War resisters—Chris Teske, Cliff Cornell, Kimberly Rivera, Patrick Hart and Dean Walcott, most of them combat veterans—facing deportation before the end of this month, we write to respectfully urge you to take action on behalf of the 64 per cent majority of Canadians who agree to give these U.S. soldiers, their immediate families and all Iraq War resisters who are here, the opportunity to remain in Canada as permanent residents.
Please implement the June 3, 2008 motion in support of war resisters today.
, Gord Perks, Adam Vaughan
and many other prominent Canadians
n June 3, 2008, the House of Commons passed a motion calling for the government to:
EDITORIAL: Resisters of a ‘dumb’ war January 25, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
Tags: Barack Obama, Canada, canadian parliament, canadian public opinion, draft dodgers, Iraq war, Kimberly Rivera, refugees, robin long, roger hollander, Stephen Harper, Vietnam War, War Crimes, War Resisters
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Toronto Star, January 25, 2009
To U.S. President Barack Obama, the invasion of Iraq was “a dumb war” and “a rash war.” Despite George Bush’s claim, Saddam Hussein didn’t have weapons of mass destruction. And now that he is president, Obama plans to get most American troops out, as fast as he can.
This recalibration of U.S. policy offers Prime Minister Stephen Harper a chance to adopt a more humane approach to the 200 or so American war resisters who have sought refuge in Canada. Now they face deportation and prison.
One resister, Robin Long, already has been deported, and got a 15-month jail term. The U.S. military regards resisters as deserters because they voluntarily signed up to serve but then fled. A handful more have been ordered out of Canada, including Chris Teske, who planned to leave Friday, Cliff Cornell and Kimberly Rivera, a mother of three.
Others still have their cases pending before the immigration and refugee board. But Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has seriously prejudiced those hearings by calling the resisters “bogus” refugees. “The position of the government is that they don’t face genuine persecution,” says a spokesperson for Kenney. Apparently 15 months in jail don’t count.
In light of the shift in Washington, Ottawa’s inflexible stance is hard to justify. The House of Commons in 2008 passed a resolution calling on Harper to stop deporting resisters. And an Angus Reid survey last year found that 64 per cent of Canadians feel the resisters should be allowed to take up permanent residence here.
Canada took in 50,000 American draft dodgers and deserters during the Vietnam War, another dubious conflict tainted by war crimes. We should be able to find room today for 200 more people who share their new president’s view that targeting Iraq was a huge mistake.
Kimberly Rivera’s Poetry of Hope January 24, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Iraq and Afghanistan, Peace, War.
Tags: Afghanistan, Canada, Iraq, Kimberly Rivera, peace, peace activist, Poetry, roger hollander, war, War Crimes, War Resisters
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The Canadian government has ordered the deportation of Kimberly Rivera, the first US woman Iraq war veteran resister to go to Canada, and four other US war resisters. Rivera, her husband and three children, including a newborn daughter, must depart Canada by January 27 or be deported. Rivera now lives in Toronto with her husband Mario, son Christian (six years), daughter Rebecca (four years), and newborn Canadian daughter Katie (six weeks).
I was fighting your kind for killing my kind.
Being silent doesn’t help any body and lets the people hurting many get away with hurting more.
Canada I am here will you take the time and the heart to understand what I am now fighting for, with words and not a gun.
July 11th 2008