Friday, June 06, 2008

Corey Glass, Ehren Watada

Teviah Moro (The Orillia Packet & Times) reports that the Quakers in Orillia will demonstrate tomorrow in an attempt to register their support for war resisters in Canada. Ottawa, Nelson, B.C., Victoria, B.C., Port Dover, Sarnia and Strathory will also hold demonstrations. Moro notes: "Organizers of the Orillia rally, to be held outside the Opera House from 12:30 to 1:30 p. m., aim to explain the underlying issues of the pending deportations and will have petitions on hand."

What's going on? Tuesday Canada's House of Commons passed a motion granting war resisters safe harbor. The motion is non-binding but it is hoped that the country's prime minister, Stephen Harper, will honor it. It is especially important with regards to US war resister Corey Glass. May 21st, US war resisters and Iraq War veteran Glass was informed that he had until June 12th to leave Canada or he would be deported. That is six days from now. Will the non-binding motion prevent the conservative Harper from ordering Glass' deportation? Rick Salutin (Toronto Globe & Mail) doesn't seem optimistic noting that from an AIDS conference (global conference) to any other issue, Harper loves to say no to the people: "Lately, it's been no to a safe-injection site in Vancouver; provincial climate plans; Ontario's budget; an inquiry into the Bernier case; letting U.S. war resisters stay. For a government, the Conservatives are uniquely, bizarrely litigious, the sign of a mentality that loves to fight."

With more on that, this is from Michael Werbowski's "Canadian MPs Vote to Save US 'Deserters'" (OhmyNews International):

The parliamentary move, which was first proposed in the House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration in December 2007, effectively gives those solders wishing to stay in Canada as "contentious objectors" the right to remain in Canada and thus avoid eventual prosecution or court martial in the US, were desertion is considered a capital crime punishable by death.
The three-party unified vote urges the government to "immediately implement a program to allow conscientious objectors and their immediate family members... to apply for permanent resident status and remain in Canada; ... the government should immediately cease any removal or deportation actions... against such individuals."
The vote comes just in time for US army recruit Corey Glass, 25, a war resister who came to Canada in 2006 and was recently told to leave Canada by June 12 or face removal to the United States, welcomed the vote. Upon hearing the news of the motion passed by the lower house, Glass expressed his appreciation for the parliamentarians, "I'm thankful that the MPs voted to let me and the other war resisters stay in Canada. I'm also thankful to all the Canadians who urged their MPs to support us."
[. . .]
If the Conservatives despite this vote proceeded with the deportations of "resisters" such a Private Corey it would likely publicly be seen as another example of the authoritarian style of government adopted by Stephen Harper and also perhaps be interpreted as a clear sign that the current prime minster continues to kowtow to Washington's wishes with total disregard for the will of parliament in the process.

Oh, no, bad news for the Harper government. Some not familiar with Canada's system, may think that or think it means some minor conflict with the press or something. Harper's government can be toppled at any moment. In December, Ava, Kat and I were in Canada about this motion and speaking with Liberal and NDP MPs. Back then, one of the things (and this is in a December snapshot*) that would delay the war resisters motion was the fact that members of both parties were exploring taking down the Harper government. Did they have the votes for it?

By February, it was decided they didn't. As important as the war resisters motion is, it's equally true that it, more than anything else so far, draws a line in the sand. All parties banded against the conservatives to vote for the motion Tuesday. If Harper elects to ignore the motion (a motion immensely popular with the Canadian people), he's ignoring the will of the people and making it all the easier for the Parliament to dissolve his government.

[*That was noted in a December snapshot, the possible recall of the Harper government. After the snapshot went up, I was told by several MPs that it wasn't supposed to be public. We never mentioned again. I wouldn't have put it in back in December if I had realized people were speaking off the cuff. I was taking notes -- pen to paper -- during the conversations. I was repeating the comments back to make sure I was understanding what was being said. No one objected at that time and several knew about The Common Ills -- the ones complaining after the fact, certainly knew. As a result of the complaints, we did not mention it here again. I believe Mike wrote about it on his blog in January. If it wasn't him, it was Kat who wrote of that day in reference to "four went over, three came back" -- meaning the Canadian border. The difference is that was months ago and it applies to what can happen now and an MP I spoke with on the phone this morning stated he was fine with it being mentioned now.]

Turning to war resistance in the US (and due to the delays in this morning's entries, don't be surprised if most of this later appears in the snapshot word for word), Ehren Watada became the first officer to publicly refuse deployment to Iraq in June 2006. In August 2006, he faced and Article 32 hearing. In February, he faced a kanagroo court-martial. Judge Toilet (aka John Head) declared a mistrial over defense objection as Watada was about to take the stand (after which the defense would have rested and the military jury would have reached a decision). Judge Toilet forgot a lot that day. He announced that a new court-martial would take place in March but that was really beyond his call (and why no court-martial took place then). He also forgot about the US Constitution, popularly known as "the law of the land," and it's provision against double-jeopardy. In November of last year, as Judge Toilet repeatedly tried to force another court-martial, US District Judge Benjamin Settle ruled that no action could take place until the double-jeopardy was resolved. Watada has been in limbo since.

Austin Jenkins (OPB News) notes that today is the second anniversary of Watada going public and that:

Today the legal wrangling continues. Watada’s attorney -- Ken Kagan -- expects the case will eventually make its way to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Ken Kagan: "It's conceivable that the appeals process in the 9th Circuit could consume anywhere from 18 months to three years. So that is a limbo that is very hard for Lt. Watada to imagine but he’s prepared to do what he needs to do."

Watada's service contract ended in December 2006. The limbo has included his continuing to report to duty each day at Fort Lewis. Contrary to some idiots' claim, Watada is not a "deserter." He never failed to report to base, he never went AWOL. He refused an order and did so because the Iraq War is an illegal one. As he has stated, his oath is to the Constitution. The implication being (I'm saying, not Watada), he swore to uphold the Constitution, he did not swear to violate it because some whack job was in the Oval Office and wanted to lie a country into war.

Last week, William Cole offered "Next legal steps for Ehren Watada remain a mystery" (Honolulu Advertiser):

His father, Bob Watada, says the Army doesn't seem to want to, and his son remains in legal limbo.
The 1996 Kalani High graduate is still at Fort Lewis, Wash., pushing papers after he refused to go on his Stryker brigade's deployment to Iraq in June 2006.
Ehren Watada, 30, denounced the war as illegal and unjust, and said if he went, it would make him a party to war crimes.
The Honolulu man, who said he would have served in Afghanistan, was the first commissioned officer to publicly refuse deployment to the Iraq war.

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