Sunday, December 02, 2007

Editorial: Cover the December 11th War Resisters hearings

In 2003, the Liberal government upheld international law and refused to join the war in Iraq.
Prime Minister Jean Chretien
Iraq war debate -- March 17, 2003

Chretien: If military action proceeds without a new resolution of the [United Nations] Security Council, Canada will not participate.

[Applause. Standing ovation.]

Since 2004, dozens of U.S. soldiers have left the military and come to Canada.

These soldiers have come to Canada because they oppose the war in Iraq.

They need a provision from the Canadian government to let them stay.

US War Resister Justin Colby: My name is Justin Colby. I was a specialist in the United States Army. I served for three years. I spent one year in Ar Ramadi, Iraq. I joined the army after 9-11 and I left the army after my year in Iraq, before my unit was going to go back. And I left because Iraq never attacked the United States and the things that we did there led me to believe that we weren't defending our country.

On November 15th, 2007, the Supreme Court refused to hear the appeals of U.S. war resisters.

As a result, U.S. war resisters living in Canada face deportation back to the U.S.

If deported, they face imprisonment, or even deployment back to Iraq.

US War Resister Kimberly Rivera: I'm Kimbely Rivera. I served three months in Iraq and I'm here with my family.

A 2007 poll found that 64.6% of Ontario voters and 71% of Liberal voters want U.S. war resisters to stay in Canada.

US War Resister Phil McDowell: My name is Phil McDowell. I'm a former sergeant in the United States Army. I joined the army after September the 11th. I served a one-year tour in Iraq from 2004 to 2005. During my tour I realized that the war was unjust and illegal and the reasons for the invasion were lies. After completing my contractual agreement with the army, I was called back into service for another fifteen-month tour. At that time, I refused to deploy, moved to Canada because I believed I'd be able to stay here. We're asking Liberals to support a provision that would allow Iraq War Resisters to remain in Canada.

U.S. war resisters need the support of the Liberal Party to live in Canada.

War Resisters Support Campaign

The above is the transcript to one of many PSA's the War Resisters Support Campaign has put together. Cindy Sheehan (at OpEdNews) urges people to utilize Courage to Resist's easy to mail or e-mail resources to allow the Canadian government to know you are watching and to support organizations supporting war resisters as well as supporting war resisters by donating money to cover expenses for Ryan Johnson, Jen Johnson (his wife) and Brandon Hughey to attend the the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration in Ottawa on December 11th (the address for checks or money orders is Ryan Johnson, 312 Tower Rd. Nelson, BC V1L3K6).

What's going on, you may wonder? In the middle of last month, the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear the appeals of US war resisters Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey. With the courts abdicating their responsibilities, energies are now being focused on Parliament and insisting that they do the right thing. As Sheehan points out, it is very important that war resisters such as Ryan Johnson and Brandon Hughey be able to speak, it's important that Jen Johnson is present because the decision to expel war resisters would not only effect individuals, it would also effect family members. Joshua and Brandi Key have made a home for themselves and their children. Patrick and Jill Hart have put down roots with their son as well. Kimberly Rivera and her husband and children aren't visiting, they're attempting to restart their lives.

It took a lot of courage and strength for all the war resisters (whether they've gone public or simply blended in) to make the decision to go to Canada. They've gotten very little support in the US alternative media. They have gotten attention from the mainstream media (which covers the story but doesn't advocate -- advocating is supposed to be the role of independent media). When the decision on Hinzman and Hughey's appeals was announced, you might have thought independent media in the US would turn the day over to publishing commentaries at magazine websites and broadcast discussions of the impact. You would be wrong. If you waited thinking that they were attempting to figure out what the Court's refusal actually meant . . . Well it's been weeks since the announcement, think about what you've seen and heard. Very little.

When a government is making a decision, media coverage is very important. It sends a message that people are watching. December 11th is the date scheduled for the hearings and we're honestly wondering if anyone's planning to cover it. (We wouldn't be at all surprised to see Truthout cover it -- and we'd be glad and note their coverage -- but we're referring to broadcast and print when we speak of "independent media.") Regardless of the outcome of the hearings, this is important and this is news.

War resisters will be testifying publicly about what led to their decision to resist. All will be noting the illegal nature of the war. Some will be sharing tales of the reasons they enlisted, some will be sharing how they attempted to be granted C.O. status but were refused, some will be sharing what they saw while stationed in Iraq. With the US ambassador to Canada going from granting interviews on the subject in an effort to clamp down on attention to writing letters to the editor, you damn well better believe his bosses hope the hearings don't get US media attention. In the middle of the latest wave of Operation Happy Talk, the White House has largely succeeded in divorcing Iraq from reality. Reality will be presented by those who speak publicly. The question is who will know about and that question goes to who will cover it?

This is an issue and those against the illegal war who are donating to candidates who cannot commit to ending the illegal war if elected should be using their money to end the illegal war by donating to the organizations that honestly attempt to end it. Post-2013 is not ending it. It's not a commitment because it assumes that not only will the candidate be elected to one term, he or she would be elected to two. You need to grasp that the 'front runners' (Barack Obama, John Edwards and Hillary Clinton) are saying, "Vote for me in 2008." Will you end the illegal war if we vote for you? "No. I can't promise that. I can promise you that if I'm voted into office in 2008 and again in 2012, I may end the illegal war in my hypothetical second term."

Everyone should expect that US independent media will be present and providing coverage, it does fit clearly with their stated roles. And if they again fail to live up to their obligations, they should be held accountable.

Illustrain is Isaiah's "Canada in Distress."
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