Let 'Em Stay
Prior to Christmas, two AWOL American troops lost a final appeal for refugee status - the Supreme Court refused to even hear the case. Then on December 6th a committee on immigration voted for a recommendation orchestrated by the NDP's Olivia Chow. It called for the Canadian government come up with a program to allow Iraq War resisters and families to stay.
Hear any of the Toronto based war resisters speak at a public meeting and patterns become clear in their experiences. Kim Rivera, a red head in her early twenties, served in an Artillery unit in Baghdad, that shipped out first in August 2006. Tales of gore, IED's and guts quickly changed her mind about the mission. The dehumanisation of Iraqi workers forced to etch out employment inside forward operation bases added to it.
Another of the Toronto based war resisters is Phil McDowell. He joined straight after the September 11th attacks during his senior year majoring in IT. He was discharged in June 2006, some months later while traveling, he got notice he was being stop lossed back to Fort Hood, Texas for yet another deployment to Iraq.
The Stop Loss policy is designed to offset the ebb and flow of recruiting patterns. It allows the military to forcibly re-enlist soldiers or involuntarily extend their tour of duty in a war zone – it’s a virulent source of antagonism for soldiers.
More of the war resisters are pissed off with what they feel is a de facto economic draft. The military hierarchy pushes its press gangers to target areas where socio-economic background thwarts the goals or ambitions of youth. The military is then presented as a path out.
Then there are benefits, like health, for families too. The partner of another war resister, Jill Hart, knows all about that – she put pressure on her husband to re-enlist so her sick kid could have medical coverage.
Compare the likely persecution these men and women face if deported stateside with the record of the civilian architects of war that avoided donning uniforms but daily play dice with the lives of troops for political capital.
John Ashcroft received six student deferments during Vietnam. Wolfowitz too received the same deferment, allowing him to do graduate work until the draft was over. Bush is the most famous “chicken hawk” of them all - he scored a position in the Texas Air National Guard, once a popular way to avoid being drafted for combat.
Stateside the campaign is based around Courage to Resist, and braces itself for a Winter Soldier 2008. It’s an attempt echo a 1971 event where anti-war veterans testified to war crimes they’d witnessed or even participated in.
Here, War Resisters are gearing up for a political battle to allow them to stay. Exhausted and unable to cope with many more AWOL soldiers, they hope things soon take on the colour of the sixties and grow into a mass movement of support.
At least now there's one way to cheer on the troops, when they start disobeying their superiors and refuse to fight.
SUPPORT ‘EM>> see warresisters.ca for more.