Before I write another word, here's a disclaimer and clarification.
This blog reflects my own opinions and views, not the official thought or policy of the War Resisters Support Campaign. I bring you news about the status of war resisters in Canada, and about our fight to Let Them Stay, but I'm not an official spokesperson and don't claim to be one. I use the first-person-plural "we" when speaking about the Campaign because I'm a working member.
One of the beautiful things about our Campaign - one of its great strengths, in my opinion - is its diversity. Campaigners and resisters represent a wide range of ages, backgrounds, politics and world views. There are people of many faiths and people with no religion, leftists, liberals and libertarians, people who oppose all wars and people who would support some wars. There are octogenerians and twenty-somethings, queers and straights, families with children and without. And on and on.
Many - perhaps most - of the war resisters were apolitical before deserting or refusing movement, and have been politicized by their momentous act. Almost by definition, they are in a state of flux, feeling out their politics as they go along. In some sense, that should describe every thinking person, but many of us have a clear framework that we've worked out over the course of our lives, a lens through which we see events. Many of the resisters I know are in the process of developing their own lens.
This diverse group of people come together around a single point of unity: military resistance to the US invasion and occupation of Iraq, and our belief that those who have resisted should be allowed to live legally in Canada.
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Many of my comrades in the Campaign are excited about the upcoming US election. They are hopeful that Obama will win, and feel the resisters have a lot at stake in this election.
I don't feel the resisters have any larger stake in the US election than the rest of us. I don't think their situation will be changed by the outcome.
First, I'm not expecting a fair election, and because of that, I'm not expecting Obama to win. (No matter who is declared the winner, there will not have been a fair election. That much is already known.)
Second, if Obama is declared the winner, there's no reason to believe he will end the US occupation of Iraq any time soon. "Because he says he will" is not a reason; it's a wish. Anyone who has been voting Democrat for a while should know that.
Obama's website says: "Immediately upon taking office, Obama will give his Secretary of Defense and military commanders a new mission in Iraq: successfully ending the war. The removal of our troops will be responsible and phased."
I wonder how "successfully" will be defined, don't you?
Obama has already said he wants to increase troops in Afghanistan, and he hasn't ruled out invading Iran or Pakistan.
The Democrats are not an anti-war party. Everyone should know that by now.
Beyond possible military action or inaction from Obama, there's another perspective to take into account. If Barack Obama is awarded the Presidency of the United States, he will be the new Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. Can you imagine a Commander-in-Chief pardoning deserters during an ongoing war?
Remember, according to the US, the military are all volunteers. Every soldier signed a contract of his or her own volition. Now, we know this is not true, but it's the party line. So the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces will tell volunteer soldiers that it's all right to desert? And he'll do this while the war is still going on?
Some people are drawing comparisons to President Jimmy Carter's pardon of Vietnam draft resisters in 1977. It's not a valid comparison. The Carter pardon was made two years after the war had ended. It only applied to men who had been drafted - not deserters. And it came after 58,000 Americans had been killed and there had been massive, vocal and visible opposition to the war. And it was still a very unpopular decision!
If by some bizarre foiling of Republican plans to steal the election, Barack Obama does become President, he is not going to tell deserters from a volunteer military that they're welcome back - and in effect tell everyone in the military that it's perfectly okay to desert.
The fact that anyone believes he might strikes me as beyond ludicrous.
I guess the hope goes like this: one, Obama will win; two, he will end the war in Iraq; and three, he will recognize that through stop-loss, government lies and the poverty draft, the military is not really voluntarily, and apply that recognition to deserters.
And that, my friends, is what I call magical thinking.