3.19.2008

five years in

Every year since I started blogging, I've posted something on March 19 to mark the anniversary of the United States' invasion of Iraq. But after listening to Winter Soldier off and on for four days, and reading and thinking so much about the war all week, this morning I was at a loss. I had to look away.

Then tonight I went to a Campaign meeting, full of plans and strategy, full of humour and hope, and it brought me back to myself.

The Campaign is going well, and we may soon have a positive resolution. But meanwhile, we lost another resister. James Burmeister, who was wounded in Iraq and suffers with both physical and emotional scars, turned himself in. James is being held in Ft. Knox, Kentucky, and will likely face court martial. He is not being treated for any of his medical conditions. In fact, we've heard he's being treated very badly.

James had lived in Ottawa for the past 10 months, and was involved in our lobbying efforts. Swift actions by the Liberals could have secured his home in Canada.

James has the complete support of his family, who live in Oregon. His father writes:
On March 4 this year, after months of struggling with PTSD [Post-traumatic stress disorder] and homesickness, James turned himself in to the army. James yearns to heal. There are many, many thousands of other young men and women like my son, needing the support of their own communities, more than anything else. Their knowledge of the true cost of war, the destruction of the human spirit is what we must keep in our hearts. Words alone cannot stop this war. Passionate action by all of us will.

If you want to show your support, James' father asks you to:

Call Fort Knox, Kentucky and request that Private First Class James Burmeister be released ASAP. Voice your concerns for his medical condition (PTSD) and demand that the public be made aware of the army’s intentions regarding any court-martial he may be facing, and that we be told what sort of discharge the army will be handing him. Demand that this Iraq war veteran be recognized for his courage to not perform illegal or immoral acts and that he be released with a MEDICAL discharge so that he may be able to afford the medical treatments he will likely require for the rest of his life to address his PTSD symptoms. Calls can be directed to Commander: Major Pitcher (502) 624-6247.

Write a letter of support to James' Congressman in Eugene, Oregon, Mr. Peter DeFazio. DeFazio has publicly stated his opposition to the war in Iraq and is sympathetic to James' cause. Your letter might mention:
- that you are concerned about James’ medical condition
- that you feel that war veterans and conscientious war objectors like Private First Class James Burmeister should not be punished for speaking out against illegal, unethical and immoral acts
- that you are concerned with the treatment James is receiving at Fort Knox and that you request that the Congressman closely monitor the army’s treatment and out-processing of James and their resolution of his case. Letters can be mailed to:
Mr. Peter DeFazio
405 East 8th Avenue, #2030
Eugene, Oregon 97401
USA
Voice: 541.465.6732
Fax: 541.465.6458

* * * *

On the way home from the meeting tonight, I listened to Bruce Springsteen's "Magic". This song always makes me think of the resisters - my friends and, in many ways, my heroes.
We took the highway till the road went black
We'd marked, Truth Or Consequences on our map
A voice drifted up from the radio
And I thought of a voice from long ago

Who'll be the last to die for a mistake
The last to die for a mistake
Whose blood will spill, whose heart will break
Who'll be the last to die for a mistake

The kids asleep in the backseat
We're just counting the miles, you and me
We don't measure the blood we've drawn anymore
We just stack the bodies outside the door

Who'll be the last to die for a mistake
The last to die for a mistake
Whose blood will spill, whose heart will break
Who'll be the last to die for a mistake

The wise men were all fools, what to do

The sun sets in flames as the city burns
Another day gone down as the night turns
And I hold you here in my heart
As things fall apart

A downtown window flushed with light
"Faces of the dead at five"
Our martyr's silent eyes
Petition the drivers as we pass by

Who'll be the last to die for a mistake
The last to die for a mistake
Whose blood will spill, whose heart will break
Who'll be the last to die

Who'll be the last to die for a mistake
The last to die for a mistake
Darlin' your tyrants and kings fall to the same fate
Strung up at your city gates
And you're the last to die for a mistake

4 comments:

M@ said...

Is it worth writing to or calling American institutions or legislators, as a Canadian? I suppose it can't hurt -- it adds to the volume if nothing else.

I liked the Springsteen lyrics, and will have to look for that song. (Do you know I don't own a single album of his? Don't worry, he's in good company...)

But it makes me think of another song, by Tom Waits, "The Day After Tomorrow". He played it on the Daily Show last year -- the only live music ever played on TDS to my knowledge. Waits' line "We just do what we're told -- we're just the gravel on the road" is heartbreakingly sympathetic to the feelings of a soldier in a futile war. It rings true.

A lot of minds have changed on Iraq in the last five years, but not enough hearts. People like Tom and Bruce, who have the talent, intelligence, and humanity to do so, certainly help.

L-girl said...

Is it worth writing to or calling American institutions or legislators, as a Canadian? I suppose it can't hurt -- it adds to the volume if nothing else.

Everyone seems to think it's worth it.

At last night's meeting, some resisters said this might result in more mistreatment. Kind of like when your mom calls the bully's mother. "We just got another phone call from some hippies in Canada..."

But the family is trying to get media and the Congressperson involved, to start documenting what's going on with him. And they feel the national/international attention is important.

* * * *

I don't know if you like Springsteen at all, but if you do, the new album is excellent.

That Tom Waits line is a killer. I can just hear him singing it (speaking of gravel).

angeliqueb said...

Hello i´m PFC James Burmeisters wife.
I´m in germany and expecting his daughter in april...
I´m glad that so many people supporting my husband.
even though i had to find out about all this via internet.
I will do everything to help him no matter what.

L-girl said...

Angelique, thank you for stopping by. I'm sorry for everything you're going through. I'm sure it's very hard. Best of luck to you. I hope you have good support of your own.