Yesterday, the Chronicle ran this excellent piece in response. The writer is an organizer with the Council of Canadians, staunch supporters of Canadian independence - and of the war resisters.
Let war resisters stay
By Angela Giles
Dominick Mirabile (July 17 opinion piece) argues that U.S. war resisters had a choice whether or not to enlist. However, signing a contract with the U.S. military does not obligate someone to participate in war crimes. Whether they volunteered or not is irrelevant. They have a higher obligation to international law than their "duty" to just follow orders.
Mr. Mirabile argues that war resisters "broke the law. They are in violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice." But under Principle 2 of Nuremburg, "The fact that internal law does not impose a penalty for an act which constitutes a crime under international law does not relieve the person who committed the act from responsibility under international law." In other words, international law trumps the Uniform Code of Military Justice if, under the guise of the UCMJ, soldiers are being ordered to participate in war crimes.
We now know soldiers are systematically ordered to violate international humanitarian law in Iraq – from torture to intentionally targeting civilians – and there are more revelations of war crimes emerging every day. The Nuremberg Tribunal ruled that "the very essence of the (Nuremberg) Charter is that individuals have international duties which transcend the national obligations of obedience imposed by the individual state."
A contract runs both ways. Those who argue that the war resisters should be deported back to the U.S. miss one simple, basic truth. While the war resisters signed a contract voluntarily, they are not the ones who broke it. The U.S. administration is. The U.S. soldiers seeking refuge in Canada signed up to defend their country, not to commit war crimes.
Canadians recognize this and that is why the majority support the war resisters and not the war. A recent Angus Reid poll found nearly two-thirds (64 per cent) of Canadians want the government to allow war resisters to live in Canada. Eighty-two per cent of Canadians oppose the Iraq war. Canada’s Parliament voted June 3 to let American Iraq war resisters stay in Canada.
Mr. Mirabile cannot have it both ways. The Iraq war is illegal. Everyone from Hans Blix and Kofi Annan to Richard Perle admits this. If the war is illegal, the war resisters have a legal obligation not to participate under the Nuremberg Principles, pure and simple. Indeed, 25,000 have deserted from the U.S. military, having recognized this. Isn't that sending a message to those who put them in harm’s way in the first place?
Given that American war resisters are faced with a government that doesn't respect international law, how can they expect anything but persecution for standing up for international law? The harsh punishment of resister James Burmeister, who was sentenced to nine months in military prison and convicted of a felony, shows this to be the case. That means their option is to be complicit in war crimes in Iraq or to come to Canada. The solution is simple: Heed the will of Parliament and Canadians. Let them stay.
Thank you Ms Giles, and thank you to the Council of Canadians for all the work they do on behalf of peace.