Sunday, September 24, 2006

Editorial: Darrell Anderson Needs You

Darrell Anderson. Here's the back story. In January 2003, Darrel Anderson joined the Army. He was sent to Iraq and injured by a roadside bomb. Awarded the Purple Heart, when facing a second deployment to Iraq, Anderson decided to self-check out (January 2005). Like Jeremy Hinzman, Brandon Hughey, Patrick Hart, Kyle Snyder and an estimated 220-plus others, Anderson went to Canada.

In Canada, he applied for refugee status -- a status regularly granted during the Vietnam era but one Canada has thus far refused to grant to any war resister. Recently, Anderson's attorney apparently missed a deadline for the paper work on that issue.

However, Anderson met Gail Greer when she was working on a film about war resisters and married Greer who is a Canadian citizen. The marriage should have resulted in granting him legal resident status. He is currently waiting on that announcement from the Canadian government.

His mother, Anita Anderson, has filled the press in on this month's developments -- this month is when Darrell Anderson told his mother that he was planning on returning to the United States. According to his mother's statements near the start of the month, Darrell was going to return to the United States if the Canadian government did not offer him status. Anderson himself spoke to Jim Warren of The Lexington Herald-Leader for an article published yesterday and it seems the return is no longer in doubt.

The current plans are to cross the border back into the United States, hold a press conference and then return to Fort Knox. He told Warren, "I decided that I've got to go back and get this over with once and for all, instead of living in limbo up here forever."

During the Vietnam era, activists advocated for an amensty for those who dodged the draft and those who decided to check themselves out. With the end of the war, the fall of Richard Nixon with the Watergate exposures, and a new president named Jimmy Carter, it was thought that such a policy was possible. That did not happen. Carter granted amnesty to those who dodged the draft. Those who self-checked out were to be handled on a case by case basis. That was the best that government was willing to do as that illegal war came to a close.

It is highly unlikely that anything's changed in today's political climate. (The amnesty decision was a political decision.) Those who go to Canada know this. The War Resisters Support Campaign provides them with resources, support and information. (And is a worthy charity to donate to.) It is a difficult decision and coming back to the country for any reason (including the funeral of a parent) means risking arrest.

For Anderson, with no work permit due to his status, Canada meant struggle including living with his Post-Traumatic Syndrome from his experiences in Iraq. Loud noises still startle him after the roadside bomb, sleep usually means nightmares of reliving the experience. For those reasons and others, he made the decision to return to the United States and, in his words to Jim Warren, "I decided that I've got to go back and get this over with once and for all, instead of living in limbo up here forever."

What can happen next? He could be dishonorably discharged and that would be the end of it. More likely, he will face an Article 32 hearing for desertion and then a court-martial (which could result in jail time). What happens to Darrell Anderson largely depends on us. Are we willing to speak out? Are we willing to show support?

We're sure the usual suspects will show up for their one-off "Baby cried the day the circus came to town" coverage and that's not going to be good enough. That's not going to do anything. Well, it will let the usual suspects kid themselves that they "covered" the story. It's not a one-day story.

However the media decides to treat it, we have to be willing to keep this issue alive. Ehren Watada is a success story in terms of attention. It seems, however, as though Kevin Benderman (currently serving a sentence) has been forgotten.

Darrell Anderson remains opposed to the illegal war. He is a war resister. Anita Anderson intends to be outside Fort Knox and maybe some can be their physically, maybe some can be their in spirit. But how much we work to keep this issue alive will impact the outcome. As Patti Smith sang and wrote "People Have The Power." But they have to use it.

More information on Darrell Anderson (and other war resisters) can be found at Courage to Resist.
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