Sunday, November 18, 2007

Editorial: The state of resistance

Last Thursday, US war resisters Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey heard court news. In start contrast to the news handed two Thursdays ago, when US District Judge Benjmain Settle ruled in Ehren Watada's favor. In fact, the contrast was so obvious, even NPR (via Tom Regan's NPR News Blog) noted it.

Hinzman and Hughey, two Americans who went to Canada in 2004 rather than take part in an illegal war, appealed the decision of the Immigration and Refugee Board (or 'Board') all the way up to the Supreme Court of Canada and the Supreme Court refused to hear it. Their claims for refugee status will not now be decided in a court of law.

Somehow this has translated on the right and in the center coverage as, "They're getting kicked out any day now." That's not reality. The War Resisters Support Campaign is calling for parliamentary action.

It's equally true that there are other grounds on which they can argue they should be allowed to stay in Canada.

War resister Ryan Johnson tells Aaron Glantz (IPS), "The Canadian government decided not to fight an illegal war. Canada was going to go into the war in Iraq, but then decided that because the U.N. did not sanction it, Canada would not participate in the war in Iraq. That's a major reason that I came to Canada. Canada felt the same way I did about the war in Iraq."

Under Prime Minister Stephen Harper -- buddy of the Bully Boy -- that's not how it appears.
As Thomas Walkom (Toronto Star) points out, "This government won't protect even its own citizens without U.S. clearance. It is unlikely to help Americans trying to escape Bush's wars."

Hopes are high that there are enough votes in Canada's Parliament to fix the crisis.

Hinzman and Hughey have already accomplished a great deal. As noted at The Common Ills on Thursday, "Their decision to go public was risky. Others have gone to Canada and blended in. They are not at risk now. It took bravery to say no to an illegal war. It took bravery to move to another country. On top of that, it took bravery to go public. By doing so, they didn't just put a face on war resistance, they also helped put war resistance on the map."

Jeremy Hinzman was the first war resister to go to Canada and go public (January 2004). Brandon Hughey arrived in March of 2004. Hughey explained his decision to Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) in 2004, " I had thought about the decision for months, and I had talked to my superiors, my Sergeant Major, about why I had misgivings about the war. It came out of it for me, when I got out of basic training. It came out of a personal desire to know what I would be fighting for. If I was going overseas and point my rifle at someone and pull the trigger, I can't speak for all soldiers, but I wanted to know what it would be for, and for the right reasons. And after looking into the Iraq War, I couldn't find any justifiable basis for doing so, as Jeremy mentioned. No weapons of mass destruction, no ties to al Qaeda, and I didn't want to kill anyone for lies, if you will."

Hinzman explained it to Goodman as follows, "Pretty much what it came down to was-- I mean, I won't go into the false pretences and everything that we know about, but being in an illegal war, it would be being complicit and a criminal enterprise, and you may say that, oh, well, you're not a policymaker or a general or whatever, that the Nuremberg principles wouldn't apply to you. But in light of what's happened since Abu Ghraib, when they scapegoated like the lower enlisted soldiers for simply carrying out what the policy was from the upper echelons, I think it's pretty fair to say that we made the right decision. Because I was in the infantry and there is a good chance that I would have-- I would have been pretty active in a negative way."

Last Thursday rallies in support of both war resisters took place around Canada and, as C.I. noted, among those speaking out were Kimberly Rivera -- the first known US female war resister to go to Canada -- and Rodney Watson. It is a movement and Hinzman and Hughey very much helped get it started (both in Canada and in this country).


In the US, war resister Mark Wilkerson remains active. Colorado Springs' KOAA reports that he
and other members of Iraq Veterans Against the War staged a demonstration involving a "mock tower" where they watched over the area. R. Scott Rappold (Colorado Springs Gazette) explains it was a three-day action and that other participants included Garrett Reppenhagen and Robert Duncan and quotes Duncan declaring of his time in Iraq, "I continuously saw people being sent back into a meat grinder again and again and again. I saw people dying and leaving families and distraught loved ones."

Not only is war resistance not going away, IVAW is organizing a March 2008 DC event:

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.
Click here to sign a statement of support for Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan

They've chosen a major US media center for the location: DC. Home of the United States Congress. The original Winter Soldiers Investigation went with Detroit which did (and does) have media but isn't a major media center in the US. It was selected because it was close to Windsor, Canada and the hope was to allow war resisters in Canada the opportunity to offer testimony by way of closed-circuit TV. (Technology has grown in leaps and bounds since then.)

The escalation (Bully Boy's 'surge') did not work. The mainstream media continues to lie about that or present it as "The US military claims . . ." without investigating those claims.* But what is happening is that the US is withdrawing some of the troops sent in for the escalation. Those who lived through the earlier illegal war will remember that the original Winter Soldiers Investigation followed Tricky Dick withdrawing a small number as well and lullying many into thinking the war would be winding down. That was November 1970 when Nixon did that and the illegal war went on and on. The peace movement today needs to learn from that history.

The troops Bully Boy is speaking of, the numbers withdrawn, will still leave more US service members in Iraq then before the escalation began earlier this year. That is unacceptable and needs to called out clearly. In a domestic world where All Things Media Big and Small yet again sold a Pelosi-led shell game on Americans as "troops out of Iraq," the peace movement doesn't just need to speak the truth (as they have), they need to do so even louder.

* Elaine said, "If I don't get a footnote, I'm not participating because it wouldn't be right to cover this topic and not note it." Why? She thinks -- and all but C.I. agree -- it needs to be noted that while All Things Media Big and Small ran with the lies of the over 15,000 Iraqis refugees returning to Baghdad in the last three months and then the over 45,000 Iraqi refugees returning to Baghdad in the last month, only C.I. called that nonsense out. "Not FAIR, which still hasn't made the time. Not anyone," Elaine points out. "Even before the relief organizations called those lies out, C.I. did and did so repeatedly. Want to know what you can do? Stop repeating lies as though they're facts. That goes to big media and small media. Silence kills and prolongs the illegal war."
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