Saturday, June 21, 2008

Matthis Chiroux, Corey Glass, James Burmeister

"It was tough for me to get up where the cameras could see me ...," the elder [Robert] Chiroux said Friday afternoon. "I don't agree (with him)."
But blood is thicker than a contract with the Army, so the father is standing by the son he hopes isn't "exploding" his future.
"If a man can't stand up for his son," the 49-year-old Chiroux said, "how can he stand up for his country?"
Matthis Chiroux joined the Army in 2002, before the Iraq war but after 9/11. The terrorist attacks were part of his motivation, his father said, but so was earning money for college.
Matthis' term of enlistment was the standard eight years with some on active duty and some as a member of the Army's Individual Ready Reserve (IRR).

The above is from the Huntsville Times' "Honeymoon match, then wedding joy for couple" and it's about Robert Chiroux' reaction to his son Matthis Chiroux' decision. In DC, Matthis announced May 15th that he would not deploy to Iraq. Chiroux had served in the army and been honorably discharged. Along comes a 'recall.' And he's informed he will be deploying to the illegal war. June 15th, the day he was due to report, he delivered a statement explaining why he would not:

Sgt. Matthis Chiroux: Good afternoon. We gather here this Father's Day on a very somber note. The American occupation of Iraq -- an illegal, immoral war which is ripping this nation apart as well causing an immeasurable harm to the Iraqi people and the people of the world alike. We gather in the remembrance of the sacrifice of many whose fathers weep on this joyous day for they know their own flesh and blood has been torn and siphoned from them for what we collectively hope will be this last blunder of American military might. We gather here and hope that our fathers will forgive us for the wrongs we have perpetrated on our bodies, hearts and minds alike in this cruel decade of disaster which stems from the very city in which we stand.
This father's day, we gather here to calm the vicious and vengeful alike. The first day I came to Washington, D.C. was less than one month before I shipped out to basic training. I was so moved by this country and its history that it reinvigorated my belief in the righteousness of what I was doing: Joining the army not only in search of personal progress but to participate in the efforts to bring justice to the individuals responsible for 9-11.
I remember standing at the base of the Washington Monument and watching the fireworks explode in the sky that Fourth of July and wondering how it was that we could have come under attack on American soil and believing firmly that I would be participatingin dealing justice for September 11th.
I remember standing before the Lincoln Memorial and feeling the presence of not just the former president and emancipator but of Martin Luther King and his dream for a brighter and more united future for the children of this nation.
That young me could not have known where he'd be standing almost six years later and what he would be saying this Father's Day. I am Sgt. Matthis Chiroux and tonight at midnight I may face further action from the army for refusing to reactive to participate in the Iraq occupation.
This fact hangs heavy on my heart as I look back at my five years of service in uniform. But I understand that what I am doing is in keeping with the values I shared with my friends-in-arms while we wondered if things could really get any worse?
Today I stand in resistance to the occupation of Iraq because I believe in our nation, its military and her people. I resist because I swore an oath to this nation that I would not allow it to fall into decay when I may be serving on the side of right. And my country is in decay and in these times of crisis Thomas Paine once said, "The summer soldier and sunshine patriot will flee from service to our country."
I stand here today as a Winter Soldier. To serve our nation, its military and its people in this dark time of confusion and corruption.
I stand here to make it known that my duty as a soldier is first to the higher ideals and guiding principles of this country which our leaders have failed to uphold.
I stand here today in defense of the US Constitution which has known no greater enemy, foreign or domestic, than those highest in this land who are sworn to be governed by its word.
I stand here today in defense of those who have been stripped of their voices in this occupation for the warriors of this nation have been silenced to the people who need to start listening.
We are here to honor the memory of our fathers who more than two centuries ago brought forth upon this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal, as Abraham Lincoln once noted.
We are here to honor the struggle of our fathers and their fathers and their fathers before them to build this nation and bring it together -- through slavery and poverty, to sexism and racism, through materialism and imperialism. They built this nation and struggled to keep it alive as we've blundered and learned and blundered again. We owe it to our fathers to stand for this nation now when a dark cloud has descended upon it in the form of an administration who is stealing the lives of us all to wage an illegal war -- conceived in lies and birthed [born] of manipulation.
As a soldier I was told it was not my place to question the orders of those appointed above me. I had that lie trained into me from my first day of basic training to my last day of active duty. But I have learned the truth, the truth that the occupation of Iraq is inherently illegal and that it is my duty as a soldier to refuse illegal orders to reactivate and deploy in support of it.
I have learned that in these times of crisis one must look deep into their own values to know the path that they must walk. I have learned that feeling and thinking and speaking and acting and keeping with courage and honesty in preservation of a righteous cause is blessed and may give a person strength to utter truths that may calm the vicious and the vengeful alike.
I believe that this nation and this military may come to know the same truth: That the rule of law has been forsaken and we must return to it or be doomed to continue disaster. I believe in the goodness of the American people and I believe that justice is not dead because we as a people believe that it is our responsibility to resist the injustices done by our government in our names. We know this truth to be self-evident that our nation can unite to oppose an illegal occupation which is killing and scarring and shattering the lives of our youth and the Iraqi people.
On this Fathers Day, know, America, that your children need you. We need you to care for us and to care for our country which we will inherit when you are finished with her. We need you to end this occupation of Iraq which has destroyed a country and scattered its people to the wind like ashes in the tempest -- a tempest that has engulfed the nation of Iraq and scrubbed any sign of peace and prosperity from the surface of a civilization older than even history itself.
Fathers, we need you to care for your children and the children of Iraq for they know not why you fight and carry no fault in the conflict.
Fathers, your sons and daughters need you now to embrace peace for though we were attacked, we have dealt in retaliation that same suffering one-thousand times over to a people who never wronged us. The nation will know little healing until first we stem off the flow of blood and human life for justice and healing will never be done by a blade or a bullet or a bomb or a torture cell.
By continuing to participate in the unjust occupation of Iraq, we, as service members, are contributing to that flow of human life and we cannot now -- nor could we ever -- call the Iraqi people an enemy in the fight against the use of terror. But terror is all we now know. We are terrified of the prospect that we have been lied to. We are terrified by the idea that we have killed for nothing. We are terrified to break the silence. We are terrified to do what we know is right.
But never again will I allow terror to silence me. Nor will I allow it to govern my actions. I refuse terror as a tactic for uniting a people around an unjust cause. I refuse to allow terror to motivate me to do violence on my fellow man especially those who never wronged me in the first place. I refuse to be terrified to stand in defense of my Constitution. And I refuse to be terrified of doing so in great adversity.
As a resister to the Iraq Occupation, I refuse to be terrified by what may come for I know those who stand against me are in terror of the truth. But I will speak my truth, and I will stand by it firmly and forever will my soul know peace. Thank you.

Ellis Eskew (WHNT, CBS) explains:

Chiroux says his latest call to active duty has been unsettling to him. And it has caused him to lead war protests outside the White House.
The deadline for him to report for active duty was Sunday.
"I choose to remain in the United States to defend myself from charges brought by the army if they so wish to pursue them. I refuse to participate in the Iraq operation."

Matthis is a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War and they note:

IVAW members Matthis Chiroux and Kris Goldsmith have been pounding the pavement in Washington DC, with the help of IVAW's DC chapter, to get members of Congress to support Matthis in his refusal to deploy to Iraq. Matthis was honorably discharged from the Army in 2007 after five years of service, but he received orders in February 2008 to return to active duty from the IRR for deployment to Iraq.
On Sunday, June 15th, the day he was due to report for active duty, Matthis stood with his father and supporters in DC and reaffirmed that he is refusing his orders on the grounds that the Iraq war is illegal and unconstitutional.
How you can help:
Contact your congressional representatives and ask them to publicly support Matthis.
Contribute to IVAW's legal defense fund to help Matthis and other resisters.
Send a message of support to Sgt Matthis Chiroux at
Find out more about Matthis Chiroux.

From a US war resister in the United States to the topic of US war resisters in Canada, here's the opening of Henry Aubin's "Canada is wrong not to give asylum to U.S. war resisters" (Montreal Gazette):

The federal government has ordered a deserter from the U.S. Army to return to the United States by July 10. If he doesn't leave voluntarily, the government will deport him.
Either way, Corey Glass, a former sergeant, would become the first Iraq war resister to be booted out of Canada - thereby setting a precedent for other U.S. war resisters who are seeking refuge in this country.
A majority of the House of Commons voted 137-110 two weeks ago in favour of a motion urging the government to refrain from ousting war resisters; about 100 of whom are believed to be in the Canada. All three opposition parties supported the measure, sponsored by the New Democrats' Olivia Chow. The Conservatives dissented.
Yet the motion seems futile. Nothing obliges Prime Minister Stephen Harper to respect it - it's non-binding. And while polls suggest that most Canadians support the resisters, as do such organizations as Amnesty International and the United Church of Canada, the issue is largely out of the public eye. This month's parliamentary motion, for example, received scant news coverage.

First off, the motion did receive VERY LITTLE attention. A historic vote but you'd never known that from the lack of coverage. Second, to keep the pressure on, Gerry Condon, War Resisters Support Campaign and Courage to Resist all encourage contacting the Diane Finley (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration -- 613.996.4974, phone; 613.996.9749, fax; e-mail -- that's "finley.d" at "") and Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, 613.992.4211, phone; 613.941.6900, fax; e-mail -- that's "pm" at "").

Aubin goes on to make a case for war resisters to stay in Canada and the only response to his argument is: Who knew the Canadian education system had failed so?

Truly, what do they teach in that country? In the United States, the time following US withdrawal from Vietnam led to a general silence on the topic. Couldn't tell the truth, couldn't hurt feelings. Any silence will soon be filled with something and the right-wing launched their revisionary tactics. Not surprising and, when the Iraq War finally ends, those opposed to it don't need to fall back on silence to be 'nice.' We should all have learned the lesson. But that's in the US. What's Canada's excuse? They weren't technically even involved in Vietnam.

What prevented them from including Vietnam in their history classes? They obviously didn't or didn't do a good job of it (or even an adequate one) if one columnist after another feels the need to argue that war resisters today should be allowed to stay but makes the argument based on the MISTAKEN belief that Canada previously weclomed "draft dodgers" while ignorant of the reality that Canada welcomed "deserters." How do you not know that basic fact? It's gone beyond one person in Canada (too young to have actual memories of the time) to the point that it goes straight to a huge problem with the education system.

Adults who lived through that period have no excuse for not knowing it. Those a bit younger have been BETRAYED by an education system that seems to have willfully expunged the historical record. We link -- on the left -- to CBC's folder of some of their coverage from that time period but you'll notice they repeatedly -- on the webpage -- use the term "draft dodger" and they have reports they're not providing in that folder -- although there is one very good "How to" report they filed on desertion that they do include.

US peace 'leaders' from that period trying to parade as such today have betrayed war resisters but most of them have betrayed their so-called desire to end the illegal war as well so that's not surprising. But war resisters in Canada are repeatedly put on the defensive with this talk of 'no draft.' The draft never mattered. Canada didn't have a draft, Pierre Trudeau didn't base his decision on the draft and "deserters" who went to Canada and were allowed to stay were not required to affirm that they had been drafted into service. Someone who willingly enlisted could be granted the same recognition as a "draft dodger" who had never been inducted into the service.

If that history was known, war resisters today would not have to repeatedly explain why they should be allowed to stay since there's no draft. If that history was known, Canadians would realize that today's war resisters are a continuation of the earlier wave and they'd know their country welcomed "deserters" during Vietnam. There would be no quibbling about 'no draft' because the draft was never an issue. Instead this faux 'issue' has been used to create an obstacle to today's war resisters when the reality is that no such obstacle existed during Vietnam. People need to educate themselves to their own history because, until they do, they are doing a lot of damage. Not just to the historical record, but to the struggle going on today.

James Burmeister was one of the ones damaged by these HISTORICAL LIES. He went to Canada seeking aslyum. He didn't get it. He's back in the US now, he's turned himself in. From Chris Kenning's "Deserter awaiting court-martial at Fort Knox" (Louisville Courier-Journal):

The 22-year-old is set to face a court-martial at the Kentucky post -- one of only two U.S. processing centers for Army deserters.
Now his mother, Helen Burmeister, is doing everything she can to keep her son out of jail. She will demonstrate outside the post today in hopes of persuading the military to let her take her son home.
"I'm hoping to take him back to Oregon with me," said Burmeister, who says her son struggles with post-traumatic stress, injuries from a roadside bomb and questions about U.S. tactics. "He needs to get all this behind him."
Burmeister is among the 4,698 U.S. Army soldiers who deserted in fiscal year 2007, a number that risen 92 percent since 2004.

[. . .]
"He was just a regular young guy who was shaken up, and didn't know what to do," Sonia Vani, a Canadian friend of Burmeister, said in a telephone interview from Ottawa. She said he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and had a seizure, possibly from a brain injury.
But he eventually decided to return, and since March, he's been at Fort Knox. Earlier this week, his mother came from Oregon in hopes of persuading the Army to grant him an administrative discharge with a loss of benefits, but so far the Army hasn't granted that request.
"He did go to war, did what he was asked, now it's time to let him go," Helen Burmeister said.
Anita Anderson of Lexington, an activist who helps deserters, said many young men who deserted have jobs and a new life and were apparently never reported as deserters.

Since yesterday morning, the following community websites have updated:

Rebecca's Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude;
Cedric's Big Mix;
Kat's Korner;
Thomas Friedman is a Great Man;
Mikey Likes It!;
Like Maria Said Paz;
The Daily Jot;
Trina's Kitchen;
Ruth's Report;
and Marcia's

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iraq veterans against the war
matthis chiroux