The Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada has rejected the asylum claim of another U.S. Army deserter, ruling that Joshua Key will likely be court-martialled if returned to the United States, but not persecuted or subjected to cruel or unusual punishment.
During his six-month tour of duty in Iraq in 2003, Mr. Key, a 27-year-old Oklahoma native, says he observed a litany of grisly horrors by his fellow soldiers, including an incident where a soldier kicked around the severed head of an Iraqi man as though it were a soccer ball.
However, IRB member Keith Brennenstuhl ruled that these "appear to be isolated excesses . . . by rogue elements in the military." Mr. Key did not commit war crimes when he participated in raids on Iraqi civilians and arrested males over the age of 16, some of whom ended up in the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, he ruled.
The above, noted by Vic, is from Marina Jimenez' "American deserter's refugee claim rejected" (Globe & Mail). Now if you're scratching your head and thinking, "Didn't we talk about this Sunday?" -- yes, we did. But considering that this is one of the few stories on the topic and that the US media -- big and small -- has completely ignored it, better a little late than a long time never. The same could be said of US war resister Ivan Brobeck's return which, unless you caught Monday's Flashpoints, you might not even know about.
It's a point, the ignoring, that rings through in this piece, Gladys Tericho's "Winnipeg conference explores issues of conscientious objection" (Mennonite Central Committee):
Every seat was filled at a weekend history conference here, Oct. 20-21, exploring issues related to war and conscientious objection.
The unwavering stand against military service during World War I and World War II was discussed by speakers representing several faith groups, including Mennonite, Doukhobor, Quaker and Jehovah's Witnesses.
Although the speakers and audience were keenly supportive of conscientious objection, they noted the historic commitment to pacifism is in danger of eroding. Conrad Stoesz, the archivist at Mennonite Heritage Centre in Winnipeg, reflected on the historical negotiations between Mennonite church leaders and the Canadian government to establish the alternative service program during World War II.
He read an excerpt of a heated exchange between a Mennonite church leader, Rev. Jacob H. Janzen and Major General LaFleche.
"La Fleche asked the delegation, 'What will you do if we shoot you?' That was too much for Janzen, who had survived several desperate situations in the Soviet Union," said Stoesz.
"Obviously agitated, he replied: 'Listen General, I want to tell you something. You can't scare us like that. I've looked down too many rifle barrels in my time to be scared in that way. This thing is in our blood for 400 years and you can't take it away from us like you'd crack a piece of kindling over your knee. I was before a firing squad twice. We believe in this!'"
More than 60 years later, Janzen's comments prompted a spontaneous applause from the audience.
But Harry Loewen, Professor Emeritus of Mennonite History and Studies at the University of Winnipeg, said he fears that Mennonite church leaders and their congregations are losing their strong convictions to uphold this founding principle of the Mennonite church.
"It is important that we deal with these issues now," he said, noting he has heard people from Mennonite churches say that the historical peace position of the Mennonite church is not relevant today. "I disagree," he added. "This principle must not be abandoned, it must be strengthened."
Other speakers noted conscientious objectors have made many worthwhile contributions during and after wars, but their stories remain virtually untold. "Files on conscientious objectors were intentionally destroyed because archivists thought this was not worth keeping," said Jim Penton of the University of Lethbridge.
No destruction needed today to suppress their stories, just hand them a year's worth of The Nation and the average reader will never know that anyone in the military said "no" to war. Which may be saddest thing of all considering that the magazine started, all those years ago, because of a stand (abolition of slavery) but today seems to determined to become the text version of a Sunday chat & chew. (The Progressive? A year's worth of 2006 would at least include photos of Ricky Clousing announcing his "no" to war in Seattle.) Those needing a preview of how independent media will "cover" Iraq should click here. (Not intended as an insult to the mainstream daily you're taken to, just noting that is how the mainstream will cover it and watch independent media rush to ape and copy as opposed to being, I don't know, 'independent.')
The US military today announced: "One Marine assigned to 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division died Wednesday from wounds sustained due to enemy action while operating in Al Anbar Province.The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense."
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nora barrows friedman