Thursday, November 15, 2007

And the war drags on . . .

The court's decision means that they will be able to stay in Canada only if they can obtain a special permit from Canada's immigration minister, a remote prospect.

Is that what is means? War resisters Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey learned today that the Canadian Supreme Court would not hear their appeal. Somehow the New York Times ("Canada Rebuffs 2 U.S. Deserters") can read tea leaves. After the mainstream media flaunted their ignorance over the issues in Ehren Watada's appeal (for the record, the large outlets couldn't grasp that double-jeopardy mattered), you might think they'd stick to the facts this go round. You would be wrong.

What could happen to Hinzman and Hughey? Pressure is being put on Canada's Parliament to address the situation. That's not addressed in the article. In addition, they have been turned down on refugee status only. They can attempt to appeal on other grounds. Hinzman has a wife, Nga Nguyen, and she could easily be granted citizenship. Even under today's tougher guidelines. In which case, Hinzman would be married to a Canadian citizen. Hughey could, of course, marry a Canadian. There are other options as well.

But the paper of little record doesn't know about that because they didn't take the time to seek out any information. (For the record, that's how you end up with an 'article' of 15 lines making up 6 sentences.)

And independent media? Insert chuckles here.

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, ICCC's number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war was 3859. Tonight? 3866. Just Foreign Policy's total for the number of Iraqis killed since the start of the illegal war stood at 1,103,188. Tonight? 1,112,745.

Last week, we saw how very little attention Watada received. Today on NPR's All Things Considered, Martin Kaste did report on Judge Benjamin Settle's decision in the Watada case. Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey were the first to go public about moving to Canada to resist the illegal war. Most of the day, Ava, Jim and I were explaining them to students. They're first wave in a huge wave of war resistance and, as ground breakers who have been around for 'so long' (one student actually couldn't believe anyone was resisting the illegal war that early -- or one copped to it while some others may have played silent), they may be 'old' names to some but they are 'new' to many others. Stephen Funk is the first known war resister. Camilo Mejia is the first war resister who served in Iraq and went public. Jeremy Hinzman is the first war resister to go public about moving to Canada.

So let's drop back to those earlier times. In July of 2004, Democracy Now! spoke with Jeremy Hinzman:

AMY GOODMAN: It's good to have you with us. Can you talk about how you made your decision?
JEREMY HINZMAN: Pretty much what it came down to was-- I mean, I won't go into the false pretences and everything that we know about, but being in an illegal war, it would be being complicit and a criminal enterprise, and you may say that, oh, well, you're not a policymaker or a general or whatever, that the Nuremberg principles wouldn't apply to you. But in light of what's happened since Abu Ghraib, when they scapegoated like the lower enlisted soldiers for simply carrying out what the policy was from the upper echelons, I think it's pretty fair to say that we made the right decision. Because I was in the infantry and there is a good chance that I would have-- I would have been pretty active in a negative way. And so I'm-- that's why we came here pretty much is that I wasn't-- I don't want to shoot people. I would have been happy to go to Iraq as a port-a-potty janitor or operation human shield. I just don't want to shoot people.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about your application as a conscientious objector to here in the United States that was rejected, on what grounds was it objected and what did you tell them?JEREMY HINZMAN: I applied for a conscientious objector status in August of 2002. When I initially submitted the application, I was almost immediately reassigned to duties commensurate with what I stated in the application, until it could be evaluated. And then I would like to add we didn't know we were being deployed anywhere. So, three months later on Halloween, my First Sergeant, the same person I gave the application to, looks at me with this sparkle in his eye and he's like, well, Hinzman, you are a conscientious objector, we need the paperwork. At that point, we had known for about two weeks that we were being deployed. So, I had to resubmit it on the eve of a deployment and to a third party who didn't know the history of it or whatever. Of course, my motives fell under a cloud of suspicion and in the hearing, I was asked a hypothetical question being what-- if your camp was attacked, what would you do? And when we left for Afghanistan, I was given an M-4 with a scope and infrared laser and everything and I asked, why do I have this? I'm a conscientious objector. I don't want to shoot anybody. And they have said you have the inherent right to self-defense and yada yada yada. So, in the hearing, they said what would you do if you were attacked and I said, well, given the context I'm in, and beings that I'm human and I can probably overcome my fight instinct, I'd probably shoot back. I really would not rather be in that position. But if someone broke into my house, I might make efforts to restrain them. But that doesn't mean that I'm going to-- that I'm going to use the same logic to be a premeditated murderer, which is what we do in the infantry, for better or worse. You don't just go on a raid one day, you rehearse it for three or four days in advance, over and over again. And so in the summation, the investigating officer stated that there was no difference between defensive and offensive operations and combat is combat and, therefore, I'm not a conscientious objector. However, if I had said no, I'll go hide in a hole, I would have been shirking my responsibilities as a soldier and found to be negligent in my duties and that would have been enough-- a whole other episode. It was kind of a no-win question. So, I had to answer it honestly. Which I'm not ashamed of doing.

On October 15, 2004, Goodman again spoke with Hinzman as well as Brandon Hughey (and their attorney Jeffry House)

AMY GOODMAN: Brandon Huey, why did you go into the military?
BRANDON HUEY: My story basically starts off almost the same way. I enlisted when I was 17 years old with basically the promise of a way to better my life financially. Again, it is a way to get a college education without amassing thousands of dollars of debt.
AMY GOODMAN: Where did you grow up?
BRANDON HUEY: I grew up in San Angelo, Texas. So, also when I signed the contract, I wasn't naive to the fact that I could be deployed to fight in a war, but I did have this image growing up that I would be sort of -- a good guy, if you will, and fighting for just causes and fighting to defend my country, and after I got out of basic training, and when I realized that basically the U.S. had attacked a country that was no threat to them, in an act of aggression, it shattered that myth, I guess you could say.
AMY GOODMAN: How old were you when you signed up?
[. . .]
AMY GOODMAN: Brandon, when did you leave?
BRANDON HUEY: I left in March of 2004.
AMY GOODMAN: What was that like, that day?
BRANDON HUEY: That day -- I was relatively calm and collected, which a lot of people may not expect. I had thought about the decision for months, and I had talked to my superiors, my Sergeant Major, about why I had misgivings about the war. It came out of it for me, when I got out of basic training. It came out of a personal desire to know what I would be fighting for. If I was going overseas and point my rifle at someone and pull the trigger, I can't speak for all soldiers, but I wanted to know what it would be for, and for the right reasons. And after looking into the Iraq War, I couldn't find any justifiable basis for doing so, as Jeremy mentioned. No weapons of mass destruction, no ties to al Qaeda, and I didn't want to kill anyone for lies, if you will.
AMY GOODMAN: So, how did you come into Canada?
BRANDON HUEY: I basically drove myself out of the base. Halfway to Canada from Ft. Hood, Texas, to Louisville, Kentucky. A peace activist out of Indianapolis drove me the rest of the way, and before we got up into Canada, he had connections with the Quaker community. I guess in the Toronto area. He had found people in St. Katherine's that would be willing to take me in.

So that's Hinzman and Hughey in their own words the year they went public. Those are excerpts. For those new to the two, remember that Democracy Now! is watch, listen and read.
Their decision to go public was risky. Others have gone to Canada and blended in. They are not at risk now. It took bravery to say no to an illegal war. It took bravery to move to another country. On top of that, it took bravery to go public. By doing so, they didn't just put a face on war resistance, they also helped put war resistance on the map.

When we speak with active duty service members, Watada is the name that is known. But even if they don't know the names (some usually do know the names) of Funk, Mejia, Pablo Parades, Aidan Delgado and others, they do know of them, they know what they did. Their actions have made a difference and carved out a space for war resistance, given a name and face to it and allowed those considering resisting to have references.

It can be very difficult to stand up for something you believe in when a society doesn't want to question. It can be even more difficult to do so when you're not aware that others have. The wonderful documentary Sir! No Sir! does a great job of uncovering the earlier war resistance that was known during Vietnam but erased from the public memories. The actions today do get noticed, do get passed on, shared and discussed. And the early stands have made a difference allowing a second wave (Patrick Hart, Kyle Snyder, Darrell Anderson, Ryan Johnson, Corey Glass and others) and a third wave and a fourth.

In fact, let's note the ones we're aware of, James Stepp, Michael Espinal, Matthew Lowell, Derek Hess, Diedra Cobb, Brad McCall, Justin Cliburn, Timothy Richard, Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Peter Brown, Bethany "Skylar" James, Zamesha Dominique, Chrisopther Scott Magaoay, Jared Hood, James Burmeister, Eli Israel, Joshua Key, Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Carla Gomez, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Agustin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Abdullah Webster, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder, Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, Blake LeMoine, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Dale Bartell, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Kjar, Kyle Huwer, Wilfredo Torres, Michael Sudbury, Ghanim Khalil, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman.

And it continues to grow. Earlier today we noted Peter Bohmer's "10 Days That Shook Olympia" (CounterPunch) on the actions at the Port of Olympia and we'll note this from it now:

Tuesday, November 13th will be a day long remembered by many in Olympia. In the morning about 20 people sat down at the Port entrance blocking military equipment from moving. For 13 hours no military equipment moved out of the Port. Hence, for a minimum of 30 hours, we stopped Stryker vehicles from returning to Ft. Lewis, a major action and statement. In the evening about 200 people gathered at the Port of Olympia entrance to resist by various and complementary means the war and the militarization of Olympia. In the midst of this action, a GI from Ft. Lewis who was supposed to be involved in the transport of these military vehicles to Ft. Lewis, walked out of the Port, saying he was against the war and refused to transport the war equipment. This was a really powerful action and reminded me of the increasing resistance to the Vietnam war by active duty soldiers. Civilian anti-war and GI cooperation and solidarity is a key to ending this war. This is a victory for Port Militarization Resistance organization (PMR) and the anti-war movement as a whole.

The first wave took harassment, ridicule and much more. They did tend to get more media attention. Were they seen as a novelty or did independent media just care more about the illegal war? Big media's been pretty consistent in their coverage -- the wire services cover them as well as local outlets. It's not that much easier for the later waves but there was a group who'd built a platform with their stands. That didn't make the decision or the stand any easier but they could point to others who had resisted. It's not a case of, "You're the only one who is doing/considering this!" It's a movement. Everyone's stand made it a movement.

Two other things to note. First, Suzanne Swift. We don't include her on the list, others do on their lists. That's their right. Here we operate under the belief that Swift needs an honorable discharge (with full benefits) immediately. If you're not familiar with Swift, she was sexually harassed, she experienced command rape and much more. She went through channels. She did what you're supposed to do. Her 'reward' was that nothing changed. There was no attempt to protect her. She was given 'training' in how not to attract 'unwanted attention.' If you don't grasp how disgusting that is imagine someone working at Microsoft experiencing sexual harassment and rape and being told, "We think you need to take some classes to learn what you're doing wrong." Swift didn't do a damn thing wrong. After all of that, when she was back in the US, she self-checked out and if you'd have a really difficult time finding any woman who was asked to role play that out in their heads and wouldn't agree that Swift did the only sane thing. You do not stay in an environment that you are not safe in. Had she worked for Microsoft, she'd be able to file a multi-million dollar law suit if Microsoft had ignored her the way the US military did. They didn't want to address the situation. They didn't even want it to stop. The just wanted Swift to stop talking. They wanted to shut her up and that's what the 'training' was about -- it was about telling her "This happened because of what you did." That is a disgusting message and the only thing more disgusting than the US military treatment of Swift is the US Congress' refusal to live up to their oversight role. Di-Fi's all concerned about whether the tele-communications industry (which has heavily funded her every Senate run) can get a fair hearing. Di-Fi was silent on Swift. Di-Fi and everyone else. Apparently 'oversight' is only something Congress is willing to provide in times of peace. In times of peace they can act shocked by Tailhook or other abuses. During this illegal war, they can't call out the rape and sexual abuse of a soldier, the cover up of those crimes or the fact that Swift has been sent back into the same situation. Swift's strong, no question. But find me a therapist (non-quack) who thinks that healing is putting a rape victim into the exact same situation? Congress doesn't want to be bothered. They're very busy, you understand, symbolic actions task their energy levels.

So Swift got betrayed. She was betrayed by her superior officer, she was betrayed by the chain of command in Iraq, she was betrayed by the brass and she was betrayed by Congress. Her story is not going away, it's not going to vanish. And at some point, members of Congress (they may be out of office by then -- by their own choice or by the choice of voters) will have to answer for their inactions. With Swift, we stick with the basics because when you say "war resister" it scares big media (and, sadly, little media doesn't rush to step up to the plate). She deserves an immediate honorable discharge and she's far from alone when it comes to women who have been betrayed and assaulted while serving. Had Congress done their job, this wouldn't be Swift only. Other women have come forward with similar stories and if Congress bothered to address the issue, they'd find many, many more women willing to come forward. But Congress doesn't want to do their job and they don't want to deal with the ugly realities for many women serving -- many, not all -- and males have also been subjected as well. VETWOW is an organization that helps women and men who have experienced MST -- Military Sexual Trauma. Instead of charging those in need, they ask that those they help "'pay it forward' by helping 3 other veterns during their lifetime."

Second thing, IVAW is organizing a March 2008 DC event:

In 1971, over one hundred members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War gathered in Detroit to share their stories with America. Atrocities like the My Lai massacre had ignited popular opposition to the war, but political and military leaders insisted that such crimes were isolated exceptions. The members of VVAW knew differently.
Over three days in January, these soldiers testified on the systematic brutality they had seen visited upon the people of Vietnam. They called it the Winter Soldier investigation, after Thomas Paine's famous admonishing of the "summer soldier" who shirks his duty during difficult times. In a time of war and lies, the veterans who gathered in Detroit knew it was their duty to tell the truth.
Over thirty years later, we find ourselves faced with a new war. But the lies are the same. Once again, American troops are sinking into increasingly bloody occupations. Once again, war crimes in places like Haditha, Fallujah, and Abu Ghraib have turned the public against the war. Once again, politicians and generals are blaming "a few bad apples" instead of examining the military policies that have destroyed Iraq and Afghanistan.
Once again, our country needs Winter Soldiers.
In March of 2008, Iraq Veterans Against the War will gather in our nation's capital to break the silence and hold our leaders accountable for these wars. We hope you'll join us, because yours is a story that every American needs to hear.
Click here to sign a statement of support for Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan

Lewis notes this from Vietnam Veterans Against the War's website:

VVAW is pleased to announce that, thanks to Milliarum Zero, we are now offering the newly released "Winter Soldier" DVD at the VVAW Store on our website. This awesome film, which includes many bonus features, is selling for $24.95 plus $4.00 shipping and handling. To order your copy now, go to
About the Film and the Winter Soldier Investigation
Winter Soldier documents the "Winter Soldier Investigation" conducted by Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) in Detroit, Michigan in the winter of 1971. A call went out from VVAW to veterans all over the country saying, in effect, 'everyone is talking about the war that you know from the inside. If you want to have anything to say about it, come to Detroit and tell it like you saw it.' At the investigation, over 125 veterans representing every major combat unit to see action in Vietnam, gave eye-witness testimony to war crimes and atrocities they either participated in or witnessed. The purpose of the investigation was to bring to light the nature of American military policy in Vietnam.
THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT The Winter Soldier Investigation was held around the time of the trial of Lieutenant William Calley, a trial involving the massacre, by American soldiers, of civilian inhabitants of the village of My Lai. The veterans at the Investigation were attempting to give testimony to the fact that My Lai was not the only time or place where such treatment of the Vietnamese people took place.
In the winter of 1776, almost two hundred years before, Thomas Paine wrote "These are the time that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now deserves the love and thanks of man and woman." Seeing themselves as the "winter soldiers" paraphrasing Thomas Paine, whose battle was, in part, to make their experiences common knowledge to the American and world public, the veterans who came, presented their own personal testimony concerning the commonplace atrocities, supported by documentary photographs often of their own taking.
At the time of the Winter Soldier Investigation (WSI), the press questioned the authenticity of the veterans' testimony. The veterans came to tell their story, not to debate whether it was true. In effect this forced the people from the media, particularly the newspapers, to spend their energy and time checking the stories out. By the second day of testimony, the newspapers were including corroboration in their reports. The front page of the Feb. 2nd Detroit Free Press carried this authentication, "The Free Press found additional witnesses, two ex-Marines, who had no connection with the Winter Soldier Investigation, who confirmed that several Marine companies participated in a search-and-destroy operation inside Laos in February and early March 1969. The Free Press informed its readers that the veterans upon whose testimony it reported had been authenticated by either the Pentagon or the Defense Department."
The film Winter Soldier was shown and praised in Europe, but was largely overlooked in the U.S. because it was a first-hand account of the war in Vietnam which the U.S. was still waging when the film was made. The film is a rare and raw telling, by soldiers in the war in Vietnam, of the training for and the experience of war, in which young men kill and do horrific things to other human beings, in the name of patriotism and comraderie. The Winter Soldier Investigation was an attempt at the process of truth and reconciliation, initiated and carried out by veterans of the war in Vietnam and largely ignored by the government that was continuing to carry on that war. The veterans had hoped that they could speak directly to the American public and in this way could help bring about an end to the war, but there was very limited coverage of the Winter Soldier Investigation in the television. The filmmakers came to understand that if there was to be in-depth coverage of this historic event that the veterans had created in order to be heard, it would come about in the many hours of film they were taking.
Out of this came the film Winter Soldier. One of the filmmakers has written: "The veterans in the film, black and white and Native American, and Asian American and Hispanic American, had gone to be in a war to uphold what they held dear about their country. Not all of them went believing in the war, but many of them did. When they came home they had seen things about themselves, their country, their leaders, about class and race, about sexism in war; things that did not get printed in the newspapers and got no coverage on television even as the American public watched war footage every night on the 'news.' One common theme in what the veterans testified about, that stood out as extraordinary, is that the war in Vietnam was being waged largely against civilians. Each of the men in the film exercised courage in speaking the truth at a time when many of their fellow Americans and fellow veterans called them traitors for speaking what they experienced as truth about the war.
The fact that this process of truth-telling was not respected and honored as a part of the experience of these soldiers is one of the reasons that the subject of the war in Vietnam continues to be misunderstood and misrepresented. This is a very disturbing film about the making of war, the making of young men into killers, the bringing of our society into acceptance of a war against people of a different color, a different culture, all the way around the globe. It brings to the surface of consciousness questions that must be confronted and asked again as our country is again sending off soldiers to die and to kill."

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jeremy hinzman
brandon hughey

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