NEW YEARS 2007 – Kyle Snyder, AWOL from the U.S. occupation of Iraq, continues his impromptu speaking tour of the United States. He was last sighted in California, where, on December 8, Alameda police attempted to arrest him at the Army’s request (see below). Kyle continues to seek a discharge from the Army. And he continues to call for his fellow soldiers to come home from Iraq.
Kyle Snyder was recruited into the U.S. Army directly out of Job Corps when he was 19 years old. He wanted to better himself and to have material security. He enlisted to be part of an engineering unit and he thought he would help in the rebuilding of Iraq. But once in Iraq he was given a 50-caliber machine gun and was told to point his weapon at peaceful Iraqi civilians, including children. When a member of his unit shot an innocent Iraqi civilian, Kyle called for an investigation, but the Army refused. Instead, in April 2005, Kyle was granted a two week leave to British Columbia, Canada. Kyle decided to remain in Canada and join with other U.S. war resisters seeking refugee status there.
KYLE RETURNS TO UNITED STATES
Kyle, who understood he would be discharged in three days, was instead ordered to report to his old unit, the 94th Engineering Battalion, at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. Commanders there would decide his fate. There would be no guarantees. He might be court-martialed and imprisoned. He might be ordered back to Iraq.
The 94th Engineers are slated to return to Iraq for a third time in August. Now, with President Bush’s escalation of the war, their deployment date will likely be moved up. Would the Army would want to make an example of Kyle? Might he face additional serious charges?
Kyle Snyder is not a fool. This was not why he took the chance of returning to the U.S. When Fort Knox authorities dropped him off unescorted at the Greyhound bus station in Louisville, Kyle resumed his AWOL status.
OUT THERE AWOL
But instead of slipping into the shadows with 8,000+ other young men and women currently on “unauthorized absence” from the military, Kyle is speaking out loud against the U.S. war on the people of Iraq. He tells people it is illegal and immoral. He tells people it is crazy.
But Kyle is not one to be rhetorical. Very compellingly, he tells his own story. How he was recruited from Job Corps with promises of money, education and pride. How he trained as a construction equipment operator, and believed he would be rebuilding in Iraq. How, once in Iraq he was given a 50-caliber machine gun and told to point his personal weapon of mass destruction at young children.
Kyle also tells how he witnessed an innocent civilian being shot by a fellow soldier, and how, despite his report on the incident, the Army refused to even investigate. That is when Kyle was given a two-week leave to visit British Columbia, Canada. But Kyle decided not to return to the war. Instead, he applied for political refugee status in Canada. He lived in Canada for a year and a half where he worked with the War Resisters Support Campaign before returning to the U.S. in October to seek a discharge from the Army.
KYLE SUPPORTS ANTIWAR REFERENDUM IN CHICAGO
Kyle has made many appearances around these United States since October 31. On November 6, the day before the midterm election, Kyle Snyder spoke at a well-attended press conference in Chicago, where he encouraged Chicagoans to vote yes on a referendum calling for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, organized by Chicagoans Against War and Injustice. On the following day, 80% of them did just that, along with millions of Illinois voters.
KYLE SPEAKS AT VIETNAM VETERANS MEMORIAL
Kyle spoke to Spanish language media in Chicago along with Juan Torres, whose son served in the Army as a Certified Public Accountant in charge of all cargo in and out of Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan. After telling his father that had learned of things that made him fear for his life, Spc. Juan Torres, Jr. was murdered while taking a shower. Juan Torres is conducting an independent investigation of his son’s death, which the Army claims was a suicide.
On Veterans Day, Kyle spoke at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Chicago, and then celebrated with Vietnam Veterans Against the War and Veterans For Peace. The celebration took place at the Vietnam Veterans Art Museum, where Kyle was moved by the art exhibit of a fellow Iraq veteran, Aaron Hughes.
KYLE SPEAKS AT FORT BENNING, GEORGIA
Next Kyle traveled to Fort Benning, Georgia for the annual November protest organized by School of Americas Watch. Twenty thousand activists, including many religious and youth, participated. Kyle was invited to speak on the stage just outside the gates of Fort Benning. He was introduced by Col. Ann Wright, a leader in the antiwar movement after almost 50 years of military and government service. Kyle called for the closing of the School of Americas and the end of the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Accompanying him as he spoke was fellow Iraq veteran and war resister, Darrell Anderson, and a group of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW). Kyle was so happy to find his fellow soldier/resisters.
KYLE AND IRAQ VETS WORK IN NEW ORLEANS
Kyle hopped on the IVAW bus to New Orleans, where he and other Iraq veterans – women and men – talked about how they were affected by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, in a therapeutic setting organized by Vets 4 Vets. Kyle then joined in reconstruction efforts that Iraq Veterans Against the War (firstname.lastname@example.org) have been carrying out in New Orleans since early last summer, helping to rebuild the flood damaged homes of musicians and veterans. This meant a lot to him.
But Kyle was also upset by what he saw in New Orleans: huge neighborhoods that were still disaster areas a year and half after Hurricane Katrina. “Why isn’t the 94th Engineering Brigade helping here, where they are really needed,” he asked. “Why are they being told to return to Iraq, where they will do no reconstruction at all?”
SPEAKING TO HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS
Kyle’s Canadian girlfriend, Maleah, and I have accompanied him ever since we crossed the border from British Columbia into Washington State on October 28. After working in New Orleans, the three of us returned to Chicago. The American Friends Service Committee had arranged for Kyle to speak in Chicago high schools, especially the most highly recruited, in segregated African American and Latino neighborhoods.
Everyday for a week, Kyle spoke in multiple high school classrooms and assemblies. African American and Latino students had no trouble relating to Kyle’s story. Several young men and women told him they were reconsidering their plans to join the military. Some students signed the “opt out” form in order to keep military recruiters from having access to their school records and contact information.
SANCTUARY, HERE WE COME
A few days after the winter had abruptly asserted itself back into the lives of Chicagoans, Kyle, Maleah and I headed for San Diego, California, where it was warm and beautiful. The Iraq Veterans Against the War had arrived from New Orleans with their bus. Kyle and fellow Iraq veteran/resister Darrell Anderson spoke at a meeting of the San Diego Coalition for Peace and Justice. On the following evening, Kyle was the honored guest of at a fundraising party organized by the San Diego Military Counseling Project.
We found many good friends in San Diego, as we had in Louisville and Chicago. We found committed communities that gladly supported us. We found people who understood the importance of GI’s sitting down and saying no more killing.
We were offered sanctuary in several places. In fact, before Kyle spoke at the Church of the Brethren in San Diego, the church board decided to reassert its status as a “Sanctuary Church.” During the Vietnam War, they had provided sanctuary to 9 sailors.
On Friday evening, December 8, the Alameda police came looking for Kyle at an event in support of GI resisters. The speaker at the event was Bob Watada, father of Army Lieutenant Ehren Watada, the first commissioned officer to publicly refuse deployment to the Iraq War. Army authorities at Fort Lewis, Washington are planning to court martial Lt. Watada on February 5, 2007. (see http://www.thankyoult.org/)
Three Alameda policemen entered the event and asked for Kyle Snyder. But Kyle was not there. He was speaking at another event in San Jose, California, organized by the Quaker Meeting and Veterans for Peace. The San Francisco Chronicle on Sunday, Dec. 10 quoted an Alameda police sergeant saying they were “tipped off by someone in the Army in Kentucky.”
COURAGE TO RESIST
On Saturday morning, December 9, Courage To Resist hosted a forum on GI resistance at the Veterans War Memorial Building in San Francisco. Courage To Resist, based in the San Francisco Bay Area, had coordinated a weekend of actions in support of GI resisters (see http://www.couragetoresist.org/).
Kyle Snyder has been meeting with peace and justice activists wherever he goes. Due to recent attempts to have him arrested, Kyle is keeping a slightly lower profile over the holidays. But he continues to speak out. He is calling for his 94th Engineering Battalion to be sent to New Orleans instead of Iraq. He is requesting a discharge from the Army.
On Friday, Dec. 15, Kyle spoke, again by speakerphone, to the 40th Anniversary Celebration of the Whatcom County Peace and Justice Coalition in Bellingham, Washington. Also present were many good friends in the Bellingham chapter of Veterans For Peace, whom Kyle met last August at a solidarity picnic in Peace Arch Park on the border between British Columbia and Washington State.
CALL THE ARMY AND DEMAND A DISCHARGE FOR KYLE SNYDER
Thanks to all of you who have made calls to the Commanding Generals at Fort Knox, Kentucky and Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. Please continue to call General William McCoy, Jr., the new Commanding General of Fort Leonard Wood, 573-596-0131, or call the Public Affairs Office at 573-563-4013 or 4015, fax: 573-563-4012, email: email@example.com. We want to deliver one clear message: Discharge Kyle Snyder with No Punishment.
KYLE REQUESTS YOUR CONTINUING SUPPORT
Kyle Snyder’s remarkable journey home to the U.S. has been almost magical. He has found tremendous support wherever he has gone. Several communities offered various forms of sanctuary. Generous donations at each meeting have enabled him to keep traveling, keep speaking out, and to pay modest legal fees as he continues to seek a discharge from the Army. Thanks much to Lori Hurlebaus and Courage To Resist for coordinating action alerts and collecting online donations.
But Kyle has no surplus funds, and he will have significant travel and legal expenses in the coming weeks. Please consider donating to his expenses online at Courage To Resist (http://www.couragetoresist.org/).
Kyle and I thank you so much for your very kind support and we wish you a Happy New Year. We look forward to working together with you in the coming year.
for peace and justice,
Soldier Say No / Project Safe Haven