Monday, June 09, 2008

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"Bittersweet" was how many news accounts described last week's parliamentary vote on whether or not Canada should offer asylum to Americans who deserted their military service rather than fight in Iraq.
On one hand, the NDP-sponsored motion to grant permanent residency to otherwise non-criminal deserters and their families -- or as many prefer to call them, war resisters -- passed by a vote of 137-110. Since the motion was non-binding, however, the Conservatives who represented that minority are expected to do nothing to implement it.
Yet there was much more bitterness than honey in that outcome, as far as I could see. I have strong feelings about the shameful abdication from Canada's traditional approach, and many of them are deeply personal. More about those in a moment.

The above is from Kevin Brooker's "Canada should allow war resisters" (Calgary Herald). Good for Brooker for covering the issue and I certainly agree with his opinion; however, facts are facts. Brooker needs to be informed that, during Vietnam, Canada welcomed "draft dodgers" and "deserters." If he's confused and doesn't want to take my word on it, he can refer to John Hagan's "Let's provide a haven for those who chose not to fight in Iraq" (Globe & Mail) but he needs to get his facts right. When you try to help and you repeat a lie that is damaging to today's war resistance, it's like trying to help by putting out a fire with a pitcher . . . of vodka. Facts are facts. Know them. John Horvath in Germany (writing at Telepolis) would do well to learn the facts also. James R. Reese, an American writing to the Toronto Star, would do well to learn a damn thing before embarrassing himself in another country. Baby Reese [James R. Reese, Major, U.S. Army (Ret.), Toronto] writes:

The deserters from the U.S. army were not draftees; they were volunteers. They joined the army of their own free will. These people who have come to Canada are not heroes. It is moral and physical cowardice masquerading as principle. The only "asylum" they should be granted is at the U.S. military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

Hey Dumb Ass Reese, you claim your American so presumably you know who Gerald Ford was. While president, Ford gave this speech (September 16, 1974):

Good morning:
In my first week as President, I asked the Attorney General and the Secretary of Defense to report to me, after consultation with other Governmental officials and private citizens concerned, on the status of those young Americans who have been convicted, charged, investigated, or are still being sought as draft evaders or military deserters.
On August 19, at the national convention of Veterans of Foreign Wars in the city of Chicago, I announced my intention to give these young people a chance to earn their return to the mainstream of American society so that they can, if they choose, contribute, even though belatedly, to the building and the betterment of our country and the world.
I did this for the simple reason that for American fighting men, the long and divisive war in Vietnam has been over for more than a year, and I was determined then, as now, to do everything in my power to bind up the Nation's wounds.
I promised to throw the weight of my Presidency into the scales of justice on the side of leniency and mercy, but I promised also to work within the existing system of military and civilian law and the precedents set by my predecessors who faced similar postwar situations, among them Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Harry S. Truman.
My objective of making future penalties fit the seriousness of each individual's offense and of mitigating punishment already meted out in a spirit of equity has proved an immensely hard and very complicated matter, even more difficult than I knew it would be.
But the agencies of Government concerned and my own staff have worked with me literally night and day in order to develop fair and orderly procedures and completed their work for my final approval over this last weekend.
I do not want to delay another day in resolving the dilemmas of the past, so that we may all get going on the pressing problems of the present. Therefore, I am today signing the necessary Presidential proclamation and Executive orders that will put this plan into effect.
The program provides for administrative disposition of cases involving draft evaders and military deserters not yet convicted or punished. In such cases, 24 months of alternate service will be required, which may be reduced for mitigating circumstances.
The program also deals with cases of those already convicted by a civilian or military court. For the latter purpose, I am establishing a clemency review board of nine distinguished Americans whose duty it will be to assist me in assuring that the Government's forgiveness is extended to applicable cases of prior conviction as equitably and as impartially as is humanly possible.
The primary purpose of this program is the reconciliation of all our people and the restoration of the essential unity of Americans within which honest differences of opinion do not descend to angry discord and mutual problems are not polarized by excessive passion.
My sincere hope is that this is a constructive step toward a calmer and cooler appreciation of our individual rights and responsibilities and our common purpose as a nation whose future is always more important than its past.
At this point, I will sign the proclamation [4313] that I mentioned in my statement, followed by an Executive order [11803] for the establishment of the Clemency Board, followed by the signing of an Executive order [11804] for the Director of Selective Service, who will have a prime responsibility in the handling of the matters involving alternate service.
Thank you very much.

Here's how PBS's The NewsHour (then The MacNeil/Lehrer Report) reported Carter's program on January 21, 1977 (link has text, audio and video):

Just a day after Jimmy Carter's inaguration, he followed through on a contentious campaign promise, granting a presidential pardon to those who had avoided the draft during the Vietnam war by either not registering or traveling abroad. The pardon meant the government was giving up forever the right to prosecute what the administration said were hundreds of thousands of draft-dodgers. . . . Meanwhile, many in amnest groups say that Carter's pardon did too little. They pointed out that the president did not include deserters -- those who served in the war and left before their tour was completed -- or soliders who received a less-than-honorable discharge. Civilian protesters, selective service employees and those who initiated any act of violence also were not covered in the pardon.

Get it? There were two groups, Dumb Ass Reese. "Deserters" and "draft dodgers." Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter knew the difference and spoke publicly on it. Two US presidents. One Republican (Ford), one Democrat (Carter). So Dumb Ass Reese, how do you claim to be an American and flaunt your ignorance so willfully in Canada? Get it right or get off the stage. Truly. The NewsHour link will allow you to hear then US House Rep Elizabeth Holtzman stated that she believes Carter will next take up the issue of deserters. He never did.

But there were two categories. And Canada waived you through regardless of whether you were resisting the draft or leaving the service. If you were leaving the service, they didn't ask, "Wait! Were you drafted!" I'm really getting sick of the dumb asses. They are hurting today's war resistance and people need to get their facts straight.

May 22, 1969, this is Canada's Minister of Immigration, Allan J. MacEachen speaking of the order that all war resisters were allowed to enter Canada: "If a serviceman from another country meets our immigration criteria, he will not be turned down because his is still in the active service of his country. The selection criteria and requirements applying to him will be the same as those that apply to other applicants."

"Not turned down because he is still in the active service of his country." Get it yet? If you don't, sit down already, you're making a fool of yourself in public and ought to be embarrassed. (You can find the quote in Third's editorial. I don't believe you'll find it online. It's from one of my journals in 1969. It did take place and any little whiner saying otherwise can go to a real library, go through a Canadian paper -- like the Star -- and look on May 23, 1969. You'll no doubt find a story on it. It was a big moment and there was a very strong and positive reaction.)

As noted last night Corey Glass' deportation has been put on hold. 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. From Dan Robson's "Deserter's deportation postponed until July" (Toronto Star):

He was told to have his bags packed by this Thursday, but it appears U.S. war resister Corey Glass will remain in Canada for at least another month.
Initially ordered to leave the country by June 12, Glass's departure date has been extended to July 10, after a month-long appeal process by his lawyer was finally approved last week.
The former American soldier was set to become the first Iraq-war resister to be deported from Canada, after his application for refugee status was rejected more than two weeks ago.
Glass said his lawyer put forward the appeal so he would have sufficient time to properly settle his accounts and allow him to leave his job in a professional manner.
This week, all three opposition parties in the House of Commons passed a motion urging the government to allow U.S. military deserters and their families to remain in Canada as permanent residents – instead of deporting them to face possible jail time. The motion passed 137-110, but it is non-binding and the government can choose to ignore it.
The motion that was passed in parliament had nothing to do with Glass's extension.
New Democrat MP Olivia Chow (Trinity-Spadina), who brought the conscientious objector's motion forward, says Glass's extended stay is an opportunity for people to speak out, and ensure war resisters like Glass are not sent to prison.

After the excerpt, the story continues with what I believe is a typo (an "8" in place of a "6"). Vince notes the following letter to the Ottawa Citizen:

Let them stay
Last Tuesday, the Opposition parties in the House of Commons joined together to adopt a recommendation which, if implemented, would require the Canadian government to allow permanent resident status to U.S. war resistors and their families and to cease all deportation and removal proceedings against the war resisters.
Canada refused to join the war in Iraq. It is consistent with that decision to accept people into the country who don't agree either with the legality of that war.
The illegality of that war has been demonstrated many times. It has cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of lives, both Iraqi and U.S.
Our own government should follow the parliamentary directive, which many people agree with. It can restore some of the shine to our reputation in the world as a peacemaker.
Jan Heynen,

Below is a video of a media conference last week on Corey Glass that can be found at War Resisters Support Campaign.

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