Monday, January 28, 2008


Starting with war resistance.  "Every training that I went through as a US soldier and as a non-commissioned officer was that we had an obligation to refuse illegal order when the time came -- and I knew that the war in Iraq was wrong and I knew that the war in Iraq was illegal  --  and I didn't have the courage to stand up for my convictions and say no at the time these young men and women do have that they have that courage of conviction and I think it's something that we should foster and we shouldn't turn our backs on,"  Iraq Veterans Against the War Geoff Millard explains to Aaron Glantz (The War Comes Home).  Supporting war resisters?  On Friday, actions took place in the US and on Saturday in Canada to show support for war resisters who had gone to Canada and ask the Canadian Parliament to provide a safe haven for them.  Millard was among at least fifty people participating Friday on DC at the Canadian Embassy.  The CBC quotes Millard stating, "These war resisters are leaving the U.S. not because they're afraid to fight in a war but because their conscience will not allow them to fight in a war that clearly violates Common Article 3 of the Geneva Accord."  Jeff Paterson (here for Indybay Media, here for Courage to Resist) reported on the rally at the San Francisco Canadian Consulate (photos and text) noting Ying Lee, Stephen McNeil were among the many present and that "Pablo Paredes, a former sailor turned Iraq War resister and current GI Rights Hotline counselor, and Mike Wong, a Vietnam War era veteran who chose exile in Canada for five years, hand delivered the letters to Canadian Consul Nadia Scipio Del Campo, Political/Economic Relations and Public Affairs, on behalf of the larger delegation."  Paterson's report is pooled with other at Courage To Resist including Gerry Condon who reports from Seattle and notes, "Thanks to all for your great work on this! Regardless of how much media coverage we may or may not get in the U.S., these actions weren't really aimed at people in the U.S. so much as they were aimed at the Canadian government and people, and our brother and sister war resisters.  But we have achieved a valuable goal in the U.S. too.  This is the first nationally coordinated actions in the U.S. in support of our war resisters in Canada."  Condon's more kind regarding the lack of media attention in the US than I am.  The reason for the pressure is that November 15th, the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear the appeals of  war resisters Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey. That most likely means that war resisters not as far in the appeals process (to receive asylum in Canada) would meet the same fate.  Hinzman and Hughey were the first public resisters in Canada (during the Iraq War).
Katharine Jarmul: War resistance supporters protested today in front of Canadian Embassies in major US cities to push the Canadian government to allow war resisters and their families to stay in Canada.  Although some veterans go public with their stories, many other soldiers quietly flee the conflict, going AWOL at bases around the county.  According to Army figures, in 2006, the number of desertions broke 3,000.  In 2007, 4698 soldiers deserted.  The Canadian government was a strong supporter of Vietnam war resistance but the current conservative government offers a much colder response to the fleeing veterans.  At least two more veterans are currently facing deportation proceedings in Canada despite their assertion of refugee status as soldiers fleeing what they call an illegal war.  Steve Theberge works for the War Resisters League in New York City.  He explains the current political climate in Canada.
Steve Theberge: The majority of Canadians, Canadian citizens support letting war resisters stay.  Their reception has been very warm.  They've been welcomed by the peace and justice community and by folks who live in Canada in general.  It's interesting because the Canadian government in many ways is not representing the popular perspective of people across the country. 
Katharine Jarmul:  Iraq Veterans Against the War was founded in 2004 the organization, made primarily of US service members, calls for immediate withdrawal of troops, reparations for Iraqi citizens and full mental and physical coverage for veterans returning from the war. Jose Vasquez is a board member and president of the New York City chapter.  He says veteran war resistance is nothing new to the United States but it does signify a strong critique of the current war
Jose Vasquez: The people that have to live the reality of the policies that are set at the highest level by of government have some real questions about the reasons that we are being given to continue there and also don't see their stories reflected in the mainstream media.
Katharine Jarmul: The Canadian War Resisters Support Campaign has protests and rallies scheduled for Saturday in many cities throughout Canada.  The group hopes to support a recent motion by the Canadian Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration to allow war resisters and their families to remain in the country.  For Free Speech Radio News, this is Katharine Jarmul in Washington, DC.
To the north, Carol Mulligan (The Sudbury Star) focused on war resister Michael Espinal in the lead up to Saturday's actions in Canada and noted that he would be attending the Saturday rally "with his pregnant partner" Jennifer Harrison and that, "Espinal participated in the siege of Fallujah when he was serving with the U.S. military in Iraq. Hundreds of civilians were killed in the attack, and Espinal suffers post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of his experience there."  Rachel Punch (Sudsbury Star) notes today that the Sudbury rally had approximately 20 people and Reverand David Nicol's speech included this statement, "They had the boldness and the braveness to say 'no' and we need to respect them for that."  On Saturday, Caroline Franks of 580 CFRA News Talk Radio noted the rallies taking place to call for safe haven to be granted to US war resisters in Canada.
That's one story and there are many.  Sgt. Allen Robert "Robby" Keller explained his journey to Canada in "Sgt. Keller in his own words" (Daytona Beach News-Journal) on Saturday: 
I was having an emotional breakdown at work, seeking aide from the combat stress people we had there. I told them of my lack of sleep and loss of appetite. They put me on a med called Seroquel. It was not working for me too well for I was having bad dreams and was unable to focus. During a fire fight, when I was shot at, I froze, which was something that never had happened to me in any of my past engagements. It was not fear, but it was me thinking of my family, it was all that was rushing tough my head. In a few days the preterm problems at home were getting bad. I rushed and traded out my leave dates with another solider and came home earlier. The night I came home in early December, my wife went right into early labor. We went to the hospital in NY. She was only 33 weeks, so they stopped the labor and gave her meds. We went home and enjoyed some time together. We started to have a bit of a falling out, when I told her it was out of my power to go back to Iraq and that I would have to go. She kept telling me she couldn't do it all alone and why should she have to. I told her that I did not want to leave her and the kids. I was very stressed out about our new born son, who had some health concerns; going back to Iraq; finance issues; and just so much was going on in my head. I still was not sleeping or eating right I just did not have the urge.
So I went to mental health, where they said that they wanted to treat me further, but could not, due to the nature of my deployment and the fact they could not hold me back unless I was either suicidal or homicidal. So they put me on new meds called "TRAZODONE". The new pills help me sleep more at night, so at this point in the story I'm stuck because I know I have a big issue and that I need to fix it and take back control, but the Army just will not allow it. So what I did was go to my representative for my Unit here in the States and he got a hold of my Commander. I talked to my Commander a few times on the phone and he kept telling me that he understands and that he was on my side with this issues. He believes in family and my well being. My Commander knows me as a person. We have talked several times before and I had even seen him before I left Iraq to tell him about my issues a bit, so this was not a fully new issue to him. At this time I'm doing the right thing. By going to my Chain of Command, and trying to get this all settled the right way. My Commander told me that there was nothing he could do for me except write a letter to the Battalion Commander on my behalf. Witch he did...
My wife wanted to be close to family and did not want to be in the States. I really wanted the baby born in the States, but at this time nothing was going my way, so I followed her up to Canada. On Christmas Eve she went in to labor again and on Christmas morning at 6:01 a.m., we had our new baby boy, Grai Jacob William Keller. Christmas night I got a voicemail from my Commander telling me, all that he could advise at this time was for me to get on the plane and head back to Iraq. I was to leave on the December 26th at 5:00 a.m. in the morning. My Commander told me that there was too much going on in Iraq at this time to settle my problem right now and that they would want me to come back and fix it there. I know what they have to offer there and there's nothing to fix me over there, so after spending 2 days in the hospital with my wife and son, I made up my mind that I was not going back. I was staying to be with my family. No matter what.
So now I'm AWOL and on the run but to me it is worth it 100%! I've done my time. I fought the battles (and continue to do so every time I fall asleep) and I came home and I'm staying home. The Army can take the hard road, but bring your worst, because I'm not going back to Iraq. As of Jan 26th, 2008, I should be officially marked AWOL. I make myself eat, because I know that I must. I can't stand crowds around me, so shopping for our children, before Christmas was almost impossible. I believe that I'm suffering from undiagnosed post traumatic stress and when you have that, you suffer and so does everyone around you. I've suppressed my issues and as long as I'm awake, I seem to be fine. After much struggle, when I can finally fall asleep, I have hideous dreams that are so real. My wife can't sleep in the same bed as me, because apparently I jerk, talk out loud and moan all night long, so she lays beside me, so that we can cuddle and be close, but when I finally fall asleep, she has to get up and go into the next room. When I wake up in the morning, I follow her into that bed, because I need to feel her beside me again. I need to know that "she" is not just a good dream. I wake up exhausted. I believe that my problems sleeping are caused by a fear of dreaming. My dreams bring me back to Iraq every night.
Along with Robby Keller telling his story, Audrey Parente (Daytona Beach News-Journal) also reported on it, "For the first time in his four-year military career, during his second deployment, Keller was losing control, having an emotional breakdown.  He made it safely out of the streets and sought help. He was soon going to be headed home on leave to Holly Hill. He had "aid from the combat stress people" in the form of medication, and surely everything would be OK.  While Keller was on leave, his wife went into early labor, and on Christmas Day she had her baby boy in Canada, her native land.  Keller was supposed to be away from his post for only a few weeks, but on Dec. 26 things changed.  That's when Keller went absent without leave.  He hasn't returned to his unit, and as of today he remains in Canada and will be dropped from the rolls at Fort Drum, N.Y., as a deserter and a warrant will be issued for his arrest."
Jenny Yuen (Toronto  Sun) focused on two war resisters who were now living in Canada: Jeremy Hinzman and Chuck Wiley.  Hinzman spoke to approximately 300 people Saturday at the Bloor Street United Church in Toronto where he explained, "I was trained to be desensitized to humanity.  The way you learn to kill is start by shooting weapons and, week by week, they become more human and you don't even realize it."  If the Canadian Parliament does not take action, Hinzman fears he could be exiled from Canada within five months.  Chuck Wiley served for 17 years in the US military before serving in the Iraq War forced him to self-checkout and go to Canada and declared at the Toronto gathering, "I actually thought we were good guys, helping the world.  I learned early on that the truth is never afraid of honest inquiry."  AM 640 Toronto notes, "Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae and federal NDP immigration critic Olivia Chow also spoke at the rally."
You can still make your voice heard and three e-mails addresses to focus on are: Prime Minister Stephen Harper ( -- that's pm at who is with the Conservative party and these two Liberals, Stephane Dion ( -- that's Dion.S at who is the leader of the Liberal Party and Maurizio Bevilacqua ( -- that's Bevilacqua.M at who is the Liberal Party's Critic for Citizenship and Immigration. A few more can be found here at War Resisters Support Campaign. For those in the US, Courage to Resist has an online form that's very easy to use.
There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Robby Keller, Chuck Wiley, James Stepp, Rodney Watson, Michael Espinal, Matthew Lowell, Derek Hess, Diedra Cobb, Brad McCall, Justin Cliburn, Timothy Richard, Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Peter Brown, Bethany "Skylar" James, Zamesha Dominique, Chrisopther Scott Magaoay, Jared Hood, James Burmeister, Eli Israel, Joshua Key, Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Clara Gomez, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Agustin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Abdullah Webster, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder, Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, Blake LeMoine, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Dale Bartell, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Kjar, Kyle Huwer, Wilfredo Torres, Michael Sudbury, Ghanim Khalil, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, at least fifty US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.

Information on war resistance within the military can be found at The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline [(877) 447-4487], Iraq Veterans Against the War and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. Tom Joad maintains a list of known war resisters. In addition, VETWOW is an organization that assists those suffering from MST (Military Sexual Trauma).

In 1971, over one hundred members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War gathered in Detroit to share their stories with America. Atrocities like the My Lai massacre had ignited popular opposition to the war, but political and military leaders insisted that such crimes were isolated exceptions. The members of VVAW knew differently.
Over three days in January, these soldiers testified on the systematic brutality they had seen visited upon the people of Vietnam. They called it the Winter Soldier investigation, after Thomas Paine's famous admonishing of the "summer soldier" who shirks his duty during difficult times. In a time of war and lies, the veterans who gathered in Detroit knew it was their duty to tell the truth.
Over thirty years later, we find ourselves faced with a new war. But the lies are the same. Once again, American troops are sinking into increasingly bloody occupations. Once again, war crimes in places like Haditha, Fallujah, and Abu Ghraib have turned the public against the war. Once again, politicians and generals are blaming "a few bad apples" instead of examining the military policies that have destroyed Iraq and Afghanistan.
Once again, our country needs Winter Soldiers.
In March of 2008, Iraq Veterans Against the War will gather in our nation's capital to break the silence and hold our leaders accountable for these wars. We hope you'll join us, because yours is a story that every American needs to hear.

March 13th through 16th are the dates for the Winter Soldier Iraq & Afghanistan Investigation. Dee Knight (Workers World) notes, "IVAW wants as many people as possible to attend the event. It is planning to provide live broadcasting of the sessions for those who cannot hear the testimony firsthand. 'We have been inspired by the tremendous support the movement has shown us,' IVAW says. 'We believe the success of Winter Soldier will ultimately depend on the support of our allies and the hard work of our members'."
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