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Mario Rivera speaks out the Army’s decision to separate his wife from their newborn baby December 1, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Iraq and Afghanistan, Peace.
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Roger’s note: Kimberly Rivera is one of those rare soldiers who understands the Nuremberg principles.  After serving a tour in Iraq, she refused to go back to participate in the commitment of further war crimes.  After years living in Canada the corrupt and unjust Tory driven refugee process made a final negative determination.  When a bill in the Canadian parliament was introduced to prevent the deportation of American war resisters, a bill with majority support from the three opposition parties, it was defeated when the current Liberal leader Justin Trudeau and some other Liberals failed to show up for the vote.  When it was finally announced in parliament that Kimberly had been deported, the Tory (Conservative) members burst out in applause.

But as this letter from Kimberly’s husband demonstrates, the Canadian Tories have nothing over the American military when it comes to mean spirited vengeance.  A disgusting way to treat a strong and courageous woman.

 
By (about the author)

http://www.opednews,com, November 30, 2013

 
The following statement was written by Kimberly Rivera’s husband Mario about what has happened these last few days and about how  the decision of Brig. General Michael A. Bills to deny clemency has affected this family.

After reading this letter, please make plans to participate in the International Day of Action in Solidarity with Kimberly Rivera.


When I arrived at the hospital I checked in to see my wife deliver the baby.  Upon entering the room the staff sergeant proceeded to tell me that because Kim is a prisoner she is not allowed any visitations period but she said she would allow me an hour like it was some sort of favor.  I politely agreed and proceeded to visit with Kim who was very upset at how they were treating her.  And then I got upset too when I found out that I wasn’t going to be allowed to be there for the delivery.

Once the hour was up she kicked me out of the room.  I then called our attorney and anyone else I thought might help to tell them about the situation.  While I was in the waiting room I overheard a lieutenant talking with the staff sergeant and some nursing staff about Kim and what they were going to do with me. They were not happy because I had called the social worker, who called the staff sergeant to find out why I was being kept out. So I walked up to the lieutenant and asked him how I could see my son be born and bond with him. He then made me go with him to another room with another soldier and then they locked the door. They then said that had to stay in there because of SOP (standard operating procedure) and that they would need more manpower for me to be in the room, and that they already had the staff sergeant in there with Kim at all times. I continued to explain my situation and how I felt. I told him I understood that Kim had to stay under guard since she was a prisoner, but that I believed my rights as a Dad were being violated.

The lieutenant said he was “on my side” but it didn’t seem like he wanted to really listen either.  He did tell me that he would put a request in with the admiral. He then took me down to security where I sat and waited.

20 minutes or so later he came back. He said the admiral approved me being in the delivery room with the stipulation that I not be allowed to have my cellphone with me, and that I would of course have to follow their rules and medical rules.  I of course complied with these conditions so I was allowed to be with Kim and our baby for the rest of the day.

The following day I came back to the hospital. I did not have anyone to watch my other kids, so I brought them with me. They held me at gate for about 20 minutes before letting us on base.  At security, I checked my phone (as agreed) and they told me it would be no problem for me to bring our kids with me, but when I got to Kim’s floor they said that it was a problem and that we would not be allowed to see Kim or the baby until they talked to the Admiral. After a two hour wait, the Admiral gave the ok and our family got to be together.

The next day I was told that Kim was being discharged at 4 p.m. but the Brig actually came to get her at 9 a.m. The baby is now with me.

As you can imagine this whole experience has been horrible for our family. Our children are deeply traumatized from being continually separated from their mom and they are scared that if I leave without them, that they will not see me again either. Two of the younger kids, Katie and Gabriel are taking it really hard. And Christian now has depression and anxiety from this.  They cry when they think of Kim and miss her a great deal.  Christian has told me, “The military is supposed to protect us so why are they hurting us?  Why did they take momma?”

Rebecca, a young lady now, misses her mom very much as well and is having to go through her female changes without her momma around. Katie always says she wants to rescue mommy from the bad people who put her in jail” and Gabriel, he just looks for her still not understanding why she is gone.

This has hit us all very hard.  My kids are hurting and traumatized from all this and now my son Matthew cannot breastfeed.  He is separated from his mom who carried him the last 8 and a half months.  All night last night he cried looking for her, for her touch, for her smell.  It breaks my heart.  Matthew did not sleep well because of the separation and I am afraid it could impact him psychologically since he is unable to be calmed by his momma.  I do not have her smell or touch that he is needing.  I cannot breastfeed him and to give him those vital nutrients.  Only my wife can and because of the Fort Carson general, Matthew can’t have that.

Take action — click here to contact your local newspaper or congress people:
Join the International Day of Action in Solidarity with Kimberly Rivera

Click here to see the most recent messages sent to congressional reps and local newspapers

http://www.jmbranum.com

Attorney/Legal Director of the Center for Conscience in Action Minister of Peace & Justice, Joy Mennonite Church of Oklahoma City

 

Pregnant war resister seeks early release from military prison on humanitarian grounds November 5, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Criminal Justice, Peace, Women.
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495 supporters from around the world write letters in support of clemency application

From the Center for Conscience in Action

November 4, 2013  http://www.opednews.com


Mario and Kimberly Rivera by James M. Branum

 

Fort Carson, Colorado — Imprisoned war resister PFC Kimberly Rivera has submitted a clemency application seeking a reduction by 45 days in the 10 month prison sentence she received for seeking asylum in Canada rather return to her unit in Iraq.

The request for clemency was based on humanitarian reasons due to pregnancy. Unless clemency is granted, Private First Class Kimberly Rivera will be forced to give birth in prison and then immediately relinquish custody of her son while she continues to serve the remainder of her sentence.

Unfortunately military regulations provide no provisions for her to be able to breastfeed her infant son while she is in prison.

Fort Carson Senior Commander Brigadier General Michael A. Bills will be making a decision on PFC Rivera’s clemency request in the coming weeks.

PFC Rivera’s case made international news when she was the first female US soldier in the current era to flee to Canada for reasons of conscience. After a protracted struggle through the Canadian legal system, she was deported back to the United States in September 2012. She was then immediately arrested and sent back to the Army to stand trial.

In an interview conducted on the eve of her court-martial, Rivera said, ” When I saw the little girl [in Iraq] shaking in fear, in fear of me, because of my uniform, I couldn’t fathom what she had been through and all I saw was my little girl and I just wanted to hold her and comfort her. But I knew I couldn’t. It broke my heart. I am against hurting anyone” I would harm myself first. I felt this also made me a liability to my unit and I could not let me be a reason for anyone to be harmed—so I left” Even though I did not fill out the official application to obtain conscientious objector status, I consider myself a conscientious objector to all war.”

On April 29, 2013, PFC Rivera pled to charges of desertion. She was sentenced by the military judge to fourt een months in prison, loss of rank and pay, and a dishonorable discharge; thanks to a pre-trial agreement her sentence was reduced to an actual sentence to ten months of co nfinement and a bad-conduct discharge.

Kimberly Rivera has been recognized by Amnesty International as a “prisoner of conscience.” She is the mother of four children, ages 11, 9, 4 and 2.

Kimberly Rivera’s request for clemency was accompanied by 495 letters of support, written by family members, friends, as well as members of Amn esty International from 19 countries.

” We have many organizations to thank for the outpouring of support for Kimberly Rivera, including Amnesty International, Courage to Resist, the War Resisters Support Campaign of Canada, Veterans for Peace and Coffee Strong,” said James M. Branum, civilian defense attorney for PFC Rivera. “We also want to recognize the tireless efforts of local supporters in Colorado Springs and San Diego who have taken the time to visit Kim in prison as well as to provide important support to Kim’s family in her absence.”

While the official clemency request is now complete, supporters of PFC Rivera are still encouraged to continue to speak out on her behalf. Letters in support of PFC Rivera’s clemency request can be sent directly to:

Brigadier General Michael A. Bills

c/o Fort Carson Public Affairs Office
1626 Ellis Street
Suite 200, Building 1118
Fort Carson, CO 80913

(fax: 1- 719-526-1021)

Supporters are also encouraged to sign an online petition posted at: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/752/756/678/free-a-pregnant-war-resister-from-us-military-prison/

Donations to assist the Rivera family can be made online at: https://co.clickandpledge.com/sp/d1/default.aspx?wid=58528

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An update on Kimberly Rivera and other U.S. Iraq War resisters November 23, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Iraq and Afghanistan, Peace, War.
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From: War Resisters Support Campaign Sent: 23 Nov 2012 21:45:35 GMT Subject: An update on Kimberly Rivera and other U.S. Iraq War resisters
    – please forward to all supporters! – Dear friends,

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.
On September 17th, Harper government representatives argued in Federal Court that the possibility of Kim being arrested by U.S. authorities was “merely speculative”. The Federal Court took the government lawyer’s argument at face value and denied a stay of removal on the basis that it was ‘speculative’ that she would be arrested and subject to court-martial. On September 20th, Kim and her family voluntarily left Canada, and Kim was immediately arrested at the border to the U.S. She is currently awaiting court martial on charges of desertion. As Kim’s lawyer Alyssa Manning had clearly stated, there was abundant evidence that Kim faced arrest and harsh punishment if returned to U.S. authorities.

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.ca416.598.1222wrsctoronto@gmail.com Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s op-ed in The Globe and Mail: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/commentary/dont-deport-war-resister-kimberly-rivera/article4544856/

——-

War Resisters Support Campaign
Web: http://www.resisters.ca/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/WarResisters
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/WarResisters

Ottawa turns its back to U.S. soldiers September 22, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
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 By Jack Todd, Special to The Gazette September 22, 2012 11:57 AM

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. jacktodd46@yahoo.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.

© Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette
Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/Ottawa+turns+back+soldiers/7284940/story.html#ixzz27DtWzfBb

Canada Orders War Resister to Be Deported Back to US August 30, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
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Published on Thursday, August 30, 2012 by Common Dreams

 

Kimberly Rivera must leave Canada by Sept. 20

- Common Dreams staff

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.

Courage to Resist, a U.S.-based war resister support organization, reported on Rivera’s story and why she had sought refuge in Canada:

“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.”

U.S. army fugitive illegally forced to return to Iraq: Report May 29, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
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Roger’s note: Once you have read this article you might want to use the following link to read an incredible and comprehensive article in GQ on the subject of desertion.  It is a long article, which is why I am not posting it here, but I highly recommend it. It is an eye opener.  http://www.gq.com/news-politics/newsmakers/201105/phil-mcdowell-army-deserter-wil-hylton 

 

An American soldier, now living in Toronto, was ordered to
report to Fort Hood, Texas and then back for more duty in Iraq, even though he had been discharged.

Photograph by: Joe Raedle, Getty
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By Amy Minsky, Postmedia News May 27, 2011

A U.S. war resister who is facing deportation from Canada was illegally
forced to do a second tour in Iraq, a U.S. magazine reports.

 

Phil McDowell has been on the lam since 2006, after being ordered to return
to the U.S. army less than two months after retiring — and according to GQ
Magazine, only a week after being formally discharged.

 

McDowell served one year in Iraq and finished his tour, even though his
feelings about the war had changed and he no longer supported it.

 

He voluntarily joined the U.S. army one month after the attack on the World
Trade Center in 2001, was sent to Iraq in 2004 and returned to the U.S. in 2005
to serve the remaining year left on his contract before being discharged.

 

Shortly afterward, he was served a “stop loss,” a program adopted in 2002
which extended any active soldier’s contract without consent, and which the U.S.
government began phasing out in January 2010.

 

U.S. soldiers called the policy the “backdoor draft,” ordering volunteers to
extend their contracts, the GQ article said.

 

For McDowell, the U.S. army told him they had made a mistake, that he was
never supposed to be discharged. The stop loss meant he had to report to Fort
Hood, Texas and then complete another tour in Iraq.

 

So he went to Texas, but after a few weeks decided to flee to Canada. Now, he
is labelled a deserter.

 

McDowell is living in Toronto and seeking permanent residency in Canada.

 

But he is facing deportation after Immigration Minister Jason Kenney cracked
down on Iraq war resisters seeking refuge in Canada.

 

Last July, after Canadian courts made several rulings in favour of the war
resisters, Kenney ordered immigration officers to work with departmental
advisers when processing applications for permanent residence by people
considered “military deserters,” or people who have abandoned a place for which
they volunteered.

 

In the case of McDowell, as GQ reported, he was no longer a volunteer with
the army when his stop loss was ordered.

 

Despite numerous efforts, the reporter said he couldn’t get an answer from
the U.S. army when asked how it could issue a stop loss to a retired and
discharged soldier.

 

Former military lawyers, however, were quoted saying the government has no
case, and has no power to withdraw discharge papers.

 

aminsky@postmedia.com

Why a Resister Chose Canada Over the War in Iraq December 24, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
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Published on Thursday, December 24, 2009 by The Toronto Star

by Rodney Watson

I am from Kansas City, Kansas, and I joined the U.S. Army for financial reasons in 2004 after my steady job of seven years ended.

I enlisted for a three-year contract with the intention of being a cook and not in a combat role. I wanted to support the troops in some way without being involved in any combat operations.

A recruiter promised that I could do this.

In 2005 I was deployed to Iraq just north of Mosul where I was told that my duties as a cook would be to supervise and ensure that the local nationals in the dining facility were preparing meals according to military standards.

But instead of supervising in the dining facility, I was performing vehicle searches for explosives, contraband and weapons. I also operated a mobile X-ray machine that scanned vehicles and civilians for any possible explosives that could enter the base.

I had to keep the peace within an area that held 100 to 200 Iraqi civilian men who would be waiting for security clearances, and shoot warning shots at Iraqi children who were trying to set up mortars to fire at the base.

In Iraq I witnessed racism and physical abuse from soldiers toward the civilians.

On one occasion a soldier was beating an Iraqi civilian, called him a “sand nigger,” threw his Qur’an on the ground and spat on it. The civilian man was unarmed and was just looking for work on our base. He posed no type of threat and was beaten because soldiers brought their personal racist hatred to Iraq.

This was not what I had signed up for.

After all the wrongs I witnessed in Iraq, I decided that once my one-year tour of duty was over I would never again be part of this unnecessary war.

When I returned home, my unit was informed that we would be redeployed within four months. This would put me beyond the term I signed up for. I was going to be stop-lossed and forced to serve past my contract.

While on two-week leave I made my decision to come to Canada and not return to my base at Fort Hood, Texas.

I have been here in Vancouver since early 2007. I have been self-sufficient. I have fathered a beautiful son whose mother is Canadian. I plan to marry her and to provide our son with a loving and caring family unit.

I have made many friends and I have built a peaceful life here.

My son and my wife-to-be are my heart and soul and it would be a great tragedy for my family and for me personally if I were deported and torn away from them.

I think being punished as a prisoner of conscience for doing what I felt morally obligated to do is a great injustice.

This Christmas I hope and pray that people will open their hearts and minds to give peace and love a chance.

I appeal to the Canadian government to honour your country’s great traditions of being a place of refuge from militarism and a place that respects human rights by supporting my decision, and the decisions taken by my fellow resisters to refuse any further participation in this unjust war.

I ask that you urge your government to respect the will of the majority of Canadians by acting on the direction it has been given twice by Parliament to immediately stop deporting Iraq War resisters like me and to let us become permanent residents here.

My heart goes out to the families who have lost loved ones in this unnecessary war.

© Copyright Toronto Star 1996-2009
Rodney Watson is an Iraq War veteran who was ordered deported by the Harper government this fall. On Sept. 18 he took refuge in Vancouver’s First United Church. Dec. 27 will be his 100th day in sanctuary. Watson’s request to remain in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds remains outstanding.

Confessions of a War Resister April 25, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, Peace, War.
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by Matthis Chiroux

“When asked why I thought the war was unconstitutional, I pulled from my back pocket my Constitution. I opened it and told them I’d read from Article 6, Paragraph 2, the Supremacy Clause. The ‘government’ objected immediately, insisting the document was irrelevant.” (emphasis added)

“We were taught that people from the middle east were Haji’s, Sand Niggers and Rag Heads, and that terrorists were going to kill our families if we didn’t go kill them and theirs first. We were taught that civilians could never understand and should never be trusted. We were taught the “Army family” was all we had.”

“I will not conform to war crimes. I will not confirm to sexism, racism and homophobia. I will not conform to injustice nor ignorance. I will not be silenced by fear. I will share my life, for better or for worse, like an open book, for people are not meant to live in shame. We are meant to live proud and free as individuals of principle and courage. But even people of principle and courage are wrong sometimes, and when we can realize it, apologize if necessary, and confess that which we are ashamed of, we can know peace, both in our hearts and in our world.”

 

Yesterday was a great victory for me, the entire peace movement and for troops and civilians all over the world. I faced the military for my refusal to deploy to Iraq, and I walked away a free man with a general discharge from the Army’s Individual Ready Reserve.

This does not affect my discharge from Active Duty Service, however, which is the term of enlistment from which my G.I. Bill does derive. My benefits are mine, and I will use them to attain education, as all people have the right to do and should not have to fight in any armies to realize.

The hearing was attended by my three JAG attorneys, my civilian representation, James Branham, Prof. Marjorie Cohn, the President of the National Lawyers Guild, and my mother Patricia, both of whom testified on my behalf. The hearing was also attended by Mike McPherson, Executive Director of Veterans for Peace, Bill Ramsey, of St. Louis Instead of War, and Alexandra, by beloved.

My eyes were glued to the board the whole time. I looked those officers in the eyes, and I could see the humanity in each of them. I don’t know if they agreed with me, but there was humanity, and their hearts and minds were open.

The prosecution, or literally ‘government,’ opened by reading a list of when they sent me the call-up, when I contacted them in Feb. 2008 and asked for a delay to finish a semester of school I had just paid $4,500 for. They tracked when they issued me several delay orders until the final orders were issued for June 15th. They tracked when they sent me several failure to appear notices and when they finally initiated the discharge process against me.

After this, they showed the youtube video of my refusal to deploy after Winter Soldier on the Hill. They followed it by a portion of my speech from Fathers Day, the day I was supposed to report, and then a Democracy Now interview I did the day after.

They questioned a young Captain about the paperwork process, and then they called me to testify.

I thought I’d be more nervous than I was, but I very much felt relieved. You know, there’s all kinds of nifty ways to communicate now-a-days, and maybe call me old fashioned, but there’s nothing like looking someone in the eyes and telling them what’s in your soul. And I bared it for them.

I told them I believe that the war is illegal, and that as a Soldier, I thought it was my responsibility to resist it. I told them I was originally planning on deploying, despite my belief that the war is illegal, but that after I was exposed to Winter Soldier, Iraq and Afghanistan, I found clarity, and I found courage.

We later submitted the Winter Soldier book, as well the IVAW-produced Warrior Writers book to the record as exhibits that I believe can be referenced by future IRR boards, at least in the Army, which would take place in the same building as my hearing did.

When asked why I thought the war was unconstitutional, I pulled from my back pocket my Constitution. I opened it and told them I’d read from Article 6, Paragraph 2, the Supremacy Clause. The ‘government’ objected immediately, insisting the document was irrelevant.

After much deliberation, the lead council of the board, a civilian lawyer, shut down debate and said the board wouldn’t hear the constitution, and that questioning should continue.

So I said fine, I can just quote it, and I quoted, “this Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land.”

I said when we violated the U.N. Charter to invade Iraq and Afghanistan, when we systematically defy the international laws of war to wage occupation, we violate U.S. Law and the Constitution, and that it is every Soldiers’ responsibility to resists the crimes of our Government for which we are ultimately responsible.

I focused upon the eyes of each board member as I spoke. I told them I was there because they needed to know that we are not cowards, and we are not traitors, we are people who are dedicated to doing what’s right beyond any measure.

Startlingly, they stared back at me with no disgust in their eyes. They heard me, and they considered what I said, and they did not threaten, nor did they smile. They listened, and I beared my soul with no fear of persecution. And I felt so relieved, as every word rolled off my tongue. I felt a world of weight lifted from me. I suddenly felt the solidarity of millions there in the room with me.

And not just from now, or from the people demonstrating outside the hearing, but since the beginning of organized warfare. Military resistence has been heralded for millennia by the premier scholars, poets, philosophers, scientists and spiritual leaders of humanity.

I thought of Franz Jägerstätter, an Austrian citizen who refused to fight in Hitler’s army. His head was removed after every chance was given him by the authorities to accept some duty, even if without a weapon.

I thought of those brave G.I.’s in Vietnam who stood against the system, who worked to prevent the victimization of their brothers and sisters by resisting the continued genocide. Many went to jail. One was shot and killed while trying to escape.

I thought of my brothers and sisters in IVAW. Those who realize the humanity in us all deserves to be respected beyond what the military trained us to think. We are sacred; we are beautiful. We are not killers, we are women and men of dignity and justice.

The ‘government’ tried to rattle me by asking if I’d have objected to simply taking photos, and I told him any act to support an illegal war, from the front lines to a state-side base, was a violation of the Oath of Enlistment.

I took my leave of the witness chair feeling satisfied that everything I had come to say and do had been done, and then Marjorie Cohn walked in!

Prof. Cohn gave the most thorough, detailed, understandable and spot-on breakdown of the illegalities of the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan I’ve ever heard. She focused on the U.N. Charter, the Geneva Conventions, the Nuremburg Tribunals, U.S. Federal and Constitutional law and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

She spoke with elegance and grace about some very hard subjects, and when the ‘government’ asked if she thought every Soldier in the Army who had deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan or supported the occupations from the states were a party to war crimes, she answered honestly.

Marjorie will always be a hero to me, as well Kathleen Gilberd of the NLG, who has provided me priceless council and support since the earliest stages of my resistance.

After we broke for lunch, my mother was given a chance to testify, during which she nearly broke my “military bearing” when she recounted the last thing I said to her in July of 2002 before I got out of the car to catch a ride to basic training: “I have to go be a grown-up now.” I had no real idea what I was being led in to.

My mother told them how much she loves me and that I am a man of honor. She said I am kind and principled, and that I take everything I do very seriously. She told them I am not selfish, nor am I vain. She said that I had sacrificed much to be there and that she was ever so proud of me.

My mother has always been my hero for reasons only she and I could ever understand. I love you, Mama.

The closing arguments were laid out. The ‘government’ accused me of trying simply to get attention for myself so that I could launch a career in politics. They said I didn’t care about the law, that I just wanted to get out of doing my duty, and that they should give me a dishonorable discharge as a result.

My lead JAG attorney told a story of his father, a retired sergeant major. He said he was shocked to learn one day that his father supported Mohammad Ali’s decision to refuse deployment to Vietnam, despite the fact that he had done two tours himself.

His father told him that he disagreed with Ali’s decision but had respect for any man who would stand up for what he believed in and be held accountable by his own will. His father told him this is what it means to be honorable. “Sgt. Chiroux is an honorable man,” said John Adams. “He could have stayed home. He’s here. He’s a man of honor. He deserves an honorable discharge.”

With this, we were sent off for the board to deliberate. Upon our return I stood as the decision was read.

The Army found me guilty of misconduct for refusing to deploy to Iraq, but recommended I only be discharged from the reserves with a general discharge under honorable conditions.

I left the building with the biggest smile I’ve had for years. I feel truly vindicated, in more ways than one. My ass is mine, and so is my soul. I’m not guilty of misconduct, but that board is human and bound to make mistakes. Perhaps it’s a decision than can be overturned in time. But they got the overall principle right. My refusal was not an act that falls outside of honorable conditions.

Which brings me to Winter Soldier, St. Louis, which occurred later that afternoon. I’ve been hesitant for years to talk about certain details of my military service, and my life prior to the military. The time finally came that I felt I could share, and IVAW was there, and so was the town of St. Louis.

On the afternoon of April 21st, 2009, I, Matthis Chiroux, did confess to a number of secrets that I had not made broadly known to the public before this date, but I brought forward at Winter Soldier (of which video will follow as soon as it’s processed).

I confessed to having been physically abused by my father from a young age until 13 and emotionally abused until well after. I confessed to having had extensive problems with the authorities in Alabama beginning after I smoked my first joint at age 16.

I told the world that before I graduated high school, I had been incarcerated for nearly six months over several periods of time in juvenile prison, correctional boot camp and a state-run drug rehabilitation facility for minors. My crime: The possession of one eighth of a GRAM of marijuana and a pipe in the middle of the woods, or as they put it, private property.

I confessed that upon graduating high-school, I was kicked out of my house and did move into a tent in the woods near the center of town, and that shortly after, I did sell a small amount of psychedelic mushrooms I had gathered from a cow field to a few friends and to my step-brother for food money. My step brother returned home to be caught by my father under the influence and did inform him that I was the source.

As a result, I was brought into the courthouse, specifically before my probation officer, where I first met Sgt. Whitetree, the man who would put me in the Army. I was threatened with serious prosecution, though the state had no physical evidence against me. I was told I could be looking at 10 to 20 years in “big boy pound you in the ass prison,” as Sgt. Whitetree put it, or I could enlist for a term in the Army.

While I believed I could beat the charges, I saw myself as a young man with very few options by design. I agreed to enlist, but I spent the weekend in jail anyway.

It almost felt like home sweet home at that point. I’d been on that same block so many times before, and this time, I was staring into a system that I at least thought could surely be no worse than where I was coming from. I was mistaken.

Before I was released from custody Monday morning, the Judge presiding in Lee County, Judge Richard Lane, willfully back-dated my release from probation 30 days so that I could proceed directly to the recruiting station and sign my butt into the Army.

After signing initial papers and attaining waivers for my juvenile marijuana conviction, and before heading to MEPS for the first time, Sgt. Whitetree bought me a system flushing drink so that I would not test positive for marijuana on my initial drug test to get into the Army. At every step it was made totally clear to me that should I choose not to enlist in the military, I would face charges stemming from the incident with my step-brother.

What happened to me was illegal, and I am not alone. I am living proof we do not have an all-volunteer Army, and I’ve met countless throughout my time in the military that could tell similar to identical tales. And if not forced by the police, then because they saw themselves on a destructive path and were in fact seeking a way out similar to me. Or those who really just wanted to go to college, which should be a basic human right for all anyway. Or those with mouths to feed other than their own. Or those who just never knew any other way. Or those who were lied to and told they would serve freedom and justice.

War is not a natural state for man. We are propelled to war and destructiveness in all forms by forces which seem beyond our control; that reach into our lives and move us to some drastic end. That is why in a truly just society, war would not exist. But when the sacrifice of war becomes less than the sacrifice of life, we must look at ourselves and ask, “what have we created?”

I confessed, I was tortured by the Army, as are we all. We are beaten down, we are brutalized and dehumanized in all forms, physically, emotionally and sexually. We are taught that human life is cheap, and that all things burn if you get them hot enough. We are taught where and how to stab bayonets into people, we are taught to kill from great distances using bullets and bombs, we are taught that napalm sticks to kids.

We were taught that people from the middle east were Haji’s, Sand Niggers and Rag Heads, and that terrorists were going to kill our families if we didn’t go kill them and theirs first. We were taught that civilians could never understand and should never be trusted. We were taught the “Army family” was all we had.

We were taught that woman were objects, and were to be treated like objects, and though we had cute little classes about sexual harassment and racial sensitivity, the practice of male chauvinism and exploitation of women was rampant, especially in Japan and the Philippines, which I believe to be indicative of racism in the military toward non-whites.

I confessed that while I was stationed overseas four and a half years, I saw rampant prostitution on and around military bases. I confessed that my conscience is not clean of this disgusting act. Twice in Japan, I solicited prostitutes with fellow members of my unit. These were acts not only meant to make us feel powerful as men and Americans, they were to bond us together as a unit that works together, plays together, eats together and even ‘fucks’ together.

I’m happy to say on both these occasions my conscience got the better of me and I could not produce an erection. For fifty dollars each time, I was supposed to have sex with those women, and instead I asked them to rub my back for the half- hour while I listened to my comrades on the other side of hanging sheets defile the miracle of life.

I’ll never forget on the second occasion the piercing, painful and sustained scream of one women being taken on by my comrade whose name I will not share. After ferocious laughter erupted from his throat, he said in a very matter of fact kind of way, “she doesn’t like it up the ass!”

I remember laughing because I couldn’t believe what was going on. I knew something was wrong, but it’s like I didn’t know I was supposed to care. As long as it wasn’t me doing it or receiving it, I felt free to giggle away. These were prostitutes, I was taught, and they were there to service us as men, even if it was just to rub my back because I couldn’t ‘get it up,’ which is a fact I did not share with my comrades out of shame. Little did I know it was evidence to be proud of, that even when my mind forgot what is right and wrong, my body did not, or not in Japan, anyway.

The first of the two prostitutes I did have sex with was in the Philippines. This act has haunted my conscience for years. It continues to haunt me even now. Even though I have publically confessed it and asked for the forgiveness of all who I treated like objects, including my those former girlfriends of mine who I was unfaithful to in all of these acts.

After weeks of working in the Joint Information Bureau with American and Philippine military personal in Puerto Princesa, the officers of the operation decided they wanted to reward us for a job well done. I was told to put on civilian clothes and meet in front of our building immediately following work.

At the time we had orders not to leave the base unless under armed guard by Philippine Soldiers as there were rebel forces in the area likely to target American forces if given the opportunity. So we were met by a squad of armed Soldiers with a military vehicle which we rode in off base to a local disco.

Upon arrival, the armed soldiers took up post in front of the door, and I was given beer and invited to display my dancing moves to my comrades and the women present in the club. When one came up to me and started dancing, I thought nothing too fishy of it. A Philippine officer came over and put his hand on my shoulder. He asked me if I thought the girl was pretty, and I said yes and continued dancing.

This officer, after a few more minutes of observing, whistled to a woman behind the bar and pointed at the girls me and the other Americans were dancing with. He made the international sign for money and he pointed toward the vehicle. It was then that I knew, I had just been purchased a human being.

Our armed escort drove me, two other enlisted guys and the officers to a collection of one-room bungalows that was the hotel. Each troop retired to a bungalow with a woman, and soon, the sounds of men having their way with women filled the damp night air.

I sat in my bungalow with a young girl, who couldn’t speak a word of English, which is strange for people from the Philippines, which makes me believe this young girl was a victim of human trafficking. She was obviously frightened that I would push myself on her in some violent way, which made me feel sick and uneasy.

To ease my churning stomach and scared heart and her as well, I began teaching the girl English. I thought her to say “how are you,” and “I am 18.” I taught her to say “Love” and “I have to pee,” when she did so in a bucket in the back of the room. I then kissed her, because I wanted to, and she kissed me back.

I left the room, when I heard my comrades talking outside under the palm trees in dark. They were drinking from a bottle of whiskey and talking about the sex they just had with “their” women. And they were talking with the officers, who had also had their way with several women. When they asked me what I had done, I told them I taught the girl to speak a little English, and that I’d watched her pee in a bucket and kissed her, but that was about it.

They laughed and told me I was a nice boy, but that they hadn’t paid for the woman so that I could teach her English. They said if I didn’t go back inside and “be a man” with that girl, they’d be offended. In one moment, I felt every ounce of not only my manhood questioned, but also my main mission of “fostering positive relations with Philippine counterparts.”

I went back inside the bungalow, and I had sex with a person who I treated like an object. But I did it, and will forever feel violated for it. I had unprotected sex with a woman who’s only purpose in being with me was money that she may not have even been receiving. I broke her heart, and I broke my own. I sold out on my manhood that night.

When it was done I wanted to hug her, but I could tell she wanted to lie nowhere close to me. She didn’t love me, she didn’t want to be with me. We had defiled a beautiful act of creation and intimacy without ever having taken any responsibility for ourselves. I felt as though I had raped her. I felt as though I had raped myself.

But we did it, and it was what it was. We didn’t stand near to each other after that, though she sat with me in the front seat of the van as we took the women back to the disco. I vaguely remember someone in the car commenting that they’d never “pissed in a whore’s ass before,” before a very angry woman started screaming in Tagalog. I was so ashamed. I couldn’t hold her hand. I could barely hold the contents of my own stomach. I knew I had done wrong, and it killed every relationship I had from that point forward.

I couldn’t come to grips with myself as a man after that. I couldn’t feel like a sacred thing, anymore. We’re all miracles; burning, walking miracles, but we cover ourselves in thick robes of guilt, isolation and despair, and we forget to see the spiritual wholeness and actualization of a human being as sacred, as it is, as we are. And if we did, we wouldn’t do things like I did, we wouldn’t do things like we do, and like what’s still being done by our good boys and girls in untenable situations.

But this followed me, and I took it to Germany where one evening while I was out in Frankfurt with a Major and a former Provost Marshal (like the chief of the military police), I found myself in a legal, medically-approved brothel where I did have sex with a Columbian girl. Almost immediately after we started, however, I snapped out of what felt like a haze and told her I really wanted to leave and that I’d pay her the money anyway. I knew I didn’t want to be there. I realized I was just trying to impress some Major who turned out was actually trying to hit on me, though I was a little slow on the uptake at the time.

I apologize from the bottom of my heart to the women I’ve hurt as a result of my sexual dehumanization. This includes every one of my girlfriends while in the Army, all of whom I cheated on when they got too close to my heart, and I broke many of their hearts in doing so. This includes my girlfriend, my love, Alexandra, who has stood so bravely and non-judgmentally by me during these revelations. My apology includes my mother and my sister, both of whom I know will be hurt by this information that I refuse to conceal anymore. This includes every woman who reads this horrible testament to the truth of sexuality in the U.S. military. This includes every woman who has ever been sexually preyed upon by U.S. troops in countries all over the planet. This includes every woman, every where, those who hate me and those who love me. Those who will never know my story. I’m sorry for the wrong I have done to womankind. I am not the careless, heartless, thoughtless and highly-trained boy I once was. My heart weeps everyday for the wrong I have done in this world.

Since I left the Army in August of 2007, I have struggled severely with Depression, probably due to post-traumatic stress. In fact, the night before I returned from Germany to Brooklyn not really knowing what I was going to do, I confessed to my then girlfriend that I was having suicidal feelings. I confessed to her that I had an image of myself blowing the back of my skull out with a .45 that I could not get out of my head. This would become somewhat of a recurring image to me, as I struggled to get my feet under me in Brooklyn.

Even with my freedom, I was struggling, and I didn’t know why. I wondered why I didn’t want to talk to people or get to know anyone at my school. I couldn’t figure out why no matter how much weed I smoked, or other shit I dabbled in, I couldn’t find peace of mind. I was on the road to being a student, which is all I thought about, all those years in the military, and yet I was crashing in on myself, and that damn .45 kept going off in my mouth!

And then I got my call-up orders for Iraq, and I disappeared into my room for days and days upon end. I felt so trapped. So cornered, and I had nowhere to turn. I had no family in New York, one of my only friend was struggling with PTSD herself from two deployments in Iraq, and all she could talk about was wanting to go back. I felt doomed, and I broke into pieces. That’s the closest I’ve ever come to suicide, and my greatest fear to this day is that I will die by my own hand.

But then I found IVAW, and slowly started peeling off my blankets of guilt and isolation. And with every blanket I shed, I found the strength to shed a few more and a few more. And now I stand before the world today, a free man, free of the military, free of his secrets, free to be whoever I choose to be.

And I choose to be a good man. I choose to be one who sees all women and men as created equal, and as equally miraculous in this universe of ordered chaos and deserving of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness through all means which have been withheld from us. I feel great remorse for the wrong that I have done but will WORK to make right those things I HAVE made wrong.

I felt like a coward for years in the military because I knew what we were doing was wrong, but I simply couldn’t find the legs to stand against it. Conformity was valued above all else, and though for years the quote above my desk read, “Whoso wouldst be a man must be a non-conformist,” those words never really took root before this past year.

I will not conform to war crimes. I will not confirm to sexism, racism and homophobia. I will not conform to injustice nor ignorance. I will not be silenced by fear. I will share my life, for better or for worse, like an open book, for people are not meant to live in shame. We are meant to live proud and free as individuals of principle and courage. But even people of principle and courage are wrong sometimes, and when we can realize it, apologize if necessary, and confess that which we are ashamed of, we can know peace, both in our hearts and in our world.

I’m sorry for the wrong I have done and forgive the wrong that has been done me. I will learn from my mistakes and live as a man of conscience. I will love without limit and share all I have with those who need and may not even know it. I will be humble until the end of my days and thankful for all that I have, including a woman who loves me despite all of these things and who IS the love of my life and has set me free more than she’ll ever understand. And she was at my hearing, and she was my cornerstone. I love you Alexandra like I’ve never before been capable of feeling.

But I will struggle. I will struggle until all my brothers and sisters all over the world are free from militarization and imperialism. I will struggle to see the end of Racism, Sexism, Homophobia and the commodification of the human body in all forms. I will struggle to see that our planet is left to our Grandchildren in FAR better shape than it was left to us. I will struggle to free the world of economic inequality. I will struggle to prevent any more war resisters from being jailed by the military and for the freedom of those who are currently incarcerated. I’m looking at you, Robin Long (among MANY others)!!! You’re still a hero of conscience and we can’t wait for your return to freedom!!!

The battle is won, but the war is FAR from over. Please continue to struggle to end our illegal occupations and horrible practices all over the world, from Iraq to Japan to the Philippines! The U.S. military must be brought home in its entirety and reformed into a force for purely national defense and not murder, rape, torture and war!

We are not bad people. We are not war criminals. We are the victims of lies, brutality, dehumanization and exploitation. We know the true war criminals by their hoards of bloody money and oil barrels overflowing with the tears of Iraqis, Afghans and servicemembers world-wide who have had their lives stripped from them by these criminal occupations and policies.

And that is why I’m releasing the remainder of my legal defense fund, I believe around $2,000, as well I’m turning over the remainder of the money I’ve collected from my website, just over four hundred dollars which represents nearly half of the money which has been donated to me through my paypal since I started it last summer, to Iraq Veterans Against the War.

IVAW represents the voices of conscience for an entire generation of Americans, and really our entire society. We, the Winter Soldiers of the War on Terror, who will speak our truths, no matter what the personal cost, and stand our ground no matter what adversity we may face, and reflect openly and honestly upon ourselves, we represent hope for this nation.

In South Africa after Apartheid fell, truth and reconciliation commissions were set up to investigate crimes committed by both Apartheid forces and rebel forces. To bring about witnesses to reveal crimes which they participated in or knew about, the commission had to grant amnesty to a large number of people who testified to things not greatly different than we do.

And we risk everything to come forward and are asking for NOTHING but an ear to hear us, and the means to carry on, and the willingness to know the truths of our government’s policies. And it lays so many of us so very low, as we struggle in a society that would rather shut our real histories, us, who we are, out, for a lie, one big murderous soul-sucking lie.

Well we’re done taking it, we’re done being victims, and we are organizing a victory, for truth, for the people of Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, for our nation in distress, for the people of the world who we have treated like dispensable objects for too long! For the troops, who languish and grow further away from us while our nation worries about paying rent! For the veterans, who are sleeping homeless on the streets and stuck with the image of a gun in their mouth, or with the sounds of screaming babies. For the women, who are first and most being made the victims of these policies and occupations, and for the female Soldiers in Iraq, don’t ever forget that THIS IS NOT NORMAL!!! And for the Muslim people in the United States who have languished in this climate of racism and hate. We are sorry! Your liberation is most important to us!

IVAW represents hope for all these people, and it represented hope for me, when I needed it most, and it continues to represent so much hope to me. We are going to end this war and we need the support right now folks, more than ever, and we need your energy as we move into Spring and Summer.

We are strong, and we are determined. We acknowledge there are still illegal occupations being waged, and human rights violations occurring at the hands of Americans world wide, and we pledge to bear witness to the truth and nature of our experiences to bring about change from the front lines of the real struggle, right here at home.

May we stir now with the coming Spring and blossom hope for all the world to see. Hope in acknowledging we’ve done and are doing wrong, taking responsibility for ourselves by halting the wrong from occurring and seeking the forgiveness and to offer healing to those we know we’ve hurt.

Onward with the struggle, forever!

Matthis Chiroux is a member of the Iraq Veterans Against the War

A War Resister Speaks from Prison: Let GI Resisters Stay in Canada March 19, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Iraq and Afghanistan, Peace, War.
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by Robin Long

In 2004 when Jeremy Hinzmen applied for refugee status in Canada the Conservative government stepped in at his Refugee Hearing and said that evidence challenging the legality of the war in Iraq can’t be used in this case. The U.N. Handbook for Refugees and the Nuremburg Principals say:   

A soldier of an army that is involved in an illegal war of aggression has a higher international duty to refuse service. They also have the right to seek refugee protection in any country that is signatory to the Geneva Convention.

By refusing to allow him, and by precedent all other claimants, the right to use the argument that the war was illegal, the decision closed the door on that legal avenue for refugee protection.

The invasion of Iraq was clearly an illegal act of aggression.  The U.S. was not under attack or the imminent threat of attack from the nation of Iraq. The action was also not approved by the U.N. Security Council.  By taking this stance, the Conservative government is condoning the invasion and continuing occupation of Iraq.  Is this what Canadians want? A majority of Americans want it to end and have also realized it to be a mistake. Canadians have long known it to be wrong. Why is the minority Conservative government still holding onto the idea and still deporting war resisters?  Why are they separating families and being complicit in the incarceration of morally strong young men and women?  What message is this sending?

Parliament voted to let war resisters remain

In June of 2007 Canada’s Parliament voted on a non-binding resolution to allow war resisters and their families permanent resident status. The vote passed. In agreement with the vote, a poll of Canadian opinion showed overwhelming support for the resolution.  But in defiance of Parliament and the will of the people, the Conservative minority government, led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Immigration Minister Diane Finley, ignored the bill.  The government stated that all refugee claimants are given a fair chance to plead their case at the Refugee Board, and special treatment to these Iraq resisters wasn’t fair to the other claimants. The government has also stated in the past that we are not legitimate claimants because we are from the U.S. which they say has a fair and transparent justice system and we wouldn’t be singled out for being political.

On July 14th, 2008 in my final attempt to stay in Canada, where my son and community are, Federal Judge Ann Mactavish stated that I didn’t prove I would be treated harshly by the U.S. military for being a politically outspoken opponent to the war in Iraq and the Bush administration policy.  She predicted that my punishment would be minimal and I’d serve at most 30 days in the brig. (This is probably because less than 10% of AWOL cases are brought to court martial.) She then cleared the way for my deportation.

Convicted of a felony

Less than a month later I was tried in a court martial presided over by a judge who is a colonel in the Army, a person who has the President in her chain of command. (A person late appointed by Bush to Guantanamo Bay no doubt because of her credentials and political position.) The only aggravating evidence the prosecution presented was a 6 minute long video of me stating among other things that “I feel my president lied to me.” (A political statement.) The fact that this was found admissible in court for the crime of desertion is beyond me.  There were no character witnesses brought against me.  The only factor the prosecution wanted shown in determining a sentence was the fact that I was political and exercising my freedom of speech in criticizing the Commander in Chief. It seems like a conflict of interest to have a judge determine my fate when she has to ultimately answer to the President, while I was claiming the President was a domestic enemy.  While I was openly saying in my defense that the Bush administration created reasons to go to Iraq, she had superiors to answer to who answer to the President.

The judge came back with a 30 month sentence; that’s two and a half years for not showing up for work I thought to be morally objectionable, by far the harshest sentence given to a deserter from the Iraq war. The only thing that saved me was a plea bargain for 15 months. I still received a dishonorable discharge. A dishonorable discharge will keep me from ever having a government job and be at a disadvantage in the civilian sector as well. I will have a hard time ever getting a loan for a house or a car. This conviction is also a felony!  A felony will make it hard for me to return to Canada to be with my young family.  Then again, Judge Ann Mactavish had already made sure I wouldn’t be allowed in for ten years.

People who committed far worse crimes have been getting off with lighter sentences than mine.  I refused to participate in killing and got 15 months, but a First Infantry Division soldier, Spc. Belmor Ramos, was sentenced to only seven months after being convicted of conspiracy to commit murder in the case of four Iraqi men. In 2007, he stood guard while others blindfolded and shot in the head four unidentified Iraqi men,  afterwards dumping their bodies in a Baghdad canal.  During his court martial, Ramos admitted his guilt, stating, “I wanted them dead.  I had no legal justification to do this” 

Where is the justice?  The system is not fair and impartial.  Can it really be transparent when you don’t know who is influencing the judge from up the chain of command?  See how the military justice system works? It gives light sentences for killing, but God forbid someone should call the president a liar and war-monger.  In a court martial, a person’s words and political opinions – if they are anti-war and critical of the president – seem be far more damaging to his case than someone’s illegal actions in an occupied foreign nation.

What about the contract I signed?

Often, people have argued that I signed a contract  I’d like to quote from a letter one of the Founding Fathers wrote to George Washington on his thoughts about contracts:

When performance, for instance, becomes impossible, non- performance is not immoral.  So if performance becomes self-destructive to the party, the law of self preservation overrules the laws of obligations to others.  For the reality of these principles I appeal to the true fountains of evidence, the head and heart of every rational man.   –Thomas Jefferson, April 1793

For me to continue in my military contract would have been destructive to me as a person with my views, morals, and ideals.  The contract I signed was to support and defend the Constitution of the United States from all enemies foreign and domestic, and to obey the lawful orders of the President and those officers appointed over me.  I did not sign to be the strong arm for corporate interests of oil.  The so-called “liberation” of Iraq has turned into nothing more than a constant and protracted struggle for the people, against the forces that are trying to impose their will upon them for power and profit.   True freedom is the ultimate expression and condition of a people to control their own destiny, not the manufactured, force-fed variety being offered to the people of Iraq.  True democracy is not found at the end of the end of a gun barrel. It rises up from within the masses.

The government manufactured pretenses for the war

The invasion of Iraq wasn’t about WMDs, or else we would have found some.  It wasn’t about regime change, or else we would be in Darfur, or Indonesia.  (Besides, regime change is not a legitimate reason to go to war.) It wasn’t about 9/11 terrorists because most of those were from Saudi Arabia.  It didn’t say anywhere in my contract that I’d be going to foreign soil halfway around the world, to invade a country that was no threat to the U.S.  It didn’t say in my contract that I would be called upon to risk my life, not defending the people or the Constitution of the United States, but creating more enemies for our country by being an occupier.  The invasion of Iraq has made the world a much more dangerous place.

Iraq was never a real threat.  And now the destabilized nation of Iraq has become a breeding ground, an awesome recruiting center, for al Qaeda.  And it has exacted a great price from the American people.  I’m not talking about the huge monetary price, but the human cost of war, the deaths of so many of our brave youth, the missing limbs, the PTSD, the suicides. 

The order for me to go to Iraq was not a lawful one.  It violated the Constitution.  Article VI of the Constitution states that any treaty to which the U.S. is a signatory shall be the supreme law of the land.  The last time I checked, the U.S. was a signing party to the Geneva Conventions.  There are certain rules in that treaty for declaring war, and the last time I checked, regime change was not one of them.  A country must be under attack or be under threat of imminent attack.  Neither was true in the case of Iraq.  Former President Bush had no right to interpret the Constitution or the Geneva Conventions simply as he saw fit, and the 107th Congress had no right to pass H.J. Res. 114 which “allowed” the president to invade Iraq.  The Constitution was being ignored by the whole lot of them and they were derelict in their duty to uphold it.

The stand that the Conservative government of Canada has taken has separated a family – an act totally un-Canadian.  I have a young son, a Canadian citizen.  My partner, also a Canadian citizen, has multiple sclerosis and has been left to raise our son alone while I’m locked in the brig for refusing to participate in a war that Canada itself wouldn’t even send troops to.  In 2003 the then Liberal government saw the holes in Bush’s intelligence and refused to participate in the invasion.  The Canadian government not only deported me, but barred me from entering Canada again for ten years!  My flesh and blood is there!

Uphold Canada’s humanitarian tradition

The Conservatives are destroying Canada’s tradition of being a refuge from militarism and an asylum for those escaping injustice – a tradition that goes back to the times of slavery.  Are they truly representing the people?  Who are they working for really?  The days of Bush have ended.  This new Obama administration has a different view and different policies.  It’s time for Mr. Stephen Harper to change his view. He should listen to what his Parliament and a majority of Canadians are saying.

Please support the movement to allow war resisters to stay in Canada and to pardon those in the U.S. Please help me to return to Canada to be with my son.  I want only to live in peace and be in this life.  Stop the war!

Robin Long
Prisoner L4830R35
NAVCON Brig Miramar

Support War Resister in Canada March 18, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Iraq and Afghanistan, Peace, War.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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(Note from Roger: this letter, written by Norman Taylor, is a request for non-Canadians to petition the Canadian government on behalf of war resister, Kimberly Rivera.  I met Kimberly when I was in Toronto last year and was impressed by her sincerity, conviction and courage.  As a Vietnam War resister, I feel obliged to do whatever I can to support this generatin of peace warriors.  In my day we were welcomed by Canadians and the government.  Unfortanately, although the vast majority of Canadians support refuge for American war resisters, today’s mean-spirited Bush-oriented Canadian government is determined to deport them all)
Dear Friends
I’m writing to you as someone living outside Canada and to ask if you would  consider helping those of us here who are trying  to stop the deportation of Kimberly Rivera as a US Iraq war resister. These deportations are being done in spite of the will of our Parliament  [June 3, 2008]  to
 
 “…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.”

If you write and cc  [names / addresses below], please mention that you are writing from the country where you are living: the optics of this deportation can work for us internationally. 
 
Thanks for any help you can give us. These women and men need to be treated exactly as we did with Vietnam War Veterans — with the welcome mat out. 
Sincerely, 
 
Taylor 
 
[the website for War Resisters is at  http://www.resisters.ca/index_en.html  and Kim’s case is the 4th down.
========================================================================================================
 
 

On March 26, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney threaten to deport US Iraq war resister Kimberly Rivera and her family, against the will of Parliament.

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.

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