In a war fought by voluntary soldiers, the line between military deserter and war resister can be slim.
At the age of 19, Boise native Robin Long enlisted in the United States Army seeking a job with steady pay, medical benefits and a chance to go to college. Two years later, while stationed in a non-deployable unit at Fort Knox, Kentucky, Pfc. Long and a handful of troops from his unit received orders to go to Iraq. Long was given three weeks leave before his report date.
But instead of reporting for duty at Fort Carson, Colorado on April 10, 2005, Long went AWOL (absent without leave) and spent several months hiding out in a friend's basement in Boise. In June 2005, Pfc. Long hitchhiked to Canada. Once there, Long spent several months living as a vagrant out of soup kitchens and hitchhiking coast to coast.
Now 22, Long is settled in Ontario and is engaged to be married to a Canadian woman with whom he is expecting a child.
Was it a personal decision or a political decision to go AWOL?
A little bit of both. It was mostly political because I really didn't feel like [the Bush administration] had proven that there was any reason for us to be over there. They hadn't proven there were weapons of mass destruction. It wasn't sanctioned by the United Nations. It also was a war of aggression. They [Iraq] were no threat to us. And after seeing Abu Ghraib and the killing of civilians ... you can look at anything on the Internet and see people have been tortured and civilians have been killed for no reason. Also, the people who were coming into my unit had just come from Iraq and they were telling me horrific stories. And another thing was that my superiors were telling me, "You're going to the desert to fight rag heads." It wasn't like I was going to Iraq to liberate the people. It was like I was going to the desert to kill "rag heads." They were trying to make people less human.
The above, noted by Lyle, is from Rachael Daigle's "Why I Ran: A military deserter explains why he left the Army for Canada" (Boise Weekly). Need more? Lyle notes that there's a companion piece "Why I Ran (UNEDITED TRANSCRIPT):"
[Daigle]: Jeremy Hinzman's case has been so publicized, how does the denial of his refugee claim make you feel about your own pending case?
[Long]: Right now I'm taking the political stance on it. I'm not really too worried about that because I have a Canadian fiancée and I can marry her and get sponsorship. And I have a baby on the way so I'm not really worried about what's going to happen until I exhaust all my appeals. I'm doing what a lot of other people are doing, just taking it one step at a time. The Canadian people have already given us a lot of support and they are behind us, it's just the government is kind of not lenient. They're waiting to see how the States are going to react. I think they're kind of scared.
As you were traveling, especially as you were traveling through Idaho to get to Canada, did you have to explain your situation?
I told them exactly how it was and they were kind of hippie-ish. They were like 21 or 22. It was a couple, and they were totally supportive of it. They thought it was pretty cool that they were taking a modern day draft dodger to Canada. They were really enthusiastic about it.
Have you met many other deserters since you've been in Canada?
Actually I haven't met any of the other [people involved with the] war resisters because they live in northern Ontario and they're all based in Toronto. But I have met some other deserters that aren't public--who aren't on that Web site. [The people on that Web site are] all the public people. I've met people who are still underground. I met a couple of them at a rainbow gathering in Quebec. There's a few there and I met another one in Alberta. It's just easy to pick out another person from the Army and they can pick me out. I guess it's the way we walk or something (laughs).
What are the legal ramifications you face?
Well if I go back to the States, it's definitely going to be jail. They're giving people anywhere from a year in prison at Fort Leavenworth to three or four years. Some people, they're not even sending to jail. They're sending them straight to Iraq as punishment. They're not even giving them a court or hearing. But I think since I've come to Canada, the punishment is going to be harsher because we're out in the open and speaking against the United States government and our involvement. They may make an example out of us so I really don't know. They have the death penalty on the books during war time, and I wouldn't put it past the Bush administration to do something really wild because they've been setting precedences with everything else.
Analysts say that half of all deserters return to the military on their own volition because the military is more lenient on someone who surrenders than someone they have to apprehend, but also because they're tired of living on the lam or out of the country or underground in the United States. What's your plan, to stay in Canada?
Yeah, I love Canada. It's kind of ... In the States it's a melting pot of different cultures and everyone loses their culture. And up here in Canada, they celebrate individual cultures and they have a good social net with things like free health care. They really take care of their people--not like the United States--but they have their problems, too.
Rachael Daigle, Peter Long and Boise Weekly reminding the country of the real difference between alternative newspapers and mainstream. If they're up to challenge. I'm not referring to alternative weeklies that had a slow week this week. I'm referring to those who never weigh in. (Except to run the syndicated article about the photos of the corpses -- and that ran only because there was a "porn" -- standard porn, not war pornography -- swap.) If you're idea of "alternative" means you take a 'tude over a Meg Ryan film and run WHITE KIDS IN DANGER! stories alternating with sports features, you're not serving anyone. Don't kid yourself that you are. We're in month five of the year, passed the three year mark on the illegal war, at what point do you get serious?
From Military Families Speak Out:
SILENCE OF THE DEAD
VOICES OF THE LIVING
A WITNESS TO END THE WAR IN IRAQ
MAY 11 --14, 2006 WASHINGTON, DC
From May 11-14, Military Families Speak Out members will be in the nation's capital along with Gold Star Families Speak Out, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Veterans For Peace, Gold Star Families for Peace, September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows and others as the American Friends Service Committee displays the Eyes Wide Open exhibit on the National Mall and as we all gather together to highlight the cost of the war and call for our troops to be brought home now and taken care of when they get here. For more information, send us an e-mail at email@example.com or go to the AFSC website.
And you can read some families sharing their stories here:
DIANE DAVIS SANTORIELLO -- PENN HILLS, PA
Given incorrect information about son's deathFor Diane Davis Santoriello, her son's death in Iraq was only the beginning of her trauma. With less than one month left in his tour of duty, First Lt. Neil A. Santoriello, Jr., was killed by an improvised explosive device detonated near his Abrams tank. Though Diane and her husband were told by their casualty assistant that their son had died instantly, they later learned that he died two hours after the initial explosion. "We were given incorrect information about our son," Diane recounted. "We struggle daily because we did not see his body -- we were incorrectly told that he was not viewable." Diane has worked relentlessly to "get to the truth" of her son's death and to improve the casualty reporting process so that other families won't have to go through the same painful experience.
A member of Military and Gold Star Families Speak Out, Diane opposed military action in Iraq from the start. She recalls that "the pain in my gut screamed at my head 'write about this war, speak out against this war!'" But Diane's love for her son kept her from getting involved; she didn't want to undermine her son's confidence. Looking back, Diane regrets not speaking out sooner. "But I speak out now," she asserts, "to protect the people still serving and to try to restore honor to our country."
CELESTE ZAPPALA -- PHILADELPHIA, PA
"I cannot and will not stop trying to speak the truth"
Celeste Zappala lost her son, Sergeant Sherwood Baker, age 30, in an explosion in Baghdad on April 26, 2004. He was providing security for the Iraq Survey Group looking for weapons of mass destruction. Remembering that day, Celeste says that "it was just terrible, really the worst moment of my life." Celeste sees her activism as part of her duty to America. "I cannot and will not stop trying to speak the truth," she asserts. "This is the democracy we all live in, and we all have to be responsible for what is happening."
Celeste sees herself as "a person who has tried to live consciously, in a non-violent manner." She has opposed the war from the start and sees the fight for a humane and just world as her life's work. She is a long-time member of Military Families Speak Out, and now also a leader in Gold Star Families Speak Out. Drawing on the memory of her son Sherwood, who she calls "everybody's soldier, everybody's son," Celeste works doggedly to bring an end to the war in Iraq. "He really believed in America," she asserts. Celeste's persistence in speaking out underscores that she too shares this faith in America and that she will not relent until everyone's sons and daughters return home from Iraq.
You have to read it by clicking here because your aleternative weeklies aren't that alternative.
They aren't interested in reality or in the stories that effect us all. They want strike a pose and play tough guy who says shocking things about women.
And in the dailies? Lot of jerking off over White men. Maybe some albino gave a fiery court room speech about Bully Boy's tax cuts and we can all high five over that b.s.? Or maybe a "comedian" had a "character" (that he broke repeatedly if that was even an excuse) and we all want to drool over that?
Tonight on ER, the war comes home (came home in some time zones where it's already aired). But Parminder Nagra's Dr. Neela Rasgotra was ignored last time when her comments on the war weren't as important as some flashy speech. I'm sure that there's some White male who did something on TV that will be deemed as more important.
Just like last time. This wasn't just a court room speech, this was a storyline that they worked very hard on. It's actually given the show life. And it's created a wonderful starting point for a dicussion if any viewers are still playing the Quiet Game or sitting on the fence. I know people involved so someone could argue that's why I continue to note the program; however, Ava and I both know people involved and when we did our review at the start of the fall season and we didn't pull any punches. ("Pull the plug!" isn't pulling punches.)
It does matter what the alternative weeklies cover. It does matter what we hear on the radio or see on TV. Ending the war doesn't come via secluded conversations with only our nearest and dearests. It comes by putting the war front and center.
Lyle's highlight brings it home. Military Families Speak Out and other wonderful organizations bring it home. Nagra's performance brings it home. We can bring it home. But it won't be by applauding the usual sources. Cindy Sheehan didn't emerge from the usual sources.
If we'd spent the last two years listening to the usual sources, we'd still be either blindly behind the Bully Boy's illegal war or saying, "Yes, it's wrong but, like Colin Powel said, it's the Pottery Barn!" No, it's an illegal occupation that has bred the cycle of violence. It's an illegal occupation that preaches democracy but does nothing to allow for self-rule. It's an illegal occupation that's claiming lives of all nationalities, of all ages.
We were told the occupation had to go on because if US forces left, violence would emerge. And a lot of people (including xenophobes who saw the Iraqis as children when standing next to the almighty America) kidded themselves that this was reality. It wasn't. Now things are even worse and they'll continue to get worse. There's no point in kidding that the US forces are keeping something together.
KeShawn found a highlight that features someone speaking out on those issues. From Kevin Capp's "The long strange trip: Elliot Anderson went halfway around the world to fight terrorists. He returned with a mission and a surprising message" (Las Vegas City Life):
But [Elliot] Anderson freely fires his rhetorical machine-gun -- almost gleefully -- when talking about the sorry state of the republic under President George W. Bush and his sycophants in Congress, particularly as it relates to Iraq and the steel lid dropped on war opponents whenever they speak out.
"Right now, we're in a bad war and change needs to happen," he says. "We have to put a check and balance. That's what it comes to in American government."
If the estimated 300,000 vets living in Nevada are anything like Anderson, they're bloody upset at the putative party of the warrior. And if those who aren't already blue decide to scrub off the red and get organized as voters and candidates, Silver State Republicans may do well to go with another strategy this election cycle.
Says state Sen. Terry Care, a Vietnam vet and a Democrat: "Veterans figured to a greater degree in 2004" on the blue team because of John Kerry's presidential campaign. Adding, "It's not a group of voters to be overlooked by any means."
When Anderson's political epiphany flicked him in the forehead last year, he became more than just another veteran riding the donkey not to be overlooked. He became an activist to be heard.
They're just there to try and make the people free,
But the way that they're doing it, it don't seem like that to me.
Just more blood-letting and misery and tears
That this poor country's known for the last twenty years,
And the war drags on.
-- words and lyrics by Mick Softly (available on Donovan's Fairytale)
Last Thursday, the American military fatality count stood at 2412. Right now? 2432. 28 for the month which is three short of the much applauded month of March -- another turned corner that wasn't. And, to steal from Marci, "That's reality."
"That's reality"? Her statement on Dahr Jamail's latest. From "All of Us Participate in a New Iraq" (Truthout via Iraq Dispatches):
Last Friday I was at the University of Texas, Austin, giving a presentation on Iraq. After dumping an hour's worth of horrible "real news" about Iraq, I was asked the question I have by now learnt to expect: "Is there anything good happening there at all?" I understand why people ask this. There must be some hope, somewhere, right?
I suggested that there are always the military press releases folks can go to, for an "upper" about Iraq. Here I recounted one of these bogus "news" reports. Released during my second stint in Iraq, a report of May 21, 2004, stated: "The Coalition Provisional Authority has recently given out hundreds of soccer balls to Iraqi children in Ramadi, Karbala, and Hilla. Iraqi women from Hilla sewed the soccer balls, which are emblazoned with the phrase, All of Us Participate in a New Iraq."
That same evening after my presentation, I received an email from a doctor friend in Baghdad. The email pertains to the question I was asked, so I quote it here:
"Dear Mr. Dahr, I am wondering why? Americans and coalition forces were supported by pro-Iranian Militias, like the Badr Organization! The support and help of Iraqi Shiites at first helped to somewhat stabilize and maintain the occupation. Death squads trained by the coalition forces are working day and night under cover of the Ministry of Interior, attacking innocent people: both Sunnis and Shiites!!!! In spite of knowing very well who is doing what, we still see no improvement in the security situation. On the contrary, the situation is getting worse. I have many colleagues, doctors and other professionals, who are now begging for help to get out of Iraq for their lives and for their families' lives! The only losers are the Iraqis. The only Iraqis who are benefiting from this war are those who spend all their life outside Iraq and are now living in their big castle, the green zone!!!!! Everyone now knows that the invasion of Iraq was carried out upon falsified testimonies and lies!!!! What is going on on the ground differs a lot from what the media tells!!!!! I mean that."
As bad as things are in Iraq today, it may come as a surprise to many people in the US, including many who never supported the illegal invasion and occupation to begin with, that Iraq has been a disaster from the first day of the invasion.
Need more reality? Try this from CODEPINK:
Declare peace on Mother's Day with CODEPINK! We will be gathering in Washington DC for a 24-hour vigil outside the White House on May 13-14, and will be joined by amazing celebrity actresses, singers, writers, and moms, including Cindy Sheehan, Patch Adams, and Susan Sarandon! Bring your mother, children, grandmothers, friends, and loved ones. We will be honoring the mothers of the fallen by sending them organic roses. Click here to send your rose! We're also writing letters to Laura Bush to appeal to her own mother-heart, turning them into a book, "Letters to Laura." For event info click here, read our blogs and check out our online store for gift ideas.
By the way, a few people are sending something on a "Mother's Day" thing. We're not highlighting it. To me it smacks of an organization that's never really sure if it's opposing the war or just offering feedback attempting to steal attention away from CODEPINK. We can note other things from the organization (including write ups in magazines) but CODEPINK staked out their action sometime ago. And reading about them, I'm not tempted to scream, "Tell your lazy husband to get his ass out of bed when you do before whining again!" Walk on, walkon.org.
There are some real issues and I've never had a great deal of sympathy for those who take on all the responsibilites and then want to complain about it. One more responsibility to take on? You decided to be a doormat if you're waking up at the crack of dawn to do everything while your husband (or partner) sleeps. Face some reality before you start whining. Some actual reality comes via Jill's highlight, worldcantwait's "Judge Orders World Can't Wait Activist To Jail Psych Unit" (Cleveland Indy Media Center):
May 9: Judge Timothy McGinty forcibly incarcerated Carol Fisher in the psych unit of the Cuyahoga County Jail in downtown Cleveland, where she now sits for an indefinite period of time. In a hastily called hearing yesterday, Judge McGinty made a highly unusual and outrageous decision to force Carol to undergo a state psychological exam as part of her pre-sentencing investigation. From the very start of Carol's case, the judge has openly said that she must have mental problems for resisting an unlawful and brutal encounter with Cleveland Heights police. He went even further in yesterday's hearing, saying that her opposition to the Bush regime makes her "delusional."
The small courtroom on the 21st floor of the Justice Center was ringed with 5 armed court bailiffs. McGinty started off the hearing by making Carol stand up and had one of her attorneys read her t-shirt, which said: "Wanted for Illegally Crossing Borders: The Bush Regime "If you are going to insist that crossing borders illegally is a crime which cannot be tolerated, how about George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice (and yes, Colin Powell) and the rest of that gang, with their highly illegal, and violent, 'crossing of the border'-into Iraq, among other places?!" McGinty then said this was proof of her delusion!
He also kept saying Carol "wants" to go to jail, and that she has a "martyr complex." When Carol tried to explain why she wouldn't take this test, the judge's only response was, "I do not negotiate with felons."
Does Carol really want to go to jail? No! But she is not willing to comply with a vindictive court ordered test to "prove" her sanity. And more than that, she is taking a stand for everyone who is angry and fearful of a government that, under the rubric of "national security and the war on terror," willfully and unapologetically tramples on the most basic rights of privacy. Think about this in light of the NSA spying scandal, and now Bush wants to install the head of the notorious NSA to be CIA chief! As Carol said before she went to jail, "I'd be crazy to go along with this sh*t! That which you will not resist and mobilize to stop, you will learn--or be forced--to accept."
That's reality. A woman steps out of the comfort zone (as opposed to playing doormat) and her sanity's questioned. Seems to me that deserves a bit more attention than the tales of those grabbing all the burdens when they should be demanding the burdens be shared. There's a wonderful women who always inspires me to think in new ways, she teaches on the family -- sociology, and she never shies from asking why some will accept that crap. She'll illustrate using her own mother as an example. Always griping that she had to do everything but when her father attempts to do things, she redoes them because it's not this or that. The story she tells is longer and full of more details but she just popped into my thoughts and I don't want to put anything that identifies her in this without her permission. But the point is, a lot of women make a lot of work for themselves. Mothers without partners have no option of asking that their partners carry the burden. Women with partners who fail to demand it (or go around redoing) make their own lives. Burnt out because you won't ask your partner to do his share isn't a badge of honor. Play the martyr all you want -- burn at your self-constructed cross, Joan -- but there are people with real problems.
Such as peace activists who are spied upon which is the focus of Brandon's highlight. From
Andy Thayer's "Chicago Police Admit Spying On, Infiltrating Protest Meetings" (Chicago Indymedia):
At a time when civil liberties around the country continue to be under siege, the City of Chicago has once again admitted that it spies on protesters and infiltrates their organizing meetings.
As reported in the Chicago Police Department's recently released "2004 Annual First Amendment Compliance Audit," the City apparently feels that people exercising their legal 1st Amendment rights are a legitimate target for police spying and infiltration."Sworn [Police Department] members attended planning sessions for the protests in an undercover capacity," the report states, and "reports [were made] from officers, [and] various documents, fliers and items obtained via the internet."
The undercover infiltration was reportedly directed by the police department's Deployment Operations Center, a unit which is charged with "responding to emergency situations, special events, and mission directed patrols; conducting tactical analytical activities supporting effective deployment of field units; maintaining and deploying certain specialized vehicles; analyzing anti-terrorism intelligence; coordinating the Department's overall anti-terrorism planning and preparation; and providing dignitary protection."
The Deployment Operations Center is "commanded by a Deputy Superintendent who reports directly to the Superintendent."
Despite the crackdowns, despite the arrests, people continue to make themselves heard. Zach asked if we could highlight this in full? It's an attempt to get the word out, so we will. From Jessica Taal's "Update on the March 20th Arrests Against Torture" (SF Indymedia):
This is an update on the March 20th arrests in front of Diane Feinstein's office on Market Street. Seventeen protesters were arrested for refusing to move out of the street at a demonstration against the U.S. penchant for torture in the endless "War on Terror".
Following our arrest all seventeen of us were given a summons to appear in court on April 19th. The City then cancelled our court date and issued us a fine of $119.00 for vehicle code violations. Thankfully, the National Lawyers' Guild sent someone to request a new court date for us.
Our court date is now June 21st at 3pm. Our lawyer will again appear to set another date to file motions. Only one of us has actually paid the fine, and according to our lawyer, she may be able to get that money refunded if the charges against us are dropped.
Rather than quitely pay a fine and go away, we want to have the charges dismissed, or at the very least have our day in court and have the chance to verbalize some of what we are feeling about our actions. It seems that the City would like to depoliticize this whole event, and treat it as if we ran a stop sign. We crossed some lines alright, but they weren't double yellow. Stay tuned as this case progresses, and stand by in case we need supporters to show up in court!
That's reality. That's people speaking up. That's people taking control of their lives.
There are people who can't change their lives, can't take control. They may live in a war zone (declared or undeclared, military or civilian), they may be abused or battered. People who have the option of reflection and action and fail to use it need to take some responsibility. That over thirty-six years after Pat Mainardi outlined "The Politics of Housework" some are still willing to play I-can-do-it-all (and, in many cases, add on work outside the home) doesn't inspire a lot of sympathy. Young women just starting out may not know first principles. That is an excuse. Women who should know better and should be reflecting on their own situations but won't? Not a little sympathy. Universal childcare is something we should have. But that's not going to change the situation for a woman who sees it as a badge of honor (or sign of a perfect marriage) to 'do it all.' Quit playing gender roles (outmoded ones at that) and start doing some self-evaluation.
Which brings us to Bryan's highlight of someone who hopefully has done some self-evaluation (that's not an endorsement of a candidate, that is an endorsement of examining and learning).
From Ari Berman's "The New Kerry" (The Nation):
In the past few months Kerry has presented a side of himself very different from the one the public saw during the 2004 campaign. Freed from the grip of consultants, the spotlight of the national media and the Republican attack dogs, he is looser, clearer and more compelling. Call it the Al Gore Effect. At the end of a presidential campaign, losing candidates either retreat, keep up the good fight or attempt the arduous task of redefining themselves. Kerry's both fighting and redefining these days.
"The fact of losing so narrowly tends to concentrate the mind," Kerry tells me in an interview in his Senate office. Only a week after the death of his first wife, the mother of their two daughters, Kerry is surprisingly relaxed and upbeat, frank about his past failures and future aspirations. People close to him certainly sense a change in attitude. Former Senator Gary Hart, a confidant, believes Kerry has circled back to the Vietnam era, recognizing the folly of current US policy and rising to protest against it. "He's much more outspoken, much more decisive and much less likely to give credit to this Administration," Hart says.
The notoriously cautious Kerry has gone bold, conveying his views on Iraq and national security through an aggressive schedule of speeches, op-eds and talk-show appearances. Into the void of Democratic Party leadership, he's speaking for the vocal opposition--even endorsing Senator Russ Feingold's resolution to censure President Bush. Kerry's been written off before and is rising from the political graveyard yet again. "What does he have to lose now?" says Kerry biographer Douglas Brinkley. "He might as well go for broke."
If the excerpt doesn't get the point across, Berman's not playing Kerry cheerleader. (Nor should he.) By the way, Tammy also had a Berman highlight. I've passed that on to Rebecca because she really enjoys his writing and the topic (which I don't remember now) is something she's covered. Second song? I didn't get to it. I think it actually works with something on Democracy Now! today. I'll see if we can pair it up at The Third Estate Sunday Review this weekend.
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and the war drags on
diane davis santoriello
military families speak out
the politics of housework
dr. neela rasgotra
the third estate sunday review