James Burmeister is a war resister who was living in Ottawa for almost a year, before surrendering to the US military in March. (For more background, I blogged about James here and here.)
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After working at Wal-Mart and fast-food restaurants in Eugene, Oregon, James joined the military. His recruiter told him he would build schools and support Iraqis who were establishing democracy.
In Iraq, James was assigned to a "small kill" team. Their duty was to place a fake camera on a pole with a sign labeling it US property, then shoot anyone who touched it. James, whose task was to provide perimeter security for the small-kill team, never got over his disgust for the tactic.
After he was wounded by a roadside bomb - suffering traumatic brain injury, hearing loss and facial wounds - the Army sent James to Germany to recover. When it was time to go back to Iraq, he went to Ottawa instead.
After 10 months in Canada, James turned himself into the military, and was put in the brig in Fort Knox, Kentucky. He was held in a heavy-security facility for almost a month.
After pressure from the public and James' congressperson, the Army transferred James to a more "casual" facility, where he is still being held. James continues to suffer from the effects of traumatic brain injury and severe PTSD. The Army's response: keep him medicated. It's not helping.
James' family believes the Army is preparing to send James to Germany for court martial and probable imprisonment, to reduce his contact with supporters and activists. This is contrary to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, but it's a tactic that has been used against several war resisters, most notably Agustin Aguayo.
If you want to help, James' family requests you take the following actions.
Call Fort Knox, Kentucky. Request that PFC James Burmeister be released as soon as possible. Express concern for his medical condition (brain injury and PTSD). Demand that the Army make public its intentions regarding James's court martial.
Demand that James Burmeister be released with a medical discharge. James' military service should be properly recognized, so he can obtain veterans benefits to help pay for the medical treatments he requires. Calls can be directed to Major Pitcher (502.624.6247) and Seargent Tua (502.624.0068).
Write a letter of support to James' Congressman. Tell him you are concerned about James not getting the medical attention that he needs. Letters can be mailed to: The Honorable Peter DeFazio, 405 East 8th Avenue #2030, Eugene, OR 97401, USA. Fax: 541.465.6458. You can also call the Congressman's office at 541.465.6732.
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If this story interests you, and you can be in Toronto on May 21, join us for A Conversation with US War Resisters in Canada, moderated by CBC host Andy Barrie.