March 29, 2009

Update on the unmanned drone driving Creechers

Last night I wondered if the people who handled the robots and killed the innocent Pakistanis felt anything from their actions. I was informed today that there is a much higher rate of PTSD  among these men and woman than the combat soldiers. I'll do some research on this and share it later in the week. 

United Church on Canada actively supports allowing Resisters to stay in Canada

The United Church of Canada issued a "Take Action" advisory on their website, asking members to call on the Canadian government to support US war resisters.

So if you belong to United Church, do this now!
-We Move To Canada


The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
P.W. Singer
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Creech AFB and the Nevada Desert Experience (NDE)

 I was blogging about the drones last night and then I ran across the Nevada Desert Experience.(NDE) 

It was a wonderful relief to see that people have been putting together information, resources, and  actions protesting the drones and the activities that take place at Creech Air Force Base and the nearby Nevada Test Site. This group offers some insightful and loving thoughts on the issue and links to many resources and articles. There is a vigil scheduled for April 1 - 13. They are also doing their 2009 Annual Sacred Peace Walk from Aprl 6-13.

Predators and Reapers
Predators and Reapers are remotely controlled, hunter-killer, unmanned aerial vehicles currently operated out of Creech Air Force Base in Indian Springs, Nevada as well as in New Mexico and other locations. The United States Air Force flies these drones in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, among other countries for surveillance and bombing. "Ground the Drones…Lest we Reap the Whirlwind A witness in the desert that peace will come through love and not through predators armed with hellfire.

Creech Air Force Base is home to the latest high tech weapons that use unmanned aerial systems (UASs) to carry out surveillance and increasingly lethal attack missions in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq. 

The idea that technology can provide a cleaner and safer battlefield is seductive but has been proven a lie. From the catapult and crossbow, through the use of poison gas and airplanes in World War I, the atom bomb, helicopters and napalm in Vietnam to the “smart bombs” of the Gulf War, war has only grown deadlier. Technological advances may reduce the danger of casualties among the military personnel in the short run, but with each advance the number of civilian deaths multiplies and every war of the past century has numbered more children than soldiers among its victims.

Proponents of the use of UASs insist that there is a great advantage to fighting wars in “real-time” by “pilots” sitting at consoles in offices on air bases far from the dangerous front line of military activity. With less risk to the lives of our soldiers and hence to the popularity and careers of politicians, the deaths of “enemy” noncombatants by the thousands are counted acceptable. The illusion that war can be waged with no domestic cost dehumanizes both us and our enemies. It fosters a callous disregard for human life that can lead to even more recklessness on the part of politicians.

With audacity that would confound Orwell, the Pentagon touts the “true hunter-killer role” of these robot “drones.” Armed with “Hellfire” missiles and other weaponry, they have names that suit their lethal uses: the MQ-9 “Reaper” and the MQ-1 “Predator.” Such tools can kill but not pacify. By killing civilians, UAS drones do not prevent or eliminate terrorism, but instead incite more violence and retaliation.

We wait in vigil at the gates of Creech AFB to witness that peace will not come through the work of predators armed with hellfire. Antagonisms against the US in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq will be reduced when we actively respond to the reality of the poverty and lack of infrastructure revealed to us by the drone’s own surveillance cameras. Human interaction, negotiation, diplomacy and dialogue, not surveillance and bombing by robots, will ensure a more peaceful future at home and abroad.

People of all faiths are invited to gather from April 1-13 in the Nevada desert, sacred land stolen from the Western Shoshone. Our vigil marks the holy days of Passover and the last days of Lent, the season in which the Christian church commemorates Jesus’ struggle of forty days with demons in the desert. We come to this desert parched and thirsty--with intention to act as the winds and breath that will erode and sculpt the structures of war into thirst quenching rivers. We come to confront and resist our own high tech demons. On Good Friday, the day of Jesus’ execution by the Roman Empire, we act nonviolently in solidarity with the victims of our own empire.

Vigil sponsors include Voices for Creative Nonviolence, Nevada Desert Experience, the Des Moines Catholic Worker, Strangers & Guests Catholic Worker Farm, Catholic Peace Ministry, Iowa Peace Network, Pace e Bene Nonviolence Service.

Contacts: (Renee, 4/1 to 4/11)515- 664-1326 (Voices for Creative Nonviolence)773-878-3815
(Nevada Desert Experience)702-574-7420 (Jim, NDE Coordinator)415-828-2506
info(@) / info(@) (remove parens)

View / Download PDF -
Ground the Drones

This past September they were protesting the drones at the Creech AFB and delivered the following letter to the base:

Delivered on September 16, 2008

We come to Creech to speak out against the killing of twenty three in Pakistan by two drone bombers last week. Two drones dropped three bombs on a sprawling complex comprised of a house and a religious school, in the North Waziristan tribal region of Pakistan. Of these twenty three, only ten were thought to be militants, while most were family members of a well-known Taliban leader, including his wife, his sister-in-law, a sister, two nieces, eight grandchildren, and a male relative. An additional fifteen to twenty people were wounded in the bombings, most of them women and children. 

We are compelled to speak out against these bombings because the loss of innocent life, especially children, is an abomination to the Creator and a blasphemy against Creation. It is an abomination when it happens in the United States and it is equally an abomination when it happens in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere.

We are compelled to speak out against these killings of innocent lives because we recall our own feelings when American civilians were killed on September 11. We believe that to honor their lives requires us to speak against the violent loss of lives everywhere.

And we are compelled to speak out at Creech Air Force Base because it is the home of the drone bombers, which represent a particularly glaring violation of our divine imperative to love one another.

The advent and use of unmanned drone bombers means that Man can now engage in combat from the safety of a control station far removed from the battlefield, operating remote controlled killing machines as though he were running a simulation or playing a video game. He can drop bombs on military and civilian targets at virtually no physical risk, save that of carpel tunnel.

This represents a new and heinous assault on the notion of human equality. One no longer needs to put oneself in harm's way in order to inflict harm on another.

We are gravely concerned at the implications that these drones may have for the future of our military's interventions. The lesser the sacrifices that we are required to make to engage in warfare, the easier it will be to justify war and the more likely it will become. While the present technology of the drone warriors is not such that it is able to replace human soldiers on the battlefield, we recognize that American military operations are happening in situations which would have previously been deemed too dangerous. This increase in military activity is deeply disturbing to those of us who understand that our foreign military interventions increase imperialistic hegemony and threaten the prospects of a global democracy.

We are also concerned about the effects that remote killng has on drone pilots. [2] All forms of violence stress and fracture the relationships of those involved, and the reverberations of the routinized drone violence will be felt in other aspects of our culture.

While we are quick to denounce the drone technology being used to take life, we hasten to add our hopes and prayers that this new technology can instead be used to save life. There are situations in which firefighters, bomb squads, and rescue personnel put themselves in harms way to save life. Such nonviolent uses of drones would justify the development and use of the technology.

In speaking out against the drone bombers and surveillance planes housed here at Creech, we do not speak out against any one person in particular. We recognize that we all have the same desires in our hearts. All of us want peace and security. None of us wants to see terrorist acts or civilian deaths. We differ only in how we think this can occur. You believe that peace comes from security; we believe that security can come only from peace. We join you in praying that someday we may have both.
The following is from their newsletter, Desert Voices:
The Problem with Drones 
[Editor’s Note: NDE is building a campaign of awareness to
the issues raised by unmanned aerial systems, commanded
at Creech AFB just south of the Nevada Test Site. Many
non-combatants have been killed in Pakistan, Afghanistan
and Iraq by vehicles controlled in Nevada. P.W. Singer is the
author of the new book, Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution
and Conflict in the 21st Century. The following excerpts are
from NPR’s Fresh Air interview with Singer by Terry Gross on
January 22, 2009. more here]

“On three separate occasions we thought we got bin Laden
with one of these Predator drone strikes, and it turned out
not to be the case. We have to figure out what are the legal
consequences of what you could call unmanned slaughter,
and who do you hold responsible? And this is with systems
that don’t have a lot of autonomy in them yet. The stuff that’s
coming soon, or is already in the prototype stage, really does
push it into that science fiction realm.

“There’s a great quote from a Predator pilot who I interviewed,
and he said it this way: You’re going to war for 12
hours, shooting weapons at targets, directing kills on enemy
combatants. And then you get in the car and you drive home,
and within 20 minutes, you are sitting at the dinner table
talking to your kids about their homework.

“And that’s one of the things coming out of this; we’re
actually finding that the drone pilots, because of this tough
psychological juggling they’re having to do, the drone pilots
actually have higher levels of PTSD - Post-Traumatic Stress
Disorder - than those who are actually physically serving in
the combat zone.

“If you send that machine in first, the belief is that you’re
avoiding some of the risk. Now, long term, if you pull back
and think about this broadly, what does it do, for example, to
your foreign policy if you have a shift where you are able to
undertake war without human consequence?

“And it is a killing machine. These are systems designed for
war. But war is a place also of psychology, and I think that is
a huge aspect of this that we’re just now starting to understand.
How does this effect the enemy’s attitudes? How does
it affect the public’s attitudes around this? There’s a belief,
for example...The thing that scares people is our technology.
But when you go out, for example, and interview people in
the Middle East, it is very different. One of the people that
appears in the book is an editor from Lebanon who described
these technologies as just another example of the cold-hearted
Americans, and how it shows that we only have to kill a few
of their soldiers to defeat them, that they are cowardly for
sending out machines to fight on their behalf. So you have
a complete opposite message from what you think you are
sending and what people are receiving.”

2009 Annual Sacred Peace Walk
Las Vegas to the Nevada Test Site
April 6 - 13
We walk in the footsteps of a long legacy of peace walkers
and spiritual leaders to draw attention to the nuclear
dangers that continue to threaten our sacred planet and the
community of life. We come to heal this, the most bombed
place on Earth.
Schedule includes:
•• Western Shoshone sunrise ceremony
• Full Moon ritual at the Cactus Springs Goddess Temple (Thurs.)
• Civil Resistance at Creech Air Force Base, headquarters of
the Air Force’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems wing, equipped
with more than 100 MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper
unmanned aircraft (aka “drones”) – includes Good Friday
“No More Victims” Stations of the Cross re-enactment
(Friday morning)
• Passover Seder (Friday night)
• Easter Sunday vigil at the gate to the Nevada Test Site
• Buddhist, Muslim and Hindu holy days also will be honored

Check the website for schedule additions. Some walkers may
risk arrest at either Creech AFB (Fri. or Mon.) or at the Nevada
Test Site (Sun. or Mon.). Considering arrest actions is in no way
a requirement for walking with us.
Suggested donation is $150 (sliding scale)
Sponsors for low-income walkers needed
Deadline to apply is March 7

March 28, 2009

Quincy and the Reaper - and the Creechers

Poor Quincy. He would like me to take him for another walk or go upstairs to bed. Instead he just waits - a bit impatiently - but he waits. He watches me search on my computer. I think he senses that I'm stressed and driven.

I've been troubled by the news about the predators for weeks. It's driving me up the wall. While I keep talking about the drones - they keep killing all these innocent people in Pakistan. Men, women and children being mutilated and terrorized by these robots in the sky.

I keep thinking about the women and children we killed by accident in Vietnam. They were only a few hundred yards away and we destroyed them.
Now the targets in Pakistan and Afghanistan are thousands of miles away. A Creech Air Force Base soldier, a Creecher,  sits in a cushy chair  in Nevada playing with peoples lives like it was only a game. 
The gamers are everywhere. It's like a science fiction movie. People tell me they are in places from Virginia to Nevada to Iraq to Gates knows where.

I think it's racist. It's similar to the Vietnamization of the Vietnam War. If we can keep the body counts of American troops low enough, maybe nobody will care that Pakistan people or Afghanistan people are dying. When the drones go in there are no Americans on board. It's just a robot. It's only money. They just tack it on to the next War Supplemental (which is coming up shortly - they need it by the end of Junish or they will run out of money for Iraq) or the Defense Budget which goes up every year (including Obama's)

What are we doing?  Has Obama gone mad? 

The Creechers  are running Reapers that can spy on people for 16 hours at a time. That would be bad enough. But then . . . ZAP ! They're dead. . . gone.  Game's over. 

And the Chreechers go home for the night. Maybe a few beers on the way. 

Someday these Creechers are going to be hit with reality. It wasn't a video game. They murdered real people. . . ended real lives. . . destroyed real families.

I always wondered about the B-52's over Vietnam. These guys would sit on base or in a bar in Thailand, go to work, fly over Vietnam with little or no danger, drop their bombs, kill the innocent people, wipe out the communities and fly back. They never got to see what they did. The little finger sitting in the dirt. The hole in the little boys head.

I still wonder about those guys (most of them were men). After they learned what really happened in Vietnam and thought about what they did, do they have nightmares? Do they experience the same horror as the soldiers who had seen what they did? 

Hunter-Killer is a military term traditionally used to describe an entity in which the roles of "sensor" and "shooter" are separated. However, in the case of unmanned aerial vehicles, it means the opposite: an aircraft system designed to find, identify and kill its target; the first purpose-designed hunter-killer UAV is the MQ-9 Reaper.[1]MQ-9 Reaper
                   -From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia 

March 27, 2009

In Canada: Vote on War Resisters is Monday

Yesterday's debate in the House of Commons on the fate of US war resisters in Canada was alternately uplifting and irritating, depending on who was speaking. 

The Conservatives tried to shut down the debate (quelle surprise), first running down the clock blathering about Jane Creba (young woman murdered in Toronto in 2005; relevance, your honour?), then moving to adjourn the debate entirely. The vote on adjournment squeaked by in our favour, 128-125. Too close for comfort, but it got things rolling.

After Olivia Chow put forth the motion, our supporters in Parliament came out very strong. I had never heard Thierry St-Cyr, Bloc Immigration Critic, before, and he was excellent. Maurizio Bevilacqua, Liberal Immigration Critic, was also strong. Our friend Borys Wrzesnewskyj kicked ass, as did Gerard Kennedy. Bill Siksay, always in our corner, was terrific, and there was an unexpected assist from Megan Leslie (NDP, Halifax), among others.

Their side had nothing. They spouted the usual lies and evasions, one time even defending the Iraq War and listing the evils of Saddam Hussein. (Thanks, guys! Polls show more than 80% of Canadians oppose the Iraq War, so if you want to talk it up, knock yourselves out!)

The debate showed me how much stronger our Liberal support is now, compared to last June. The Liberals were on board then, and certainly some key Liberal MPs were personally supportive, but there is clearly strong party support now.

The vote on the Motion is Monday, March 30. The Conservatives are sure to whip the vote and get every Member in the House. If your MP is NDP, Liberal or Bloc, please contact her or him. Make sure they will attend the vote on Monday, to vote along with their party in support of allowing US war resisters to stay in Canada.

Please also contact Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff. Info below.

As before, this Motion is non-binding and the Conservatives can continue to ignore it. However, its passage is crucial to the overall campaign. A strong affirmation of the support of the majority of Canadians, as expressed through their elected officials, is an important message - for the public, for the media, for the legal cases, and eventually, for the passage of a law.

To refresh, here's the text of the motion.

...that the government immediately implement a program to allow conscientious objectors and their immediate family members (partners and dependents), who have refused or left military service related to a war not sanctioned by the United Nations and do not have a criminal record, to apply for permanent resident status and remain in Canada; and that the government should immediately cease any removal or deportation actions that may have already commenced against such individuals.

* * * *

1. Please call Michael Ignatieff, Leader of the Official Opposition:

Ottawa: 613.995.9364
Constituency: 416.251.5510

Points to raise:

- thank the Liberal Party for supporting Iraq war resisters in the debate in Parliament, March 26,

- thank Mr. Ignatieff and the Liberal Party for voting in support of the 2008 motion in support of Iraq War resisters, and for Canada's stance in not joining the war in Iraq, and

- ask the Liberals to be sure to attend and to vote again with a united opposition to defeat the Conservatives on US Iraq War resisters on Monday, March 30.

2. Contact your Member of Parliament.

If your MP is a member of the opposition, ask him or her to reaffirm their support by ensuring that all MPs attend and vote in support of war resisters.

Every call and every email makes a difference. Please help us show, once again, the wide support for US war resisters in Canada - and what kind of country you want Canada to be.
-thanks to Laura at We Move To Canada

March 26, 2009

Michael Heart's We Will Not Go Down (Song for Gaza)

My original intention to donate proceeds from the sale of the MP3 to charity has been complicated by technical matters; therefore, I have decided to make the song available free of charge. I would like to request that after downloading the song from this page, you kindly donate directly to a charity or an organization dedicated to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian people. Worthy of note is UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East), which has been helping Palestinian refugees since their dispossession in 1949. Please click here to donate through them.   -Michael Heart
-thanks to Tompkins County Against War and Occupation

March 25, 2009

War Resister, Kim Rivera, and family granted an emergency stay of removal

We have been given a brief moment to breathe and celebrate.

I don't have any specifics yet, but we got the word that Kim will not be deported tomorrow. 

Federal Court Justice James Russell found, as lawyer Alyssa Manning argued, that the Pre-Removal Risk Assessment Officer who reviewed Kim's file did not take into account differential treatment being given to war resisters who speak out against the Iraq War. 

I'm sharing this incomplete information for those who were on the edge of their seats so they might sleep tonight.

(I suggest you check with We Move To Canada or War Resister Support Campaign for more information later tonight or tomorrow. If you can help, please donate to help pay for the legal costs.)

Also, according to Laura of We Move To Canada, there was supposed to be a press conference in Ottawa today featuring Liberal MP Gerard Kennedy, Liberal Immigration Critic Maurizio Bevilacqua, NDP Immigration Critic Olivia Chow, Bloc Québécois Immigration Critic Thierry St-Cyr, war resister Kim Rivera, and war resister Phil McDowell. Gerard Kennedy was to announce a private member's bill to stop all deportation proceedings against US war resisters in Canada, and to let them stay. All three opposition parties support the bill.

March 24, 2009

Howard Zinn: “Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience.

American historian, professor, and long time social critic Howard Zinn once said, “Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is that numbers of people all over the world have obeyed the dictates of the leaders of their government and have gone to war, and millions have been killed because of this obedience . . . Our problem is that people are obedient all over the world in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war, and cruelty.”
Resistance, such a meaningful word, with so many implications for so many people is the root of civil disobedience, resisting the injustice that society has put forth and resisting the system that requires change. Resistance comes in many forms. While non-violent resistance rarely makes headline news it is the most powerful force in affecting change in this world. Violent resistance on the other hand may shock the world in to paying attention, but will de-legitimize even the noblest of causes. Violent resistance strips people of their compassion and leaves both sides starved.
Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, and Gandhi are only a few examples of heroes who started these movements and while their actions lacked violence they certainly had a powerful force. I am fairly certain that their struggle was even greater than those wielding weapons and bombs, but somehow their message was much more powerful.
In society today with the lines so blurred between right and wrong it is hard to distinguish who the “real” heroes are. Is it the soldier returning from the war in Iraq? Is it the protester fighting for human rights? Or is it the “conscientious objector” who makes the brave decision to not fight at all? In a world where choosing not to fight can be more punishable than committing human rights violations while in service all of these individual acts of resistance are more important than ever. Groups like Courage to Resist, the Iraq Veterans Against the War, and Breaking the Silence lend the voices that society so desperately needs in order to critically reexamine ourselves and move forward. The conventional war heroes are exhibiting new levels of bravery by using their words to move society. While Mandela, King, and Gandhi are all appropriately credited for their movements their strength was only derived from the people who supported them.
For too long our greatest problem has been civil obedience and it’s time to stand behind those who resist.

Winter Soldier Europe

View the next 23 parts at Winter Soldier Europe

Winter Soldiers Speak Out in Europe

Tuesday 17 March 2009 by: Maya Schenwar, t r u t h o u t | Report

Last March, a group of soldiers and veterans gathered in Washington, DC, to recount their experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan. They spent three days testifying, confessing and mourning. They revealed atrocities never before spoken of - the brutal murders of civilians, the destruction of homes and villages, the rape and sexual assault of both civilians and US military women - and displayed photos and video footage to back up their claims. The event was titled "Winter Soldier," harkening back to the 1971 Winter Soldier Investigation, in which veterans gathered in Detroit to give testimony about war crimes they had committed or witnessed in Vietnam. Both Winter Soldiers zeroed in on the US military policy's devastating effects, straight from the mouths of those charged with carrying out that policy.

On Saturday, March 14, a third Winter Soldier conference unfolded - this time, overseas. In the leadup to NATO's 60th summit next month in Strasbourg, France, Winter Soldier Europe took place in Freiburg, Germany. Iraq and Afghanistan veterans from Germany, the UK and the US testified, revealing the impact of the occupations on civilians and service members alike. The event was organized by the nonprofit Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), in an effort to amplify the voices of soldiers - voices that are often drowned out by military leadership and political commentators, according to Zack Baddorf, one of Winter Soldier Europe's organizers.

"We've all heard American generals on TV," Baddorf told Truthout. "We've all heard the talking heads. We've all heard the politicians. But by hearing voices of troops who were on the ground, who experienced the reality of combat, the event hopefully inspired resistance and true change. We've served our country by joining the military; now, we're serving our nation by opposing this war."

For Chris Capps-Schubert, head of IVAW's Europe chapter and the originator of Winter Soldier Europe, the event represented an intertwining of the personal and political effects of the "war on terror." The testifiers' words issued a vivid warning to the leaders converging in Strasbourg in April, urging them to consider the human toll that inevitably follows militarized policy decisions. On a broader scale, the event called out to the international public, reminding them that even though the global economic crisis has shifted attention away from the "war on terror's" consequences, the bloodshed continues. And, on a personal level, Winter Soldier Europe allowed service members to bear witness to the shocking, sad, sometimes torturous experiences with which they wrestle long after returning home.

Capps-Schubert served in the Army in Iraq from November 2005 to September 2006, then went AWOL, refusing to deploy to Afghanistan. He now lives in Germany and counsels prospective deserters.

"The idea to have a Winter Soldier in Europe came about soon after I learned that President Obama would be visiting the French-German border region, and using the NATO meeting as a possible opportunity to pressure European allies in NATO to commit more troops to Afghanistan," Capps-Schubert told Truthout. "I couldn't easily accept that, and I thought it was very important for the public and hopefully world leaders to hear the truth of what is going on in the 'Global War on Terror' before they decide to commit more fully to it."

Thus, the testimonies focused on eyewitness accounts: the intimate details of war that often go unnoticed by the general public, though they best convey its horror. Testifiers ranged from a former Guantanamo Bay prison guard, to an active-duty member of the German armed forces, to a clinical psychologist who specializes in post-traumatic stress disorder. American veteran Andre Shepherd, who worked as an Apache helicopter airframe mechanic near Tikrit, spoke of his agonizing deployment to Iraq, followed by a decision to go AWOL.

"It is no secret that the Apache is a devastating weapon," Shepherd testified. "When I looked at the videos of suspected insurgents being shredded by machine guns or blown to bits by the missiles, I [saw] the results of my handiwork. After combining that with the damage to the infrastructure, widespread poverty and disease, accidental deaths and millions of refugees, I thought to myself, 'What have we done?' I do not believe that there is a worse feeling in the world than to believe what you were doing was the right thing, only to find out that you contributed to the spread of misery and destruction."

Shepherd described his change of heart, and of consciousness, his realization that he could no longer continue to go about his "handiwork." Now, he speaks out against the war and has made his choice to leave the military a public example of the deserter's cause.

"We set down our stakes, and proceeded to run the country like it was a colonial property even to this very day," Shepherd told Truthout. "We have killed, tortured and bombed the civilians into submission, so much so that many people have fled their homes. I made up my mind to never again support the evil mechanisms of our foolish leaders there, and in April 2007 I made good on that promise."

Shepherd is currently seeking asylum in Germany, and is the first Iraq War veteran to apply for refugee status in Europe. His application cites Nuremberg Principle IV, which states that a person is not exempted from international law simply because he or she was following orders while committing crimes.

Christian Neumann, a member of the German armed forces who served in Northern Afghanistan, testified about the German role in the war - a topic, he said, that few Germans know much about.

"I will get new information from the testifiers to tell our German soldiers," he told Truthout previous to the event, pointing out that elections are coming up in Germany, and Winter Soldier Europe's revelations could prove eye-opening to German voters. "Although a majority of our inhabitants don't support violent military operations, our governments - European, federal and state - try strongly to keep the foreign military missions out of the election campaigns."

Neumann mentioned that the German government hopes to legalize the use of security contractors like Pretoria, which he compared to Blackwater. Contrary to the wishes of the German people, prominent forces in the government hope to "involve the Germans more and more in the fight against an enemy, who we can't see," he said.

The testimony of former Guantanamo Bay prison guard Chris Arendt, an American, touched on a similar theme of underinformation. Arendt testified that he and his fellow guards - mostly young, low-ranking officers, who'd received very little training - operated on the principle of dehumanizing the "enemy" as much as possible. He described the process used to "extract" prisoners from their cells for interrogations.

"First they're going to get sprayed with ... an oil-based irritant, like Mace, but military grade," Arendt testified. "Then five men in riot gear storm into the cell, and are free to beat this detainee for however long they want to, however they please. This happens multiple times daily, this is something the soldiers in Guantanamo Bay oftentimes take pride [in]. This is something we mark on our helmets. This is something we talk about when we get home. This is something people look forward to - it's a sport; it's a score; it's a number; it's something that you've chalked up while you're down there. We didn't ever think that these people were human beings. We were told that Muslims wiped their asses with their left hands, so we shouldn't touch their left hands, and that was our cultural training for dealing with detainees."

American Eddie Falcon, who served in the air force in Iraq and Afghanistan, described the dehumanization process further in his testimony, noting that diminishing Iraqis' and Afghans' humanity not only makes individual acts of violence more palatable; it also makes the war as a whole easier for soldiers - and the public - to digest.

"If you don't identify with your enemy as a human, it makes it easier to kill them; it makes it easier to torture them; it makes it easier to raid their houses, to blow up their communities," Falcon testified. "People would be saying things like, 'These people are crazy around here; they're Muslims; they don't even have Jesus, you know.' They'd be saying, 'We should just blow the whole fucking place up.'"

In exposing the distorted thought processes and misinformation that both governments and soldiers live by in the "war on terror," the Winter Soldier Europe testifiers challenged the official picture of a morally sound and strategically necessary mission. Their stories painted a scene of confusion and uncertainty, in which destruction happened in response to dehumanization and faceless orders, not out of patriotism or an overarching sense of purpose.

As he relives his experience in the US Army and waits for the verdict on his asylum plea in Germany, Andre Shepherd hopes that Winter Soldier Europe's message will reach both of the populations he is tied to.

"Too many people have the misconception that these conflicts are something noble and just, when the exact opposite is happening right under their noses," Shepherd said. "Our aim is to shatter those myths, tell the people what is really going on down there and to ask them to help stop this madness. I pray that our efforts will not be in vain."

March 22, 2009

Emergency Community Meeting & Open Letter from the Faith Community

Wednesday March 25, 7 pm
United Steelworkers Hall, 25 Cecil Street, Toronto, Canada
(1 block south of College, between Huron and Beverly)

Kimberly Rivera, originally from Texas, is a former US soldier who sought asylum in Canada after refusing to re-deploy to Iraq.

Kim, her husband and three children – including a newborn Canadian daughter – face deportation from Canada on March 26th.

This is happening despite Parliament voting to stop the deportations, and to let these conscientious objectors stay in Canada.

During the last federal election campaign Prime Minister Stephen Harper acknowledged that the Iraq War was "absolutely an error". Yet he and his government are sending soldiers back to face punishment – including court-martial, prison time, and felony convictions – for having refused to participate in the war.

PLEASE JOIN US for this community meeting to discuss what can be done to ensure that Canada does not deport US Iraq war resisters. Canadians have spoken, the Canadian Parliament has spoken. The time is now to stand up in support of Iraq war resisters and to stop these deportations.

Open Letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper from the Faith Community
March 19: The United Church of Canada, Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers) and Mennonite Central Committee Canada issued an open letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper calling on him to allow war resister Kimberly Rivera and her family to stay in Canada.

The letter states that "We are deeply disturbed that the Government has refused to provide a process for permanent residency for resisters and their families as requested by the June 2008 Parliamentary Resolution," the letter states. "We are further concerned that efforts to deport resisters have escalated over the past few months. Likewise we are very troubled that the Minister of Immigration [Jason Kenney], who is to remain impartial and arms-length from the refugee determination process, has publicly called the U.S. war resisters "bogus refugee claimants".

See the full text of the letter.

San Francisco, March 19, 2009

Iraq Veterans Against the War Attempting to Hold 71 Minutes of Silence - One Second for every Soldier Killed in the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan

-thanks to Gypsy Vet

Asylum Dilemma for US Military Resister

By Damien McGuinness, BBC News, Berlin and Freiburg, 19 March 2009

American Iraq veteran Andre Shepherd shocked fellow servicemen when he walked off his military base in Germany and deserted the US army.  Now he is causing even more of a stir by applying for the right of asylum in Germany. 

It was the middle of the night in April 2007 when Mr Shepherd packed a few things and walked out of the gates of his American army base in Katterbach onto German soil.
"I could no longer support this illegal war in Iraq with a clear conscience," explained the 31-year-old, who had been due to return to Iraq where he had already spent six months serving as an Apache helicopter mechanic.
"It has been proved that Saddam Hussein was not a direct threat to the United States and the war is simply being waged in order for the US to gain access to raw materials in the Middle East," he said.
After almost two years spent living underground in Germany, he has now applied for asylum.
His case rests on a European Union law guaranteeing refugee status to soldiers who might be prosecuted for desertion if military service involves violating international law.

According to Mr Shepherd, that is exactly what the war in Iraq does. If sent back to the US, Mr Shepherd would be court-martialled and most likely sent to prison for a period of between six months and a couple of years.
"In theory desertion can also result in the death penalty," says Mr Shepherd, although the last US serviceman to receive this punishment was in 1945.

But German politicians are wary of supporting his case.
"A soldier deserting the army because his conscience no longer allows him to carry out his military duties is clearly not a reason for him to be granted political asylum here," says Christian Democrat (CDU) politician and deputy chair of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group, Wolfgang Bosbach.
Mr Shepherd is the first Iraq veteran to apply for refugee status in Europe, and there are fears that his case could encourage some of the other 60,000 American soldiers based in Germany to desert and do the same.
Others argue that granting him asylum would damage US-German relations by effectively defining the war in Iraq as illegal.

Public support

The pretty medieval town of Freiburg in southern Germany, with its cobbled streets and ornate half-timbered houses, is a far cry from the bombs of Baghdad.
But, incongruous as it may be, it is here that the deserters' campaign group Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) is holding a discussion forum to gather support in Germany for Mr Shepherd's case.
According to anti-war campaigners, more than 25,000 US soldiers have deserted since the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Although only 30 of them now live in Germany, they can count on substantial support here.
The majority of Germans have always opposed the war in Iraq, and German soldiers have never been sent to Iraq as part of the conflict.

Wearing a black T-shirt bearing the campaign's name, Chris Capps-Schubert explained that he deserted over disgust at how the war in Iraq was being waged.
"I worked in telecommunications and when I found myself laying down cables for Abu Ghraib prison, I just thought, oh, so that's what I'm doing here," he says, referring to the Baghdad detention centre where Iraqi prisoners were tortured by American soldiers.
Mr Capps-Schubert deserted his base in Mannheim after coming back from Iraq and before being sent out again to Afghanistan.
He turned himself in for court martial in May 2007, thereby avoiding a prison sentence. Today he advises US servicemen on how to leave the army.

Although deserters are now getting a certain amount of support from American anti-war campaigners, Mr Shepherd's application for asylum has been scorned by many US servicemen and veterans.
"This is just Shepherd's way of avoiding his responsibilities completely - not going to Iraq and not willing to go to jail for breaking his promises and forcing his duties on his comrades," writes Desert Storm veteran and blogger, Jonn Lilyea.
Other military bloggers are even more direct with their criticisms, and the accusation of "coward" is one of the least offensive things Mr Shepherd is being called online.
At the end of February German immigration authorities heard Mr Shepherd's case, and are currently examining his eligibility for asylum. A decision should be reached within the next few months.
If asylum is knocked back, Mr Shepherd has said he will appeal to the courts, a process which could take up to five years.
In the meantime, Mr Shepherd can legally stay in Germany, but cannot return to the United States.
The decision to desert was not an easy one, Mr Shepherd says. "Your home country will always think you are a traitor, whether you were justified or not," he explained. 
"Although my family is supporting me, they wish I'd taken a different step, because the potential for me not returning [home] causes a lot of emotional stress. I have to apologize to my parents for that."

March 20, 2009


Given the recent ceasefire by both Israel and Hamas, the level of devastation experienced by the civilians in Gaza is becoming apparent with evidence that there have been both war crimes and crimes against humanity. Amnesty International is calling for an impartial international investigation into offenses by all parties to the conflict and urges the US to support this measure so that those responsible might be held accountable.

March 19, 2009

Our Troops and Iraqis are Still Dying

An Open Letter to the Peace/Anti-War Movement from Iraq Veterans Against the War, Military Families Speak Out, and Veterans For Peace

After six years of war and the historic election of a new President, we as veterans, military and Gold Star families felt an urgent need to reach out to the larger peace/anti-war movements to make our position on Iraq clear during this time of political and economic uncertainty. Iraq Veterans Against the War, Military Families Speak Out and Veterans For Peace continue to stand together in our demand to Bring the Troops Home Now! We ask all those who have stood with us in the past to stay faithful to the cause.

President Obama has announced a plan to gradually reduce troop levels in Iraq. Many in the peace/anti-war movements are breathing a sigh of relief, and suggesting that it is time for us to scale back our efforts to bring an end to the occupation of Iraq. But for our troops on the ground, their families and the Iraqi people, the nightmare continues. They need all of us to stay in the struggle. IVAW, MFSO and VFP have been long united in our call for an immediate and complete end to the occupation of Iraq and will not shift our stance under any circumstances.

President Obama's plan will result in more casualties and suffering for U.S. troops, their families and Iraqis. To the American public facing hard times here at home, two and a half more years of occupation may not sound like that long — but for our troops and their families it means two and a half more years of fear, pain, and separation in a war and occupation based on lies. Hundreds of the troops deployed in the next two and a half years will not come home alive. Many more will return forever scarred by deep wounds to their bodies, minds, and spirits. Well over a million Iraqis have died as a result of this war — many more will be killed as the occupation continues.

We cannot afford the cost of empire. Today we are in the midst of the worst economic crisis most of us have seen in our lifetimes. Yet our government continues to allow the occupation to drain $10 billion a month from our nation's coffers. Meanwhile, veterans and military families struggle to put food on the table and get decent housing and adequate medical care. Women and men who risked their lives for this country are often forced to fight tooth and nail to get health care from an underfunded and overburdened Veterans Administration. Hundreds of thousands of veterans are homeless.

The occupation of Iraq is the source of the violence not the solution. Living under occupation the people of Iraq are held back from taking control of their own lives to determine their destiny. The continued U.S. military presence there is a cause of the violence they face, not its solution. U.S. continued interference contradicts the principles of democracy and self-determination our country was founded on.

IVAW, MFSO and VFP will continue to keep pressure on Congress and the President to bring all our troops home from Iraq NOW, ensure that veterans receive the care they need and deserve, and that the U.S. provides resources to rebuild a country we destroyed. But we cannot do that alone. We need your help to reach out to the vast majority of the American people who are completely isolated from the realities of this war. Please don't abandon this struggle or shift your position before the occupation is over and our veterans and the Iraqi people are on the path to healing.

— Signed by Iraq Veterans Against the War, Military Families Speak Out, and Veterans For Peace

Statement From Robin Long on the 6th Anniversary of the Invasion of Iraq

Again I am using Laura's posts from We Move To Canada. She covers it all and covers it well. I just want to get the best information out. I recommend you read her blog. Although the war resisters are her passion, she covers many issues. It's my favorite address on the internet.
We need to focus on Kim Rivera for the next week. She is scheduled to be deported on March 26th
There are many other resisters in Canada and in the states. Some are working their way through the courts, some are in prison, many are still on active duty while thousands are living underground. 
Robin Long is in a military prison near San Diego. He was the first resister who spoke out against the war to be deported from Canada. This is worth reading. It makes no sense that criminals like Bush and Cheney roam free while these incredible peacemakers and freedom fighters are imprisoned.
Last night I heard a very moving account of the trip Members of Parliament Olivia Chow and Borys Wrzesnewskyj took to see jailed war resister and prisoner of conscience Robin Long. A campaigner accompanied Olivia and Borys, and he reported back to us last night.

The three Canadians were able to spend 45 minutes with Robin, but were not allowed to use any recording equipment or even to take notes with a pen and paper. We hear Robin is in good spirits and was deeply appreciative of the visit.

In turn, the San Diego activist community - and, from what I hear, the whole west coast US peace movement - was re-energized by the visit. Addressing a meeting, Olivia Chow received two standing ovations. The War Resisters Support Campaign formed great new links with the San Diego peace and justice community, and strengthened links with the military resistance community there. One group that was especially singled out for praise is the San Diego Military Counseling Project.

One of them most disturbing, but important, details to come out of the MP's trip was learning more details about the circumstances of Robin's arrest. The CBSA's treatment of Robin was actually detrimental to his court martial and increased his sentencing.

One, Robin was not given an opportunity to leave Canada of his own volition, as Cliff Cornell and Chris Teske were. He was removed from Canada in handcuffs, which by all accounts from military lawyers and others knowledgeable in these things, counts against the defendant.

And two, the CBSA confiscated Robin's military identification, saying they would make photocopies and return it - but they kept it. Thus, Robin was charged with turning over military identification to a foreign power, an additional charge in his court martial - and a completely unnecessary one. As you may recall, Robin was originally sentenced to 30 months in the brig. Only the skillful negotiations of his lawyer James Branum reduced the sentence to 15 months (which of course is 15 months too long).

The campaigner says that Robin wanted to pass on his regards and thanks to everyone in Canada who supported him, to let us know we should work extra hard to make sure that other war resisters do not share his fate, and that he can return to visit his Canadian-born son in Canada when he is released after his 15 month sentence as a political prisoner of conscience.

Here is a statement by Robin Long, which was read by a Vietnam War resister at the activist meeting in San Diego.

A War Resister Speaks from Prison: Let GI Resisters Stay in Canada
By Robin Long

In 2004 when Jeremy Hinzman applied for refugee status in Canada the federal government stepped in at his Refugee Hearing and said that evidence challenging the legality of the war in Iraq can't be used in this case. The U.N. Handbook for Refugees and the Nuremburg Principals say:

"a soldier of an army that is involved in an illegal war of aggression has a higher international duty to refuse service. They also have the right to seek refugee protection in any country that is signatory to the Geneva Convention."

By refusing to allow him, and by precedent all other claimants, the right to use the argument that the war was illegal, the decision closed the door on that legal avenue for refugee protection.

The invasion of Iraq was clearly an illegal act of aggression. The U.S. was not under attack or the imminent threat of attack from the nation of Iraq. The action was also not approved by the U.N. Security Council.

By taking this stance, the Conservative government is condoning the invasion and continuing occupation of Iraq.

Is this what Canadians want? A majority of Americans want it to end and have also realized it to be a mistake. Canadians have long known it to be wrong. Why is the minority Conservative government still holding onto the idea and still deporting war resisters? Why are they separating families and being complicit in the incarceration of morally strong young men and women? What message is this sending?

Parliament voted to let war resisters remain
In June of 2008 Canada’s Parliament voted on a non-binding resolution to allow war resisters and their families permanent resident status. The vote passed. In agreement with the vote, a poll of Canadian opinion showed overwhelming support for the resolution.

But in defiance of Parliament and the will of the people, the Conservative minority government led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Immigration Minister Diane Finley ignored the bill. The government stated that all refugee claimants are give a fair chance to plead their case at the Refugee Board, and special treatment to these Iraq resisters wasn't fair to the other claimants. The government has also stated in the past that we are not legitimate claimants because we are from the U.S. which they say has a fair and transparent justice system and we wouldn't be singled out for being political.

On July 14th, 2008 in my final attempt to stay in Canada, where my son and community are, Federal Judge Ann Mactavish stated that I didn't prove I would be treated harshly by the U.S. military for being a politically outspoken opponent to the war in Iraq and the Bush administration policy.

She predicted that my punishment would be minimal and I'd serve at most 30 days in the brig. (This is probably because less than 10% of AWOL cases are brought to court martial.) She then cleared the way for my deportation.

Convicted of a felony
Less than a month later I was tried in a court martial presided over by a judge who is a colonel in the Army, a person who has the President in her chain of command. (A person late appointed by Bush to Guantanamo Bay no doubt because of her credentials and political position.) The only aggravating evidence the prosecution presented was a 6 minute long video of me stating among other things that "I feel my president lied to me." (A political statement.) The fact that this was found admissible in court for the crime of desertion is beyond me. There were no character witnesses brought against me.

The only factor the prosecution wanted shown in determining a sentence was the fact that I was political and exercising my freedom of speech in criticizing the Commander in Chief. It seems like a conflict of interest to have a judge determine my fate when she has to ultimately answer to the President, while I was claiming the President was a domestic enemy.

While I was openly saying in my defense that the Bush administration created reasons to go to Iraq, she had superiors to answer to who answer to the President.

The judge came back with a 30 month sentence; that's two and a half years for not showing up for work I thought to be morally objectionable, by far the harshest sentence given to a deserter from the Iraq war. The only thing that saved me was a plea bargain for 15 months. I still received a dishonorable discharge. A dishonorable discharge will keep me from ever having a government job and be at a disadvantage in the civilian sector as well. I will have a hard time ever getting a loan for a house or a car. This conviction is also a felony! A felony will make it hard for me to return to Canada to be with my young family. Then again, Judge Ann Mactavish had already made sure I wouldn't be allowed in for ten years.

People who committed far worse crimes have been getting off with lighter sentences than mine. I refused to participate in killing and got 15 months, but a First Infantry Division soldier, Spc. Belmor Ramos, was sentenced to only seven months after being convicted of conspiracy to commit murder in the case of four Iraqi men. In 2007, he stood guard while others blindfolded and shot in the head four unidentified Iraqi men, afterwards dumping their bodies in a Baghdad canal. During his court martial, Ramos admitted his guilt, stating, "I wanted them dead. I had no legal justification to do this".

Where is the justice? The system is not fair and impartial. Can it really be transparent when you don't know who is influencing the judge from up the chain of command? See how the military justice system works? It gives light sentences for killing, but God forbid someone should call the president a liar and war-monger. In a court martial, a person’s words and political opinions – if they are anti-war and critical of the president – seem be far more damaging to his case than someone's illegal actions in an occupied foreign nation.

What about the contract I signed?
Often, people have argued that I signed a contract. I'd like to quote from a letter one of the Founding Fathers wrote to George Washington on his thoughts about contracts:

"When performance, for instance, becomes impossible,
non-performance is not immoral.
So if performance becomes
Self-destructive to the party,
the law of self preservation
Overrules the laws of obligations to others.
For the reality of these principles
I appeal to the true fountains of evidence,
The head and heart of every rational man."
--Thomas Jefferson, April 1793

For me to continue in my military contract would have been destructive to me as a person with my views, morals, and ideals. The contract I signed was to support and defend the Constitution of the United States from all enemies foreign and domestic, and to obey the lawful orders of the President and those officers appointed over me. I did not sign to be the strong arm for corporate interests of oil. The so-called "liberation" of Iraq has turned into nothing more than a constant and protracted struggle for the people, against the forces that are trying to impose their will upon them for power and profit.

True freedom is the ultimate expression and condition of a people to control their own destiny, not the manufactured, force-fed variety being offered to the people of Iraq. True democracy is not found at the end of the end of a gun barrel. It rises up from within the masses.

The government manufactured pretenses for the war
The invasion of Iraq wasn't about WMDs, or else we would have found some. It wasn't about regime change, or else we would be in Darfur, or Indonesia. (Besides, regime change is not a legitimate reason to go to war.) It wasn't about 9/11 terrorists because most of those were from Saudi Arabia. It didn't say anywhere in my contract that I'd be going to foreign soil halfway around the world, to invade a country that was no threat to the U.S. It didn't say in my contract that I would be called upon to risk my life, not defending the people or the Constitution of the United States, but creating more enemies for our country by being an occupier. The invasion of Iraq has made the world a much more dangerous place.

Iraq was never a real threat. And now the destabilized nation of Iraq has become a breeding ground, an awesome recruiting center, for al Qaeda. And it has exacted a great price from the American people. I'm not talking about the huge monetary price, but the human cost of war, the deaths of so many of our brave youth, the missing limbs, the PTSD, the suicides.

The order for me to go to Iraq was not a lawful one. It violated the Constitution. Article VI of the Constitution states that any treaty to which the U.S. is a signatory shall be the supreme law of the land. The last time I checked, the U.S. was a signing party to the Geneva Conventions. There are certain rules in that treaty for declaring war, and the last time I checked, regime change was not one of them. A country must be under attack or be under threat of imminent attack. Neither was true in the case of Iraq. Former President Bush had no right to interpret the Constitution or the Geneva Conventions simply as he saw fit, and the 107th Congress had no right to pass H.J. Res. 114 which "allowed" the president to invade Iraq. The Constitution was being ignored by the whole lot of them and they were derelict in their duty to uphold it.

The stand that the Conservative government of Canada has taken has separated a family – an act totally un-Canadian. I have a young son, a Canadian citizen. My partner, also a Canadian citizen, has multiple sclerosis and has been left to raise our son alone while I'm locked in the brig for refusing to participate in a war that Canada itself wouldn't even send troops to. In 2003 the then Liberal government saw the holes in Bush's intelligence and refused to participate in the invasion. The Canadian government not only deported me, but barred me from entering Canada again for ten years! My flesh and blood is there!

Uphold Canada's humanitarian tradition
The Conservatives are destroying Canada’s tradition of being a refuge from militarism and an asylum for those escaping injustice – a tradition that goes back to the times of slavery. Are they truly representing the people? Who are they working for really? The days of Bush have ended. This new Obama administration has a different view and different policies. It's time for Mr. Stephen Harper to change his view. He should listen to what his Parliament and a majority of Canadians are saying.

Please support the movement to allow war resisters to stay in Canada and to pardon those in the U.S. Please help me to return to Canada to be with my son. I want only to live in peace and be in this life. Stop the war!

Reading this, I am overcome. Thank you, Robin.

Minister Kenney Walks Away From Iraq Veteran Kim Rivera

We need to focus on Kim and her family this week. She has a deportation date on the 26th of this month.
Our Canadian friends are working overtime to help her. Let's get on those phones and computers and let Kenney know we care about the outcome of her case.  It is beyond my comprehension . . . that he could be responsible for tearing  apart a family and sending the mom to prison and then suggest he is unaware of his decision. 

Feigning ignorance and running away ....

Kim Rivera has more courage in her little finger right now than Jason Kenney will muster in his entire life.


Mr. Kinney says he's not familiar with the details of Kim's case.

Maybe we should remind him:

Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Jason Kenney
Ministry Office: 613.954.1064
Parliamentary Office: 613.992.2235 or
-thanks to Laura and Allan at We Move To Canada

March 17, 2009

Call and Email Citizenship and Immigration Minister, Jason Kenney and Prime Minister Stephan Harper.

Stop the Deportation of Kim Rivera
Ask your friends and acquaintances to email and call this week. Put it on your blogs and websites. It is the last chance to flood their offices to let them know we're watching and we care.

Contact info:
Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Jason Kenney
Ministry Office: 613.954.1064
Parliamentary Office: 613.992.2235 or

Prime Minister Stephen Harper:

Copy opposition party critics on your emails:
Liberal party immigration critic Maurizio Bevilacqua:
NDP immigration critic Olivia Chow:
Bloc Québécois immigration critic Thierry St-Cyr:

March 16, 2009

Kim Rivera, mother of three, faces prison for refusing to participate in the terrorizing and killing of other children

We went to the War Resister Film Festival in Toronto yesterday. After the films, a panel of war resisters shared their stories and answered questions. Other resisters were in the audience with us. I don't know where these people find their stamina. They work and raise their families and keep going to court so they don't get deported from their new home. All the time they're raising their children. Beautiful children. Kim is currently nursing her youngest.
Kim is scheduled to be deported on March 26th and faces imprisonment
Our Canadian friends are working hard to save our resisters. They are trying to get Prime Minister Harper to respect the wishes of the Canadian people and the Parliment by letting the resisters stay. 
We should contact our newspapers and politicians and demand an end to the illegal occupation and give amnesty to the war resisters. It is cruel for Obama to continue to torment these families, our Guard families and the families of Iraq, Gaza and Afghanistan. 
Tell him to fix it! He can do it if he wants to.
This week we should also write or call PM Harper and the head of immigration, Kinney, to ask them to let these people stay. There is little time for Kim and her family.

 Kim Rivera

Kimberly Rivera says one of her flaws that made it so easy to be recruited is that she was a proud American. The problem is the recruiter “didn’t tell her both sides of the story. They didn’t take you to a VA hospital to talk to the vets".

She told about seeing Iraqi women. Although she couldn’t understand all they were saying, they communicated really well with the intense icy stares that cut right through to the bone. It was obvious to her that the women didn't think we were helping them.

When she was on the gate she would allow people in and out of the base. She would send out the soldiers at three in the morning. She knew they would be busting into homes and terrorizing the families. She had two children at home and wanted to be with them. She didn’t want to participate any more. Eventually she made it to Canada and is the first woman to leave and speak out against the war.

Kim Rivera points to one the ironies of her situation:
Had I not had Iraq, I wouldn't have had Canada.
Had I not had Canada, I wouldn't be the person I am today.

Ryan Johnson
In one of the films Ryan Johnson documented his decision to leave the military and his trip with his wife to Canada.  He talked to returning soldiers about their experiences and started to put together a picture of our role over there.  He had fractured his back while he was in the states. Then they told him he was going to Iraq and he could get his back repaired later. 
He had to decide whether to go to Iraq or go to Canada. He was more worried about not deploying than going AWOL. He contacted the GI Rights Hotline.   They helped him figure out what he wanted to do. It was pretty much a last minute decision to leave the military.
They travelled from safe house to safe house across the country and into Canada where he met up with other resisters and the War Resister Support Campaign. Now he has no regrets. He was a conservative, pro war, pro Bush recruit. Now he is a wonderful man who has grown and changed his views with conviction. It's a familiar story.

Ryan made me realize about how much we need to talk with our family, friends, neighbors and co-workers about the soldiers who choose to defect. 
What do we feel about resisters and what would we do if we were faced with the same dilemma? 
Are we ready to provide refuge for those in need? 
How can we provide emotional, service or material support for their families?

Many resisters have shared their stories about being misled by recruiters. What can we do to see that recruiters don't have unlimited access to our kids or make unrealistic  or untruthful promises to our children. With the difficult economic times we are now experiencing, the temptation for recruiters to exploit the military as their only chance to escape their joblessness continues to grow.

It's a courageous decision when a soldier chooses to stand up to the military and either go to Canada or resist inside the military and not participate in the illegal wars and occupations. Those are tough decisions that will more than likely mean harassment,  jail and separation from family. We need to change our collective idea of war resisters so more of our moms and dads can feel proud of their sons and daughters who have chosen to follow their conscience.

When I used to work in recycling and waste reduction programs, we would teach that it is easier to recover the resource if we never made it garbage. We would separate the aluminum from the steel cans, from the glass, etc.  If you needed clear glass there it was. It was high-grading at the source.

If we teach our children honestly about their choices before they make them, they won't be faced with having to undo them later on. We need to protect our children where we can. 

Dean Walcott
Dean Walcott joined in 2000 and served as an MP in Bagdad in 2003. He was later stationed at a hospital in Germany where all the people admitted were severely injured in the War. Not just American soldiers, but all nationalities injured or killed in theater came there. He saw little children with missing arms and legs. Unfortunately he returned to Iraq in 2005-2006.

Eventually he got a stateside assignment where he wouldn't have to worry about being sent back again. He soon realized he was sending 18 and 19 year olds to take his place. 
He told us about his decision to go to Canada. Although he presented himself as not being bright, he was a nice man who glowed bright enough to make my eyes water Sunday afternoon. How can a man who has done what he has done be considered a deserter? Why isn't he allowed to be free in America, let alone receive all his veteran's benefits? Many of these resisters came from conservative families that never entertained the concept of questioning illegal and immoral orders. 

Jeremy Hinzman
I went to Jeremy Hinzman's appeal hearing a short time ago. He was the first resister to go to Canada and speak out against the war. He's been there for about 5 years. He awaits a decision on what may be his last appeal before he faces deportation, prison and separation from his wife and two children.
I've become a pacifist and am opposed to all war.
These resisters are all people we would love to have as neighbors. Our government wants to lock them up because they refuse to kill. I'm confused and I've been around for many years. I can imagine how our kids feel.