Yesterday Matthis Chiroux spoke in DC. His father, who traveled from Huntsville, Alabama, and four members of Iraq Veterans Against the War stood with him as he explained why he was not deploying to Iraq.
Sgt. Matthis Chiroux: Good afternoon. We gather here this Father's Day on a very somber note. The American occupation of Iraq -- an illegal, immoral war which is ripping this nation apart as well causing an immeasurable harm to the Iraqi people and the people of the world alike. We gather in the remembrance of the sacrifice of many whose fathers weep on this joyous day for they know their own flesh and blood has been torn and siphoned from them for what we collectively hope will be this last blunder of American military might. We gather here and hope that our fathers will forgive us for the wrongs we have perpetrated on our bodies, hearts and minds alike in this cruel decade of disaster which stems from the very city in which we stand. This father's day, we gather here to calm the vicious and vengeful alike. The first day I came to Washington, D.C. was less than one month before I shipped out to basic training. I was so moved by this country and its history that it reinvigorated my belief in the righteousness of what I was doing: Joining the army not only in search of personal progress but to participate in the efforts to bring justice to the individuals responsible for 9-11. I remember standing at the base of the Washington Monument and watching the fireworks explode in the sky that Fourth of July and wondering how it was that we could have come under attack on American soil and believing firmly that I would be participatingin dealing justice for September 11th. I remember standing before the Lincoln Memorial and feeling the presence of not just the former president and emancipator but of Martin Luther King and his dream for a brighter and more united future for the children of this nation. That young me could not have known where he'd be standing almost six years later and what he would be saying this Father's Day. I am Sgt. Matthis Chiroux and tonight at midnight I may face further action from the army for refusing to reactive to participate in the Iraq occupation. This fact hangs heavy on my heart as I look back at my five years of service in uniform. But I understand that what I am doing is in keeping with the values I shared with my friends-in-arms while we wondered if things could really get any worse? Today I stand in resistance to the occupation of Iraq because I believe in our nation, its military and her people. I resist because I swore an oath to this nation that I would not allow it to fall into decay when I may be serving on the side of right. And my country is in decay and in these times of crisis Thomas Paine once said, "The summer soldier and sunshine patriot will flee from service to our country." I stand here today as a Winter Soldier. To serve our nation, its military and its people in this dark time of confusion and corruption. I stand here to make it known that my duty as a soldier is first to the higher ideals and guiding principles of this country which our leaders have failed to uphold. I stand here today in defense of the US Constitution which has known no greater enemy, foreign or domestic, than those highest in this land who are sworn to be governed by its word. I stand here today in defense of those who have been stripped of their voices in this occupation for the warriors of this nation have been silenced to the people who need to start listening. We are here to honor the memory of our fathers who more than two centuries ago brought forth upon this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal, as Abraham Lincoln once noted. We are here to honor the struggle of our fathers and their fathers and their fathers before them to build this nation and bring it together -- through slavery and poverty, to sexism and racism, through materialism and imperialism. They built this nation and struggled to keep it alive as we've blundered and learned and blundered again. We owe it to our fathers to stand for this nation now when a dark cloud has descended upon it in the form of an administration who is stealing the lives of us all to wage an illegal war -- conceived in lies and birthed [born] of manipulation. As a soldier I was told it was not my place to question the orders of those appointed above me. I had that lie trained into me from my first day of basic training to my last day of active duty. But I have learned the truth, the truth that the occupation of Iraq is inherently illegal and that it is my duty as a soldier to refuse illegal orders to reactivate and deploy in support of it. I have learned that in these times of crisis one must look deep into their own values to know the path that they must walk. I have learned that feeling and thinking and speaking and acting and keeping with courage and honesty in preservation of a righteous cause is blessed and may give a person strength to utter truths that may calm the vicious and the vengeful alike. I believe that this nation and this military may come to know the same truth: That the rule of law has been forsaken and we must return to it or be doomed to continue disaster. I believe in the goodness of the American people and I believe that justice is not dead because we as a people believe that it is our responsibility to resist the injustices done by our government in our names. We know this truth to be self-evident that our nation can unite to oppose an illegal occupation which is killing and scarring and shattering the lives of our youth and the Iraqi people. On this Fathers Day, know, America, that your children need you. We need you to care for us and to care for our country which we will inherit when you are finished with her. We need you to end this occupation of Iraq which has destroyed a country and scattered its people to the wind like ashes in the tempest -- a tempest that has engulfed the nation of Iraq and scrubbed any sign of peace and prosperity from the surface of a civilization older than even history itself. Fathers, we need you to care for your children and the children of Iraq for they know not why you fight and carry no fault in the conflict. Fathers, your sons and daughters need you now to embrace peace for though we were attacked, we have dealt in retaliation that same suffering one-thousand times over to a people who never wronged us. The nation will know little healing until first we stem off the flow of blood and human life for justice and healing will never be done by a blade or a bullet or a bomb or a torture cell. By continuing to participate in the unjust occupation of Iraq, we, as service members, are contributing to that flow of human life and we cannot now -- nor could we ever -- call the Iraqi people an enemy in the fight against the use of terror. But terror is all we now know. We are terrified of the prospect that we have been lied to. We are terrified by the idea that we have killed for nothing. We are terrified to break the silence. We are terrified to do what we know is right. But never again will I allow terror to silence me. Nor will I allow it to govern my actions. I refuse terror as a tactic for uniting a people around an unjust cause. I refuse to allow terror to motivate me to do violence on my fellow man especially those who never wronged me in the first place. I refuse to be terrified to stand in defense of my Constitution. And I refuse to be terrified of doing so in great adversity. As a resister to the Iraq Occupation, I refuse to be terrified by what may come for I know those who stand against me are in terror of the truth. But I will speak my truth, and I will stand by it firmly and forever will my soul know peace. Thank you.
Matthis Chiroux announced May 15th that he would not deploy to Iraq and yesterday was the day of deployment. At the start of this month, Matthis Chiroux appeared on The Scott Horton Show (audio link) and pointed out that recalling people in IRR back into the service really isn't allowed outside of declared wars and the US Congress never declared war on Iraq. He explained that encountering members of IVAW was when he began to see that service members have a right and duty to speak out. He also discussed how, following his discharge, he moved to NYC and had let his hair grow out ("about five inches") when he was informed that, discharge or not, he was being pulled back on. With Courage to Resist (audio link), Matthis discussed going into a deep depression when he first learned his discharge meant nothing and he was being deployed to Iraq. But "in mid-Marth I went to a peace event in Brooklyn" and encountered members of IVAW. He singeled out IVAW's Selena Coppa as someone who especially stood out. Matthis was not the only one to recently refuse to deploy. Courage to Resist notes that 5:00 a.m. last Friday was when Jose Crespo was due to report to be deployed to Iraq but that Jose informed the military this was a "could not" do that due to family obligations ("serious health crisis").
In Canada, war resisters are pressuring the Stephen Harper government to honor the House of Commons vote. We're at a maximum on "K" (size of the e-mail) so this topic is being pulled and will be picked up tomorrow. In the meantime, to keep the pressure on, Gerry Condon, War Resisters Support Campaign and Courage to Resist all encourage contacting the Diane Finley (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration -- 613.996.4974, phone; 613.996.9749, fax; e-mail email@example.com -- that's "finley.d" at "parl.gc.ca") and Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, 613.992.4211, phone; 613.941.6900, fax; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org -- that's "pm" at "pm.gc.ca").
There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Megan Bean, Chris Bean, Matthis Chiroux, Richard Droste, Michael Barnes, Matt Mishler, Josh Randall, Robby Keller, Justiniano Rodrigues, 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, Jose Vasquez, 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, Logan Laituri, Jason Marek, 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.