Why support the War Resister Support Campaign?
An Immoral War
To understand why War Resisters choose to desert, rather than participate in the War in Iraq, one needs to consider the morality of the war, and the ethical dilemmas faced by individual service members. The war in Iraq, even among the majority of Americans, has been and continues to be a bloody mistake. Over 4000 American soldiers have died, along with untold numbers of Iraqi civilians. Current numbers place the death toll among Iraqi civilians at over 90,000, with the numbers climbing every day.
In 2003, when the United States appeared before the United Nations in order to gain support for its invasion of Iraq, the Canadian government (along with most of the major world powers) not only opted not to participate in the war, but question the legality of this war. Even the vast majority American population no longer believes the reasons behind the 2003 invasion of the Iraq war. The American people were essentially lied to by their own government...as were the troops who were asked to lay down their lives for nothing more than a lie based on a cash grab by powerful corporate lobbyists.
Life or Death Decisions
The vast majority of War Resisters in Canada are people who served multiple years in the armed forces, typically serving in combat units, or even as combat soldiers. The resisters come from a variety of background, ethnically, economically, and geographically. The resisters joined the military for a variety of reasons; typically, the trumped up benefits being offered by military recruiters vastly outweighs the minimalized risks. Resisters all believed at some point, however, that they were making the right decision. Resisters trusted the government, and resisters honestly wanted to serve and defend the United States. They joined believing the promises the recruiters made, as well as the half truths and outright lies.
Resisters believing that they were a force for good, that they were truly defending the United States of America were in for a rude awakening. Several resisters have witnessed first hand what basically amount to war crimes. Others have seen the horrors of an unjust war and have decided that, despite the overwhelming desire to do 'do their duty', the greater duty was to their fellow human being. Many of these soldiers suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, as well as several physical and psychological scars from their time in combat. Despite the ultimately unfair and one sided contract in which the US Military is free to ignore and change at will, and the soldier is still 100% bound to, resisters take the courageous stand by coming to Canada in order to make a stand against an unjust and immoral war.
Punished for Having a Conscience
The consequences of deserting the US Military are drastic. Therefore, this decision was not taken lightly by anyone choosing to lay down arms. The military feels that desertion is paramount to treason. This is why the death penalty for desertion in a time of war is still on the books. Should the resisters return to the US, they can expect to be arrested and sent to their last duty station, where their company commander makes a recommendation. Punishment can be anything from being placed back into the unit and being deployed to Iraq to a full out court martial in which the resister risks years in prison and a dishonourable discharge, which is essentially the same as living with a major felony conviction. A normal life would simply be impossible. Unless there is a major shift in the attitude of the US Military, Canada remains the only accessible place of refuge for the hundreds of soldiers refusing to fight against their conscience. A fair trial is virtually impossible with the current political posture of the United States, since it is the US Military who would be in charge of both trying and punishing the resisters...the same US Military which is in charge of trying and punishing the 'detainees' at Guantanamo Bay.
Canada has a proud history of being a refuge from militarism. During the Vietnam War, tens of thousands of draft dodgers and deserters, including people who volunteered for the armed forces, fled to Canada and were welcomed with open arms. Even after the partial amnesty was granted, thousands stayed, and are now professionals who are contributing to Canadian society. Several are doctors, lawyers, business owners, musicians, and artists. You may even have one as a friend or neighbour. While the circumstances have changed slightly in the years since the Vietnam War, the moral choice remains the same.
Deserters come to Canada because Canada has a reputation of being a peace loving nation of enlightened individuals. Canadians are among the warmest and most generous people in the world, freely giving their time and talents for causes they believe in, including working with the War Resister Support Campaign.
The Will of the People
The War Resister movement is gaining momentum with the Canadian population. In a recent Angus Reid poll, over 3 out of 5 Canadians agree that War Resisters coming to Canada ought to be given the opportunity to become permanent residents. This sentiment was reflected by the majority opposition in the House of Commons, on June 3rd by passing this historic motion:
[It is recommended that] the government immediately implement a program to allow conscientious objectors and their immediate family members (partners and dependents), who have refused or left military service related to a war not sanctioned by the United Nations and do not have a criminal record, to apply for permanent resident status and remain in Canada; and that the government should immediately cease any removal or deportation actions that may have already commenced against such individuals.
Despite the fact that, both through scientific polling and a motion in favour of allowing War Resisters to be granted permanent residence status, the minority conservative government is choosing to ignore the will of the people and allowing resisters to be deported. While disheartening, we still remain optimistic because we have the will of the majority of Canadians.
War resisters want nothing more than to work hard, and live in peace. They only ask that you give them a chance, the same chance that was given to the Vietnam generation. If you agree that it is wrong to persecute someone for having the courage to stand up and say no to fighting in an illegal war, then please support our cause, sign our petitions, contact the prime minister, and join our rallying cry: LET THEM STAY!