War Resister Speaks from Prison:
Let GI Resisters Stay in Canada
In 2004 when Jeremy Hinzman applied for refugee status in
Canada the federal government stepped in at his Refugee Hearing and said that
evidence challenging the legality of the war in Iraq cant be used in this
case. The U.N. Handbook for Refugees and the Nuremburg Principals say:
soldier of an army that is involved in an illegal war of aggression has a higher
international duty to refuse service. They also have the right to seek refugee
protection in any country that is signatory to the Geneva Convention.
refusing to allow him, and by precedent all other claimants, the right to use
the argument that the war was illegal, the decision closed the door on that legal
avenue for refugee protection.
The invasion of Iraq was clearly an illegal
act of aggression. The U.S. was not under attack or the imminent threat of attack
from the nation of Iraq. The action was also not approved by the U.N. Security
By taking this stance, the Conservative government is condoning
the invasion and continuing occupation of Iraq.
Is this what Canadians
want? A majority of Americans want it to end and have also realized it to be a
mistake. Canadians have long known it to be wrong. Why is the minority Conservative
government still holding onto the idea and still deporting war resisters?
are they separating families and being complicit in the incarceration of morally
strong young men and women? What message is this sending?
voted to let war resisters remain
In June of 2008 Canadas Parliament
voted on a non-binding resolution to allow war resisters and their families permanent
resident status. The vote passed. In agreement with the vote, a poll of Canadian
opinion showed overwhelming support for the resolution.
But in defiance
of Parliament and the will of the people, the Conservative minority government
led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Immigration Minister Diane Finley ignored
the bill. The government stated that all refugee claimants are give a fair chance
to plead their case at the Refugee Board, and special treatment to these Iraq
resisters wasnt fair to the other claimants. The government has also stated
in the past that we are not legitimate claimants because we are from the U.S.
which they say has a fair and transparent justice system and we wouldnt
be singled out for being political.
On July 14th,2008 in my final attempt
to stay in Canada, where my son and community are, Federal Judge Ann Mactavish
stated that I didnt prove I would be treated harshly by the U.S. military
for being a politically outspoken opponent to the war in Iraq and the Bush administration
She predicted that my punishment would be minimal and Id
serve at most 30 days in the brig. (This is probably because less than 10% of
AWOL cases are brought to court martial.) She then cleared the way for my deportation.
Convicted of a felony
Less than a month later I was tried in a court
martial presided over by a judge who is a colonel in the Army, a person who has
the President in her chain of command. (A person late appointed by Bush to Guantanamo
Bay no doubt because of her credentials and political position.) The only aggravating
evidence the prosecution presented was a 6 minute long video of me stating among
other things that I feel my president lied to me. (A political statement.)
The fact that this was found admissible in court for the crime of desertion is
beyond me. There were no character witnesses brought against me.
factor the prosecution wanted shown in determining a sentence was the fact that
I was political and exercising my freedom of speech in criticizing the Commander
in Chief. It seems like a conflict of interest to have a judge determine my fate
when she has to ultimately answer to the President, while I was claiming the President
was a domestic enemy.
While I was openly saying in my defense that the
Bush administration created reasons to go to Iraq, she had superiors to answer
to who answer to the President.
The judge came back with a 30 month sentence;
thats two and a half years for not showing up for work I thought to be morally
objectionable, by far the harshest sentence given to a deserter from the Iraq
war. The only thing that saved me was a plea bargain for 15 months. I still received
a dishonorable discharge. A dishonorable discharge will keep me from ever having
a government job and be at a disadvantage in the civilian sector as well. I will
have a hard time ever getting a loan for a house or a car. This conviction is
also a felony! A felony will make it hard for me to return to Canada to be with
my young family. Then again, Judge Ann Mactavish had already made sure I wouldnt
be allowed in for ten years.
People who committed far worse crimes have
been getting off with lighter sentences than mine. I refused to participate in
killing and got 15 months, but a First Infantry Division soldier, Spc. Belmor
Ramos, was sentenced to only seven months after being convicted of conspiracy
to commit murder in the case of four Iraqi men. In 2007, he stood guard while
others blindfolded and shot in the head four unidentified Iraqi men, afterwards
dumping their bodies in a Baghdad canal. During his court martial, Ramos admitted
his guilt, stating, I wanted them dead. I had no legal justification to
Where is the justice? The system is not fair and impartial.
Can it really be transparent when you dont know who is influencing the judge
from up the chain of command? See how the military justice system works? It gives
light sentences for killing, but God forbid someone should call the president
a liar and war-monger. In a court martial, a persons words and political
opinions if they are anti-war and critical of the president seem
be far more damaging to his case than someones illegal actions in an occupied
about the contract I signed?
Often, people have argued that I signed a
contract Id like to quote from a letter one of the Founding Fathers wrote
to George Washington on his thoughts about contracts:
for instance, becomes impossible, non- performance is not immoral. So if performance
becomes Self-destructive to the party, the law of self preservation Overrules
the laws of obligations to others. For the reality of These principles I appeal
to the true fountains of evidence, the head and heart of every rational man.
--Thomas Jefferson, April 1793
me to continue in my military contract would have been destructive to me as a
person with my views, morals, and ideals. The contract I signed was to support
and defend the Constitution of the United States from all enemies foreign and
domestic, and to obey the lawful orders of the President and those officers appointed
over me. I did not sign to be the strong arm for corporate interests of oil. The
so-called liberation of Iraq has turned into nothing more than a constant
and protracted struggle for the people, against the forces that are trying to
impose their will upon them for power and profit.
True freedom is the ultimate
expression and condition of a people to control their own destiny, not the manufactured,
force-fed variety being offered to the people of Iraq. True democracy is not found
at the end of the end of a gun barrel. It rises up from within the masses.
government manufactured pretenses for the war
The invasion of Iraq wasnt
about WMDs, or else we would have found some. It wasnt about regime change,
or else we would be in Darfur, or Indonesia. (Besides, regime change is not a
legitimate reason to go to war.) It wasnt about 9/11 terrorists because
most of those were from Saudi Arabia. It didnt say anywhere in my contract
that Id be going to foreign soil halfway around the world, to invade a country
that was no threat to the U.S. It didnt say in my contract that I would
be called upon to risk my life, not defending the people or the Constitution of
the United States, but creating more enemies for our country by being an occupier.
The invasion of Iraq has made the world a much more dangerous place.
was never a real threat. And now the destabilized nation of Iraq has become a
breeding ground, an awesome recruiting center, for al Qaeda. And it has exacted
a great price from the American people. Im not talking about the huge monetary
price, but the human cost of war, the deaths of so many of our brave youth, the
missing limbs, the PTSD, the suicides.
The order for me to go to Iraq was
not a lawful one. It violated the Constitution. Article VI of the Constitution
states that any treaty to which the U.S. is a signatory shall be the supreme law
of the land. The last time I checked, the U.S. was a signing party to the Geneva
Conventions. There are certain rules in that treaty for declaring war, and the
last time I checked, regime change was not one of them. A country must be under
attack or be under threat of imminent attack. Neither was true in the case of
Iraq. Former President Bush had no right to interpret the Constitution or the
Geneva Conventions simply as he saw fit, and the 107th Congress had no right to
pass H.J. Res. 114 which allowed the president to invade Iraq. The
Constitution was being ignored by the whole lot of them and they were derelict
in their duty to uphold it.
The stand that the Conservative government
of Canada has taken has separated a family an act totally un-Canadian.
I have a young son, a Canadian citizen. My partner, also a Canadian citizen, has
multiple sclerosis and has been left to raise our son alone while Im locked
in the brig for refusing to participate in a war that Canada itself wouldnt
even send troops to. In 2003 the then Liberal government saw the holes in Bushs
intelligence and refused to participate in the invasion. The Canadian government
not only deported me, but barred me from entering Canada again for ten years!
My flesh and blood is there!
Canadas humanitarian tradition
The Conservatives are destroying Canadas
tradition of being a refuge from militarism and an asylum for those escaping injustice
a tradition that goes back to the times of slavery. Are they truly representing
the people? Who are they working for really? The days of Bush have ended. This
new Obama administration has a different view and different policies. Its
time for Mr. Stephen Harper to change his view. He should listen to what his Parliament
and a majority of Canadians are saying.
Please support the movement to
allow war resisters to stay in Canada and to pardon those in the U.S. Please help
me to return to Canada to be with my son. I want only to live in peace and be
in this life. Stop the war!
NAVCON Brig Miramar