Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Other Items

Permit me a personal reminiscence. It was 40 years ago today, I stood on the steps of a courthouse in New York City and joined with up to 2,000 other young American men (Wikipedia says 1,000 -- they are wrong) in returning our draft cards to the US government to protest the immoral and disastrous war in Vietnam. We were among the waves and waves of protesters who eventually forced the end of the war.
This particular action led to most of us being punitively drafted, which led to my adopting Canada as a new home. Now, with deep integration of immigration and policing, it is much harder for American war resisters to get into and stay in Canada as I was fortunate enough to do. It was hard enough for us in the laid-back '60s and '70s. I feel for today's deserters. Because they were volunteers, and generally not middle class, they don't get the public support we got. The Bush administration has been able to keep their protests in check.
Our act of mass civil disobedience on October 16, 1967 didn't change a lot, but it contributed to the mass effort. Those punitive draft calls most of us received may have triggered an important change, though.
The Supreme Court later declared these call-ups illegal because they were not due process of law. According to Wiki, "The charges of unfairness led to the institution of a draft lottery for the year 1970 in which a young man's birthday determined his relative risk of being drafted."
That protest, on October 16 1967, was the pivotal turning point in my life. In many ways the fallout made my life a lot harder, though not as hard as being a prisoner, a soldier, a casualty, or a Vietnamese war victim. With all the things I might have done in life, I don't regret, for a moment, this one action.
-- written on October 16, 2007, on a laptop in Toronto, the city that welcomed me in 1968

Vic notes the above from Ish Theilheimer's "Ontario election offers puzzles and some hope for the Left: And Vietnam draft resistance, 40 years later" (Canada's Straight Goods). Every story shared today has an impact. In this morning's New York Times, Richard A. Oppel Jr. and Mudhafer al-Husaini's "Truck Bomb Kills Up to 16 Iraqis in Mosul" focuses on some of the violence while other media outlets continue to push the idea that the violence has stopped. The brief (six paragraph) article runs on A10 and mainly focuses on the Mosul truck bombing which claimed at least 16 lives Tuesday and left over fifty wounded:

It was not clear how many Iraqi policemen were among the dead and wounded. Some news reports quoted officials as saying that the police death toll was four.
One witness, Ali Mishal, said the bomber evaded blast walls and other defenses near the police station by approaching on side streets. "The explosion was huge, and the windows of all the houses in the neighborhood were blown out by the huge power" of the blast, he said.

If you're wondering what's the most glaring omission for the article, the death of Sheikh Saleh Fezea Shneitar (and his son and nephew) outside Falluja because this is yet another assassination of a member of the "Anbar Awakenings Council." Considering how much the Times in particular has pimped that organization ("PROGRESS!"), it's an especially glaring omission. The violence continues today with Reuters already noting a Jalawla truck bombing that's claimed at least 1 life (and at least ten are wounded) and a Diwaniya roadside bombing that has claimed the lives of 7 police officers, the corpse of a police officer discovered in Riyadh.
Reuters also offers "Who are the PKK?" -- a primer. And CNN is reporting:

The Iraqi army has no plan to deploy its soldiers near the rugged Turkish-Iraqi border to take on the Kurdish rebels targeting Turkey, and Iraqi authorities are satisfied with the efforts by the Iraqi Kurdish regional authorities to deal with the militants there, a top Iraqi military official told CNN Wednesday.

Which seems to suggest that more pressure is felt in Turkey and the US House of Representatives than in Iraq and will further fuel talk that Jalal Talabani, Iraq's president and a Kurd, is not only disinterested in the issue, he's openly condoned it.

In yesterday's snapshot, we quoted from the New York Civil Liberties Union (ACLU chapter) press release on war resister Peter D. Brown. There's not space to run a press release in full in a snapshot, so we'll close with it this morning, "West Point Graduate Granted Conscientious Objector StatusOctober 16, 2007:"

After petitioning federal courts for release from the U.S. Army because his Christian beliefs compel him to love his enemies, not kill them, Captain Peter D. Brown has been granted conscientious objector status and honorably discharged from the military.
"I'm relieved the Army recognized that my religious beliefs made it impossible for me to serve as a soldier," Brown said. "In following Jesus' example, I could not have fired my weapon at another human being, even if he were shooting at me."
Back from Iraq, Brown will continue seminary classes he started by correspondence in the war zone.
Brown graduated from the US Military Academy at West Point in 2004. Though he comes from a religious family, he said he had not felt the conflict between his faith and military service until after his graduation, when he attended a civilian religious education center in Holland and began to examine the Scriptures and his beliefs in greater depth. After nearly two years of study, prayer and reflection, Brown said he came to believe that Jesus "taught that I should bless those who curse me and not fight back against evil with force.... I am supposed to love everyone. Killing others is not loving them. And I am even supposed to love our enemies."
While deployed in Iraq for more than a year, Brown applied for discharge from the Army as a conscientious objector. Though the Army-appointed Chaplain and Investigating Officer designated to investigate Brown's conscientious objector application concluded that he was sincere and recommended that he be honorably discharged, the Army disagreed and his request was denied. In July 2007, the New York Civil Liberties Union and the American Civil Liberties Union of the National Capital Area intervened on Brown's behalf and asked a federal court in Washington, DC to order the honorable discharge. Before the court acted, the Army reconsidered the issue, this time granting Brown’s request.
"The NYCLU and ACLU have long championed the cause of religious freedom, including the religious freedom of Christian and other conscientious objectors in the military," said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. "Peter Brown's discharge is an important moment in that history, and more importantly, it is a victory for religious freedom in America."
Brown's conscientious objector application emphasized that he is religiously opposed to participation in all wars not just to the war in Iraq. Deborah Karpatkin, the Civil Liberties Union's cooperating attorney, explained that federal law and Army regulations require discharge from military service of individuals who show that they have become conscientiously opposed to participation in war in any form, that their opposition is founded on religious training and belief, and that their position is sincere and deeply held.
"Peter Brown showed by clear and convincing evidence that he is a deeply sincere conscientious objector because of his religious training and beliefs," Karpatkin said. "It should not have required the filing of a lawsuit for the Army to recognize those beliefs. Neither Brown's status as a West Point-trained officer, nor his non-violent understanding of Christian doctrine, should have increased the burden on him to prove his sincerity as a conscientious objector. Now that his religious beliefs have been formally recognized, his conscience is at last free from the conflict of military service."
Added Arthur Spitzer, legal director of the ACLU of the National Capital Area and co-counsel in the lawsuit, "The ACLU's founder, Roger Baldwin, went to prison in 1918 because the World War I draft law made no provision for conscientious objectors. Civil liberties have advanced when the Army itself can recognize that a West Point graduate can be a sincere conscientious objector -- even if it took a lawsuit to wake them up."
Brown was stationed in New York before deploying to Iraq, and is moving to the St. Louis area to continue his seminary studies. Brown's ACLU lawyers are filing a voluntary dismissal of his lawsuit today.

And again, Paul Krugman is the guest on Democracy Now! today where he has already offered multiple apologies for Democrats and rejects Robert Pear's "Children's Health Bill Dispute Turns to Income Limites" (A16 of this morning's New York Times) -- not by name, but Pear's done exactly what Krugman's criticizing the press for doing on this issue.