When 27 year old machine gunner Chris Teske was in Germany with the US army when he decided he couldn't go to Iraq. After two tours in Afghanistan he'd been honorably discharged but they called him back to service to train young soldiers in the use of the 50 calibre machine gun. He had reached a point where, according to his wife St and he had to stop. He couldn't take responsibility for arming these young men since, as his wife Stephanie says, "the racism against the Muslim culture that was all through the army there, really got to him". He decided to escape. He and his wife spent a couple of months researching desertion and finally decided to go to Canada.
"We wanted some place where the language wasn't a problem and our family could drive to see us" says Stephanie. But they had to get out of Germany first.
Soldiers don't have access to their passports. They have to use only their military ID to travel so the Teskes had to try and fly out of Germany minus a passport. Stephanie pled their case. "I cried a lot and told them we'd spent $3,000 on these tickets and my parents were waiting for us and frankly, we just got lucky." They flew to North Carolina -- their home state -- jumped in a car and drove straight north. They had help with places to stay and food from the war resisting community on both sides of the border until they reached Toronto, October 11th, two days after Canadian Thanksgiving.
Soon after they applied for protected refugee status which allows them to work and provides them with health insurance until the court hears their case, which could take up to a year.
Lee Zalosfky deserted from the US military during the Vietnam war. Now living in Toronto he's the Coordinator of the War Resisters Support Campaign which is the only national support group for resisters. He believes his group will soon be helping many other deserters settle in Canada. Estimates for more troops heading to Iraq go as high as twenty thousand. More Stop Loss orders are being issued. This is when the military decides they need to keep soldiers even after they have finished their terms. If like Chris Teske you are on inactive ready reserve – basically around for domestic disasters -- you could well find yourself heading to Iraq.
Most of the resisters are apolitical, according to Zalosfky working class guys who went into the service to learn a trade or help pay for college. Usually they feel they held up their end of the deal and now they want their money and their freedom.
Canadians may be welcoming but their legal system is less keen. Recently Jeffrey Hinzman and Brandon Hughey, who deserted and came to Canada, were refused refugee status by the Immigration and Refugee Board. They are appealing the decision to the Federal Court of Appeal and hope to appear there in Feb.
The above is from Mary Ambrose's "Canada Gives Cold Shoulder to War Resisters" (New America Media).
Today the US military announced: "An improvised explosive device detonated near a Multi-National Division - Baghdad patrol, killing one Soldier south of the Iraqi capital Dec. 31." That brings the total number of US troops killed in Iraq in December to 114. Why they waited three days to announce it is worth asking? There was a time when the media appeared to give a damn about the deaths but those days are long gone and they need only read or listen to independent media to grasp that the count doesn't even register these days.
It's time to stop kidding about who cares and who doesn't care. It's not the American people that don't care, though media big and small continue to try to sell you on that. Events were held around the country to note the 3,000 mark. But you've seen what your independent media does which is ignore the 3,000 mark or give more attention (for day three) to James Brown than to the 3,000 mark. It's pretty obvious where the problem is and it's not with the people.
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