Tuesday, June 14, 2016

War resisters

As an update to the ongoing war resistance, we repost C.I.'s piece.

And the resistance goes on

War resisters of the never ending Iraq War should be applauded.  Their efforts made it a little more difficult to continue the Iraq War -- if only by raising doubts among the public and within the ranks.

In the US, during Vietnam, the public was able to force concessions from Republicans and Democrats.  Both President Gerald Ford (a Republican) and President Jimmy Carter (a Democrat) were forced to offer some level of clemency to war resisters.

The bogus president of peace, Barack Obama, who was elected on his promise to end the Iraq War (which still hasn't ended) wasn't pressured to do a damn thing.

Many war resisters went underground.  Some went to other countries.  The most public place to seek asylum has been in Canada where, during Vietnam, the Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau supported asylum for war resisters.

Dan Fumano (VANCOUVER SUN) reports:

Like much of the rest of the world, Rodney Watson has spent a lot of the last week thinking about the world’s most famous war resister. But Muhammad Ali’s televised memorial service Friday had particular resonance for Watson, who watched it from the room above the First United Church in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, where he has made his home for almost seven years now.
“When I was watching the memorial and people were praising his decision to take a stand against the Vietnam War, I got tears in my eyes, because I felt like I’m a part of something bigger than myself,” said Watson, an American veteran and a resister of the Iraq War.

A new Insights West poll released this week shows a majority of Canadians support the idea of making Iraq War resisters like Watson permanent residents of their adopted country.

Who is war resister Rodney Watson?  From the June 17, 2008 snapshot:

On Saturday, rallies took place. Mario Cootauco (Canwest News Service) reported on one in British Columbia that US war resister Rodney Watson attended. Watson explained that he didn't want to return to Iraq, "There's no need for us to be over there and I saw that first-hand. I decided I needed to get out of there. I wanted to go just to be a support. I didn't want to go kicking down doors, killing children or innocent people or getting my hands dirty or anything. I support my country, but I don't support the way we're going about it."
The latest flashpoint in the battle to keep war resisters in Canada has been
the case of Rodney Watson who on Monday October 19, 2009, decided to seek
sanctuary in a B.C. [British Columbia] church rather than face deporation to the United States to face desertion charges. Watson, who is originally from Kansas City,  Kansas, enlisted in the US Army in 2004 for a three-year contract with the intentions of becoming a cook since he wanted to serve the troops in a non-combat capactiy.
In 2005, he was deployed to Iraq just north of Mosul, where he was put in
charge of searching vehicles and Iraqi civilians for explosives, contraband and
weapons before they entered the base. He was also expected to "keep the
peace" by monitoring Iraqi civilians who worked on the base and fire his weapon
at Iraqi children who approached the perimeter.
Rodney sought sanctuary at  Vancouver's First United Church on Hastings Street in Vancouver where he had the support of the church board and the congregation.   In December of 2009, Rodney, still at the church, had a column in the Toronto Star:

I have been here in Vancouver since early 2007. I have been self-sufficient. I have fathered a beautiful son whose mother is Canadian. I plan to marry her and to provide our son with a loving and caring family unit.
I have made many friends and I have built a peaceful life here.
My son and my wife-to-be are my heart and soul and it would be a great tragedy for my family and for me personally if I were deported and torn away from them.
I think being punished as a prisoner of conscience for doing what I felt morally obligated to do is a great injustice.
This Christmas I hope and pray that people will open their hearts and minds to give peace and love a chance.

A number of resisters have sought sanctuary in Canada -- some have done so publicly.

Robin Long and Kimberly Rivera are among those punished for speaking publicly.

At the end of last month, Paul Copeland (OTTAWA CITIZEN) advocated for Canada to grant asylum to those war resisters in the country:

The resisters have been seeking resolution to their precarious immigration status in Canada for many years – some for more than a decade. All have applications currently pending before Canadian immigration officials. The Liberal government could easily resolve their precarious status by granting their spousal sponsorships and applications for permanent residence based on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

Jeremy Hinzman was the first war resister to publicly seek asylum in Canada (2004).  Many others followed in his footsteps.

When Stephen Harper was prime minister, the Canadian government worked with the US government to target war resisters (most obvious in the harassment of Kyle Snyder).  The reason some have hope that things can change is because Justin Trudeau is now prime minister.

Andy Barrie (OURWINDSOR.CA) explains:
Harper deported six deserters to the U.S. to face courts-martial. One of them, Kimberly Rivera, gave birth while doing time in a stockade. The day she was deported, the Conservative caucus cheered in the House of Commons.
Sad, nasty business, just one among many pieces of nastiness Justin Trudeau promised to undo if he was elected. Well, he was, and with a majority. But he’s yet to tell government lawyers to call it quits to Harper’s deportations.

Why? Only Trudeau and his immigration minister, John McCallum know. Talk about majorities: Nearly 70 per cent of Canadians support allowing these war resisters to stay; 39 per cent elected the Liberals. The issue would appear to be a no-brainer, worse, for a politician who has allowed himself to cry in public, his silence betrays a seeming lack of compassion, the very quality he promised to bring to this issue.                         

Colin Perkelt (CANADIAN PRESS) was more specific last month, citing Trudeau's own words:

“I am supportive of the principle of allowing conscientious objectors to stay,” Trudeau said at the time.
He called it “problematic” and “disappointing” and unworthy of Canada that Conservative MPs had cheered in the House of Commons in 2012 amid word that one of the Americans, a mother of four, had been arrested after deportation to the U.S., where she was later court-martialled and gave birth in prison.

“I am committed…to restoring our sense of compassion and openness and a place that is a safe haven for people to come here.”

When does that commitment kick in?

His father's commitment is one of the reasons Pierre Trudeau was a leader on the world stage and why he's remembered fondly around the globe.
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