Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Starting with war resistance.  And we'll start with an educational tool.  Click here for Canada's CBC audio and video archives on war resisters during Vietnam.  Such information won't necessarily help because there's a lot of Dumb Ass out there.  Some of which knows better because they lived through the period.  South Carolin's Daily Gamecock can honestly plead youth when they argue US war resisters Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey have no right to remain Canada because they enlisted so it's somehow different than those avoiding the draft during Vietnam.  What The Daily Gamecock can be forgiven for, others can't.  Take Canada's National Post (a conservative rag, to be sure) which argues for Hinzman and Hughey to be sent back to the US because this is different than during Vietnam and goodness, "the United States is a democratic ally whose respect for the rule of law matches our own."  First, I had no idea Canada's respect for the rule of law had fallen so greatly.  Second, does the National Post believe that Canada was engaged with a war during the 60s and 70s?  The US and Canada were 'democratic allies' then as well.  "Send Them Home" cries the editorial board of the National Post.  "Send your editors somewhere to get an education," is the response back.  A Joanne R. Fisher writes the Toronto Star that Hinzman and Hughey had a choice.  She doesn't make the mistake the South Carolina student paper does but then she's older.  So she knows it was not just "draft dodgers" it was also "deserters."  She even uses the terms herself.  Possibly she greeted them all upon entry with open arms as a sort of Miss Canadian Borders?
No, she didn't.  Nor was she involved in the war resistance then.  But to accept the 'logic' of her argument you have to assume she did or thinks she did.  She says the difference is Hinzman and Hughey volunteered.  Sorry to shock her -- and she's old enough to know better -- but war resisters going to Canada during Vietnam included those deserting after they'd enlisted.  It didn't matter.  It wasn't an issue.    And no one in the Canadian government was saying, "Well you showed up for your draft board, live with it."  Or, "Well you weren't even drafted!  You enlisted on your own!"  Or any other of the faux-talking points that get ginned up by the likes of Dumb Asses today.  War resisters who sought refuge in Canada during Vietnam did so in opposition to the illegal war going on.  Those of us old enough to know better remember should know better.  Sadly some of the worst offenders of the "Glories of the Draft" are, yes, some men on the left who continue to trot that lie out even though none of the ones trotting it out were ever drafted.  You really think Canada gave a damn if the US drafted or not?  The issue was an illegal war. 
Can you be sent to fight in an illegal war was the issue and the government of Canada provided refuge to those resisting.  The issue was not, "Can you be drafted?  Should governments draft?"  Those were not issues that mattered in terms of what was going on then.  There was not a motion to support those resisters who were drafted but not the ones who enlisted.  For those late to the party a draft resister or 'draft dodger' had not been inducted but received notice, a deserter was someone who had begun serving and self-checked out. 
So let's all drop the nonsense that Canada provided asylum because there was "A DRAFT!!!"  Those lies are hurting today's movement. 
The draft was not the issue.  The issue was the illegal war.  Pierre Trudeau said what in 1969?  "Those who make the conscientious judgement that they must not participate in this war . . . have my complete sympathy, and indeed our political approach has been to give them access to Canada. . . . Canada should be a refuge from militarism."  He said nothing about "Those who make the conscientious judgement -- because they are drafted . .."  Flashing back to October 2nd, US House Rep Christopher Shays insisted, "I was a conscientious objector.  I was in the Peace Corp!"  Point being, the draft could be got around by White men -- as a number of men of a certain age damn well should know -- and was.  Nearly half of the US men seeking refuge in Canada during Vietnam were deserters. There was no Q & A they had to participate in asking, "Well, did you enlist or join after you got a draft notice?  Oh, you enlisted?  Sorry, you'll need to return to the US."  The concern was the illegal war -- which Canada's government sat out and the people of Canada overwhelming opposed -- same as today.
The illegal war.  The abuses that were taking place.  The crimes that were taking place.  The lies about the war, about how it could be won, how it was being 'won,' lie, lie, lie while more Vietnamese and US service members died.  The "DRAFT DID IT" lie not only erases the involvement of women in the peace movement and the work done, it not only reduces a generation that had beliefs and values into something much more shallow than the right-wing could imagine.  The issue was the illegal war then and it's the issue today. 
Attempting to make it the draft -- as some on the left encourage with their talk and some on the right sieze on -- is ridiculous.  The issue was the war and is the war.  Which is why we don't waste time making arguments like, "Okay, Hughey should be sent back because he knew the Iraq War was going on but Hinzman enlisted before that happened!"  In fairness to all above, at least they are writing about it.  Whatever mistakes, whatever right-wing rants, they are covering it.  You can't say the same for the 'left' and left which goes a long way towards explaining why the illegal war drags on.
Back in August 2006, the number of deserters from all branches of the U.S. Military was reported at 40,000 service men and women since the year 2000; most deserting at the break of the Iraq War. Because no one would ever abandon a branch of the military just to return, I can only assume this number has increased over the past year. Even with the thousands of cases of delinquent soldiers, the story of two deserters, Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey, is making the front pages.      
After realizing that they could not bring themselves to kill another human being, Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey deserted the U.S. Army and crossed our northern border into Canada. Rather than find a remote area and hide, they decided to fight their deportation in the public sector. The two soldiers openly and publicly placed a bid with the Canadian government to receive refugee status. On Thursday, November 15, their refugee submission, which had already been denied by the Supreme Court of Canada, was officially terminated when they declined to preside over subsequent appeals. The Canadian Minister of Citizenship and Immigration believes refugee status should only be given to persons in true need of it.      
Good so far.  But what does Jamison -- who didn't live through Vietnam -- do next?  Go to the draft.  That's not Jamison's fault.  That's the fault of his elders.  Repeating, your useless memories of a time gone by (distorted memories at that) are not doing today's war resisters or today's young adults any good.  BBC's Lee Carter offers a report (text and audio) which concludes, "In response to the latest rebuff by the Supreme Court, the men's lawyer and a political support group are appealing to Canada's Conservative government to issue a special permit that would allow men to stay in Canada."  The War Resisters Support Campaign and Courage to Resist are two of the ogranizations with campaigns to lobby the Canadian Parliament to step up.  Reflecting on the refusal by the Canadian Supreme Court, Heather Mallick (CBC) offers:  "The Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal by American war resisters that they not be sent back to the U.S. for prosecution and has thrown the matter back to Parliament. The principle is 'refugee asylum' and it's odd that the court suddenly won't recognize the nature of the dispute.  Here's what Pierre Elliott Trudeau said during the Vietnam War: 'Those who make the conscientious judgment that they must not participate in this war … have my complete sympathy, and indeed our political approach has been to give them access to Canada. Canada should be a refuge from militarism.' Look at us now.
In the 1960s, those fine young Americans brought energy, drive, and decency to Canada; they did good things here. But suddenly it isn't fashionable for justices to take a stand against the bullying of these boxed-in people.  True, the court has accurately taken Canada's moral measure. The House of Commons is not going to tell the absurd Bush that we'll offer refuge to those who don't want to fight his wretched war, even if most American citizens would admire us for it."  Judith Siers-Poisson (PR Watch) notes the November 14th preview in Madison of Kimberly Peirce's new film Stop-Loss [Peirce directed Boys Don't Cry for which Hillary Swank won her first Academy Award as Best Actress; among those appearing in Peirce's new film are Channing Tatum, Ryan Phillippe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Laurie Metcalf, etc.] and notes the climbing desertion rates for the US army as well as Hinzman and Hughey and she cites Elizabeth May (leader of Canada's Green Party) explains that her adopted country of Canada should not "facilitate the persecution of American war objectors by deporting them to the United States."
There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes James Stepp, Rodney Watson, Michael Espinal, Matthew Lowell, Derek Hess, Diedra Cobb, Brad McCall, Justin Cliburn, Timothy Richard, Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Peter Brown, Bethany "Skylar" James, Zamesha Dominique, Chrisopther Scott Magaoay, Jared Hood, James Burmeister, Eli Israel, Joshua Key, Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Carla Gomez, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Agustin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Abdullah Webster, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder, Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, Blake LeMoine, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Dale Bartell, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Kjar, Kyle Huwer, Wilfredo Torres, Michael Sudbury, Ghanim Khalil, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, at least fifty US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.

Information on war resistance within the military can be found at The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline [(877) 447-4487], Iraq Veterans Against the War and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. Tom Joad maintains a list of known war resisters.
The voice of war resister Camilo Mejia is featured in Rebel Voices -- playing now through December 16th at Culture Project and based on Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove's best-selling book Voices of a People's History of the United States. It features dramatic readings of historical voices such as war resister Mejia, Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, Malcom X and others will be featured. Zinn will take part in the November 18th presentation (the official opening night -- but performances are already taking place) and musician Allison Mooerer will head the permanent cast while those confirmed to be performing on selected nights are Ally Sheedy (actress and poet, best known for films such as High Art, The Breakfast Club, Maid to Order, the two Short Circuit films, St. Elmo's Fire, War Games, and, along with Nicky Katt, has good buzz on the forthcoming Harold), Eve Ensler who wrote the theater classic The Vagina Monologues (no, it's not too soon to call that a classic), actor David Strathaim (L.A. Confidential, The Firm, Bob Roberts, Dolores Claiborne and The Bourne Ultimatum), actor and playwright Wallace Shawn (The Princess Bride, Clueless -- film and TV series, Gregory and Chicken Little), actress Lili Taylor (Dogfight, Shortcuts, Say Anything, Household Saints, I Shot Andy Warhol, Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle, State of Mind) and actor, director and activist Danny Glover (The Color Purple, Beloved, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Rainmaker, Places In The Heart, Dreamgirls, Shooter and who recently appeared on Democracy Now! addressing the US militarization of Africa) The directors are Will Pomerantz and Rob Urbinati with Urbinati collaborating with Zinn and Arnove on the play. Tickets are $21 for previews and $41 for regular performances (beginning with the Nov. 18th opening night). The theater is located at 55 Mercer Street and tickets can be purchased there, over the phone (212-352-3101) or online here and here. More information can be found at Culture Project
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.  
March 13th through 15th are the dates for the Winter Soldier Iraq & Afghanistan Investigation.
Meanwhile, the US military continues tracking down those who self-check out although they continue to deny they do.  AP reported this morning on Justin Faulkner who suffers from PTSD already from his first time stationed in Iraq and who checked into Lexington's VA hospital on Thursday "and doctors there told him they wanted to keep him until Monday for observation" which ended when police barged into the hospital Saturday moring (2:00 a.m.), handcuffed him and hauled him off to jail.  Faulkner tells Jeffrey McMurray (AP) that he repeatedly used the Fort Campbell base resources but they did not work while his wife Brandy (due to give birth to the couple's second child in March) explains that "in the past few weeks, he has been constantly walking and talking in his sleep.  She found about about her husband's arrest when she got a call early Saturday from somebody at the VA hospital."  Numerous reports note that Fort Campbell's flack Cathy Gramling refuses to comment -- of course she does, this is appalling.  There's no pleasing public relations move that can cover this shameful action.  It may, however, remind some of Brad Gaskins who self-checked out of the military to get treatement for his PTSD and was enroute to Fort Drum with attorney and activist Tod Ensign when police came into the Different Drummer Cafe to arrest him -- despite the fact that they had notified Fort Drum that Gaskins was turning himself in.  In Sunday's New York Times, Fernanda Santos updates her earlier reporting on Gaskins to note that his PTSD has resulted in previous hospitalization and that he "could be discharged from the Army for medical reasons.  He could be court-martialed, which could land him in prison and prevent him from receiving veterans' benefits."  Speaking with Gaskins, his family and those who have treated him, Santos attempts to trace when he began exhibiting signs of PSTD and notes that by a two-week pass in August 2006, he was "biting his nails compulsively," had difficult sleeping and woke with night sweats and screaming, retreated to "a darkened room at his grandmother's apartment in Newark whenever her friends stopped by," took a knife to the throat of his wife and more.  Prior to that pass, the military had in Samaritan Medical Center where he was heavily dozed.

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