u.s. military jails overflowing with war resisters

At this week's meeting of the War Resisters Support Campaign, a new resister joined the circle. Also present was a resister who is back in Canada after serving time in a US military brig. He went back to the US to visit his family and was picked up on a traffic violation. A license check revealed his AWOL status, and it went from there.

Both of these young men told us that the US military jails are overflowing with "UA"s, as they called them - servicepeople who went AWOL and were caught. Jail conditions are horrible, although our newest resister told us he didn't care, as it was suicide to do anything else.

By some reports from very credible sources, there are as many as 25,000 AWOL US soldiers out there. I can't substantiate that, but even if that figure is slightly inflated, it's clear that large numbers of US military personnel are resisting this terrible, useless war.

Many people in the peace movement, myself included, believe that the most effective way we can work for peace is by supporting veteran and military peace groups. Iraq Veterans Against the War, Courage To Resist and, in Canada, the War Resisters Support Campaign top this list. Since officially there is no draft in US, and since the US government is immune to democracy, to some extent, only the armed forces themselves can end this war.

It must be incredibly difficult to stand up for personal conscience from within the military. Coercion and punishment - mental, physical and financial - are the norm. Thinking for oneself is anathema. But every military person who takes a courageous stand against the Iraq War strengthens the resolve of every other person who is having second thoughts. IVAW has chapters all over the US, including on several military bases. We've heard that after Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan was broadcast on the internet and throughout the alternative media, applications for IVAW membership skyrocketed.

Yesterday in comments on my brief May Day post, M@ linked to this story from the SFGate:
Dockworkers with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union walked off the job at ports up and down the West Coast, including Oakland and San Francisco, calling for an end to the war. Union officials estimated the number of workers at 25,000 while maritime officials placed the number closer to 10,000.

Anti-war protesters, joining dockworkers and other labor leaders, marched down the Embarcadero from Fisherman's Wharf to Justin Herman Plaza, where a rally drew several hundred protesters and onlookers.

This morning I saw this on the IVAW website:
A message of solidarity

On May 1, 2008, the International Longshore & Warehouse Union of San Francisco resolved to halt work for 8 hours and shut down ports along the west coast in protest against the U.S. occupation of Iraq. The General Union of Port Workers in Iraq also resolved to halt work for one hour in order to demonstrate opposition to the continued occupation of their country. Under a Saddam Hussein-era law, one of the few that was not altered by U.S. ambassador and Coalition Provisional Authority head Paul Bremer, it remains illegal for public sector workers to unionize in Iraq. Iraqi union workers are frequently threatened with harassment and violence by Iraqi government forces and several major union leaders have been assassinated in recent years.

To: Members of the International Longshore & Warehouse Union, San Francisco, Members of the Port Workers Union of Iraq

From: Iraq Veterans Against the War

Iraq Veterans Against the War stands in solidarity with you against the illegitimate and immoral U.S. occupation of Iraq. Our respect for the principles upon which this nation was founded compels us to speak out against our government's policies in Iraq and demand that our brothers and sisters in arms be immediately withdrawn. There can be no peace or security for Iraq or for the United States until the Iraqi people are allowed to determine their own destiny, free of foreign interference in their internal affairs. There can be no true democracy in Iraq or in America unless the inherent right of workers to freely assemble is protected. Throughout history, the right of men and women to determine their own destiny has been secured only through struggle. As Americans who have not forgotten our history, we stand proudly with you.

In Solidarity,
Kelly Dougherty
Executive Director
Iraq Veterans Against the War

Next up, what you can do to support one war resister who needs our help.

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