April 26, 2011

Easter Sunday Services End in 16 Arrests at Nuclear Test Site

At 12 noon today, April 24th 2011, 38 people gathered near the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS). The group held interfaith prayers and then eight women and eight men were arrested for alleged trespassing onto the NNSS. The prayer-action included local members of the Western Shoshone National Council, Buddhist Nipponzan Myohoji monks from Washington state and Catholic Workers from Nevada. Other demonstrators came from Arizona, California, Illinois, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Wisconsin, The Netherlands , and Japan. Today’s Easter services were the climax of a 60-mile walk from Las Vegas to Mercury along US Highway 95. The annual pilgrimmage is the interfaith “Sacred Peace Walk”, which included a musical ritual at the NNSS.

The demonstrators include members of Nevada Desert Experience (NDE) and Pace e Bene Nonviolence Service, including Fr. Jerry Zawada who celebrated Mass at less than half an hour prior to the ritual line crossing. NDE is an interfaith group based in Las Vegas which resists nuclear weapons and war. NDE has a long history of activity in this region near Creech Air Force Base, and NDE’s work helped lead to a cessation of full-scale nuclear testing in the early 1990's.

The prayer-action today focused on stopping the flow of money into nuclear weapons development, protecting the Nevada Desert, and protecting all people from nuclear disasters such as the recent one ongoing in Fukushima, Japan and the Chernobyl incident from April 26th 1986. One of the demonstrators from The Netherlands, Annabelle Parker said, “It’s a terrible crime that the US government has committed by stealing and contaminating this beautiful land from Western Shoshone people. I found this week’s Sacred Peace Walk to be a very strong spiritual action—I felt very much connected to the earth and everyone else.”

Another demonstrator, Iris Wolfe from Arizona, went further, “We must also consider the powerful effect of nuclear radiation on the earth and her capacity to support life including ladybugs, bees, earthworms and others. We are wholly dependent and cannot survive without the interaction of all life forms together.” Tomorrow and Tuesday, April 25th and 26th , NDE will hold 7:00AM vigils at Creech AFB and the NNSS respectively, in concert with global events commemorating the Chernobyl disaster.

Nuclear weapons testing has been conducted worldwide on lands taken from indigenous people. In the case of the Nevada National Security Site (formerly the "Nevada Test Site"), the land legally belongs to the Western Shoshone Nation by the Treaty of Ruby Valley (1863). Nuclear weapons despoil delicate ecosystems held sacred by those with the least political power, and declared expendable by those with the most. More than a thousand atomic weapons have been detonated at the NNSS making it the most bombed place on the planet.

We come to the desert to engage the destruction of violence with the constructive nonviolence. We seek reconnection with each other and the earth, by understanding and taking responsibility for the consequences of our actions.

Since the birth of NDE in 1982, thousands of people have come to our retreats and conferences to learn about the related issues of nuclear testing and gathered at the edge of Security Site for vigil, religious services, and nonviolent civil disobedience. NDE’s organizing seeks to honor all of God’s creation and the Beloved Community as we bear witness to sixty years of nuclear destruction.

While the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the Non-proliferation Treaty have been resounding victories for our movement toward nuclear abolition, the United States is currently spending more American tax dollars on the nuclear weapons’ program than at any point during the Cold War. The Department of Energy has admitted the legacy of nuclear testing has left four tons of plutonium (the single most carcinogenic substance known to humans) in the desert soil. Now the government seeks to expand the repository capacity at the Test Site for highly radioactive materials. When we consider that all of this devastating reality resides up the road from Las Vegas, the fastest growing city in the nation, our call to action is deeply clarified.

William Rivers Pitt: Free Bradley Manning

Video: Clive Stafford Smith, legal director of Reprieve, discusses the 'extraordinarily thin' evidence used to hold prisoners and the 'nonsense' cooked up by a group of serial informers to get privileges.

-thanks to the Guardian for the video

It is dangerous to be right in matters on which established authorities are wrong.
- Voltaire

Free Bradley Manning
by: William Rivers Pitt, Truthout, Tuesday 26 April 2011

I have a confession to make: I have been on the fence about Bradley Manning as the drama of his detention and the Wikileaks documents have unfolded. While I believe deeply that those who leak classified materials are acting out of conscience and for the good of the people, I also believe criminal acts - even ones of conscience - must be met with punishment as required in any society that wishes to live by the rule of law. Arrest and detention are part of any illegal act of civil disobedience, and are to be expected as the natural consequence of such an act.

Chain yourself to a fence, and expect to be arrested for trespassing. Pour blood on the nose cone of a nuclear missile, and expect to be arrested for destruction of property. The threat of arrest, detention and possible conviction is part of the package that is civil disobedience, and those who take part in it must accept the consequences as part of their act of conscience. Indeed, it is the acceptance of punishment that lies at the heart of that conscience: they are breaking a law to highlight a wrong, are willing to be punished to underscore that wrong, and in doing so, demonstrate how far they are personally willing to go in order to end that wrong and inspire others in the process.

That's where I've been with Bradley Manning - his was an act of conscience that broke the law, and the consequences of that act must be accepted - until now.

How wrong I was.

This situation goes far beyond such a simplistic cut-and-dried viewpoint. It cuts to the core of what we are as a nation, what we wish to be, and what must be done to honor the values we pay so much lip service to, even as we fail time and again to practice what we preach. What Manning has been charged with goes far beyond an act of conscience; they were, in fact, an attempt to save the very soul of these United States.

It is widely considered facile and weak to make Nazi comparisons in any argument, but unfortunately for every citizen of this country, the comparison here is all too apt. During the Nuremberg trials in the aftermath of World War II, accused war criminals were often heard to claim, "I was only following orders," as a means of justifying their savage and barbaric activities. The excuse was rejected out of hand, further enshrining the idea that soldiers and officers are more than mere automatons who are expected only to do as they are told. Criminal acts, even in a military situation, are not to be condoned, coddled or tolerated. Men were hanged by the judges at Nuremberg to emphasize the point.

And here is Bradley Manning, who like every enlisted American soldier, swore an oath to support, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against enemies both foreign and domestic, and to bear true faith and allegiance to the same. That same oath requires the oath-taker to follow the orders of the president and superior officers, but if those hanged men at Nuremberg prove anything, it is that unlawful orders are by definition void, and should not be followed if the oath sworn to the Constitution is to mean anything at all.

Make no mistake: the documents Bradley Manning has been accused of leaking are prima facie evidence of illegal orders being given and executed all along the chain of command. This has been made even more abundantly clear with the recent revelation of some 700 pages of documents detailing the ongoing travesty that is America's detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. According to various reports:
The files depict a system often focused less on containing dangerous terrorists or enemy fighters, than on extracting intelligence. Among inmates who proved harmless were an 89-year-old Afghan villager, suffering from senile dementia, and a 14-year-old boy who had been an innocent kidnap victim.

A number of British nationals and residents were held for years even though US authorities knew they were not Taliban or al-Qaida members.
One Briton, Jamal al-Harith, was rendered to Guantánamo simply because he had been held in a Taliban prison and was thought to have knowledge of their interrogation techniques. The US military tried to hang on to another Briton, Binyam Mohamed, even after charges had been dropped and evidence emerged he had been tortured.

The files also detail how many innocents or marginal figures swept up by the Guantánamo dragnet because US forces thought they might be of some intelligence value.

One man was transferred to the facility "because he was a mullah, who led prayers at Manu mosque in Kandahar province, Afghanistan ... which placed him in a position to have special knowledge of the Taliban". US authorities eventually released him after more than a year's captivity, deciding he had no intelligence value.

Another prisoner was shipped to the base "because of his general knowledge of activities in the areas of Khowst and Kabul based as a result of his frequent travels through the region as a taxi driver".

The files also reveal that an al-Jazeera journalist was held at Guantánamo for six years, partly in order to be interrogated about the Arabic news network.
Also illuminated in these leaked documents is the shameful use of torture, described through the cruel euphemism of "enhanced interrogation," that was rampant at Guantanamo Bay. Thanks to such disgraceful practices, the prisoners currently detained there now find themselves in a ridiculous legal limbo; they may be innocent or guilty, but because they were tortured, they cannot be brought to trial because evidence obtained against them was gathered illegally. The Obama administration, like the Bush administration before, refuses to let the legal process do its work, nor are they willing to release these prisoners, so there they sit.

In a filthy irony, Bradley Manning was exposed to a number of grotesquely similar "stress tactics" used against Guantanamo prisoners while detained at Quantico. He was deprived of sleep, humiliated and berated by his captors, isolated, exposed to cold, and made to stand naked for extended periods of time. Such acts are straight out of the War on Terror handbook, and like the prisoners at Guantanamo, were used against a man who has yet to be convicted of anything. The mistreatment tactics against prisoners that Manning allegedly exposed have been used against him, one more crime in a symphony of crimes.

Bradley Manning sits today in Leavenworth prison awaiting a hearing to determine whether or not he will face a court martial. The case against him seems as disorganized and specious as the cases against many of the prisoners at Guantanamo, but let us accept for the moment that he did, in fact, release those classified documents. If so, he should be thanked for his actions. As Glenn Greenwald so eloquently argued, "WikiLeaks is responsible for more newsworthy scoops over the last year than all media outlets combined: it's not even a close call. And if Bradley Manning is the leaker, he has done more than any other human being in our lifetime to bring about transparency and shine a light on what military and government power is doing."

Moreover, if there is actually justice to be found in this morally crippled nation, Bradley Manning should be cleared of all charges and released. His was not some casual act of disobedience, nor was it an attack against his country. Bradley Manning was fulfilling the oath he swore to protect and defend the Constitution. He exposed serial criminal acts perpetrated by his superiors, which is a moral necessity for anyone who has taken such an oath.

We know the truth of the acts made by both the Bush and Obama administrations in Guantanamo, and they are illegal on their face. We are a better nation today because we know this, and we have Bradley Manning to thank for it. By exposing war crimes, he has been labeled a criminal even before any hearings have been held. He has been mistreated in a way you would not treat a dog. He showed us the war crimes committed in our name, and has been crushed for it.

Justice demands his release. Furthermore, justice demands a wide inquiry into the criminal acts of both the Bush and Obama administrations as pertaining to the prisoners of Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere. Justice demands prosecution for those acts against the real criminals responsible for them. They have driven our nation into the gutter, and to punish Bradley Manning for attempting to haul us back from that abyss is to admit, in broad daylight and with no shame, that justice has no meaning anymore.

-thanks to truthout

April 25, 2011

Giles Watson's tribute to Ethan McCord, Bradley Manning and the victims of "Collateral Murder".


Collateral Murder
(Words and Music by Giles Conrad Watson)

Somewhere in New Baghdad, one morning in July,
Two Apache helicopters cruising in the sky;
Two journalists out walking: Saeed and Namir,
Cameras hanging casually, not a sign of fear,
And up in the Apache, the troops are so bored sick,
One shouts, "That's a weapon! Yeah! Fuckin' prick!
Get on 'em an' open up. Set 'em all alight!"
He's laughing as New Baghdad dust is rising in his sight.
This is your collateral murder.
Saeed falls to ground at once; Nameer makes a dash,
The Apache circles round, and hurries in to splash
His blood upon the pavement, he judders and he falls,
And still he's groping forward, trying to make it to the wall.
"Come on now buddy," the murderers all shout,
"Pick up a weapon!" though his guts are spilling out,
Nameer on his cellphone is running out of breath
And the finger on the trigger is itching to deal death.
They're coming to his rescue: a family in a van,
Heedless of the danger: a brotherhood of man,
But inside the Apache, they're boiling up with rage,
Like boys on Nintendo: "Let me engage!"
The shells, they fly in flurries, the rescuers, they fall:
Two run for cover and are shot straight through the wall,
And while they're up there laughing, "Look what we did!"
Someone else sees movement: "Seems like it's a kid."
Ethan McCord, a US soldier on the ground,
Hears Apaches shooting -- he's familiar with the sound --
He comes to the van and he opens up the door:
A little gut-shot girl -- casualty of war --
And as she's rushed away, her father lolling dead,
He pulls out a boy with shrapnel in his head.
"What the fuck you doin'?" his C.O. demands,
"They're just Iraqi kids! We got war on our hands!"
Later in the barracks, Ethan McCord
Sees the scene inside his head; it cannot be ignored.
He goes to the psychologist, who says "You're just a whiner.
Quit being a pussy -- get the sand out your vagina.
You need to suck that shit up -- a soldier's got to take it."
But when we know the truth, there's some of us can't fake it,
'Cause when the Iraqi sun is setting like a flood,
Ethan sees his tunic dappled with Iraqi blood.
Bradley Manning finds the video - his emotions hurled
Into tumult -- and he baulks -- and he leaks it to the world:
"A battle with insurgents", the Army spokesmen claimed -
The killing of two journalists, two children orphaned, maimed -
And Bradley is arrested: he's the one who's made to pay
For telling us the things we should all know anyway:
That terrorists fill New Baghdad, they hoard it like a swarm,
And more than half are wearing US Army uniform.
Now Manning has no window; he is never left alone,
Manning has no internet, Manning has no phone,
Manning has no underwear, he sleeps inside a smock,
No sheets upon his bed, no contact and no clock.
Obama in your White House, with your smiles and your ties,
Will you let them get away with it, perpetuating lies?
And those Iraqi children, with wounds in guts and head,
Are they forever crippled, do they weep, or are they dead?

Song Lyric by Giles Watson, 2011. My sources are the three videos on the WikiLeaks site collateralmurder.com, and various internet and newspaper resources on the plight of the heroic 22 year-old Private Bradley Manning, who leaked a video of the disgusting events described above, along with other documents revealing war-crimes committed by US forces in Iraq, and is now detained by the US government in conditions which have aroused the suspicion and criticism of Amnesty International and the United Nations. I have tried to stick as close as possible to the dialogue recorded on the helicopters, augmented with the testimony of Ethan McCord.

April 24, 2011

VFP: Obama declares Manning guilty before trial. Can military officers judge him impartially and contradict their commander-in-chief?

President Barack Obama said on April 21 that PFC Bradley Manning “broke the law.” This statement casts serious doubt on whether Manning can receive a fair trial from officers subordinate to Obama, their Commander-in-Chief.
“Members of the military are trained to follow orders. President Obama is the commander of all armed forces,” said Elliott Adams, president of Veterans For Peace. “Any officer who wants to advance in his military career would be wise not to contradict their commander-in-chief, especially after the military's brutal treatment of Manning this past year. The President seems to have forgotten what he taught his constitutional law classes about being innocent until proven guilty.”
The government has already violated Bradley Manning’s due process rights by keeping him in pretrial solitary confinement for nearly a year and the President bears ultimate responsibility for the abusive treatment Manning has endured since July 2010 at Quantico Marine Base, and possibly before that in Kuwait. He has been confined to a 6-by-12-foot cell for 23 hours a day, prevented from sleeping during the day, denied exercise, woken up constantly, given limited access to books and writing materials, stripped at night and forced to endure inspection naked, and deprived of his eyeglasses. Many mental health professionals characterize this as psychological torture. President Obama could have stopped this mistreatment at any time with one phone call.

The President made another critical misstatement in his comments. He claimed that Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers, was less culpable because the documents he leaked were “not classified in the same way.” In fact, the Pentagon Papers were classified at the highest level of secrecy while the WikiLeaks documents were at the lowest level.
“It’s time to free Bradley Manning and pin a medal on the man. He has already been punished beyond constitutional limits and now President Obama has made a fair trial impossible,” said Leah Bolger, vicepresident of Veterans For Peace. “If indeed he’s the one who released those documents, he is a hero for blowing the whistle on war crimes and other misbehavior by U.S. officials.”

Obama: “So people can have philosophical views [about Bradley Manning] but I can’t conduct diplomacy on an open source [basis]… That’s not how the world works. And if you’re in the military… And I have to abide by certain rules of classified information. If I were to release material I weren’t allowed to, I’d
be breaking the law. We’re a nation of laws! We don’t let individuals make their own decisions about how the laws operate. He broke the law.” [Emphasis added]

Q: “Didn't he release evidence of war crimes?”
Obama: “What he did was he dumped…”
Q: “Isn't that just the same thing as what Daniel Ellsberg did?”
Obama: “No it wasn’t the same thing. Ellsberg’s material wasn’t classified in the same way.”
The video can be viewed here: http://youtu.be/IfmtUpd4id0
Veterans For Peace website: http://veteransforpeace.org

Indictment protestors attempted to deliver to the base

The 37 Protestors who were arrested at Hancock Field April 22, 2011 protesting the Reaper Drones

In addition to the hundreds of protestors at Hancock Air Field in Syracuse, NY on April 22nd, the following 37 individuals raised the level of protest at the air field by participating in non-violent direct action and were arrested. They ranged in age from 17 to 91.

One of the speakers, Brian Terrell, asked the question that would guide him to cross the line and risk arrest:

You come upon a house and it is on fire, there's a 'no trespassing' sign on the door, there's a child in the window screaming.
"Is it a crime to break down that door, ignore the 'no trespassing' sign and go to the child?"

List of names of the arrested adapted by Ed Kinane from the april 23, 2011

Syracuse Post-Standard, p. A-7 and according to the Onondaga County Sheriff's office:

from Syracuse:

Jerry Berrigan, 91

Paul Wittjung, 67

Ed Kinane, 66

Ann Tiffany, 75

Rae Kramer, 50

Julienne Oldfield, 73

Kathleen Rumpf, 59

Rich Vallejo, 24

from Ithaca:

Ellen Grady, 48

Marion “Susie” Kyssack, 68

Richard Saddler, 46

Mary Anne Grady-Flores, 54

Dannie Burns, 50

from Trumansburg:

Craver Scibilia, 58

from Buffalo:

Vickie Ross 56

from Binghamton:

George Homanich, 63

Jim Clune, 63

from Johnson City:

Mary Snyder, 86

from Sharon Springs:

Elliott Adams, 64

from Spencer:

Ian Stone, 17

from Utica:

Patricia Powers, 55

M.W. Wadsworth, 32

from Vernon:

Cynthia Banas, 81

from Vew Hartford:

Pete Bianco, 32

from Rochester:

Harry Murray, 59

from Webster:

Judy Bello, 60

from Brooklyn:

Joan Pleune, 72

from NYC:

Beverly Rice, 73

out of state:

Fr. Bernie Survil, 70, Bradford, PA

Jules Orkin, 72, Bergenfield, NJ

Martha Hennessy, 55, Perkinsville, VT

Col. Ann Wright, 64, Honolulu, HI

Kathy Kelly, 58, Chicago, IL

Brian Terrell, 54, Maloy, IA

Beth Adams, 65, Leverett, MA

Some of the protestors outside the court after most were released later that evening

April 15, 2011

Sanctuary Denied America’s war deserters face deportation from Canada—and then prison.

The following article is from IN THESE TIMES. It does an excellent job of laying out the dilemma facing war resisters and the need for us to figure out what we must do in the future to help these men and women.

Immigration Minister Kenney, a rising Conservative Party star, sees cracking down on deserters as a way for Canada to demonstrate that it is a reliable U.S. partner.

TORONTO—Once celebrated as a sanctuary for American soldiers unwilling to fight in Vietnam, present-day Canada, led by a conservative minority government, has turned its back on Iraq War deserters. The ones who have crossed the border since the 2003 invasion live in fear of deportation and imprisonment.

On a July night in 2006, somewhere off the coast of Iraq, Chief Petty Officer Chuck Wiley received an urgent order that would change his life. Standing watch in the propulsion plant of U.S.-aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, Wiley, a nuclear engineer for the Navy, was told to bring the ship up to full speed for an emergency landing. Curious about the event, he later went to see the landed fighter plane and found unusual damage. “Nothing you would expect from regular air combat. It looked like the plane had been shot with small arms, not missiles or larger caliber weapons,” recalls Wiley. The Kentucky native did what he had learned to do in an early career stint in army intelligence—get to the truth. He started to ask questions. Soon he found out about Mission Presence, a controversial strategy to flush civilians out of their homes in order to make it easier for ground troops to identify insurgents.

“The fighter jets crisscross over a city in very low altitude—just to scare the hell out of everybody. These people have been living under the wings of U.S. aircraft for years. They know exactly what a fighter bomber looks like and expect bombs to drop,” says Wiley. Using civilian fear as a weapon may be considered effective in the planning rooms of the military command, but it is illegal under international law, Wiley adds. “It seemed to me that the structure of this mission was 180 degrees out from what the Geneva Convention requires in terms of the treatment of civilians.”

But Wiley wasn’t supposed to know about Mission Presence. His superiors left him in the dark. “I asked questions and they responded, ‘That’s not your job—you don’t have to worry about it.’ At that point I had been in the Army and Navy for 16 years. I thought they owed me a better answer than that.”

When Wiley continued his research, he found he wasn’t alone with his doubts about the legality and conduct of the Iraq War. “People on the ship contacted me, saying they had questions too; they even wanted to know about missions that I never thought to question.”

At the end of his deployment to Iraq, having infuriated superiors (who even accused him of mutiny), Wiley realized that he couldn’t continue to serve on the USS Enterprise. To salvage his career, Wiley asked for a deployment on another ship, away from Iraq. “I wasn’t looking at leaving the military at all. I was less than four years away from being able to retire.” A short while later, Wiley’s application seemed to be successful when he was ordered to the USS George Washington on her way to a new homeport in Japan. But when reporting for duty at Norfolk Naval Station in Virginia, Wiley found out that the ship would only reach Japan after another tour to Iraq. “I said I had no intention of going back there. They replied that my options were to either board the ship or to go to jail.” Wiley had had enough. After counseling from the legal aid group GI Rights Hotline, he left Norfolk, and, after a brief stopover in his hometown of Frankfort, Ky., crossed the border into Ontario in February 2007. “The next day I filed my refugee claim,” Wiley says.

Since then, the nuclear engineer has become a maintenance worker at a private school in Toronto. Instead of state-of-the-art engines of an Air Force carrier, the 38-year-old keeps one of the city’s oldest hot water boilers running. On a clear day, Wiley can see Lake Ontario from the school building. He knows that on the other banks of the lake, in the States, a prison sentence of presumably three years awaits him. Some of it would be for his refusal to return to Iraq, but the rest would be for talking to the media about his decision.

Deportation purgatory

Wiley is one of an estimated 150 to 200 deserters from the U.S. military who have made their way to Canada since the Iraq War began in 2003. Called “war resisters” by their supporters, about 50 of them have officially applied to stay in the country. The others are in hiding.

With good reason. Ever since a Conservative minority government came into power in 2006, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has made it clear that he and his party don’t want the former soldiers to stay. The first refugee-status application by an American Iraq War deserter, Jeremy Hinzman, was turned down in 2005 under a Liberal government. But things have gotten even worse under Conservative rule. Every application by a deserter, be it for refugee status under international law or—after that fails—for a permission to stay for compassionate reasons, has either been denied or is pending with little hope of success.

According to a 2008 poll by the international public affairs practice Angus Reid Public Opinion, 64 percent of Canadians favor letting the American military dropouts stay. In 2008 and 2009 the Canadian House of Commons adopted two non-binding motions stating that deserters should be allowed to stay in the country and that provisions should be made to legalize their status. Harper’s government ignored the motions, saying that they would only bow to a formal bill. That bill, C-440, was defeated in parliament in September by a margin of 136 to 143 votes—to the delight of the government, which was quick to declare the vote a confirmation of its hard-line approach towards the deserters.

Canada’s Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney regards the defeated bill as a signal to act. After taking over the ministry in October 2008, Kenney was initially curbed by opinion polls and the motions in parliament and deported only four deserters. They were arrested after being returned to the United States and sentenced to the brig by U.S. Army court-martials.

Wiley and others now expect more deportations in quicker succession—an outlook that is shared by support groups on the other side of the border.

American organizations, like Iraq Veterans Against The War (IVAW), have all but given up on Canada as a viable option for the deserters to find refuge. “There is no safe haven in Canada. People went up there, hoping that the government would respect international law. But they didn’t. They shut that option down”, says IVAW Organizing Team Leader Aaron Hughes, who served in Iraq in 2003. He says that in 2005 the IVAW opened a chapter in Toronto, expecting that a bigger war resister community would grow in the city. But the chapter soon disappeared. “People simply didn’t stay because there was no sanctuary,” says Hughes.

IVAW’s approach has never been to actively convince people to escape to Canada but rather to show them other ways to resist. For those who are deported from Canada and arrested in the United States, the IVAW tries its best to help them with their court cases.

Changing sympathies

When Bill King remembers the events in 1968 that led him to flee from the American Army during the Vietnam War, his eyes sparkle with excitement. The story about his escape to Toronto sounds like an adventure. Thanks to the sympathetic stance of the Liberal Canadian government of that era, crossing the border into the big white north was easy.

King recounts how he sneaked out of Fort Dix, in New Jersey, when he was about to be shipped to Vietnam, how he and his wife Christine hid in the woods until the son of a colonel of the camp smuggled them out in his car, and how they ended up hitching a ride to the border with an ex-con and his 14-year-old girlfriend, who were then arrested.

In those days, an estimated 50,000 to 80,000 American war resisters flocked to Canada, welcomed into what Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau called “a refuge against militarism.” Many stayed on and became prominent members of Canadian society, like King, who is a jazz musician and artistic director of Toronto’s Beaches Jazz Festival. “Even though in Iraq and Vietnam you were fighting a different kind of boogeyman, there are many similarities—people just died unnecessarily in wars that were not needed and should have never happened,” says King, 64, who is a vocal supporter of the Iraq war deserters.

Parallels between Vietnam War resister King and Iraq War resister Wiley abound. Both were born in Kentucky to conservative families with an extreme commitment to the military and a long-standing history of service. “I had an uncle who participated in the Korean War and my father was in World War Two. You still had that traditional responsibility,” says King. “Everybody is expected to serve in the military—you don’t question it.” Wiley traces his family’s military roots back to the War of Independence. “I have eight siblings. Seven served in the military.” Both men were exposed to progressive ideas that were alien to their families, and the decisions of both men to escape to Canada created huge rifts between themselves and their parents.

But while King successfully created a new life for himself in Canada, Wiley’s future in the country is less certain. Immigration Minister Kenney sees cracking down on deserters as a way for Canada to demonstrate that it is a reliable U.S. partner. Celebrated by the Canadian news magazine Maclean’s as “Harper’s Secret Weapon” and a rising star of the Conservative Party, the 42-year-old Kenney has shown little leniency to the American ex-soldiers.

A first taste of things to come for the deserters was Kenney’s introduction of “Operational Bulletin 202” in summer 2010. The bulletin contains instructions for Canadian border officials to red-flag refugee claims by American deserters for special attention. Immigration officials are advised to consider the ex-soldiers as “criminally inadmissible” into Canada. “Our position is clear that Canadian law proposes stiff penal sanctions on those who desert from their voluntary commitment to the Canadian Forces,” said Kenney during an October 2010 press conference in Toronto, during which he announced the extension of a program that allows more Iraqis to enter Canada as refugees. “It would be fundamentally unfair to create a double standard whereby deserters from Canadian voluntary service are imprisoned, whereas Americans would be treated as heroes.”

Amnesty International suggests that the bulletin violates international law. In a letter to Kenney, Alex Neve, Amnesty’s secretary general, wrote that it is a violation of refugee law “to automatically deem deserters inadmissible, even if it is an offense, since the United Nations High Commission for Refugees recognizes desertion for reasons of conscience as legitimate grounds for refugee protection.”

Seeking asylum

The American deserters don’t plan to let themselves be sent to prison without a fight. On a cold winter night in December 2010, about a hundred people have gathered in an East End pub in Toronto for a war resister fundraiser. Phil McDowell, 33, has invited the public in order to warn about the possible deportations and to raise money for his legal costs. Like Wiley, the Rhode Island native could be deported any day, but also like Wiley, McDowell doesn’t fit the war supporter’s cliché of a selfish young man who joined the Army for quick money or a free education and changed his mind when facing a war deployment. McDowell fulfilled his four-year contract, went to Iraq, endured the harsh reality of war and was voted “Soldier of the Month” and “Soldier of the Quarter” for his battalion. But then questions started to form in McDowell’s mind. “I was disturbed by the violations of international law, the treatment and torture of the local population and other unlawful things,” the former sergeant says.

In 2005, McDowell returned from Iraq, thinking his life in the Army was over. “We were planning our future with one another in Austin,” says his wife, Jamine Aponte. The dreaded stop-loss program that allowed the U.S. Army to rescind a discharge and send former soldiers back to war shattered their dreams, with McDowell facing another 15-month tour in Iraq. That’s when the couple decided to escape to Canada, giving up everything they had worked for so far.

When McDowell filed an application for asylum in October 2006 before a Canadian refugee board panel, a major part of his legal strategy was his refusal to fight in an illegal war, as the American invasion in Iraq was not sanctioned by the United Nations, and the reason given for the invasion, the alleged existence of weapons of mass destruction, wasn’t genuine. His argument is in line with valid asylum claims under international law. The U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that soldiers may apply for asylum in another country if they face persecution in their own country for refusal to participate in an illegal war. Thus, an examination of whether or not a certain war is legal should be a substantial part of every asylum hearing for a deserter.

McDowell’s hearing lasted less than half an hour, because the panel refused to examine the legality of the Iraq war. Acutely aware of the political implications, Canadian authorities fear being put in the position of declaring America’s military actions either legal or illegal.

Another controversial point during the refugee status hearings was an argument raised by Crown attorneys and later reiterated by Canada’s Federal Court judge Anne McTavish when she presided over Jeremy Hinzman’s appeal against his failed refugee claim. “An individual must be involved at the policy-making level to be culpable for a crime against peace … the ordinary foot soldier is not expected to make his or her own personal assessment as to the legality of a conflict,” McTavish wrote in her 2006 decision. “Similarly, such an individual cannot be held criminally responsible for fighting in support of an illegal war, assuming that his or her personal war-time conduct is otherwise proper.” Wiley bristles at the argument: “Even Canadian veterans told me that we have to win this argument because they reject the view that mere soldiers don’t have the moral compass to decide whether or not the orders that have been given are legal or illegal. This is a logic that turns the Nuremberg principles upside down.”

At the 1945 and 1946 trials in Nuremberg for atrocities committed during World War Two, the United Nations recognized that even foot soldiers cannot justify being part of war crimes on the excuse of following orders. If the prosecutors at the Nuremberg trials had followed the current logic of Canadian refugee board members and a federal judge, countless war criminals would have had a valid defense by saying that they just followed their orders and couldn’t assess their legality.

Different theatre, different result

Unlike his Canada-based counterparts, former U.S. Specialist Andre Shepherd feels safe. On November 27, 2008, the Ohio-native walked into a refugee processing center in the German city of Giessen and filed an asylum claim. From that moment on, he could no longer be arrested or returned to the American forces stationed in Germany. “By filing his application Mr. Shepherd has evoked the protection of the Geneva Convention. A deportation to the United States has therefore been legally ruled out,” says his lawyer, Reinhard Marx. In addition, a European Union directive, binding in Germany since 2006, states that a soldier refusing to participate in a war that is illegal under international law must be recognized as a refugee. Because of that, German authorities will have to make a judgment about the legality of the American war in Iraq in order to be able to decide on Shepherd’s claim.

Things for American Iraq War deserters in Germany are different than they are in Canada. Not surprisingly, Germany is acutely aware of its past. German authorities appear to value the Nuremberg principles more highly than their Canadian counterparts, considering the refusal of even an “ordinary foot soldier” to participate in illegal actions not only his right but even his duty. Consequently, Shepherd’s chances of being granted asylum in his still-pending case are good, according to legal experts.

For the American deserters in Canada, things look much bleaker. Robin Long, who enlisted in the Army in 2003 and trained for two years at Fort Knox to become a tank commander, arrived in Canada in 2005. Even though he was engaged to be married and had a Canadian child, in July 2008 Long became the first American deserter in history to be deported from Canada. He received a jail sentence of 15 months. Since his release, Long has struggled to find work due to his status as an ex-convict. Clifford Cornell, who was deported in April 2009, received a 12-month sentence.

Typically, deserters who talk to the media receive harsher sentences, something the lawyers of their support campaign describe as “differential punishment.” Wiley explains: “In 2008, I phoned the Navy Legal Services office at Norfolk Naval Station in order to establish what kind of punishment to expect. He told me that because I talked to journalists I could expect around three years.” Wiley doesn’t regret having gone public. “If I was just looking to cut a deal for a jail term to sit quietly in a cell, I would have done that in the beginning. If you want people to know what is going on, if you actually want to change something, then you can’t do that from a prison cell.”

If the situation in Canada for America’s deserters from the Iraq war is bleak, it is outright hopeless for those who refused to serve in Afghanistan. Even though reports of abuse and torture in Afghanistan have been documented in press reports and by WikiLeaks’ document releases, the first American war after 9/11 benefits from a better public image for two reasons. First, a direct link between the World Trade Center attack and organizations like al-Qaeda operating out of Afghanistan could be proven. Second, the invasion of the country was sanctioned by the U.N. Security Council.

Many parliaments that rejected a participation in the Iraq War as illegal, like the Canadian and German assemblies, sent troops to Afghanistan. As a result, the number of Afghanistan deserters in Canada who are known to local support groups and not in hiding is almost negligible. “The focus of our campaign is to call for the government of Canada to make a provision to allow U.S. Iraq War resisters to stay in Canada”, says Michelle Robidoux, spokeswoman of the Toronto-based War Resisters Support Campaign. “While that is our focus as a campaign, some of the soldiers who have refused to deploy to Iraq have also done a tour of duty in Afghanistan.”

Jeremy Hinzman, who deserted to Canada in 2004 after refusing deployment to Iraq, served before in Afghanistan. He only decided to leave the Army when confronted with his marching orders for Iraq. Interviews with deserters indicate that many American soldiers consider Iraq as the more morally and legally questionable war. Army deserter Daniel Felushko, in a 2004-interview with the Los Angeles Weekly, put it this way: “If it had been Afghanistan, I would have gone, because there was a direct relationship with 9/11. But beyond Saddam and Bush’s grudge there’s no reason for us to go to Iraq.”

The only remaining legal strategy for Afghanistan deserters is to say that personal experiences during their tour shocked them so significantly that they changed their entire view of military service and became “conscientious objectors.” But this approach has proven futile with the American military, especially for long-serving soldiers.

Given the unsympathetic stance of the Harper Administration, disillusioned members of the Canadian opposition, like New Democrat Member of Parliament Olivia Chow, have suggested that the only chance left for the deserters may be general elections and a new government. For Wiley, McDowell and the other Iraq War deserters in Canada, that may be their best hope.

Help In These Times publish more articles like this. Donate today!
Subscribe today and save 46% off the newsstand price!

Roman Goergen has worked as a journalist in Europe, southern Africa and Canada. His work has been published in leading international publications in English and German – ranging from business titles such as Financial Times to lifestyle magazines like GQ and scientific publications like the New Scientist. Goergen also founded the syndication agency FeatureNet in Johannesburg, South Africa. He now lives in Toronto.

April 14, 2011

April 10, 2011

'Creechers' from Nevada murder 23 innocent Afghanis, including 2 little boys, with their Predator 'toys'. They kill them with Reapers from Syracuse.

Anatomy of an Afghan war tragedy
U.S. Predator teams and a special operations unit on the ground studying a suspicious convoy make a series of fateful missteps as they try to distinguish friend from foe."No way to tell from here," the camera operator added.
At 9:30 a.m., the pilot came back on the radio.

"Since the engagement," he said, "we have not been able to PID [positively identify] any weapons."

U.S. and Afghan forces reached the scene 2 1/2 hours after the attack to provide medical assistance. After 20 minutes more, medevac helicopters began taking the wounded to a hospital in Tarin Kowt, in Oruzgan. More serious cases were later transferred to Kabul.

"They asked us who we were, and we told them we were civilians from Kijran district," said Qudratullah, who lost a leg.

By the U.S. count, 15 or 16 men were killed and 12 people were wounded, including a woman and three children. Elders from the Afghans' home villages said in interviews that 23 had been killed, including two boys, Daoud, 3, and Murtaza, 4.

You need to take the time to read this article. It is the direction war-fighting is taking. People from halfway around the world are executing people with their video machines. It's popular with politicians because they falsely believe that their constituency won't care if they don't have a lot of our soldiers coming home in body bags.

After they track and kill all day at the 'office', they go home and play with their kids. Weird, but true. Some of the war resisters tell us that they couldn't do it to the children over their any more when they thought about their kids back home - so they left the military.

If we can accidentally kill innocent people from a few hundred feet away, I can't begin to imagine us being more accurate from the other side of the world.

If you are on the west coast mid-April, you can join the Sacred Peace Walk and make a statement opposing nuclear weapons and/or the drones at Creech AFB (north of Las Vegas)

If you are on the east coast join us on at the Ground the Drones / End the Wars protest on April 22nd in Syracuse and at Hancock Airbase. They just eased up on FAA regulations that allow the stealth drones to fly and 'play' over the Adirondacks and commercial airspace around Syracuse, NY.

anti-war rally in NYC, April 9th

April 9, 2011

Afghans for Peace

Pentagon Cops Throw Down 80-Year-Old Woman, Other Peace Protesters


Saturday, 09 April 2011, Joy First

PENTAGON, WASHINGTON, DC – On April 8, 2011 at approximately noon, 25 civilian activists organized by the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance arrived at the Pentagon to deliver a letter asking for a meeting with Secretary of War Robert Gates in order to discuss bringing an end to U.S. wars and the destruction of the environment resulting from military policies.

Within less than three minutes, with the activists peacefully requesting that the Secretary’s office receive their letter, Pentagon police officers swarmed the scene, violently moving the activists from the area. They were violently pushed and shoved, the activists said. Several activists reported that the police almost knocked them over. A number of individuals had their arms forcefully and painfully wrenched behind their backs. Eve Tetaz, 80, was pushed to the ground. As the officers pushed the citizens towards the police vans, they did not ever announce to any individuals that they were being arrested.

The protesters were taken to the Navy Annex for processing where they were given a warning for failure to obey a lawful order. Once the Pentagon Police had the names of all the activists, they searched their system and found that eight of the 25 had been arrested at the Pentagon in the past. Those eight individuals were then given a citation for “disorderly conduct”.

The eight activists, David Barrows, Joy First, Alice Gerard, Malachy Kilbride, Max Obuszewski, Ned Smith, Eve Tetaz, and Paki Weiland will take their case to the courts on June 3, 2011.

This action by the Pentagon Police was a blatant violation of their First Amendment rights. The activists were there within their legal rights, fulfilling their Nuremberg obligations, standing in a public access area. There was no disorderly conduct on the part of the activists. Rather, the police acted in a violent and unlawful manner towards the activists.

The citizen activists were attempting to bring to the attention of the Pentagon information on how the U.S. military uses more petroleum than any other single entity in the world, and it is responsible for releasing immeasurable amounts of lethal toxic chemicals into the air, soil and water in the course of maintaining military bases in the U.S. and around the world.

The Pentagon engages in rampant death and destruction in such countries as Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Yemen and other parts of the world. Besides the toxic chemicals, the military uses depleted uranium ammunition, with disastrous, long-term harmful health effects on all who inhale it and their offspring in the form of genetic defects. Most recently this illegal weapon is suspected to have been used in Libya. Thus, the activists were seeking a meeting with the Secretary of Defense to discuss both the excessive warmongering and the ecocide being committed against Mother Earth by the Pentagon.

This action was endorsed by the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance, Climate SOS, Code Pink, Fellowship of Reconciliation, Jonah House, National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee (NWTRCC), Nukewatch, Peace Action, SOA Watch, Soulforce, United National Anti-war Committee, Veterans for Peace, Voices for Creative Nonviolence, War Is A Crime.org, War Resisters League, Washington Peace Center, Witness Against Torture, and Women's International League for Peace and Freedom.

-thanks to Joy First, one of the activists arrested

April 8, 2011

Iraqis launch sit-ins at US military bases across Iraq this Saturday April 9

While there has been wide coverage in US media about the protests in Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, Yemen, Libya, and elsewhere, less has been reported on the uprsings by ordinary people in Iraq who are protesting the ongoing US occupation and the corrupt regime it supports. As in other countries, Iraqi protesters have been met with violent crack-downs from the US-backed government, but protesters vow to continue until their demands are met.

Our friends at the War Resisters League have been following events closely there and share this report and call to action.

Since February 25th, Iraqis - fueled by the air of audacity sweeping their region - have been organizing weekly protests against government corruption, lack of public services, and for the release of thousands of Iraqis who they say have been arbitrarily imprisoned by the government. (Read more here on the growing protest movement in Iraq.)

This Saturday, April 9th, 8 civil society organizations have planned 'The Day of Salvation' - open-ended sit-ins in front of US military bases all over Iraq. They plan to continue the protests until 'the occupier and its agents leave.'

Among the Iraq protest organizers is Muntazer al-Zaidi, the famed Bush shoe-thrower, who helps lead an organization called, The Popular Movement to Save Iraq.

They vow that April 9th wll launch a long-term sit-in across Iraq that will continue until their demands are met. They are planning to set up tents in front of US military bases in every Iraqi province. In total, these bases house 50,000 combat-ready US troops and 75,000 private contractors.

The Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), signed by George W. Bush and the Iraqi government in late 2008, pushed for making 54 major US bases in Iraq permanent, while also announcing a full withdrawal of US 'combat forces' by the end of 2011. As recently as January 31, 2011, Senator Kerry, chairmain of the Committee on Foreigh Relations, has opened the possibility of getting the Iraqi government to sign a new security agreement delaying US withdrawal, while Vice President Joe Biden has recently implied that US troops may need to stay on to 'help train Iraqis.'

Actions you can take to support the democracy movement in Iraq

You can show real solidarity with Iraqis who will be putting their lives on the line to liberate their country from US control.

1) Visit and like the Iraqi protest page on Facebook: "Support Iraqi Protesters in the Great Iraqi Revolution" for updates and to write messages of support.

2) If you are near San Francisco and NYC this weekend, you can join in solidarity rallies in NY on April 9, and S.F. on April 10.

3) Download and share this educational comic, and let people know what is happening to Iraqis and how they are organizing to fight back.

4) Call President Obama at the White House at 202-456-1111, and tell him to listen to Iraqi civil society: No permanent US military presence in Iraq.

Thanks for taking action, and thanks to Ali Issa at War Resisters League for compiling this information.

In Solidarity,

Iraq Veterans Against the War staff

-thanks to IVAW