Showing posts with label war resisters. Show all posts
Showing posts with label war resisters. Show all posts

11.09.2018

11.11

11 anti-war books, parts 1 and 2.

11 anti-war songs.

Robert Fisk: "...Heaven be thanked that the soldiers cannot return to discover how their sacrifice has been turned into fashion appendage."

Why no red poppy, why no white poppy:
It's that time of year again, the week when no one dares show their face on Canadian television, or indeed in any public place in Canada, without a red poppy symbol dutifully stuck on their lapel. What was once (supposedly) a remembrance of the horrors of war drifted first into a celebration of war and finally into obligatory, reflexive display.

Many of my friends are wearing a white poppy today, and I wish them good luck with their campaign. I myself have no wish to display a physical comment on a symbol that is meaningless to me. It would feel like wearing a Star of David to show that I am not Christian.

There is only one symbol that can express my feelings about the war dead - the Canadians, the Americans, the Germans, the Japanese, the Vietnamese, the Guatemalans, the Africans, the Native Americans, the Iraqis, all my fellow human creatures - and the wounded, and the ruined, and the heartbroken, and the shattered witnesses - the millions of lives wasted - for conquest, for profit, for nationalism, for ideology, for imperialism, for nothing. That is the peace symbol I wear every day. And much importantly, inside, in my heart of hearts, there is my core belief that war is evil and we must oppose it.
Honour the dead by working for peace.

10.31.2018

something you can do with your shock and outrage: support military resistance to u.s. concentration camps

As the outrages pour out of the US daily, or seemingly hourly, good people's shock and horror are often accompanied by feelings of frustration and helplessness.

Far too many well-intentioned organizations are lining up around the midterm elections, as if the answer lies only at the ballot box. Many people are organizing locally to support rallies, demonstrations, letter writing, and the like. Still, the frustration is palpable -- and understandable. These actions, although important, feel so insufficient. The current US government shows no sign of respecting the rule of law or popular opinion, and certainly not morality.

One concrete action we can take to resist the Trump agenda is to support military resistance. Whenever and wherever fascist governments have perpetrated crimes against individuals and against humanity, they have been enabled by the loyalty of the militaries at their commands.

"We were just following orders." This was the answer famously given by Nazi officers on trial for war crimes in Nuremberg, Germany after World War II. The civilized world rejected that answer, and the Nuremberg Principles were created to enshrine that rejection in international law.

Unfortunately -- the most unfortunate thing in the world -- most military personnel the world over do not resist. But some do. And those courageous soldiers are fighting on the frontline for peace and justice.

Military resistance is the most direct blow to the outrages perpetrated by immoral governments the world over. Resistance is a lonely road, and one that comes at a very high price. Ask Chelsea Manning. Ask Kim Rivera, who -- deported by the Canadian government -- gave birth to her youngest child in a military jail.

War resisters need financial support, and they need moral and emotional support. And other soldiers need to know that resistance is possible. As with any groupthink, it's easier to speak out when others have gone before you.

Courage to Resist, which supports the brave and principled soldiers who refuse or resist illegal orders, has launched a new campaign: Do Not Collaborate
This summer, what might have been the defining low point of previous administrations, was simply the outrage of the moment: A plan to have the military host massive concentration camps of upward of 200,000 immigrant detainees across the United States, as we reported to you in July.

These camps do not appear to be going up as quickly nor on such a massive scale as first announced (quite possibly due to the resistance on many levels), but they do appear to be moving forward. On the Texas border at Tornillo Port of Entry, a tent city that first detained a couple hundred children a few months ago will hold nearly 4,000 kids by the end of the year.

Few people actually join the military to travel to distant lands to kill people. Fewer still join to help run concentration camps. Under both US and international law, military personnel have a moral and legal obligation to refuse to comply with any order that involves collaboration with these camps, but unfortunately few are aware of this fact.

That’s why we need your help. Together, we’re going to launch a strategically targeted communications project to reach service members across the country with this message:

These camps are illegal and immoral.

You have a responsibility to refuse and expose these orders.

Direct military resistance is powerful.


Our initial goal is to raise $20,000 to spend approximately one penny per member of the US military with this challenge. Of course, we believe that service members deserve two cents worth of encouragement if we can raise $40,000!

Just the idea of these massive military-hosted immigrant detention camps brings back memories of the forced relocation and incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II. Many of us thought something like that could never happen again, and yet, here we are. Along with everything else you can do to resist this affront to humanity, please support our challenge to military personnel to refuse these illegal orders. Your tax-deductible donation of $50 or $100 will make a huge difference.

Click here to learn more, or to donate to the Do Not Collaborate campaign.

6.23.2018

welcome to the allan and laura new york city history reading club

The theme of this year's TD Summer Reading Club -- a national program (developed by Toronto Public Library) that more than 2,000 Canadian libraries participate in -- is Feed Your Passions, or as some are calling it, geeking out. Allan and I are going to join the fun with our own tremendously geeky reading, although it will take us considerably more than one summer.

For eons, we have had on our bookshelf Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898 by Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace, a massive 1,424 pages in very small print.


I've always wanted to read it, but it's a bit intimidating! And it's not like you can throw it in your backpack to read on the bus.

Then for my birthday this year, included among Allan's gifts and cards and general Celebration of Laura, was Wallace's follow-up: Greater Gotham: A History of New York City from 1898 to 1919.


This volume -- all 1200 pages of it -- has got to be fascinating, but we can't read the second book without reading the first! And, geez, that's a lot to read!

I suggested a solution, following in the footsteps of Phil Gyford, to whom literature and history geeks the world over are indebted. Phil is the genius who put The Diary of Samuel Pepys online, one daily post at a time. (I read the entire thing, usually in weekly installments. It took 10 years.)

To tackle this Big Read, Allan and I are going to read one chapter each week -- with the understanding that sometimes we may have to take a week off. We'll still also read whatever else we're reading. That's the plan at least. Starting... now!

Bonus points if you know without Google why the year 1898 is an important marker in New York City history.

1.18.2017

chelsea manning will be free!!!!

This is the best news I've seen in a long, long time.
Chelsea Manning, the US army soldier who became one of the most prominent whistleblowers of modern times when she exposed the nature of warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan, and who then went on to pay the price with a 35-year military prison sentence, is to be freed in May as a gift of outgoing president Barack Obama.

In the most audacious – and contentious – commutation decision to come from Obama yet, the sitting president used his constitutional power just three days before he leaves the White House to give Manning her freedom.

Manning, a transgender woman, will walk from a male military prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, on 17 May, almost seven years to the day since she was arrested at a base outside Baghdad for offenses relating to the leaking of a vast trove of US state secrets to the website WikiLeaks.

Nancy Hollander, Manning’s lawyer, spoke to the Guardian before she had even had the chance to pass on to the soldier the news of her release. “Oh my God!” was Hollander’s instant response to the news which she had just heard from the White House counsel. “I cannot believe it – in 120 days she will be free and it will all be over. It’s incredible.”

. . . Human rights groups welcomed Tuesday’s decision. Margaret Huang, executive director of Amnesty International USA, said: “Chelsea Manning exposed serious abuses, and as a result her own human rights have been violated by the US government for years.

“President Obama was right to commute her sentence, but it is long overdue. It is unconscionable that she languished in prison for years while those allegedly implicated by the information she revealed still haven’t been brought to justice.”
I could post about a million more links. I'm relieved and overjoyed that Chelsea Manning will finally be free.

10.15.2016

war resister ryan johnson needs our help

Our friend Ryan Johnson, a war resister, is now in military prison.

Ryan and his partner Jenna Johnson lived in Canada for more than 11 years. After running out of court challenges, and exhausted from living in limbo for more than a decade, the Johnsons returned to California, and Ryan turned himself in.

Ryan was court martialed, sentenced to 10 months in military prison, and given a bad-conduct discharge. His "crime": refusing to deploy to Iraq, refusing to participate in an illegal invasion of a country that had done no wrong to the United States. His crime: choosing peace.

Ryan and Jenna are some of the best people I know: strong, brave, principled, kind, funny, sweet, caring. They sometimes dog-sat for us, and I never felt safer than when my pups were in their care. They both come from modest, working-class backgrounds. They have loving family, but very few material resources. They need our help.

Donations made through Courage to Resist are tax-deductible for US citizens. The money raised will mean Jenna can visit Ryan in prison, Ryan can buy phone cards to speak to Jen and his other family, and Jennifer can get needed medical care.

You can donate here.

You can read more about the Johnsons' situation here.

9.19.2016

what i'm reading: the evil hours, a biography of post-traumatic stress disorder

The Evil Hours: A Biography of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is an outstanding book -- meticulously researched, but written in a compelling, accessible style, and with great humanity and compassion.

Author David J. Morris unearths the social and cultural history of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the fourth most common psychiatric disorder in the US. He surveys the potential treatments. He explores the role of social justice in our understanding of PTSD.

But above all, Morris confronts the meaning of trauma, in society and in his own life. Morris was a U.S. Marine stationed in Iraq. After narrowly escaping death, he returned home questioning everything he thought he knew -- and eventually having to face the reality of his own trauma. Morris' dual role as both researcher and subject give this book a unique power as history, social science, and personal essay.

People have known for centuries, for millennia, that traumatic events produce after-effects, but different cultures in different eras have explained those effects in different ways. The modern history of trauma is linked to the carnage of 20th Century war. And our current understanding of PTSD owes everything to the Vietnam War, and the experience of returning veterans who publicly opposed the war.

In this way, the history of PTSD encompasses a history of 1960s and 1970s peace activism, especially of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, a group that began a sea-change in the culture of the United States. As a student of peace, I found this part fascinating.

Taking this even further, Morris links PTSD and social justice. Powerless and marginalized people are more likely to be traumatized by one or more of the four principal causes of PTSD: war, genocide, torture, rape. Taking a social and cultural perspective forces us to confront a world that causes these traumas. In this view, PTSD is not so much an illness as a moral condition brought on by the worst of human society.

The United States Veterans Administration (VA) sees it quite differently. To the VA, PTSD is strictly a medical condition. And this matters greatly, because research about PTSD is almost entirely funded and controlled by the VA. Explaining trauma as purely medical or biological doesn't address the causes at all. In fact, it does the opposite -- it normalizes PTSD as a natural consequence of unavoidable circumstances.

As for treatment, Morris surveys what's out there and finds most of it useless. VA hospitals and insurance companies prefer therapies that can be "manualized" -- made uniform, with a certain number of treatments and little or no emotional engagement from the therapist. Statistically, these types of therapies appear to be useful -- until one learns that the numbers don't include all the patients who drop out! Talk about cooking the books: everyone for whom the treatment isn't working or, in many cases, is actually worsening their symptoms, is simply ignored.

Morris himself feels that therapeutic talks with an empathetic person with some training goes further than neuroscience can. "What they [the VA] seem to want instead," Morris writes, "is mass-produced, scalable, scripted therapies that make for compelling PowerPoint slides."

Readers of this blog may know that I have PTSD. Much of The Evil Hours brought a shock of recognition -- the feeling that someone else is expressing your own thoughts, saying exactly what you've been thinking all along. Morris perfectly articulates how trauma plays out in one's life, the depths of change it brings about.

Morris writes: "We are born in debt, owing the world a death. This is the shadow that darkens every cradle. Trauma is what happens when you catch a surprise glimpse of that darkness.”

In the immediate aftermath of my own trauma, while trying to write about my experience, this is exactly the image I fixated on. We are, all of us, dancing on the edge of a great precipice, usually unaware of how terrifyingly close we are to that edge. Then something happens, and we understand it, not in some theoretical way, but immediately and profoundly, perhaps in a way humans are not equipped to understand. We talk about "the fragility of life" but we don't know what that is -- until we do. Then we spend a lifetime trying to live with the knowledge.

"One of the paradoxes of trauma," writes Morris, "is that it happens in a moment, but it can consume a lifetime. The choice of how much time it is permitted to consume is usually in the hands of the survivor."

The Evil Hours may be very useful for people who are figuring out how to stop PTSD from consuming any more of their lives. It is certainly a must-read for anyone interested in the effects of trauma on the human mind.

6.05.2016

the greatest, forever. rest in power muhammad ali.

Revolutionary thought of the day, from a revolutionary American.
Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go ten thousand miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?

No, I am not going ten thousand miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over. This is the day when such evils must come to an end. I have been warned that to take such a stand would put my prestige in jeopardy and could cause me to lose millions of dollars which should accrue to me as the champion.

But I have said it once and I will say it again. The real enemy of my people is right here. I will not disgrace my religion, my people or myself by becoming a tool to enslave those who are fighting for their own justice, freedom and equality…

If I thought the war was going to bring freedom and equality to 22 million of my people they wouldn’t have to draft me, I’d join tomorrow. But I either have to obey the laws of the land or the laws of Allah. I have nothing to lose by standing up for my beliefs. So I’ll go to jail. We’ve been in jail for four hundred years.

Muhammad Ali, 1967

Two thoughts from my Facebook feed.
I was saddened to hear that War Resister Muhammad Ali has died.

His courageous refusal to fight in Viet Nam inspired and encouraged me in doing likewise. Nor was it simply a matter of his religious commitment. When he said "No Vietnamese ever called me "nigger"", he exposed the war for what it was, and African American life for what it was.

As a War Resister, Muhammad Ali was The Greatest.

Lee Zaslofsky, War Resisters Support Campaign

RIP peoples champ. And writer friends, could we please remember to mention Ali was a proud Muslim? Bold, yes. Brave, yes. Handsome, yes. But also a deeply spiritual person. That can't be forgotten today or ever. ‪#‎stopislamophobia‬

Joel H., Ottawa

Not all white people are racist?
There are many white people who mean right and in their hearts wanna do right. If 10,000 snakes were coming down that aisle now, and I had a door that I could shut, and in that 10,000, 1,000 meant right, 1,000 rattlesnakes didn’t want to bite me, I knew they were good... Should I let all these rattlesnakes come down, hoping that that thousand get together and form a shield? Or should I just close the door and stay safe?

Muhammad Ali, 1971

‘I Just Wanted to Be Free’: The Radical Reverberations of Muhammad Ali, Dave Zirin, The Nation

Muhammad Ali Risked It All When He Opposed The Vietnam War, Justin Block, HuffPo

Muhammad Ali: Worshipped. Misunderstood. Exploited., Ishamel Reed, New York Times Op-Ed

Official New York Times obituary, written by Robert Lipsyte, a steadfastly progressive voice in the overwhelmingly ultra-conservative field of sportswriting

If you haven't seen any of these movies, do yourself a favour. None is perfect, all are flawed, but all worth seeing.

When We Were Kings (1996)

The Trials of Muhammad Ali (2013)

I Am Ali (2014)

5.15.2016

rest in power, daniel berrigan and michael ratner

The world lost two great fighters for peace and justice this past week.

Daniel Berrigan was a lifelong peace activist, a man who was ready and willing to put his body and soul on the line. He was a writer, a thinker, a pacifist, an idealist, a pragmatist, and a priest.

Berrigan was also a leader, someone who, early on, helped make visible the connections between racism, poverty, war, and capitalism. He became a leading figure in the peace movement during the Vietnam War. Naturally, he was on the FBI's "most wanted" list and served time in prison.

Later in his life, Berrigan founded the Plowshares Movement, which used daring acts of civil disobedience to draw a spotlight on the US's nuclear arsenal.

Here are two pieces from The New Yorker celebrating Berrigan.
James Carroll remembers his "dangerous friend".

Eric Schlosser remembers how "a handful of a handful of pacifists and nuns exposed the vulnerability of America’s nuclear-weapons sites": Break-In at Y-12.
Following in the giant footsteps of Dorothy Day, Berrigan's life and work demonstrates that religion can be a positive force for social change.

Michael Ratner's life and work also defies stereotype: he was a lawyer who spent his entire career defending the scorned, the falsely accused, the scapegoated. He was a trailblazer who pioneered the use of the law to champion human rights. Long ago, when I contemplated going to law school, I dreamt of Michael Ratner as my role model.

Democracy Now! devoted an entire program to the celebration of Ratner's life and work.
The trailblazing human rights attorney Michael Ratner has died at the age of 72. For over four decades, Michael Ratner defended, investigated and spoke up for victims of human rights abuses across the world. He served as the longtime head of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Attorney David Cole told The New York Times, "Under his leadership, the center grew from a small but scrappy civil rights organization into one of the leading human rights organizations in the world. He sued some of the most powerful people in the world on behalf of some of the least powerful."

In 2002, the center brought the first case against the George W. Bush administration for the indefinite detention of prisoners at Guantánamo. The Supreme Court eventually sided with the center in a landmark 2008 decision when it struck down the law that stripped Guantánamo prisoners of their habeas corpus rights. Ratner began working on Guantánamo in the 1990s, when he fought the first Bush administration’s use of the military base to house Haitian refugees.
I can't begin to do justice to either of these men, but I didn't want their deaths to go unnoticed on this blog. Their passing saddens me and their lives inspire me.

5.04.2016

what i'm reading: the deserters, a hidden history of world war 2

No one knows exactly how many US soldiers deserted from the Vietnam War, nor how many young men resisted conscription by going either to jail or to another country. The most conservative account puts the number at about 50,000, the highest at about double that. The majority of those went to Canada, where - after a people's movement organized to support them - they were allowed to live and eventually become citizens. Because of this, resistance to the war in Southeast Asia is part of American and Canadian history, no matter who tells the story.

Resistance to other US wars, however, is mentioned less frequently, if at all. There was massive resistance to conscription to (what was then known as) the Great War or the War in Europe. Ireland and Quebec went into full-scale rebellion, and thousands in both Britain and the US spent time in jail after they refused to fight. I'm somewhat familiar with this history through my ongoing exploration of World War I from a progressive and peace-activism perspective. I certainly didn't learn about it in school.

Still, it's relatively easy to talk about resistance to World War I, at least for Americans. It's the war that no one understands, the war where the name of every battle is a shorthand for massive slaughter, the war of mustard gas and horses vs. machine guns. It's the war that ushered in the modern world. We can understand why people didn't want to die in the mud in Belgium or France.

Resistance to World War II, however, is entirely different. This is the supposedly good war, the war to crush the Nazis, the war to punish the people who attacked Pearl Harbor. This is the war that supposedly every able-bodied boy and man wanted to fight.

Well, not quite. As Charles Glass shows in The Deserters: A Hidden History of World War II, no matter what the political motivations of war, the reality on the ground is largely the same. Troops face appalling conditions and constant deprivation. They are forced to remain in combat past the point of mental and physical endurance. Their stress is ignored, ridiculed, and punished. And thousands - tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands - refuse to continue.

The book, unfortunately, is not a very good read. It's incredibly well researched, but literary nonfiction needs more than research. No lively narrative pulls the reader through the stories. Glass offers a tremendous amount of detail without synthesis or explanation. At times I felt as if I were reading a pile of facts, rather than a story.

The book's saving grace, and what makes it worth reading, is the introduction. In 10 pages, the author gives us an overview of war resistance and society's responses to it. He blends the political, social, physical and psychological views into a miniature masterpiece.

Readers with a special interest in World War II and hidden histories in general may enjoy The Deserters. For me it was a tough slog. But in my continuing education about war resistance, Charles Glass' introduction has a place on the bookshelf.

4.30.2016

u.s. iraq war resisters: the struggle continues

Still war resisters. Still in Canada. Still fighting to stay.

So far, the change in government hasn't helped the Iraq War resisters who remain here, nor the ones who were forced out of Canada who would like to return. The Trudeau government could do this so easily. And yet.

The CBC Radio show "DNTO" recently did an excellent segment about the US Iraq War resisters and the fight - still going on - to let them stay in Canada.
When American soldier Joshua Key fled to Canada in 2005, he never imagined that ten years later he would still be fighting a war — against the U.S. army, against post-traumatic stress disorder, and against the Canadian government.

Key is one of an estimated 15 Iraq war veterans who are fighting to remain in Canada.

The resisters left home to avoid being sent back to a war they didn't believe in. Today, they fear they'll be sent to prison if they're deported.

On this week's DNTO, you'll meet modern war resisters. Each of their stories is unique, but they all have one thing in common: they wish to stay in Canada. Should they be allowed to?
Some segments:

Meet the war resisters desperate to stay in Canada.

Who's helping the war resisters?

The Brockway family: fighting PTSD and searching for home.

A photo essay about Josh Key.

The show is really worth hearing, and you know how I feel about radio. You can listen to the full episode here.

3.13.2016

u.s. iraq war resisters are still in canada. call on justin trudeau to let them stay.

Remember the war resisters I used to blog about all the time? It may surprise you to learn that many are still in Canada. And are still fighting to stay.


For these men and women, it's as if the recent change of government never happened. Of course I realize that a handful of people from the US are not Justin Trudeau's top priority. Still, they are people of peace and conscience. They make Canada a better country. Accepting them makes Canada a better country. Their cause is just, and the help they need can be so easily provided.

* * * *

Justin Trudeau's Liberal government has made a decent start at reversing some of the immense damage wrought by Stephen Harper's Conservatives over the past decade. While the Liberals certainly will not rewind everything that needs undoing, Trudeau has taken (or announced he will take) some good first steps.

A November 2015 editorial in the Toronto Star noted three examples:
Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould rang down the curtain ... on the Harper government’s unwarranted and unlawful attempt to prevent devout Muslim women from wearing face-coverings such as the niqab at citizenship ceremonies.

The Federal Court of Appeal rightly found the Muslim-phobic ban to be illegal, a violation of the Citizenship Act, which allows for the greatest possible religious freedom in administering the oath of citizenship. But the Tories, undeterred, decided to ask the Supreme Court to hear an appeal on the case. Wisely, Wilson-Raybould has now withdrawn that request.

The Liberal government has also asked the Federal Court to suspend proceedings in cases involving stripping people of citizenship, as Ottawa consults on a new policy.
In January 2016, CBC reported on some other issues that are in progress:
Among the measures expected to be dealt with through new legislation:
- Repealing the Conservatives' Bill C-24, which allows the government to strip Canadian citizenship from dual citizens who are convicted of terrorism-related offences.

- Repealing two other Conservative laws that the Liberals argue weaken the rights of trade unions. They are Bill C-377, which requires unions to disclose how they spend members' dues, as well as Bill C-525, which makes it harder for unions to organize in federally-regulated workplaces.

- Introducing parliamentary oversight for Canada's national security agencies, though the commitment to repeal parts of the previous government's anti-terrorism law, Bill C-51, is expected to come later.
Trudeau has said he will withdraw Canada's CF-18 fighter jets by the end of March from the US-led bombing missions in Iraq and Syria.

It's not all good news. Trudeau continued Harper's policies when he stood by the Conservatives' $15 billion agreement with Saudi Arabia's brutal dictatorship, selling it military equipment. I expected no different. The West doesn't stand up to Saudi Arabia, and Canada isn't about to go it alone.

But for the war resisters, the reversal that would be extremely easy. Trudeau can and should take a quick, multi-pronged approach: rescind Operational Bulletin 202 that singles out US war resisters for deportation, cease any deportation proceedings against US war resisters, implement a provision that would allow them to apply for permanent resident status, and discontinue litigation that defends the decisions and policies of the previous government. For an extra helping of justice, the Liberal Government could allow those war resisters who were deported or forced out to apply for permanent residence status, too.

Please take a few minute to write to your MP about this important issue. You can use handy backgrounder.

It is well past time to Let Them Stay.

12.01.2015

iraq war resisters still need your help: tell the liberal government to let them stay


I rarely blog about the War Resisters Support Campaign anymore, but the war resisters are always on my mind. In fact, they're in my thoughts more than ever, now that the nightmare of the Harper Government has finally ended. With the newly elected Liberal government promising change, we have an opportunity to raise the issue again. This time we fight not only for the war resisters who remain in Canada, but for those who were so unjustly forced out for the right to return.

Wmtc readers, I haven't asked anything of you in a long time. Could you spare a few minutes for the war resisters today? Here's what you can do:

- Watch and share this video of Alexina Key asking Justin Trudeau if a Liberal government will allow her husband Joshua Key and other US war resisters to stay.

- Phone or email Minister of Immigration John McCallum to urge him to let US Iraq War resisters stay. You can email the Minister and your MP by clicking here or write your own message and send to minister@cic.gc.ca. You can also call 613-954-1064.

Key points to mention:

• Resolve this issue swiftly as part of the change promised by the new government

• It is time to fix this issue – end over 10 years of unfair and unjust legal and political actions by the former Conservative government

• Stop the deportations

• Stop pursuing war resister cases in court, as doing so defends decisions and policies made by the former Conservative government

• Rescind Operational Bulletin 202

• Implement a new Operational Bulletin that restores fairness for all war resister cases and reverses the harm done

You can also send paper mail to the Minister of Immigration and mail it to:

The Honourable John McCallum, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship
365 Laurier Avenue West
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 1L1

1.25.2015

let them stay week 2015: january 25-31: make your voice heard

Allan guest post

Since September 2014, seven US Iraq War resisters have received negative decisions in their cases. Two veterans were given removal dates (i.e., dates by which they must leave the country). One resister received a stay of removal and the government rescinded the second removal order at the last minute. These reprieves are extremely good news, but war resisters and their loved ones continue to feel stress and uncertainty.

The timing of these initial negative decisions was odd. After no movement on any cases for more than a year, seven cases — allegedly independent of one another — were suddenly announced as Prime Minister Stephen Harper tried to increase Canadian support for the US's latest attack on the people of Iraq.

As the resisters continue their fight, they know that a majority of Canadians are on their side. Nearly two-thirds of Canadians support allowing US Iraq War resisters to remain in Canada. However, the Harper government continues to ignore both the will of the people and the will of Parliament, which has twice passed resolutions calling on Harper to allow war resisters to stay in the country. In addition, all of the opposition parties have recently reaffirmed their support for US war resisters in Canada.

The War Resisters Support Campaign is once again calling on Canadians to speak out against these attempts by the Harper government to remove remaining US war resisters from Canada.

During Let Them Stay Week — January 25 to 31, 2015 — let Minister of Immigration Chris Alexander know that you support a provision for US war resisters to remain in Canada, and that you oppose any and all attempts to deport them.

HOW YOU CAN HELP:

Sunday, January 25 – Profile Picture Day: Change your profile picture on Facebook in support of US war resisters for the duration of Let Them Stay Week.

Monday, January 26 – Media Outreach Day: Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper.

Tuesday, January 27 – Email/Phone Blitz: Call or email Minister of Immigration Chris Alexander (cc to party leaders, immigration critics, and your MP). Click here to send your email. Mr. Alexander's phone numbers are: 613-995-8042 and 905-426-6808.

Wednesday, January 28 – Mail-in Letters Day: Write a letter to the Minister of Immigration Chris Alexander, House of Commons, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1A 0A6. The letter can be sent postage-free within Canada.

Thursday, January 29 – Social Media Day: Share, post, disseminate information on war resisters on social media.

Friday, January 30 – Community Outreach Day: Call your local MP's office to express your concern; circulate the US war resister petition; make a donation to the War Resisters defence fund; post a window-sign at your home, workplace or community organization.

Below is a joint statement recently issued by US war resisters in Canada.
Joint Statement by former US military personnel who came to Canada because of their conscientious objection to the Iraq War.

We are American war resisters. Many of us are combat veterans. All of us came to the conclusion that we could not in good conscience participate in the unjust and illegal war and occupation launched in March 2003 against Iraq.

Faced with jail time and forced redeployment in support of that disastrous war, we sought refuge in Canada.

The response from Canadians has been overwhelmingly welcoming and supportive, and has made it possible for us to settle here, raise families and build communities.

But the Conservative government has directly intervened to deny us access to a fair immigration process.

We now face imminent removal from Canada. Our removal will tear apart our families and punish us for simply doing what Canadians have already done – refusing to support and participate in an illegal and unjust war.

Former Minister of Immigration Jason Kenney publicly disparaged us, instructed immigration officers to "red-flag" our cases, and labelled us "criminally inadmissible" to Canada. This has prejudiced any chance of having our cases decided on their merits.

Yet Canada's Parliament twice voted to allow us to stay. Canadian courts have acknowledged the disproportional punishment handed to US soldiers who have spoken out publicly in Canada. Those who have been forced back by the Conservative government have been court-martialed and received sentences from 12 to 24 months in jail.

It is no coincidence that so many of us are facing deportation at this very moment. It is difficult to manufacture consent for a new war when we are still here to tell the ground truth of the previous war. There is still time for Canadians to speak out – but time is running out.

12.22.2014

u.s. war resister corey glass speaks out from europe

Corey Glass, war resister from Canada by way of Indiana, speaks out from his travels in Europe in the current issue of NOW.
I'm not going to bother to tell you that the Iraq War was wrong or quote the UN handbook on refugees, Geneva Conventions, Nuremberg principles or trials.

Nor am I going to try to convince anyone that soldiers should have the right to say no, that prosecution for a belief is persecution, or that recruiters lie. There's no reason to talk about that, or about how Canada didn't take part in the Iraq War. Or why Canadian troops are in Iraq now.

Everyone knows what happened and can find information on all that online. I'm fine with my choices. I have to deal with the repercussions of them every day.

I didn't take the easy road to do what I believe was right. And I don't really feel I need to convince anyone otherwise.

I will talk about what has happened to me since I quit the U.S. Army, went to Canada to escape the war and, after eight years trying to build a life there, was told I had to leave. . . .

Eventually I would run out of savings and favours. I started to understand how easy it is for war vets to become homeless, remembering the vets holding signs to that effect from my younger days in Manhattan. Would this be me? Would a government change in Canada allow me to come home? What if Shepherd wins asylum? Could Germany be a home someday? All these questions made me anxious, so I ordered a shot of Jameson.

What would happen if I just went back to the States? Maybe they would take it easy on me? They didn't on Chelsea Manning - 25 years for whistle-blowing. I'd be 57 when I get out. For quitting a job? Fuck that! More angst. Another shot.

I remembered losing friends back in the U.S. because of my choice to resist going back to war in Iraq.

A childhood friend who I had joined the service with - he hated me for leaving - called me out of the blue that night. We spoke for about an hour. He apologized for being angry with me. He was out of the military now and said I'd done the right thing. He wished he'd left, too.

He's an alcoholic now, and said the VA was not giving him support for his PTSD. After three tours, he was all messed up with nightmares. His wife was leaving him, and he was about to lose his job, the sixth in the last year. He wanted to die and wished he had in Iraq. He cried hard into the phone and said he was sorry. . . .
Read it here.

11.12.2014

e.u. advocate general ruling strongly supports claim of war resister andré shepherd

The fight for justice for US war resisters took a major step forward yesterday, with a ruling strongly in favour of war resister André Shepherd.
In the legal case of U.S. AWOL soldier André Shepherd (37) the European Court of Justice Advocate General, Eleanor Sharpton, today published her final opinion. This official statement contains guiding deliberations for the interpretation of the so-called Qualification Directive of the European Union. Amongst other considerations, these rules state that those endangered by prosecution or punishment for refusal to perform military service involving an illegal war or commital of war crimes, should be protected by the European Union.

André Shepherd, former U.S. Army helicopter mechanic in the Iraq War, during leave in Germany, left his unit and in 2008, requested asylum in that country. 2011, the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees refused Shepherd's application. Shepherd's resulting court action challenge resulted in the Munich Administrative Court's asking for the opinion of the European Court in Luxemburg on significant questions concerning the interpretation of the Qualification Directive. The Justice Advocate General came to the following conclusions:

- The protection guaranteed by the Qualification Directive is also applicable to soldiers not directly involved in combat, when their duties could support war crimes. The German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees has as yet failed to respect this definition.

- Within the asylum application process, a deserter is not obliged to prove that he was or could be involved in war crimes, as the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees required. Necessary is only the evidence of war crime probability, based on past occurrences.

- Even a U.N. mandate for a war, in which the deserter was, or could have been involved, cannot serve as grounds for rejection of his rights as a refugee.

. . . .

Rudi Friedrich of Connection e.V. stated today, “Should the European Union Court of Justice respect the Advocate General's final opinion, the position in asylum cases of military service refusers and deserters will be significantly reinforced.

Bernd Mesovic of PRO ASYL declared, “Should the Court acknowledge the content of the advocate general's final opinion, their verdict would set basic precedence. I hope that deserters will soon have better protection in all of Europe.”

André Shepherd, upon reading Sharpton's decision: The final opinion gives me new reason for optimism, both in my own case, and for the rights of other deserters.
Read more here.

This is a tremendous victory for Shepherd, for all his supporters, and for everyone who objects to wars for empire and profit. We can only hope that the European Court of Justice will listen.

10.17.2014

a war resister connects the dots: canada, is this the war you want to fight?

A U.S. war resister in Canada writes in this NOW Magazine.
Very soon you will begin to hear about Canadian planes sending “humanitarian aid” of food and medical supplies to those affected by the fighting. . . .

And now ISIL is touted as the new enemy from the darkness as if their emergence was not foreseeable. In reality, ISIL is just the latest incarnation of a very old xenophobic sect of Islam, the Wahhabi movement, finding new breath in the aftermath of yet another war. Our bombs have only made them stronger, just as they always have.

The Harper Conservatives are hoping you are not engaged enough to notice its hopes of attaining a new casus belli for Canada. But if Harper gets his way, you’ll soon be spending money you don’t have on a war that’s making you less safe, not more.

And what about the long-term costs for the soldiers who do come home? How will Canada be able to take care of them? Large numbers of Canadian veterans from the war in Afghanistan have already become homeless, jobless or committed suicide. They have yet to receive care from a resource-strapped Veterans Affairs Canada. How will VAC be able to meet the needs of even more veterans?

Please understand that I don’t mean to forgive the barbarity that ISIL has clearly committed. As an American soldier, I witnessed first-hand how war makes monsters of us all. Everyone with a gun in a war zone thinks themselves “one of the good guys,” but the idea that anyone in a war acts in accordance with international law is a myth.

Once I realized this, I decided I could not participate in a war of aggression (the Iraq war of 2003) launched against people who had not committed any crime. I found taking part in this war a violation of both international law and basic moral behaviour, to such a degree that I could not have any further part in it.

Many others made the same choice I did, and a good number of us came to Canada seeking refuge. We have experienced first-hand the lasting effects of a war in Iraq started under false pretenses. We would implore you to be thoroughly informed, Canada. If you decide to go forward into this war, you should at least do so with all the facts.

Almost all who desert the U.S. military are simply administratively discharged without jail time. But without exception, every American war resister in Canada deported into U.S. military custody has faced significant jail time when evidence was presented of how we spoke out to people like you. The American government wants to jail me not just for leaving the military, but for having the audacity to shed light on war crimes we were asked to commit.

Is this the kind of war you truly want for Canadians? If you do, I will leave quietly.
A number of resisters living in Canada have seen recent movement in their cases after years of silence from the government. The immigration minister’s personal attention to our cases is made clear by Operational Bulletin 202, directing all our files to his desk for review instead of using normal procedures.

I will go to the cell that awaits me in the U.S. for having spoken loudly about the injustices I was asked to abide. I do not believe I deserve to be punished for speaking out, but perhaps I do for not having spoken out loudly enough.
Read the essay here. Then sign a letter to help stop the deportations.

10.14.2014

u.s. war resisters in canada are at serious risk. here's how you can help.

The War Resisters Support Campaign is facing an unprecedented crisis. Since war resister Kimberly Rivera was forced out of the country in September 2012, there had been no movement on any war resister’s case.

Then, within one month, five war resisters received notices that decisions have been made in their cases. Two of these have been given removal dates (i.e. they have been told to leave the country by a certain date). We expect similar negative outcomes in the other cases – and we don’t know who else will receive a notice tomorrow or next week.

The Campaign has shifted into high gear, challenging the decisions in court while we help families prepare for worst-case scenarios. There are two ways you can help.

You can send a letter to Minister of Citizenship & Immigration Chris Alexander, Minister of Public Safety Stephen Blaney, and your MP in support of U.S. Iraq War Resisters. Click here to send a letter.

You can donate to the Campaign. You can donate online through the GoFundMe.com/LetThemStay or by cheque or money order (details here).

Please read and share these recent statements by Iraq War resisters: Dean Walcott, Joshua Key, and a joint statement by all U.S. war resisters in Canada. If you share these with your own networks, please include the GoFundMe link.

9.23.2014

"bogus" refugees and queue-jumping: stephen harper's campaign against a compassionate canada

Political language -- and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists -- is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.

George Orwell, "Politics and the English Language," 1946
Unpacking how this happens, and in how many ways, is our life's work. It's a topic that must be repeatedly trotted out against as a bulwark against the powerful forces that shape our world.

Right now the War Resisters Support Campaign is facing a huge crisis. A spate of war resisters have received notices that decisions are imminent in their cases. At least one person has received a date for removal. In most cases, these people have heard nothing in their cases for years. Then suddenly, everyone gets notices at the same time. Remember, refugee claims are supposed to be examined individually by an independent, non-partisan body.

Could it be that, as Harper prepares to lead Canada down the slippery slope into the newest war in Iraq, the truths told by these war resisters are just a bit too inconvenient? Does Harper need to squelch the voices that can warn the country back to its senses?

As I think about my war resister friends - people of conscience who refused complicity in destruction, torture, and murder - I think about the many ways the Harper Government, often in the person of Jason Kenney, twisted the truth about them into lies, using language as their weapon.

These linguistic sleights of hand apply not only to the US Iraq War resisters, but to all refugee claimants. Most Canadians want to believe their country is compassionate and fair. If the government flatly said, "We don't want refugees here, go back where you came from," it wouldn't play too well. Instead, the road to creating a less compassionate country is paved with lies that discredit the people who need to stay.

Three phrases spring to mind.

"Bogus refugees". Time and again, Jason Kenney characterized US war resisters as "bogus refugees". He used this terminology to sell huge changes to the Canada's refugee policies: among other things, the fast-track system that automatically rejects claimaints from certain countries that the government deems safe. In addition to US war resisters, Roma people and people from Mexico have repeatedly been characterized as "bogus" refugee claimants.

According to Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 10th edition, bogus means "counterfeit, sham, fake".

In other words, according to Jason Kenney, refugee claimants whose claims are rejected are liars. They are fabricating and exaggerating in order to claim refugee status.

The Immigration and Refugee Board can reject refugee claims for a wide variety of reasons, but a rejected claim does not imply untruths or exaggerations. I have read and transcribed several war resister refugee cases. The refugee board and the courts have upheld every one of them as credible witnesses. Not one of them was ever challenged on the basis of fact. Many of their cases document high praise from the Court or IRB Member for the honesty and integrity of their testimony.

"Clogging up the courts," and "the courts are indulging claimants in reviews and hearings."

In a democracy, this is called due process. We want to live in a country where people cannot be turfed from their homes, lose their health care, sent to prison, or sent to persecution without due process. Due process means having the facts of your case, from your point of view, heard by a court or tribunal with the power to mitigate the outcome.

We know that due process, in reality, often depends on how much money or political connections one has. We know that due process is not equal for all people. But we don't want to live in a country without due process. And we don't want due process to be characterized as an indulgence or a drain on the system. Due process is why the system exists!

"Jumping the queue." There is no queue for refugees. Refugees, by definition, flee their countries of origin under difficult, often life-threatening circumstances. For a while we were told there was a huge backlog of refugee cases awaiting review. This was a direct result of an IRB starved for resources and appointments. In other words, Stephen Harper and Jason Kenney created the backlog, then used the backlog as an excuse to turf refugees.

*  *  *  *

Canadians seldom hear about it, but thousands of refugee claimants have been deported, often without due process. They simply disappear. Sometimes we hear that they have been killed. Sometimes we hear they have been unjustly imprisoned. But mostly we never heard about them in the first place.

In fact, the compassionate Canada that most Canadians dream of, "has been a pioneer in repelling refugee claimants from its shores".
The xenophobic rhetoric of Europe’s far-right parties seems to have seeped into refugee policies worldwide as countries struggle with the uncertainties of a growing international refugee crisis.

“The introduction of harsh anti-asylum measures frequently triggers similar actions in other states and ‘a race to the bottom’ that threatens to strip all refugees of their hope for safety,” says Peter Showler, a former chairman of Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board.

“Asylum policies seem to migrate across borders with notably greater ease than asylum seekers themselves,” quips Audrey Macklin, a human rights and refugee law expert at the University of Toronto.

Canada has been a pioneer in repelling refugee claimants from its shores. Since 1989, the immigration ministry has had a special “liaison officer program” that now deploys 63 officials in 49 locations worldwide to intercept suspicious travellers, monitor human smuggling rings and train foreign airlines and shipping companies to look for improperly documented passengers.

Like many other countries, Canada restricts access to its borders by imposing visa restrictions on “refugee-producing countries,” intercepting boats on the high seas such as the Ocean Lady and imposing stiff penalties on marine and air carriers that transport improperly documented migrants.

In the aftermath of 9/11, Canada has also moved to integrate its security institutions with those of the United States, conducting joint threat assessments, pooling immigration intelligence, improving and expanding joint border patrols and developing a joint entry and exit verification system to track foreign travellers throughout North America.

The overall impact has been to make it harder for refugees and asylum seekers to come to Canada. That, in turn, may actually encourage human smuggling by raising the demand for and profits of smugglers.
For more on how the Harper Government has dismantled Canada's refugee system, may I recommend re-reading a post of mine from 2011: stephen harper dismantles canada's refugee system; jason kenney attacks canadian democracy. I was going to quote from it, but I'd end up quoting almost the whole thing. Instead, please go and read it.

*  *  *  *

I will post this link again, but if you want to help keep US war resisters in Canada, you can donate here. All amounts, no matter how modest, are very welcome.

9.11.2014

it's september and u.s. war resisters in canada are at risk for deportation

Two years ago, almost to the day, US war resister Kimberly Rivera and her family were forced out of Canada by the Harper Government. Kim - peace activist, artist, mother, dreamer - crossed the border and was immediately taken away in handcuffs. She served more than a year in prison, separated from her husband and children. Her crime: refusing to kill innocent civilians in Iraq, and refusing to risk being killed and leaving her own children without a mother. When news of her removal from Canada was announced in Canada's House of Commons, the Conservative MPs applauded.

Now it is September again, and again US war resisters in Canada are at risk for deportation. People who have lived in Canada a long time, made a life here, people with jobs and families and roots, may be thrown out of the country.

The Harper Government wants to do the bidding of the United States. Stephen Harper may finally get his wish - what he was denied in 2003 - and get to send Canadian troops into Iraq. And he doesn't want these truth-tellers around to testify to the harsh reality: that the US's 2003 invasion, destruction, and occupation of Iraq caused the horrors that are going on there now. Because the truth is, if the US and Canada wanted to help the people under siege in Iraq, they wouldn't be doing it with bombs.

Here we go again? Apparently the majority of Americans now believe there are ISIS sleeper cells in the US and overwhelmingly support military action. Glenn Greenwald asks:
How long will we have to wait for the poll finding that most Americans “regret” having supported this new war in Iraq and Syria and view it as a “mistake”, as they prepare, in a frenzy of manufactured fear, to support the next proposed war?
Meanwhile, my friends - who refused to make war, who have risked so much for peace - may be forced to leave Canada. If that happens, they will be jailed in the United States. They will have criminal records that will affect them for the rest of their lives. Because they refused to participate in an illegal war against a cilivian population.

If you can help, please donate here. If there's more you can do, I will let you know!

9.07.2014

thank you, charley richardson! your legacy lives on

On Labour Day, I happened to see this on Twitter:



I am on my union's labour-management committee, the group that meets monthly with management to discuss members' concerns and try to resolve issues. I was intrigued and followed the link that Rank and File had posted.

To my surprise, the original "how to" advice was written by the late Charley Richardson, who passed away in 2013. I knew of Charley, mostly by his outsize reputation, from another part of his life: along with his wife Nancy Lessin, he co-founded Military Families Speak Out.

MFSO is now defunct, but the organization did tremendous work advocating for veterans and against wars for oil and profit. As it happens, MFSO bears a special place in my own anti-war activism. Shortly after the US invaded Iraq, while we were waiting to emigrate to Canada, Allan and I attended an MFSO event in New York. The tiny Judson Memorial Church was packed to the rafters, people applauding and weeping as parents, spouses, and siblings of soldiers testified to the terrible treatment they endured, and to the real motives behind the wars. I never forgot that meeting, although it would be many years before I reconnected with its mission.

Years later, working with the War Resisters Support Campaign, I often heard about Richardson, Lessin, and MFSO. They were incredibly supportive to the families of soldiers and veterans, whether or not they were active in the military, had finished their tours, or had deserted. A friend and comrade of mine was close with the Richardsons, and that's how I learned that Charley, only in his late 50s, was dying. Here is his obituary in the Boston Globe.

Now, more than a year after Charley's untimely passing, I had stumbled on some of his wise and practical advice. Digging a bit deeper, I learned that part of Richardson's legacy as a labour educator has been archived and preserved as "The Charley Richardson Guide to Kicking Ass for the Working Class".

And here, perhaps, is the best part of the story. I shared the article with our labour-management committee team. The response was strong and positive. We prepared for our next meeting with new resolve, and we had the strongest, most effective labour-management meeting I've seen since joining the team more than a year ago.

Thank you, Charley Richardson!