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.

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