A couple of hundred, like [Phil] McDowell, have gone further, leaving their former lives to flee to Canada, seeking sanctuary from the long arm of Uncle Sam. It is a well-worn path, trodden first in the 19th century by the pioneers of the Underground Railroad, African slaves fleeing the South, aided by abolitionists who sheltered them along the way. Then, in the Sixties, thousands of young men took the same route in evading the draft for Vietnam. And now, a steady trickle of soldiers, broken on the battlefields of Iraq, is once again following suit.
Much has changed since more than 50,000 young men escaping service in Vietnam made their journey north. Back then, the army was conscripted; now it is a volunteer force, though the current make-up of the military strains that description. Back then, young men signed up for university to defer the draft; now many young men from poor backgrounds join the military simply for the funds to go to college. Back then, Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau threw open the border, declaring that his country would be "a refuge from militarism" from which no deserter would be returned. Now, the only way for a deserter to seek refuge is to claim asylum and wait to see if Canada decides to accept them or deport them back home.
It is no small thing to turn your back on your country, as Phil McDowell can attest. McDowell thought he had served his time when he returned to Rhode Island after a year in Iraq. He had always been sceptical of the claims of WMDs, but still, "I just didn't think they'd make something that important up." He had joined the army just two months after September 11, during his senior year at college. "I felt it was something important for our generation, something honourable." Over the course of his year in Iraq, his disquiet grew. At Camp Justice near Sadr city, he was filled with shame at what he claims to have witnessed: hooded prisoners lying in their own faeces before being taken off and beaten.
He spoke to Iraqi translators who worked with the Americans; heard how they felt under occupation. He thought he might feel the same. To the irritation of his superiors, he began speaking out to his fellow soldiers against the war. "Most were kind of on my side, but there was nothing they could do," he says. He began saving up his leave, not wishing to take a single break that might lengthen his time there. His time over, he flew back to Rhode Island, dumped his gear and set out on a four-month hike along the Appalachian Trail to clear his head of the war.
Three hundred miles in, he called an old army friend. The friend had bad news: McDowell had been "stop-lossed", recalled to a compulsory extension on his service, referred to as the "back-door draft". He had a little over a week to report back to Fort Hood, and in three months he’d be back in Iraq. It was then he remembered a guy who’d gone to Canada, Jeremy Hinzmann, the first deserter there, now awaiting the outcome of his refugee status appeal. "I asked myself, could I really leave my country behind? It would have been easier just to go back, but I didn't want to be a pushover to myself."
The above is from Catherine Philip's "Goodbye Uncle Sam" (Times of London). Along with covering Phil McDowell's story, she also reports Dean Walcott and Chris Teske's journies and here's the concluding paragraph of the article:
None of them yet regrets his drastic move. For some, the War Resisters’ Campaign has provided an outlet for their frustrations, and the chance to meet other exiles like themselves. "The funny thing is, these past six years, I keep being sent to places where I don’t know anyone and I’m not allowed to leave," Walcott jokes. "So I refer to this as my fifth deployment. Because it’s really the same rule, it’s illegal to leave and I don’t know anybody. The difference up here is there’s a group that is dedicated to helping me, whereas being in the military, there’s a group more or less intent on destroying me."
The War Resisters Support Campaign is a Canadian based organization that works to help American war resisters in Canada. They are supported via donations. They have helped Jeremy Hinzman, Brandon Hughey, Kyle Snyder, Ross Spears and others.
Not all war resisters who move to Canada go public or, for that matter, utilize War Resisters Support Campaign. There are many underground in Canada and waiting to see if Canada will change its currently policy (thus far, the government has refused to grant asylum to any war resister).
As this has gone on, The Nation has played dumb. Initial coverage of Jeremy Hinzman took place before the handover of control. Since control was handed over, you've seen nothing on war resisters. Even when a Carl Webb or Camilo Mejia's name actually makes it into print, look for the term "war resister" anywhere next to it. The Nation, in it's current light-weight version, is allergic to the term while wanting to play off a reputation for bravery that came into being under Victor. Currently, the magazine's run by The Peace Resister and it's happy to hide behind generals, etc. It's happy to be as pathetic as the John Kerry campaign in 2004, mourning that a 'smart' illegal war wasn't being fought.
In the summer of 2006, the stories of war resisters burst forward and became one of the biggest stories of the year (even Rolling Stone magazine noted it in their year end issue) but The Nation refused to cover it and continues to refuse. Of the summer 2006 group going public, only Ehren Watada's name made it into print and that was a sidebar, after he'd been called a coward in the main article (on the bravery involved in signing petitions).
After constant and continued pressure, The Nation finally opted to cover Iraq in some real manner (printing reports that ran online at websites is not real coverage -- especially when you heavily edit the original online version). Because there's no journalistic training or experience in the current publisher and editor, the article embarrassed itself in many ways -- journalistically the most embarrassing aspect was the claim to have "dozens" of photos of Iraqis being abused by US troops -- without running a single photo. Thank you, Peace Resister, for protecting us from truth and reality. (That was sarcasm.) A journalism outlet doesn't do that. But The Nation's not about journalism, it's about electing Democrats (and pushing Obama for president). It has not been about ending the illegal war since Victor left.
The magazine since has picked up and dropped the story of the illegal war repeatedly and the only term for their coverage is 'dabbling.' They have run more feature articles in 2007 on a presidential race than they have on Iraq. Repeating: An ongoing, illegal war (one they've been happy to play publicly to be against) has gotten less coverage than what might happen in an election still over 12 months away.
That is embarrassing and it shameful.
While The Nation plays cowardly and stupid war resisters demonstrate real bravery. Someone return and refuse to go back. Some refuse to deploy in the first place. Some give up careers that they are satisfied in, that they enjoy, because they will not take part in the illegal war. Centrists (who get a lot of propping up from The Nation) want to create a scale that says those who left (either via self-checkout or through the recognized channels) don't have a voice worth hearing. The reality is that all voices are valued when they call out an illegal war. The reality is that in a democracy, citizens don't hide behind a military. The reality is that a person who gave up a career they believed in (think of Ann Wright leaving the State Dept.) know a great deal about loss and are more than informed enough to speak. They don't need to belong to a centrist organization (which, for the record, does not call for an end to the illegal war) to be able to speak. They don't need to macho-up in order to speak.
The Nation loves to push that lie and then whine that they have women in top posts. The answer isn't cowards of the female gender or the male gender, the answer is bravery and it's in short supply at that magazine. (In fairness, before friends call, I know there's a clampdown coming from the top. I've heard it and I respect it. But reality is that Katrina vanden Heuvel is not all powerful and she can be countered.)
The alleged independent weekly is now run in such a way that it ignores reality. What's happening in the US military, the resistance in the ranks, is not only happening in this country.
From Ian Bruce's "Cases of Awol soldiers exceed 9000 since 2004" (Scotland's The Herald):
Army chiefs have been hit by more than 9000 cases of soldiers going absent without leave since 2004 and 1100 are still on the run at a time when the military is being stretched by its involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Ministry of Defence denied yesterday that the incidents -- the equivalent of almost 10% of the entire force - were connected to the current conflicts but admitted that there were almost 1300 cases of soldiers having gone missing in the first six months of this year alone.
Every day, more resist. This is from Sacramento's KTXL's "Sacramento Marine Has Gone AWOL:"
The war in Iraq has split the country, led to the lowest presidential approval ratings in decades, and is now resulting in more internal defiance than ever.
Private Zamesha Dominique has taken an absence without official leave, or AWOL, from the Marines. The 19 year old from Sacramento says she wishes she never signed up.
"I could refuse to go, but I'd be facing jail time. I'd rather face the jail time, than go to Iraq," Dominique said.Dominique's unit is currently training in Camp Pendleton and will soon be deployed to Iraq. She refuses to go because she says the Marines tricked her into joining; promising to pay for college and assuring her that she wouldn't see combat. Her decision not to attend training could cost her prison time and a dishonorable discharge.
A visitor wrote thinking we were missing a war resister. If you think we are, please e-mail. We're not trying to ignore anyone. The one in question has not yet made any statement I can find about war resistance. If he does, he will be noted here. The backstory there is that a not then war resister was pushed as such in 2006 despite no public statements on war resistance. It did the person more harm than good because there was actually another narrative that could have been told and could have helped the person. Instead, promoted as a war resister, a lot of outlets weren't interested in the other story. For that reason, we do not promote anyone as a war resister unless they've made a public statement.
Across the world, resistance grows to the illegal war. The really amazing thing is that some alleged independent outlets haven't increased their own coverage (not even in the fact of the approximately 70% of Americans who are against the illegal war). They toss it out in what they hope is enough quantity to keep begging for your money. They don't lead because they don't care about the illegal war. They're more interested in travel study pieces and in attempting to game a Democratic Party primary by lying (and it was lying) about the questions asked in a debate and the answers supplied. I'm not in the mood for that crap. Remember, Labor Day is coming. Short of an article appearing in The Nation, all community sites will be running a feature that day.
The e-mail address for this site is firstname.lastname@example.org. [Also, this is the second entry. I'm almost done with that one but I was returning calls and the things linked to above were noted by friends.]