Wednesday, November 28, 2007

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In justifying the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration concocted a new and patently illegal doctrine of "preventive war," under which the US gave itself the right to attack a state if it believed it could constitute a threat to the US at some point in the future. As for the various justifications Washington gave for the war, from weapons of mass destruction to the reputed ties of the regime of Saddam Hussein to al Qaeda, they have all been exposed as lies.
The war has, moreover, resulted in untold violence and countless atrocities. According to studies by reputable agencies, the war and the accompanying destruction of Iraq society have caused the death of over one million Iraqis and the flight of millions of people from their homes and Iraq altogether.
If the Canadian government intervened in the Hinzman and Hughey cases to prevent their raising the illegality of the war, it wasn’t just to save the Bush administration from embarrassment. Ottawa feared Canada would become a haven for "war resisters" and a pole of resistance to the war. Given a different decision on Hinzman's and Hughey’s refugee claim, thousands more might well have joined them.
According to the Pentagon’s own figures, most likely underestimated, desertion is a growing phenomenon. The US army admits that 4,700 soldiers deserted in 2006 alone, an increase of over 40 percent compared to 3,300 soldiers in 2005, and up by 80 percent compared to 2003. These figures do not include personnel from the Air Force, Navy, or the Marines. (See: US Army reports rising desertion rates)
The attitude of the Canadian government and state to the Iraqi war resisters is in sharp contrast to that which it adopted in the 1960s and early 1970s during the Vietnam War. Then some 50,000 young Americans fled the military or obligatory conscription and were given refuge in Canada.
If the decision of the Supreme Court did not hit the front pages, neither did it pass unnoticed. It was the object of articles in daily papers all over the world.

The above is from Guy Charron's "Canada's Supreme Court opens door to deportation of US 'war resisters'" (WSWS). Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey are the two most immediately effected along with Robin Long. But if the Canadian legislature does not address the situation it could effect many -- not all -- war resisters who went public in Canada. Not all? Kyle Snyder is an example of "not all." He is married to a Canadian citizen. In addition, there are those who have not gone public. On December 11th, the Canadian Parliament will hold hearings on the issue.

In the US more and more are walking away. On Sunday, we noted this:

Is Julie Ann Stendahl a war resister? No one knows. We ignored her reported e-mail because there was no way to prove that it was from her. What is known is that she was supposed to deploy October 31st to Iraq and did not. What is know is that she went missing. Now, The Olympian's Joseph Rose reports, US military flack Holly Blevins has announced, "Friends and family said she told them she wasn't going back to Iraq." That is all that's known. And certainly because the US military says something is true doesn't make it so.

AP notes that "she turned herself in on Monday morning" and that "Army officials say she'll be returned to her unit, and disciplinary action will be up to her commanding officer." That is all that is known specifically about her case. What is known in the big picture is that Stendahl is far from alone. Matthew Fewox self-checked out the military. Florida's NBC2 News speaks with his father Dave:

He left without permission and he was arrested for military desertion.
"It's a decision he made and ultimately he's going to have to suffer the consequences," said Fewox.
Whatever those consequences are, Matthew's father insists they can't be worse than the anxiety attacks his son suffered while in the Army.
"From what I understand he actually collapsed at the military base," said Fewox.
He says doctors diagnosed his son with depression, but despite continuing attacks - he couldn't get a medical release.
"They just kept sending him to the doctor and sending him back to the barracks," said Fewox. "Where the depression came from or the anxiety came from - I don't know."
But he thinks the danger of war may have finally hit home for his 20-year-old son.
"It's a good possibility you're going to Iraq. There are 99 chances out of 100 you're going to go. Maybe it got close and it freaked him out," said Fewox.

Note that in addition to the text, the link also contains video. Naomi Spencer's "US Army Reports Rising Desertion Rates" (WSWS via CounterCurrents):

For the Army, the desertion rate for 2007 is 42 percent higher than that of the previous year, when 3,301 deserted. In 2005, 2,011 Army soldiers deserted, representing the lowest annual rate of the war period. In 2001 and 2002, the number of desertions was similar to the most recent figures for the Army (4,597 and 4,483, respectively) before they began to decline.
Historically, the military has not actively pursued deserters. Troops who leave their posts are denied veterans benefits and their names are permanently added to a national database of fugitives. If they are picked up by civilian law enforcement, they are handed over to military police for court martial.
However, Army prosecutions of desertions and other unauthorized absences have greatly increased over the past four years in an attempt to deter other would-be deserters, according to Army lawyers in interviews with the New York Times earlier this year. In a report published April 9, the Times noted that from 2002 through 2006, the average annual rate of Army prosecutions for desertion was triple the preceding five-year period, and prosecutions of similar absences have doubled. This increase in disciplinary action is an unmistakable acknowledgment by the chain of command that the rise in desertions represents not a fluke but a sign of things to come.
Pointing to the far higher Vietnam-era desertion rates, which rose as high as 5 percent, the military has insisted the current rise in desertion rates has nothing to do either with the so-called war on terror or with mass antiwar sentiments.

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