Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Kim Rivera and war resistance

Charlotte Sheasby-Coleman writes a letter to the editors of the Toronto Star advocating for Kimberly Rivera to be allowed to stay in Canada:

There is a reason why there are now more young American and Canadian soldiers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, who have taken their own lives than there are soldiers who have died in combat. There is a reason why our dear family friend — 23 years old — returned from service in Afghanistan, a fractured and struggling young soul. There is an age old question “What if they gave a war and nobody went?”
What Kimberley Rivera and others like her are courageously saying is that when young soldiers go into combat and look long and hard at those they are fighting against, they often recognize the inherent humanity of their “enemies,” understand that they too have children and elderly parents and pets who love and depend on them, and recognize that destroying this other soldier’s or civilian’s life and soul would also destroy their own.
Kimberley Rivera took that long hard look. And she made a very courageous choice. Please contact Stephen Harper and tell her that we want Kimberley and her family to stay in Canada.

Kimberly Rivera and her family (husband and two kids) went to Canada in early 2007 with only what they could carry on their small family car.  She was on leave from Iraq and horrified by what she saw while serving.  Already a believer in Jesus Christ when she deployed, the horror deepened her spirituality and her conviction to do the Lord's work as she understood it.

What happened to her is no uncommon.  Agustin Aguayo also was a practicing Christian when he deployed to Iraq.  Seeing war up close deepened his own faith and religious beliefs.  That is why he stopped carrying a loaded gun while deployed in Iraq and why he found he could no longer participate in the Iraq War.

Faith. like any relationship, is not static nor is it taught to be.  Regardless of the religion, there is the belief that, for example, in times of crisis, the power of religion can carry you through the experience when you could not make it through on your own.  (Hence the modern day parable of the two sets of footsteps in the sand that becomes one as your higher power carries you in the darkest of times.)  Faith is not stagnant which is why religious scholars spend so much time pursuing knowledge, why followers do not attend one service their entire life but continue to attend to deepen their understanding and beliefs.

Kim and Agustin's experiences are in keeping with their religions which do allow for faith to grow and deepen.  The US military has refused to recognize that and has found itself in the questionable (legally questionable) position of interpreting faith and judging faith.  The US military will not allow an Agustin Aguayo or Kim Rivera to become a conscientious objector, they will argue that they were practicing a religion when they went to Iraq and that if they had objections they should have been lodged prior to deployment.  (Lodging the objection prior to deployment, to be clear, does not mean someone will get C.O. status.)  They will refuse to recognize that faith and spirituality are not fixed and that they can grow and deepen over time and due to experience.

The US military's definition of religion and religious experiences is offensive and the legality of it should be tested.   The Supreme Court would avoid a decision until the Afghanistan War is officially called 'over' (whether it is or not), but when that day comes, someone should challenge it.  (The Court is notorious for avoiding decisions during wartime.)

The War Resisters Support Campaign is holding a meeting tonight for ways to help Kim Rivera.

Emergency Community Meeting
Wednesday, September 5th
Parkdale United Church
171 Dunn Avenue (@King Street West)
(Wheelchair accessible)

Kimberly Rivera is a former US soldier who sought asylum in Canada after refusing to re-deploy to Iraq in 2007. Kim, her husband and four children including a Canadian-born daughter and son face deportation from Canada.

This is happening despite Parliament voting twice to stop the deportations. Prime Minister Harper has acknowledged that the Iraq War was "absolutely an error". Yet he and his government are sending soldiers back to face punishment for having refused to participate in the Iraq War.

Please join us for this community meeting to discuss what can be done to ensure that Canada does not deport US Iraq War Resisters.

Organized by the War Resisters Support Campaign - Toronto | 416-598-1222 |

In her letter, Charlotte Sheasby-Coleman notes, "There are those, including our own Prime Minister and members of his government, who argue that Kimberley voluntarily joined the U.S. army and, so, should not be sheltered in Canada because she chose to walk away from a voluntary commitment. My understanding, however, is that Kimberley went to Iraq intending to fulfil the responsibilities she accepted, but then realized she couldn’t do so in good conscience because she saw that so many young families, like her own, were suffering and dying because of an invasion she no longer believed to be just. "  Those who insist that are ignorant of the fact that, during Vietnam, Canada drew no line between drafted or not drafted -- they accepted those refusing induction and those who had been inducted and the latter category was not required to prove they hadn't enlisted.  And as David Swanson (War Is A Crime) pointed out last week, when covering the new book About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War, "Most G.I. resistance in Vietnam, this book points out, came from those who had willingly signed up, not from draftees. It is often those who believe the hype, who are trying to benefit the world by going to war, who find the will try to benefit the world when their blinders have been removed and they've seen what war is and what war is used for."

The following community sites -- plus On The Wilder Side, Jane Fonda, Tavis Smiley, IVAW, Watching America, Susan's On The Edge, Adam Kokesh, ACLU, and The Diane Rehm Show -- updated last night and this morning:

The e-mail address for this site is