Thursday, August 21, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, there's no treaty (would the press please calm down?), Robin Long due to be court-martialed tomorrow, and more.
Starting with war resistance. Tim Richard is a US war resister. Courage to Resist interviewed him this month, noting that he enlisted in the National Guard in 1999 and that his service was supposed to end in 2005 but he was instead stop-lossed and informed he would be deploying to Iraq.
Tim Richard: After 9-11, I just like about any other American kind of wanted a piece of somebody especially me being in the military. You know, I had thought that, you know, I want to do the right thing. I want to go get, you know, who ever did this to America. And then I started doing some research and stuff. And I was behind the Iraq War when it started because I had thought it was -- had to do with 9-11. So, you know, but after the Iraq War dragged on for a bit, I realized that there's no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, there's nothing but poor people and a lot of dead bodies. So I started doing some research on the war and I realized that, well, it's basically a bunch of bull that has been fed to us. So I thought maybe, I mean I'd been thinking about becoming an officer, I'd been thinking about making a career out of the military but I decided at the end of my six years I would just get out of the military. I had to say, you know, six years is enough. I'm not going to re-enlist, I don't want anything to do with the Iraq War.
Courage to Resist: Tell me about the research that you did. Did you go to websites? Did you read books?
Tim Richard: Yeah, I mean, Wikipedia is an excellent source -- non-academic, of course. But I started asking questions, I started talking to people with different perspectives on things and I just learned about the whole, you know, President Reagan - Donald Rumsfeld connection to Iraq, the how Saddam Hussein was installed to counter the Iranian revolution which came about because the US installed a puppet shah in Iran. And once I started realizing what the root cause of all these things were -- basically the US -- that really got me thinking about what's the point of even being there? I also started thinking in my mind: Is really military intervention and killing people in this manner right?" I mean, it's one thing if you're defending yourself. But morally, I just had problems with the idea of going into a foreign, sovereign country, invading it, toppling the leadership, taking their resources and killing people. To me that was a huge moral dilemma.
Courage to Resist: So you began to develop serious misgivings -- both politically and morally -- about what the US was doing in Iraq?
Tim Richard: Yes, well I would say the moral misgivings were much stronger than the political misgivings. Cause, like I said, I joined the military with the idea of defending the United States and, you know, if that had been the case, I might feel differently about the Iraq War. But now I just felt like what they were asking me to do was just flat wrong. Shooting somebody who is virtually defenseless is wrong and that's something that I didn't think I could be any part of.
Courage to Resist: Alright so you joined the National Guard, as you said, in 1999. And your time was up in about November 2005. What happened then?
Tim Richard: Well in about August of 2005, our unit got a warning saying that some members would be going to Iraq. They had told us when we joined that they don't break up units, they don't send individual soldiers. If you go, you go with your unit. But it turned out, once the Bush administration had got done with us, that was simply not true because they kept basically using us to populate other units that were going over to Iraq. And you know, I was a few months out of the military when I got a warning order saying I would be deployed to Iraq. I asked what about my contract and they said I was stop-lossed. I found out later, after I had come to Canada and after I had gotten a hold of my personnel file, they did not let me see this, but it turned out my contract had been extended from November 23, 2005 to December 24, 2031.
Courage to Resist: What? 2031?
Tim Richard: I've got the paper work. You know, everyone says, "You signed the contract, you'll just have to deal with it." That's not in the contract. No one tells you about it when you sign up. So as far as I am concerned, what they did is illegal but the Supreme Court of the the United States held up that they are allowed to stop-loss. So I mean there's really nothing you can do in that situation.
Courage to Resist: So what did you do, Tim?
Tim Richard: Well I decided that they weren't going to keep me -- I knew they weren't going to keep me for that long, that's silly, they're not going to keep me for 25 years, I don't think. Even -- well that was my thinking at the time. So I decided that I will deploy to Iraq. I decided that -- they pulled me out of my unit, which was a calvary unit, in which I was fixing radios, and they started training me with an infantry unit -- along with communications duties, they also started training me in regular infantry duties such as house-to-house, like house raids, and defending convoys and that sort of thing. And I decided in around November of 2005, that, you know, this is just -- this is just ridiculous. I -- I -- I cannot morally, I cannot do what they are asking me to do. If I were to deploy to Iraq I would basically -- I felt like I would be a liability because there's no way I could shoot somebody who was simply trying to defend their own home from a foreign invader. They did all this mock training exercises in which we were in full battle gear and we were raiding mock houses -- mock houses with, you know, actors yelling out Arabic and that sort of thing. I had like my rifles and everything. And during the exercise, I shot two unarmed civilians with the blanks of my rifle and I -- and no one said anything to me about it. I don't know if anyone even saw me. But I realized at that time, you know, that if this was Iraq, those people would be dead. All they were doing was trying to defend their home. So I almost just threw away my rifle and just ran right there but, you know, I sort of needed a plan so I decided that I'd wait a few days. And on November 23, 2005, the date my original contract was set to expire, that's when I went AWOL.
Courage to Resist: How did you do it? What did you do?
Tim Richard: Well, uh, they were training us in Mississippi and this is kind of -- this is kind of strange because we were under lock-down. Lock-down means that, you know, you can't go anywhere without someone knowing, not even to the bathroom. You had your rifle with you, you had your uniform on at all times. But because November 23rd was Thanksgiving, they decided to cancel training for the day, they let us wear civilian clothes and lock up our rifles. And they decided that they were going to bus us into town to go to Wal-Mart so we could pick stuff up. And they said, "Oh, by the way, we'll just drop you off in town. Have fun. Come back in 9 hours and we'll pick you up." So I figured, you know what, if this isn't a sign, I didn't know what was. So I got onto the first bus I could, snuck away from the main group. I called a cab. Meanwhile my mom's on the other end. I didn't tell her exactly what all was going on but she bought me a plane ticket from New Orleans to Seattle. So the plan was to get to New Orleans, take the plane to Seattle, cross the border in Seattle to Vancouver then meet my mom where she was living in Nanaimo, BC at the time. And, well that's the short version, that's what I did.
Courage to Resist: It's kind of like the plot for a thriller.
Tim Richard: Oh, yeah, if I gave you all the details, man, I don't think you enough tape for that.
Courage to Resist: Were-were you nervous at all?
Tim Richard: Oh I was. My heart was pounding the whole time. I was sweating. You know, I was so paranoid, you know, because it really only takes one phone call, one person to realize what you're up to, and your name goes on like every computer, like every single military, FBI, local police, everything. You know, it doesn't take that much these days for them to put a looking out for you. So, I mean, I tried to alter the way I walked. As soon as I got to New Orleans, I threw away my dog tags. I threw away my military ID. I tried to, you know, act normal. You know, I tried to the best I can to just sort of blend in. Of course, you know, the haircut and walk just sort of gave it away. So, you know, I just tried my best to blend in and, you know, when I got to the Canadian border, I basically had a one-way car rental, I had out-of-country driver's license, you know, from the US, $400 cash. So I'm thinking, "Okay, I'm busted." My plan was to get out of the car and start screaming, "I'm a Canadian citizen!" and let them not kick me out until they figure out that I'm not. Which I was a Canadian citizen so they wouldn't kick me out. But, you know, the border guard was just really nice and said, "Alright, have fun. Welcome to Canada." And that was pretty much it.
Courage to Resist: You said you were a Canadian citizen. It's possible to have dual citizenship? Canada and the US?
Tim Richard: According to the United States, no. But according to Canada, yes. I, because my father's Canadian, when I came to Canada -- and I'm glad I did not claim my Canadian citizenship earlier because if I had claimed my Canadian citizenship as a child, I wouldn't have been able, the US military would have made me forfeit it upon joining the military. Because when I came to Canada, I was able to go ahead, fill out all the paperwork, everything, basically sit on my hands for eight months and wait for the citizenship card to come in. And now I'm a full-fledged Canadian citizen and I've got the rights and privileges of every other Canadian citizen.
Courage to Resist: We know a few hundred other GIs up there who would like to have those same rights and privileges.
Tim Richard: And that's why I'm up here with the War Resisters Support Campaign. Here in London, Ontario, we've got a London chapter and we care for, I know, four war resisters here and we've had ten others pass through. We do several fundraisers, a lot of political lobbying, a lot of talking to the public. That sort of thing. And I try and be as active as I can with the group in order to -- because I feel these guys are up here, in some ways I feel really guilty because, you know, just because I'm a Canadian citizen, just because my dad was born in New Brunswick, I somehow have a privilege they don't and I don't think that's right that I have a privilege that they don't simply because of where my father was born. I've done the same thing they did. In fact, I think what they've done is a little bit more courageous because I came up here knowing that I had Canadian citizenship. These guys that come up now, they've got no claim to Canadian citizenship. They don't know what's going to happen to them. So that's why I try and work and try and be as outspoken as I can about the war resisters support group.
Regarding the stop-loss, as Chris Hedges explains in the afterword to Camilo Mejia's Road to Ar Ramadi: The Private Rebellion of Staff Sergeant Camilo Mejia, Camilo was also stop-lossed and given the 2031 year. Last month, Robin Long was extradited from Canada. As expected, his court-martial is this month. Scheduled for tomorrow. From Courage to Resist:
Ft. Carson court martial Friday, August 22.
7:30am - Supporters are encouraged to attend the trial
Arrive at the Ft. Carson Main Gate at 7:30 am to ensure you can get to Bldg. 6221 in time. You will need to provide a drivers license, registration, and proof of insurance if driving. Do not wear any political buttons, t-shirts, etc.
5:00 pm - Main Gate vigil and press conference
Join Robin's lawyer James Branum and supporters for a vigil and press conference at the Main Gate
The Canadian government has announced that US war resister will be deported if he does not leave their country by September 23rd. Whether he would be deported or "deported" is an unanswered question. Actions are taking place to make the Stephen Harper government respect the will of the people and let Jeremy remain in Canada. Jeremy is being highly pro-active and has already taped a video, which you can find at the War Resisters Support Campaign, where he speaks directly to Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada:
Jeremy Hinzman: Hello, Mr. Harper. This is my family Nga, Liam and Meghan. We've been in Canada for the last four and a 1/2 years. I was a specialist in the 82nd Air borne division of the United States Army and served honorably in Afghanistan. In 2004, my family and I came to Canada because we would not participate in the Iraqi War, a war which Canada also refused to participate in because it was condemned by the international community. One of your predecessors, Pierre Trudeau, once said that Canada should be have from militarism and we took him at this word. On June 3, 2008, the Canadian Parliament passed a motion saying that United States war resisters should be able to remain in Canada. We're asking you to abide by this motion and allow us to stay in Canada. Thank you.
Title Card: On September 23rd, the Harper government plans to deport the Hinzman family back to the United States.
Title Card: Hinzman faces a court martial and up to 5 years in military prison for opposing the Iraq war and coming to Canada.
Title Card: War Resisters Support Campaign (Canada): www.resisters.ca
Courage to Resist alerts, "Supporters are calling on Hon. Diane Finley, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, to intervene. Phone 613.996.4974 or email firstname.lastname@example.org,"Iraq Veterans Against the War also encourages people to take action, "To support Jeremy, call or email Hon. Diane Finley, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, and ask her to intervene in this case. Phone: 613.996.4974 email: email@example.com." In addition to that, Canada's War Resisters Support Campaign is staging an emergency meeting this week (August 20th, Wednesday, 7:00 pm, Steelworkers Hall at 25 Cecil St.) and planning a day of action (September 13th) where
"[a]ctions, demonstrations and pickets will take place in cities and towns all across Canada."
There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Yovany Rivero, William Shearer, Michael Thurman, Andrei Hurancyk, Megan Bean, Chris Bean, Matthis Chiroux, Richard Droste, Michael Barnes, Matt Mishler, Josh Randall, Robby Keller, Justiniano Rodrigues, Chuck Wiley, James Stepp, Rodney Watson, 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, Jose Vasquez, Eli Israel, Joshua Key, Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Clara 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, Daniel Baker, 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, Logan Laituri, Jason Marek, 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. In total, at least fifty US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.
Information on war resistance within the military can be found at The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline [(877) 447-4487], Iraq Veterans Against the War and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. In addition, VETWOW is an organization that assists those suffering from MST (Military Sexual Trauma).
US Secretary of State Condi Rice snuck into Baghdad. She held a press conference there with Hoshyar Zebari (Green Zone spokesmodel for Jenny Craig as well as the country's foreign minister) to discuss the treaty they're attempting to pass off as a SOFA. Jonathan S. Landy (McClatchy Newspapers) quotes Rice relaxing at Nouri al-Maliki's palatial digs declaring, "Nothing will be signed today." Of course not. Even Gordon Johndroe was attempting to slowly explain that to the press via the traveling White House (in Crawford, TX) on Tuesday. ("Drafts aren't final until they're final," Johndroe declared. "So there are drafts and there have been drafts for the last few weeks.") For those who still can't grasp it, Condi and Hoshy held a joint-press conference in the Green Zone. It was cute the way Hoshy thanked her (repeatedly) for dropping by as he pointed out that "you have so many other preoccupations, but thank you for making the time to visit us." Yes, Condi, "thank you for making the time" despite your "many other preoccupations." She's just the Secretary of State. How nice of her to make time for a war that the US launched. As the White House announced Tuesday: "Secretary Rice was scheduled to lead a delegation to the closing ceremonies of the Olympics in Beijing this coming weekend. Because of ongoing events around the world she is no longer going to be leading that delegation."
Landay was at the press confernece and asked Hoshy, "You have to put it" SOFA "through your political and national security committee, your Parliament, and Ramadan falls early this year. What will you do if you can't get this done by December 31st." Hoshy's optimistic but also noted that the draft of the agreement has to go to the Executive Council as well ("an important body"). Stephen Farrell and Thom Shanker (New York Times) reported this morning: "The main sticking points, in fact, are also the most delicate: setting a timeline for American troops to leave and declaring whether American forces would be granted immunity from Iraqi prosecution." Today at the White House, Gordon Johndroe again tried to stress the obvious: "Discussions are ongoing. We have made some progress in the recent days on an agreement with the Iraqis, but there is no final agreement yet. We will continue to have these discussions with the Iraqis." Johdnroe danced around Senate ratification at first when asked about the US Congress' role by saying certain members had been consulted but then, pressed, stated, "So it's not a treaty, so it would not require Senate ratification or anything like that." At the Pentagon, Bryan Whitman explained that "it's very premature at this point to say that we have an agreement." And it's premature to assume the US Congress is going to go along with being shut out of any process. Among the House members on record publicly raising objection to ignoring the Constituation are US House Rep Susan Davis, US Senators Russ Feingold and Hillary Clinton and US Senator and chair of the Committee of Foreign Relations Joe Biden. And for those confused about the basics, US House Reps Bill Delahunt and Rosa DeLauro explained it in a column for the Washington Post last month explained how "congressional approval of the agreement" is required and urged an alternative to the treaty:
We should extend the U.N. mandate for a short period to maintain the status quo and ultimately turn this issue over to the next president and Congress, who must implement any agreement. Rather than dictating the terms of our long-term relationship with Iraq, such a policy would allow us to work with Iraqis to craft an agreement that includes the carefully coordinated withdrawal of U.S. combat forces that majorities in both countries support. Doing so would also solidify the type of sustainable partnership that the people of the United States and Iraq need and deserve.
As so many in the press corps rush to gush and pretend a treaty has been finalized, Deborah Haynes (Times of London) appears to be the only one who looked beyond the arranged press briefings who notes that "a flying visit to Baghdad by Dr Rice, which drew a scathing reaction from the anti-US cleric Hojatoleslam Moqtada al-Sadr. He accused Washington of trying to pressure the Iraqi authorities to bend to its will."
Meanwhile, Campbell Robertson and James Glanz (New York Times) explore the Iraqi Finance Ministry claims (in figures they handed over to the Times as well as in statements to the paper) that they are spending 57% "of their annual reconstruction budget" and the paper's examination of the figures finds that 18% is the better number and if monies for the Kudistan region (which have not been spent, only allocated) is removed, the figure "drops to 8.7 percent." Stephen Farrell (New York Times) reports that Lebanon's Prime Minister Fouad Siniora followed "in the footsteps of King AbdullahII of Jordan" by visiting Baghdad yesterday where he held a joint-press conference with Nouri al-Maliki "about an agreement to export oil to Lebanon." China's Xinhua quotes Sinora stating that "we advise the Arab leaders that Iraq should return to the Arab group. The return of Iraq is an essential goal." CNN adds: " Saad Hariri, the leader of Lebanon's parliamentary majority, visited Iraq last month. Lebanon named an ambassador to Iraq two years ago, but he died, and a replacement has not yet been chosen. There is an Iraqi Embassy in Beirut, the capital of Lebanon." And Dexy's back in Iraq. And apparently hasn't learned a damn thing while gone as he rushes to write a 'peace in the valley' piece for the New York Times today. In some sort of a Karmic Smackdown, his fluff runs the same day the paper editorializes "Afghanistan On Fire" (A22) which should serve to remind everyone that Kandahar is where the puppet of Afghanistan can semi-freely roam and the Green Zone in Baghdad is where the puppet of Iraq can semi-freely roam. There is no peace in either country. Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad car bombing that claimed 1 life and left four more people wounded and a Baghdad "sound bomb" resulted in three people being injured.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports Maj Gen Ahmed Rasheed ("director of the government office that issues identification cards") was shot in Baghdad today and is "injured seriously," in another Baghdad shooting 1 person was killed and another wounded and, in seperate incidents, 2 police officers were shot dead in Mosul.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 corpses discovered in Baghdad and 1 headless corpse discovered in Mosul. Reuters notes 2 more corpses were discovered in Mosul.
In the US, Congressional opponent of the Iraq War Stephanie Tubbs Jones is dead. Tubbs Jones was a courageous member of the House who stood up for the voters and for the vote in January 2005 (along with US Senator Barbara Boxer). The New York Times had long ridiculed questions of voter fraud in the 2000 and 2004 elections. Tubbs Jones and Boxer's stand meant the press had to take it a little more seriously. Stephanie Tubbs Jones was a judge, a prosecutor and, following the November 1998 elections, a member of the House of Representatives. The Clintons -- Bill, Hillary and Chelsea -- issued the following joint-statement:
There are few words to express the shock we feel at this time our deepest condolences are with Stephanie's son, Mervyn, her family, and her many loved ones, friends, and supporters. Stephanie's friendship meant the world to us, a friendship that deepened through every trial and challenge. We could always count on her to be a shoulder on which to lean, an ear to bend, a voice to reassure. Over the course of many years, with many ups and many downs, Stephanie was right by our side -- unwavering, indefatigable. It was that fighting spirit -- safely stowed behind her disarming smile, backed by so much integrity and fiery intelligence -- that allowed Stephanie to rise from modest beginings, to succeed in public service, to become a one-woman force for progress in our country. All of us who were lucky to know her and love her can only hope now to live like her -- to be as passionate, loyal, hard charging, and joyful in life's pursuits. Stephanie was one of a kind. We will miss our friend always.
Stephanie Tubbs Jones was a strong foe against the Iraq War so her passing is included for that reason. There are many other reasons. As 2005 community members will recall, there's the White Man who refused to highlight Tubbs Jones' continued work on the Ohio vote and dismissed it (and her) in what we will just call here 'far from left' comments. No, we don't link to that trash. Among the many other reasons to note Stephanie Tubbs Jones' passing is Ruth Conniff. Apparenly Ruth's unaware that Stephanie Tubbs Jones was a friend of and super delegate for Hillary. When she does find out, she will, no doubt embarrass herself again -- as she did earlier this month by using the murder of Bill Gwatney -- a friend of Bill and Hillary's -- as an excuse to trash the Clintons. A man was shot dead in Arkansas and, for Ruth Conniff, his friendship with the Clintons provided her the perfect opportunity to scribble some more garbage attacking them. How proud she must be so have sunk so far into the gutter. Kat called Conniff out here.
Turning to the US presidential race, independent candidate Ralph Nader is providing audio commentaries at Ralph's Daily Audio and the one below is "Debates Declaration:"
This is Ralph Nader. The two major parties -- Republican and Democratic Parties -- and their candidates seem to want to ration debates in this country. Why do we allow presidential debates to be rationed?
We don't allow weather reports to be rationed, entertainment to be rationed, sporting events to be rationed. But when it comes to the future of our country and it's place in the world, when it comes to the livelihoods and the necessities of the American people, we're left with three debates, so-called, in the fall with only Barack Obama and John McCain on the stage. Their own debate commission/corporation ensures that no one else on the stage and they're really not debates, they're like parallel interviews.
So we want people to open up the debates and to support the following declaration:
"We call for opening up the debates. The scope of discussion must be as broad and deep as the serious challenges we face as a nation. We agree that vibrant debate is the heart beat of our democracy and our First Amendment especially during an election year. We recognize that smaller third parties and independents have traditionally played a vital role in our democracy including leading the charge for the abolition of slavery, the women's right to vote and economic justice for workers and farmers. We support opening up the debates beyond the two parties and the so-called Commission on Presidential Debates -- which is a private corporation, co-chaired by former chairman of the Republican and Democratic Parties -- it's time for our presidential debates to once again be hosted by truly non-partisan, civic minded associations."
If you support this declaration, let's hear from you.
Yesterday evening and night time community posts revolved around the theme of 80s music so be sure to check out Rebecca's "corey hart's 'never surrender'," Ruth's "Stevie Nicks' 'Edge of Seventeen'," Kat's "Tracey Chapman's 'Fast Car'," Marcia's "Ashford & Simpson 'High Rise'," Elaine's "Cyndi Lauper" and Mike's "Tina Turner, Bangles, R.E.M.." Cedric's "Barack tells people what he thinks there problem is" and Wally's "THIS JUST IN! HE JUST CAN'T CONNECT!" joint-post addresses Barack. Trina's "Split Pea Soup in the Kitchen" went up this weekend as did Betty's latest chapter "Betsy and Valda come calling" and we'll note those here as well.
jonathan s. landay
the new york times