Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Iraq Veteran Finds Sanctuary In Canadian Church

Rodney Watson Tells Why He Would Not Be
"Stop-Lossed" Back to Iraq

by Gerry Condon

Rodney Watson is one of the bravest and nicest men I have had the pleasure of meeting. He is an African American from Kansas City, Kansas. He is a very religious young man, 32 years old. His dream was to one day have his own restaurant. In 2004, when an Army recruiter told him he would be trained as a cook, he signed up for a three year hitch.

When Watson was deployed to Iraq in October 2005, his superiors told him he would be supervising the dining facility. Instead, he was given an M16 rifle and told to search for explosives on the perimeter of his base in Mosul.

The Army had not trained Watson to inspect or detonate explosives, so he was unhappy with this assignment. But this was not all that was bothering him. He was appalled at the blatant racism of some of his fellow soldiers in Iraq. He saw U.S. soldiers spitting upon and kicking the Koran and beating Iraqi, even civilians. “I had to sit there and watch it,” he told the Vancouver Courier, “and my hands were tied.” He did not report the abuses. “I didn’t want to be labeled a snitch – not with people walking around with machine guns.”

Watson finished his twelve-month tour of duty in October 2006 and returned home, only to be told he would be going right back to Iraq. His three-year contract with the Army would have ended in the spring of 2007, but the Army was unilaterally extending it so that he could complete another tour of Iraq. Rodney Watson was being “stop-lossed.”

On a two-week leave, Watson pondered his situation and decided he would not be a slave to the U.S. Army or cannon fodder for the war in Iraq. Instead, he left a goodbye note in his father’s bible and made his way to Vancouver on the west coast of Canada. The Army has since charged him with desertion.

With the aid of the War Resisters Support Campaign in Vancouver, Rodney Watson sought sanctuary in Canada as a political refugee who would be persecuted for his beliefs if he were forced to return to the U.S. Despite widespread support in Canada for U.S. war resisters, Watson was denied refugee status and the Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper ordered him deported.

The Canadian people have been much more welcoming than the Canadian government. So Rodney spoke with the Ric Matthews, the pastor of the First United Church in downtown Vancouver, a progressive congregation that opens its doors every night to homeless people who would otherwise be sleeping on the streets.

Canadian churches have a long tradition of granting sanctuary to refugees who are rejected by the politicized refugee board but who truly do face persecution in their homelands. Two U.S. war resisters who have been deported from Canada, Robin Long and Clifford Cornell, were court-martialed by the U.S. Army, convicted of desertion, and sentenced, to 15 months and 12 months in prison, respectively, as well as dishonorable discharges.

Pastor Matthews spoke with his congregation and they agreed to provide Watson with sanctuary, the first time a Canadian church has done so for a U.S. war resister. Since mid-September, Watson has been living in a custodial apartment in the church, where he has received a steady flow of supporters, journalists, and even Members of Parliament. So far the Canadian government has respected his church sanctuary.

Last week Gerard Kennedy, a Liberal MP from Toronto, flew to Vancouver to meet with Watson. Kennedy has introduced a bill in the House of Commons that would grant sanctuary to U.S. war resisters who would not fight in the illegal U.S. war and occupation of Iraq. If his bill passes, it will be legally binding, unlike two similar parliamentary motions that the Conservative government has chosen to ignore.

Watson’s Canadian fiance and their one-year old son are joining him for the holidays and beyond.

I have had the good fortune of visiting Rodney Watson several times in Vancouver, and I spoke with him recently to see how he is doing. Although many Canadians know his story, very few people in the U.S. are aware of the stand that Rodney Watson is taking on behalf of all war resisters. I asked Rodney if he would elaborate his story for an American audience and he graciously agreed to do so.

Rodney, as an African American man, you certainly recognize racist behavior when you see it. How were you affected by the racism you witnessed in Iraq?

"The racism I witnessed in Iraq was something that really angered me – the mistreatment and abuse that some racist soldiers or civilian contractors would afflict upon the Iraqi civilians. The Army is full of good soldiers but, as we all know, there are some that just don't deserve to wear the uniform because of their racial hatred.

At the same time as I was witnessing these crimes in Iraq, my fellow Americans were still suffering from the effects of Hurricane Katrina – mostly poor black people. As I watched the military spend millions of U.S. dollars in a country that had no weapons of mass destruction, people back home were begging for help after the storm from a government that moved very slowly to aid those in need.

I now wish that President Obama, being African American, will help the youth that are killing each other every day in the streets of America and concentrate on helping the American people that are in need of jobs, housing, food, and health care. Because I think these problems are more important right now than WAR!

I pray that God will direct the steps of the President and change his mind on certain issues and for him to use the Love and popularity he has received to rebuild America instead of “nation building” in the Middle East.

What part of your story are the media not telling?

The media is not telling the story of the racism that I witnessed directly. There was a soldier in my unit in Iraq who was caught dealing drugs to an undercover military C.I.D. agent and the result was that every BLACK soldier in my unit had to report to a formation to be questioned and finger printed by the FBI. Why didn't they just detain him when the deal went down instead of treating all the Black men in my unit like potential CRIMINALS!!!!!!!!!

What would you like to say to the American people?

My message of PEACE to the people of the U.S. is that we can achieve Peace if we truly reach out to our enemies with diplomacy and stop fighting, instead of risking the lives of these Brave Men and Women to fight low level fighters who attack and then run and hide.

To take the notion that America is ONE NATION UNDER GOD seriously and rebuild the U.S. into a land of equal treatment among all of the different races of America with Love and true unity. In all honesty, the KKK are Terrorist. Those who would kill their fellow man over money or drugs are Terrorist. The people in power who sit in their big fancy houses and just watch black youth kill each other are Terrorist. What I'm saying is that we have a lot of problems in our own country that are of a GREAT EMERGENCY. The people are crying out for HELP!!!

Do you have a message for your fellow soldiers?

My message to the soldiers is that I pray for your safety, even the ones who might think I'm some kind of coward or traitor. I pray that the Lord of Lords and King of Kings Jesus Christ will keep you all under his protection and your families as well. It has been an honor to serve along side of most of you that I have encountered in the Army. And I know the bad apples will have to answer to God one day. Even the ones in high places who led us into battle based on lies will answer to God almighty for their LIES. Last but not least I pray that the Lamb of God will put an end to wars that you all are involved in, for JESUS is the Prince of Peace and not The Prince of War!!

What kind of support are you receiving and what are your immediate needs?

I have the basics here living in Sanctuary, but if any creative minds can and want to help me, I would highly appreciate it. I have a son who is one-year-old. He and his mother are my heart and soul and they are put before any of my needs. It is hard for me to ask for help when I know there are many people in the U.S. who are in greater need than I. But if there are those who wish to give a helping hand, I would be ever so grateful.

What would you like for Christmas?

All I want for Christmas is to turn on the T.V. after helping my son open his gifts, to be joined together by his mother on the sofa with maybe some hot cocoa, and see President Obama say that he changed his mind and that he is bringing our men and women HOME!!!!!!

Is there anything else you would like to say?

I signed up for three years in the Army and served over two-and-a-half years and completed a one-year tour in Iraq. When I returned to Ft. Hood, Texas my unit was informed that we were to redeploy again to Iraq or Afghanistan within four months. I must say that I was upset about risking my life again for a war I did not understand or agree with, especially after seeing the things I saw over in Iraq. I am not a coward, I would not have a problem fighting a war against anyone who is a direct threat to our borders or who could harm my family or fellow Americans. I would be on the front lines for that.

My prayers go out to the soldier who is now imprisoned for a rap song that he made that expresses his anger about being stop-lossed, because just like him, I signed up for three years and I left before the military could stop-loss me. I feel his pain because while at Ft. Hood I would see young men and women whose dreams of being civilians again were stolen from them when they were ordered to redeploy. Some took it with stride while many others talked about suicide because they wanted out that badly.

I have laid down my sword and I have taken up my cross. Now my fight is for Love, Peace, and Freedom. I no longer walk by sight but by Faith and I Know God is the only one who can truly Judge me."

Rodney Watson is one courageous man, indeed. But none of us can make it alone. He and all the war resisters need and deserve our active support. By supporting war resisters we can also speed the end of the illegal wars and occupations being pursued by the U.S. government and military and their corporate sponsors. And we begin to heal the wounds of war that are affecting our entire society.

Please send Rodney Watson a Christmas or New Years card and maybe a gift for his son.

His mailing address is: Rodney Watson, c/o First United Church, 320 East Hastings St., Vancouver, BC V6A 1P4, CANADA. You can also say hi to Rodney on his Facebook page, War Resister in Sanctuary.

The War Resisters Support Campaign is providing legal, moral and material support for Rodney Watson, even as they continue to mobilize political support for the estimated 300 U.S. war resisters in Canada. Please consider making a special holiday donation toward their vital work on behalf of our war resisters.

Checks can be made out to the War Resisters Support Campaign and mailed to: 1143 E Pender St. Vancouver BC V6A 1W6.

Or you can donate online at


Gerry Condon is a writer and activist based in Seattle, Washington, where he directs Project Safe Haven, a war resister advocacy project, and serves as president of the Seattle area chapter of Veterans For Peace. In 1968, he refused Army orders to deploy to the Vietnam War and fled to Canada and Sweden, where he spent six years organizing against the war and for amnesty for all war resisters. Gerry Condon can be reached by email at

Friday, June 12, 2009

We Won't Go Back

By Maggie Gilmour, Toronto Life

To avoid serving in Iraq, 300 American soldiers have left their homes and families and fled to Canada, 75 of them to Toronto. Many assumed they’d get a visa, settle down and live a normal life. But the federal government has rejected their refugee claims and ordered them deported. Some go into hiding; others wait for appeals and judicial reviews of their cases. In the meantime, they’ve put down roots, taking temp jobs and raising children, nostalgic for a time when Canada was a haven for conscientious objectors.

See Full Story

Friday, June 05, 2009

Canada Reconsiders Iraq War Veteran's Plea For Political Asylum

Like other U.S. war resisters seeking sanctuary in Canada, Joshua Key was wrongfully denied refugee status. But in his case, a Federal Court agreed with him and ordered the Immigration and Refugee Board to give him a new hearing. The hearing took place this Wednesday in Toronto.

With Canadian author Lawrence Hill, Joshua wrote a best-selling book, The Deserters Tale, in which he details the systematic abuse of Iraqi civilians by the U.S. military.

Follow this link to a detailed report on Joshua Key's new refugee hearing, written by Laura Kaminker, "L-Girl," in her award-winning blog, "We Move To Canada."

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

You Can Help to Free Lt. Ehren Watada

End the U.S. Army’s Prosecution of Lt. Ehren Watada

The Justice Department Can Say No to Army’s Legal Appeal

In June 2006, U.S. Army 1st Lt. Ehren Watada refused orders to Iraq on the grounds that the war was illegal and immoral. His court martial in February 2007 ended in an Army-contrived mistrial. In October 2007, the Army attempt to have a second court martial was stopped by a Federal judge who ruled that a second court martial would be double jeopardy. But the Army has not allowed Lt. Watada to leave military service. Instead, they have notified the U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit of their plans to appeal the double jeopardy ruling. The Army has also threatened to revive old charges stemming from Lt. Watada’s speech in Seattle to the 2006 convention of Veterans For Peace.

Justice Department to Decide If Army Will Appeal Double Jeopardy Ruling
The U.S. Solicitor General’s office in the Department of Justice will soon decide whether the Army can go ahead with its plans to appeal Federal Court rulings in Lt. Watada’s favor.

A campaign of public pressure is being called by Lt. Watada’s supporters in the peace movement. The ad hoc campaign is being spearheaded by two Vietnam War resisters, Mike Wong and Gerry Condon, who are active members of Veterans for Peace in San Francisco and Seattle. The Call to Action is being issued in the name of Asian Americans for Peace and Justice, formerly the Watada Support Committee, in the San Francisco Bay Area, and Project Safe Haven, a war resister support group.

We are sending out this email alert to all our contacts and organizations - including Veterans for Peace, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Military Families Speak Out, United For Peace and Justice, ANSWER, Code Pink, American Friends Service Committee and others. We ask you all to phone, write, and email Solicitor General Elena Kagan and Deputy Attorney General Neal Katyal immediately.

1. Ask the Solicitor General: Tell the Army to drop the appeal and any other charges against Lt. Watada, and to release him from the Army with an honorable discharge.

If we all act quickly, we can flood the Solicitor General’s office with hundreds of phone calls, letters and emails, which could tip the balance in Ehren Watada’s favor.

Solicitor General Elena Kagan, 202-514-2201
Deputy Solicitor General Neal Katyal, 202-514-2206

Send letters to: U.S. Department of Justice, 950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20530.

E-mails to will reach the Solicitor General and Attorney General Eric Holder.

A sample letter is included below. Feel free to edit as you wish, or to write your own.

It is possible that both the Solicitor General and her Deputy may be open to our plea. Please be respectful and polite in all your communications with these Obama appointees.

2. Please forward this alert to all activists, friends, and organizations you know that would be supportive. If you are involved in an organization, please ask that it forward this alert to its entire membership..

3. We will approach the friendliest of our allies in Congress and ask them to make inquiries to the Justice Department. If you or your organization has contact with any members of Congress, please email Gerry Condon at so we can coordinate our Congressional outreach.

4. Various groups may also wish to mount demonstrations, press conferences, lobby, or use other means of peaceful political pressure. You may also call for an end to the persecution of all war resisters.

Mike Wong, Vice President, SF Bay Area Veterans For Peace; Asian Americans for Peace and Justice

Gerry Condon, Greater Seattle Veterans For Peace; Project Safe Haven

Sample letter:


Solicitor General Elena Kagan
Deputy Solicitor General Neal Katyal
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW,
Washington, DC 20530-0001

Dear Solicitor General Kagan and Deputy Solicitor General Katyal,

I am writing to urge you to direct the U.S. Army to drop its appeal and any other charges in the case of 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, and to release him from the Army with an Honorable Discharge. Lt. Watada was the first Army officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq, because he believes the U.S. war in Iraq is illegal and immoral, and that orders to participate in it are therefore also illegal and immoral.

Lt. Watada’s Army court martial in February 2007 ended in a mistrial that was illegally construed by the Army judge, Lt. Col. John Head. When the Army then attempted a second court martial in October 2007, U.S. District Court Judge Benjamin Settle halted the proceedings on double jeopardy grounds. Judge Settle had just been appointed to his position by George W. Bush and was a former Army JAG lawyer. I urge you to uphold U.S. and international law by directing the Army to end its prolonged prosecution of Lt. Ehren Watada. Thank you very much.

Sincerely yours,
Mike Wong

For more background on Lt. Ehren Watada, go to info:

For updates on the Campaign to Free Ehren Watada, go to

or you can:

Email Mike Wong at

Email Gerry Condon at

or call Gerry at 206-499-1220.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Contract

by Robin Long
from inside the Miramar Brig

March 12, 2009

IN 2004, when military resister Jeremy Hinzman applied for refugee status in Canada, the Conservative government stepped in to his Refugee hearing and stated evidence challenging the legality of the War in Iraq can’t be used in his case. However, the U.N Handbook for Refugee’s and the Nuremburg Principles states: a soldier of an Army that is involved in an illegal war of aggression has a higher international duty to refuse service. Said soldier also has the right to seek refugee protection in any country that is signatory to the Geneva Convention. By refusing to allow him- and by precedent ALL other claimants the right to use that argument, they closed the door on that legal avenue for refugee protection.

THE US invasion of Iraq was clearly an illegal war of aggression. The US was not under attack, or the immanent threat of attack from the nation of Iraq, nor was the war approved by the UN Security Council. By taking the stance it did, the Canadian Government implicitly condoned the invasion & continuing occupation of Iraq. Is that what Canadians want? A majority of Americans want it to end and have come to realize it a mistake, at best. Canadians have long known it to be wrong. Why is the minority Conservative government still holding on to the idea, and still deporting war resisters? Why are they separating families and aiding in the imprisonment of morally strong men and women?

IN JUNE 2007, Canada’s Parliament voted on a non- binding resolution to allow war resisters and their families permanent resident status. That vote passed, and in agreement with that vote, a poll of Canadian opinion showed overwhelming support for the resolution. In defiance of parliaments intent and the will of the people, the Conservative minority government, led by Prime Minister Steven Harper and Immigration Minister Diane Finley ignored the bill. The Government stated: All refugee claimants are given a fair chance to plead their case before the Refugee Board, and special treatment to these Iraq resisters were unfair to other claimants. Further, they stated that we are not legitimate claimants because we are from the US, and that the US has a fair and transparent justice system, and that we wouldn’t be singled out for being political.

ON JULY 14th, 2008, in my final attempt to stay in Canada, where my son and community is, Federal Judge Ann Mactavish stated that I didn’t prove I would be treated harshly by the US military for being a politically outspoken opponent to the War in Iraq and Bush Administration policy. She predicted my punishment would be minimal, 30 days in the brig, perhaps. She then cleared the way for my deportation/extradition. She noted only10% of these cases go to Court Martial.

A MONTH later, I was tried in a Court Martial presided over by a judge, a Colonel in the US Army, who has President Bush in her chain-of-command. (She was later appointed by Bush to oversee trials at Guantanamo Bay, no doubt because of her political credentials.

THE ONLY aggravating evidence the Prosecution presented was a 6 minute video of me stating, among other things, that I believed my President lied to me. A political statement. The fact that this was found admissible in court for the charge of Desertion is beyond me. There were no character witnesses brought against me. The ONLY factors the Prosecution wanted shown in determining my sentence was the fact I was political and exercising my freedom of speech in criticizing my 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 that same President was a domestic enemy, who used any reason, and manufactured reasons, to invade and wreak havoc in Iraq.

THE JUDGE came back with 30 months- that’s two and a half years for not showing up for work that I believed to be morally objectionable, criminal, and its by far the harshest sentence given to a resister/deserter of the Iraq War.

I was saved from that by a plea bargain that got me 15 months. I STILL get a Dishonorable Discharge (DD). A DD will keep me from many fields of employment, from any Government position to the civilian world. It will make getting home loans all the harder. This is a FELONY CONVICTION- which will make it very hard, perhaps impossible to return to Canada to be with my young family. It is the worst grade of discharge there is.

PEOPLE THAT committed far worse crimes have been getting off with lighter sentences than me. 1st Infantry Division soldier Spec. Belmor Ramos was sentenced to only 7 months after being convicted of conspiracy to commit murder- 4 Iraqi men. I refused to participate in killings, he stood guard while others executed four unidentified Iraqi men, afterwards dumping their bodies in a Baghdad canal on ’07. During his court martial Ramos admitted his guilt, stating: “I wanted them dead. I had no legal justification to do this.”

WHERE IS THE JUSTICE? The system is neither fair nor impartial. Can it really be transparent when you don’t know who is influencing the judge from up the chain of command? Do you see how the military justice system works? – Condone killings with light sentences, but God forbid someone should call President Bush a liar and a war monger. A persons words and political opinion must be far more damaging to the good order of the military if they are anti war and critical of the President, than a soldiers criminal actions in an occupied foreign nation…..

PEOPLE HAVE used the argument that I signed a contract, quite often. I’d like to quote from a letter one o the Founders of our United States wrote to General Washington concerning his thoughts on contracts in April, 1793: “When performance, for instance, becomes impossible, non performance is not immoral. So if performance becomes destructive to the Party, the law of self-preservation overrules the laws of obligations to others. For the reality of these principals I appeal to the true fountains of evidence: the head and heart of every rational honest man.”- Thomas Jefferson. For me to continue in my military contract would have been destructive to me as a person with my views, morals and ideals. Let alone the Iraqi’s, who have died in the hundreds of thousands ….

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 over me. I did not sign to be a strong arm for corporate interests or oil. The so called Liberation of Iraq has turned into nothing more than a constant and protracted struggle by the people of Iraq, against forces, seen and unseen, that are trying to impose their will on them in a public war for private power and profit. True freedom is the ultimate expression and condition of a people to control their OWN destiny, not the manufactured variety being offered here. True democracy is not found at the point of a gun. It rises up from within the mass of the people.

IT WASN’T about WMD’s, or we would have found some. It wasn’t about “regime change” or we would have been in Darfur, or Indonesia, or a dozen other countries. It wasn’t about 9/11 because they were from Saudi Arabia. It dosn’t say anywhere in my contract that I would be going to foreign soil, half way around the world, to invade a country that was of no threat to the United States.

TO RISK MY LIFE, not in defending the people or Constitution of the United States but creating more enemies for them by being in an occupying force. Iraq, however unhappy under our former ally/client Hussein, was never a real threat. The destabilized nation of Iraq has become a breeding ground and awesome recruiting tool for Al Queda. It has cost the American people an enormous price. Im not talking just te trillion dollar financial burden, but the human cost of the war. The deaths of so many of our brave youth, the missing limbs, the PTSD, the suicides. The invasion has made far more enemies for the United States and made the world a far more dangerous place.

THE ORDER to go to Iraq was not a lawful one. It violates our Constitution. Article IV states that ANY treaty the US is signatory to shall be the supreme law of the land. Last time I checked, the US is signatory to the Geneva Conventions. There are certain laws in that treaty for declaring war, last time I checked, “regime change” wasn’t one of them. A country must be under attack or immanent treat of attack. Neither was true in the case of Iraq. President Bush had no right to interpret the Constitution as he saw fit, on the grounds it was a new world after 9/11, and the 107th Congress had no right to pass HJ 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, and a Canadian partner with MS, left to raise our son while I’m locked in a brig for refusing to participate in a war Canada , in 2003, under a different Government, wouldn’t send troops to. Back then, they saw the holes in Bush’s “intelligence”. By deporting me, and not giving me a chance to leave willingly, I have been barred from entering Canada for at least 10 years. My flesh and blood is there!

THE CONSERVATIVES are destroying Canada’s tradition of being a refuge from militarism and an asylum from injustices 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 a different policy. Its now time for Mr Harper to change his view. He should listen to Parliament and the solid majority of his citizens!

PLEASE SUPPORT the movement to allow War Resisters to stay in Canada and pardon the ones in the US. I ask anyone who reads this: please!

HELP ME return to Canada to be with my partner and son. I want only to live in peace and be in his life.


Peace, love, light,
Robin Long
Incarcerated Prisoner of the US Military
PO BOX 452136, San Diego, CA, 92145

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Army Charges Cliff Cornell with Desertion

AWOL GI Was Denied Sanctuary in Canada

The U.S. Army has charged war resister Clifford Cornell with desertion. Specialist Cornell, 28, surrendered himself to authorities at Fort Stewart, Georgia on February 17, after being denied refugee status in Canada. The Arkansas native left Fort Stewart four years ago, when his artillery unit was ordered to Iraq. According to family and friends, Cornell did not want to kill civilians, and said that Army trainers told him he must shoot any Iraqi who came near his vehicle.

Cornell’s attorney and supporters believe the Army’s charges are excessive.
“Cliff Cornell is a conscientious objector who voluntarily turned himself in to Army authorities,” said attorney James Branum.. “The Army is engaging in overkill in order to make an example of my client.”

Fort Stewart spokesman Kevin Larson disputed Spc. Cornell's claims that he would have been expected to kill civilians. ''Indiscriminately shooting people is not what the Army does,” Larson told the New York Times. “That's not how we train and not how we fight.” The Army is leaning toward trying Cornell in a General Court Martial, which could sentence him to years in prison.

“This is outrageous,” said Jeff Paterson of Courage To Resist, a war resister support group that has established a legal defense fund for Cornell. “The U.S. war against the Iraqi people remains illegal today, just as when George Bush and Dick Cheney started it,” said Paterson. “President Obama should bring all our troops home now. And he should grant amnesty to Cliff Cornell and hundreds of GI’s who refused to take part in an occupation that has killed untold tens of thousands of men, women and children.”

U.S. war resisters in Canada were distressed to hear of the serious charges against Cornell, as were many Canadians who have been pressing their government to provide sanctuary to the war resisters. “Cliff Cornell is a very gentle man who made many friends in Canada,” said Michelle Robidoux of the War Resisters Support Campaign in Toronto. “Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government is absolutely wrong to claim that war resisters do not face persecution in the United States.”

A large majority of Canadians, 64% according to several polls, want to provide a safe haven for soldiers who refused to fight in the Iraq War, just as Canada itself refused to do. Most Members of Parliament also support the resisters. In June of last year, the House of Commons passed a motion calling on their government to provide sanctuary to “conscientious objectors who refuse to fight in wars not sanctioned by the United Nations.” But the minority Conservative government ignored the non-binding motion and began to deport war resisters.

War resister Robin Long was the first to be deported last July, and is now serving a 15-month prison sentence in the Miramar Naval Consolidated Brig near San Diego. Cliff Cornell was being threatened with deportation when he left Canada. Several other AWOL soldiers and their families are appealing their deportation orders in Canada’s Federal Courts.

“Cliff Cornell should not be the one who is going to jail,” said Gerry Condon of Veterans For Peace. “He had the guts to follow his conscience, and unlike President Bush, he obeyed international law.”

An estimated 250 U.S. war resisters are now living in Canada, and AWOL GI’s continue to arrive there. “You can still apply for refugee status and expect to remain legally in Canada for at least one year,” said Condon. “It may not be easy, but it beats going to war or going to jail.”


James Branum, GI Right Lawyer, 866-933-2769,

Jeff Paterson, Courage To Resist, 415-279-9697,

Michelle Robidoux, War Resisters Support Campaign, 416-856-5008,

Gerry Condon, Veterans For Peace, 206-499-1220,

Friday, February 13, 2009

A "People's Amnesty" for War Resisters

by Gerry Condon

Last week the Customs and Border Police in Blaine arrested a young American who was returning home from Canada. Cliff Cornell, 28, was arrested because he is AWOL from the U.S. Army. He fled to Canada four years ago after realizing he had been lied to when he joined the military. The Army recruiter lied to him when he said he would never be deployed overseas. And President Bush lied to him when he said Iraq was connected to the terror of 9-11. The next thing Cornell knew, he had orders to deploy to Iraq and “shoot to kill anyone who gets near your vehicle.”

In 2002, Cliff Cornell raised his right hand and swore to uphold the U.S. Constitution. He swore to defend the U.S. from all enemies, foreign and domestic. He didn’t swear to invade other peoples’ countries on behalf of Exxon Mobil or Halliburton. “He signed a contract,” some people declaim emphatically. But it was President Bush who broke that contract when he lied to the American people about why he was sending their sons and daughters into harm’s way. And it is Cliff Cornell who is being punished.

After spending the night in the Whatcom County Jail, Cornell was released on his own recognizance on Thursday . He then hopped on a Greyhound bus for a sleepless, three-day ride across the U.S. On Tuesday, he surrendered himself to Army authorities at Fort Stewart, Georgia. Cornell hopes the Army will just discharge him “for the good of the service,” as they do to many returning AWOLs. But Cliff Cornell has been a vocal opponent of the Iraq War. The Army will likely court-martial and imprison him, as it did Robin Long, another Iraq War resister who was deported from Canada in July. Long was convicted of desertion and is serving a 15-month prison sentence.

The American people became disenchanted with the U.S. war in Iraq a long time ago. Almost everyone knows the war was based on lies. Candidate Obama called it a “dumb war” and promised to end it promptly. But the dictates of empire may see U.S. troops fighting and dying in Iraq for years to come. President Obama will attempt to manage a gradual draw-down of U.S. troops in Iraq, while simultaneously escalating the U.S. war in Afghanistan. Obama inherited these twin wars from George Bush, but they could easily drag down his own presidency.

President Obama should immediately withdraw all U.S. troops, mercenaries and contractors from both Iraq and Afghanistan. Both wars are unjust and un-winnable. Both wars target civilians with weapons of mass destruction. The U.S. military is torturing prisoners and violating human rights in both wars. And the vast majority of the people in both countries want U.S. troops to leave.

Uncle Sam has also failed on a massive scale to care for his own soldiers who have been physically and psychologically wounded, and are now caught up in an epidemic of suicide, murder and spousal abuse. President Obama must act to ensure adequate medical care and benefits for all veterans.

President Obama should also do the right thing by those troops who refused to be part of this madness. With the stroke of a pen, he can grant amnesty to Cliff Cornell and thousands of young men and women who are fugitives from injustice. Presidents Ford and Carter granted measures of pardon and leniency to Vietnam draft resisters and deserters. President Obama can do the same.

And the American people should not be lulled into passivity by the changing of the guard at the White House. We must continue to demand that our leaders end these horrible wars immediately. Not one more day of war will undo the damage we have already done.

There will be no amnesty until the troops come home. In the meantime, we must provide sanctuary for war resisters in our own communities. The people of Bellingham, Washington, near the U.S.-Canada border, are providing a perfect example. Their proposed Sanctuary City ordinance would not only welcome war resisters to Bellingham, it would bar the use of city resources for the apprehension of GIs who refuse to fight. See Similar efforts are taking place in several cities around the country, including Portland, Oregon. Ithaca, New York has already declared itself a Sanctuary City for soldiers who are speaking out against war.

Veterans For Peace is one of several organizations that are helping war resisters find housing, jobs, and treatment for PTSD. Many of these young GI’s are suffering from the wounds of war; they do not need to return to the scene of the crime. We owe them our understanding and our help.

President Obama may not be ready to act, but We The People can show compassion for our young soldiers of conscience. George Bush may never have to answer for his treason or the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians. But Cliff Cornell should not be the one who is imprisoned.

You can contribute to Cliff Cornell's legal defense fund at

Gerry Condon lived in Sweden and Canada for six years after refusing Army orders to deploy to the U.S. war against the people of Vietnam. He now lives in Seattle and serves as director of Project Safe Haven, a war resister advocacy group.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

President Obama: Grant Amnesty to All War Resisters

War Resister Group Calls on Obama to Grant Amnesty

Free Speech Radio News
Headlines for Wednesday, January 21, 2009

· Length: 5:20 minutes (4.89 MB)
· Format: MP3 Mono 44kHz 128Kbps (CBR)

* Israel Out of Gaza, Investigates Use of White Phosphorous
* UK Unemployment Rate Hits 12 Year High
* Mexican Tycoon Bails out NY Times
* Supreme Court Declines to Review Online Porn Law
* War Resister Group Calls on Obama to Grant Amnesty

On Barack Obama's first day in office, a war resisters support group based in Seattle is calling on the president to grant amnesty to US soldiers who refuse to fight in Iraq.

Mark Taylor-Canfield has more from Seattle.

Hundreds of US soldiers have relocated to Canada, Europe or LatinAmerica after choosing not to serve in the US war and occupation in Iraq. Many of the soldiers have gone into Canada by crossing the border between Washington State and British Columbia, which also served as a point of entry for conscientious objectors escaping toCanada during the US war in Vietnam.

Now Project Safe Haven is calling on President Barack Obama to grant immediate amnesty to all US war resisters who have refused to serve in Iraq.

The group is also calling for the immediate withdrawal of all US troops from Iraq and an end to the war in Afghanistan. Other demands include reparations for the people of Iraq and Afghanistan and full benefits and healthcare for US military veterans.

According to Project Safe Haven organizer Gerry Condon, the petition was circulated among national anti-war and veterans groups and was delivered to the President-elect's transition team.

This is Mark Taylor-Canfield for Free Speech Radio News in Seattle.

Click here for audio,

Coalition Government Would Not Deport U.S. War Resisters

MPs Say Canada Should be a Refuge from Militarism

January 21, 2009

The Canadian Press

TORONTO — Liberal and New Democrat MPs pledged Wednesday that U.S. war resisters would not be deported under a coalition government.

Five Americans could face deportation by the end of the month unless there's a last-minute court reprieve or an unexpected policy change by the federal government.

Liberal Mario Silva and New Democrat Olivia Chow said their parties would protect war resisters if Stephen Harper's government were to fall after next week's budget.

Silva invoked the words of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, who during the Vietnam War said "Canada should be a refuge from militarism."

"To all those brave men and women who have in fact objected to (the Iraq) war we say, bravo. We say welcome, you should be here in Canada," Silva said at a news conference in Toronto, which was attended by several war resisters and their young families.

The House of Commons passed a motion last June 3 calling for a stop to deportations of war resisters and Silva urged the government to respect that vote.

One war resister, Robin Long, has been deported since the vote and was separated from his Canadian partner and infant son. He was sentenced to 15 months in prison in the U.S.
New Democrat Olivia Chow said Canada must stop deporting war resisters and breaking up families.

"We are a nation of compassion and of peace," she said. "We really should not deport war resisters into American jails."

This week, Christopher Teske, 27, lost his last court bid to stay in the country and faces deportation within days.

Teske, who has been living in British Columbia for two years, said in a statement that he's proud of his decision not to take part in the war in Iraq and wishes he could stay in Canada permanently.

Writer Mary Jo Leddy, a member of the Order of Canada, said the trials in Nuremberg after the Second World War established that soldiers are responsible for their actions, and should be allowed to opt out of conflict if they don't believe in the mission.

"The argument that one must follow orders in all circumstances is no longer justified," she said.
"Following orders is no longer the ultimate test of patriotism."

Monday, January 19, 2009

Island Community Supports Cliff Cornell

Islanders off Coast of British Columbia Show Love for War Resister

Chris Teske Faces Deportation on Inauguration Day


Chris Teske, a war resister who lives in BC, is scheduled to be thrown out of Canada and sent back to the US tomorrow. Chris and his lawyer will be in federal court today, asking for a stay of deportation.

Here's Chris's story in his own words.

January 4th, 2009

Hello,My name is Christopher John Teske. I am a former paratrooper and infantryman in the United States Army. I enlisted prior to the September 11th attacks on the world trade center for patriotic reasons and to fund the completion of my college education.

As I finished my training as a soldier, my country was attacked on September 11th, 2001. I was deeply upset that that civilians were specifically targeted. Shortly after the events of 9/11 I volunteered for combat assignment and was immediately deployed to Afghanistan with the 10th Mountain Division.

While there I took part in the largest ground offensive of the war: "Operation Anaconda". When I returned from my deployment I was deeply troubled with the morality of armed conflict. I was also not convinced that the US Military's objectives and long term goals in Afghanistan were transparent, honest, or even attainable. Before I was able to personally sort out my feelings I was redeployed to Afghanistan, this time to the Waziristan Region to conduct counter insurgency operations.

Deciding to return to Afghanistan for a second tour of duty was the hardest decision of my life. And now, in retrospect was wrong. I based my decision to deploy based on fear. I failed to listen to my conscience because I was scared of what the Army would do to me if I did not follow orders.Ultimately, I was more scared of official punishment than I was of losing my life in combat. I have always paid deeply for that decision. I am haunted by that decision.

After my second tour of duty, I was honorably discharged from the Military and tried to move on with my life. I continue to be haunted by my military experiences in Afghanistan. I am very guarded about discussing what has happened to me and what I have seen. For me it was a time best left forgotten. To make peace with myself I decided I would never repeat what I had been through with the Army and I would never try to harm anyone, anyone ever again.I was unaware that the Army had placed me into the "Inactive Ready Reserve" until two years after my discharge from Afghanistan, when they ordered me to report for a physical exam as I was to be reactivated for combat service, this time in Iraq. I had already made the personal decision to not participate in any armed conflict based on my personal belief that it is immoral.It soon became apparent that I was trapped in the Army, escape was impossible and my only intended purpose was to “engage and destroy the enemy”, IE: kill. Period.

At this point I made the only decision that seemed logical. I researched desertion and stumbled across the War Resisters here in Canada. In a sea of madness I made the only sane choice available. I deserted my unit and came to Canada.I have lived and worked in Canada for over 2 years now. I call the Kootenays my home. I came here to start fresh and make a new life for myself. I do not discuss my military past with anyone, most people I know or work with have no idea I am from the United States, was in the Military, or served in a War.

As I said, for me it was a time best left forgotten.However, it seems as hard as I try to forget the institution which enslaved me, they have not forgotten about me. I have been denied at every turn in my immigration process. I have now been ordered to leave Canada and I am about to be turned over to the American Government and in turn the US Army.I face a multitude of charges: The first is desertion max time 4 years. The second: failure to deploy with my unit to Iraq with a max time of 3 years. (All felony charges) And the last, is desertion in time of war. Which if they choose is punishable by death. I also face possible redeployment to Iraq.

I am proud of my decision to come to Canada. It is the first of my adult life which I can say that about. Looking back I would do it all over again. I believe it was the only correct choice I had at the time. I am proud I had the courage to follow my conscience.I am going to fight to protect the life I have started here in Canada. I love Canada and have found a certain peace in the mountains of the Kootenays that I have never before experienced in my life. I appreciate the support and understanding from all the Canadians I have met. Canada is my home and in these final days I intend to fight to maintain the legal right to remain here with the people that I love so much.I would appreciate anything that you can do to assist me in that endeavor.

Christopher John Teske
Former Specialist, US Army

Chris' friends and supporters are holding a pot-luck tonight, so they can be together when they get word that the deportation has been stayed. Local people have been very supportive, and Member of Parliament Alex Atamanenko (NDP, BC Southern Interior), a strong supporter of war resisters in Canada, has been speaking out on Chris' behalf.We'll be holding our breath all day. More later. Now please go write your letters!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Vietnam, Afghanistan, and GI Resistance


One of the lessons of the Vietnam antiwar movement is this: ALL forms of resistance are valid. It’s okay to advocate one or another form of resistance, as long as you understand that ALL forms of resistance WILL take place. It is a big mistake to play one form of resistance off against another form of resistance. Resisting deployment orders and/or going AWOL, for example, should not be played off against joining the military to organize soldiers against the war. Even if one chooses to re-deploy to Iraq and document the war, some good may well come from that action.

We should especially try to avoid getting too moralistic about individual choices. There is no “pure” or “correct” form of resistance. There is only resistance. Furthermore, the various forms of resistance will form the whole of a multi-faceted resistance movement.

Having said that, I too have been concerned about a culture within the GI resistance movement that says it’s fine to remain part of the war machine. Should we be telling antiwar soldiers they can resist illegal wars while following military orders? Can soldiers resist war while protecting their military careers and their prospects in civilian life? Hmmm...

Resistance generally means taking some risks and dealing with some consequences. It means going AGAINST, not going WITH. In the context of soldiers of imperialism, it generally means withdrawing their participation from, and/or acting against military missions.

What can be more powerful than a soldier saying, “NO, I will NOT participate in this illegal slaughter and oppression of entire peoples.” To roughly paraphrase Arlo Guthrie in his epic anti-draft song, Alice’s Restaurant: If one person does, it, they’ll think he’s crazy, or a coward, or a hero. If two people do it together, they’ll think they are gay. And if three, four, five, twenty or one hundred people do it together, they’ll think it’s a movement. And that’s what it will be – a real resistance movement strong enough, along with the ferocious resistance of the Iraqis, the Afghans, and the Palestinians, to frighten the imperialists into pulling back.

The incoming administration is signaling a HUGE, LONG-TERM commitment to war and occupation in Afghanistan and the surrounding countries. This is a recipe for ongoing death and destruction on a massive scale. What would be a quicker, more effective way to pour water on this dubious mission than the public refusal of U.S. soldiers to deploy to that war? What a strategic victory that would be to build upon!

How many GIs are ready to publicly refuse to go to Afghanistan, individually or together? Maybe only a few at this point. But if they are encouraged, (de-) mobilized and supported, others will follow their example.

I hope I am not guilty of wishful thinking. I know I am impatient. But I think one of our biggest moral failings as an antiwar movement is that we have been way too patient. If organizations can help build the resistance, then we should build those organizations. But the main thing is to build the resistance.

Most of us are not in the shoes of the GIs or even in a position to take their pulse. So, clearly, we must be somewhat humble with our advice. But there are a number of ways that we can demonstrate our support for GI resistance. We can defend every GI resister in every way we can – with money, with publicity, with legal support, political support, and moral support. We can advocate for GIs who are seeking sanctuary in Canada, Germany and elsewhere. We can build communities of sanctuary in the United States that can shelter AWOL GI’s. We can build a political movement that demands amnesty for all war resisters. Soldiers should not be punished for following their own consciences and obeying international law.

Finally, we cannot expect anything approaching massive resistance within the military if there is no massive resistance taking place outside the military, among civilians who have fewer constraints upon them than GI’s, and, generally, less to lose. Are we willing to fully express our right to free speech? Are we willing to take risks for peace and justice? Only when thousands of us are demonstrating our own resistance on a regular basis, will that resistance be reflected within the military.

ALL of us have the responsibility to build an effective movement of resistance to war and imperialism. NONE of us has all the answers, yet TOGETHER we may succeed in building effective resistance. We have all, every one of us, erred by being too cautious. Now, perhaps, we will dare to be bold. The hour is getting late.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Kimberly Rivera and Family Ordered to Leave Canada

War Resister Kimberley Rivera & Family ordered to leave CanadaKimberley Rivera, along with her husband and three young children, have been told that they must leave Canada by January 27 or face removal to the United States.Kimberley served in Iraq in 2006. In 2007 she refused redeployment and became the first female U.S. Iraq war resister to come to Canada. She lives now in Toronto with her husband Mario, son Christian (6 years), daughter Rebecca (4 years), and newborn Canadian daughter Katie (6 weeks). Her experience in Iraq was a huge awakening and convinced Kimberley that the war was immoral and that she could not participate in it.

"Coming to Canada began a new chapter filled with opportunities and hope for my family. I am just glad I get to be a mom again," said Rivera.Despite a June 2008 Parliamentary motion supporting war resisters, the Harper government continues its policy of deporting them. In July 2008, war resister Robin Long was deported from British Columbia and punished with 15 months in jail, separating him from his wife and infant son, and a felony conviction that will cause him lifelong hardship.
URGENT ACTION - please take a few minutes to show your support for Kimberly Rivera and the other war resisters threatened with deportation. Call or email Minister of Immigration and Citizenship Jason Kenney today and ask him to:
STOP deportation proceedings against U.S. Iraq war resister Kimberley Rivera and her family; and
IMPLEMENT the motion adopted by Canada's Parliament to allow U.S. Iraq war resisters to apply for permanent resident status.
Here are the numbers to call:
Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Jason Kenney
Call 613.954.1064
MP Jason Kenney's Parliamentary office: 613.992.2235
Please cc the opposition party critics if you email Jason Kenney:
Liberal party immigration critic Borys Wrzesnewskyj:
NDP immigration critic Olivia Chow:
Bloc Québécois immigration critic Thierry St-Cyr:
And please also send a copy to the War Resisters Support Campaign,