1.02.2009

who serves in canada, who serves in the u.s.

I wrote a letter in response to this column by Christie Blatchford, but this letter is so much better, I'll share it with you instead.
Christie Blatchford demonstrates that Canada's armed forces are (still) primarily white, male and small-town based, and then uses this to smear both immigrants and urban dwellers, implying that neither seem interested in the "heavy lifting" soldiering requires.

Perhaps Ms. Blatchford would like to consider this problem from the opposite side of the coin. A democratic, peaceful, largely urban and fully industrial society like Canada has moved beyond the notion that a substantial armed forces is the key to prosperity.

Most Canadians do not want our troops in Afghanistan. Those of us who hold this view are not lazy; we simply disagree with the ideological underpinnings of armed combat or professional soldiering.

I respect those who toil in the armed forces; I grew up minutes from what was once one of the largest army bases in Canada. But I refuse to accept the red-necked rhetoric that being in the army is noble, while resisting its self-sacrificing lure is unpatriotic.

That is a sentiment best reserved for a nation far less free than ours.

Kim Solga, London, ON

Speaking of nations far less free than ours, how about this from the US military.
A veteran who has been out of the military for 15 years and recently received his AARP card was stunned when he received notice he will be deployed to Iraq.

The last time Paul Bandel, 50, saw combat was in the early 1990s during the Gulf War.

"(I was) kind of shocked, not understanding what I was getting into," said Bandel, who lives in the Nashville, Tenn., area.

In 1993, Bandel took the option of leaving the Army without retirement and never thought he would be called back to action.

"Here he's 50 years old, getting his AARP card, and here he's being redeployed with all these 18-year-olds," said Paul's wife, Linda Bandel.

"I can understand, say, 'Here, we have this assignment for you stateside. Go do your training,'" said Paul Bandel. "But, 'Hey, here's a gun, go back to the desert.'"

Involuntary recall allows the military, regardless of age or how long someone has been out of service, to order vets back into active duty.


Is it any wonder the US military needs "involuntary recall"? They have long since run out of sacrifices based on informed consent.

Involuntary recall is usually known as "stop-loss". Please remember that the next time someone says US war resisters should be deported from Canada "because they volunteered".

22 comments:

L-girl said...

AARP = American Association of Retired Professionals

Many Americans belong to this organization to get some access to halfway decent health insurance, and other benefits.

redsock said...

Stars and Stripes, April 2008:

More than 58,300 active and reserve-component soldiers have been affected by stop loss since 2002, according to Army statistics.

As of March — the latest numbers available — the Army had more than 12,200 soldiers held involuntarily under the stop-loss policy, according to the statistics, which were provided to Stars and Stripes on Tuesday by Lt. Col. Anne Edgecomb, an Army spokeswoman. [redsock: Meaning at least 10% of the men and women in Iraq are there against their will.]

About 6,860 of those soldiers are on active duty. Another 1,488 are in the Army Reserve, and more than 3,879 are in the National Guard — about 1,000 more than normal, a number boosted by an unusually large deployment of Guard troops to Iraq in March, Edgecomb said.

***

The Army says: "We should be able to get us weaned off of stop-loss [in 2009]."

Right. The fucking sun will rise in the west before the US ends its stop-loss program.

Skinny Dipper said...

One of my retired miliary friends in Canada says that we have an equivalent stop-loss program. I believe it lasts about two years after quitting or retirement. So far, I haven't heard of any Canadians being re-activated for Afghanistan.

In the United States, many African Americans sign up to join the military. I don't think patriotism is the top reason why. Economics has more to do with it. If one is a poor African American, the military is a ticket to a better living. A higher education is expensive in the US.

In Canada, I think regional economics causes young white men and women living in small town Canada to join the military in greater percentages than urban men and women from our multicultual cities. While times can be tough in the cities, it is possible to get some kind of work that financially compensates you more than getting paid in the military. Also, if I can speak about Toronto, there no major military bases that has a strong influence over the city. I think Downsview is just a detachment of Trenton. Correct me if I'm wrong.

I will agree with Ms. Blatchford that immigrant families may have different impressions of militaries based on where they came from. Soldiers in their birth countries are not there to protect the people. They are there to protect the political or military leaders.

I will agree with you that young adult children of immigrant parents are not disloyal to Canada.

L-girl said...

Most USians who sign up for the military do so for economic reasons, and this is by no means limited to African Americans. Millions of Americans have no other access to health care or education, and the recruiters lie constantly about what will be available to them and their families if they enlist.

This is commonly known as "the poverty draft". If you'd like to know more about that, and about what soldiers find after enlisting, I highly recommend reading Joshua Key's book "The Deserter's Tale," written with Lawrence Hill. It's quoted extensively in this blog, including the whole introduction.

I am under the distinct impression that the Canadian recall program you are referring to is not completely involuntary as stop-loss in the US.

Stop-loss means that soldiers who have gotten an honourable discharge and never wish to have military service again are recalled to combat and have no right to refuse or legal recourse if they do refuse. They can be - and are - re-upped for 10, 15, 20, 25 years.

JakeNCC said...

The only country we need to be afraid of is the U.S. and their military could take us over on a saturday night while everyone is watching Don Cherry so I'm not sure exactly why we need a big army. We need a robust Coast Guard and Search and Rescue squads to help cover this huge country and be available when people need help. I also grew up when we were peacekeepers. It was part of our indentity. Now Harper has a hard-on for the military and for the U.S. Not a good combination.

L-girl said...

You're right, but it's not just Harper. The Liberals sent Canada to Afghanistan.

Michael Ignatieff loves this stuff too - and I'm not just blaming him (in advance). We have no evidence that the Liberal party under any leadership would stop Canada from "holding the bully's coat" (thank you Linda McQuaig).

Canada has to get back to using its military for peacekeeping.

JakeNCC said...

Yep, it's like these are our choices? Harper who worships at the alter of George Bush or Iggy who has lived most of his adult life in the states and was one of the biggest cheerleaders for the Iraq war. Of course there's Jack and Thank God for him but still...

L-girl said...

Ugh. I know. I'm still thrilled for the very existence of Jack and his cohorts. And I go nuts when Liberal partisans or other observers suggest the NDP should merge into the Liberals. Isn't the US a big enough example of what happens when the left is subsumed by the centre??? Grrr.

But despite that, I'm still pro-coalition, if that's what it takes...

Skinny Dipper said...

Thanks for the recommendation.

From what my Canadian honorably discharged ex-soldier friend said, he mentioned that for two years, he could be re-activated for service. So far, I haven't heard this happen to Canadians.

I only know of the Israeli and Swiss armies where non-active soldiers are on reserve until they are about 45 years old.

JakeNCC said...

Well I can understand those damn Swiss. Such war-mongers, always sticking their noses in other people's business.

M@ said...

When I left the reserves, I was told that for five years they would be able to call me up. However, I reasoned that they would pretty much have to call up the 80,000 active duty soldiers before they got to me, so I wasn't really worried. I figured that would mean WW3, so I'd probably be affected anyway.

In Switzerland, every able-bodied man and woman is a reservist from age 18 to 45. They are also issued a rifle and ammunition while they are in the reserves. (A co-worker of mine was a Swiss immigrant.) However, I think it's a little different from having a massive army that invades other countries.

L-girl said...

When I left the reserves, I was told that for five years they would be able to call me up.

Operative words: they told me.

The Canadian soldier goes into the military knowing that she or he may be re-called, and agrees in advance.

Stop-loss is not part of any contract. The US Army gives itself the unilateral right to change the terms of the contract at any time, and the soldier must comply with the new terms that he never agreed to.

In Switzerland, every able-bodied man and woman is a reservist from age 18 to 45. They are also issued a rifle and ammunition while they are in the reserves. (A co-worker of mine was a Swiss immigrant.) However, I think it's a little different from having a massive army that invades other countries.

If every person is a reservist, and it's a shared civic responsibility, that's totally different.

It's the same theory behind the Israel IDF. Obviously, that's morphed into something different, as Israel is now the aggressor. But every Israeli serves and the theory was national self-defence.

None of this applies to the US.

M@ said...

The US Army gives itself the unilateral right to change the terms of the contract at any time, and the soldier must comply with the new terms that he never agreed to.

Yes. And I think Canadian soldiers would be stunned to learn how the US treats its servicepeople. It's quite shocking.

Then again, Canada doesn't send its soldiers overseas against their will, which also seems a little more civilized.

If every person is a reservist, and it's a shared civic responsibility, that's totally different.

Exactly. I don't see it as comparable to the US approach in any way.

MSEH said...

I want to be REALLY clear here that I am NOT defending the US military, in any way, shape, or form. But, I do have 22 years of experience as an officer and enlisted person; active, reserve, and inactive reserve. So, I just want to offer this clarification.

Most people who sign up for their 2 or 3 years think that they are signing up for, well, 2 or 3 years. But, most enlistment contracts (officers are a different situation altogether) are for a longer period of time. It used to be 8 years. I don't know if that remains standard. So, for example, I was on active duty for 3 years. Had I never joined a reserve unit (you know, the weekends and 2 weeks a year thing), I would have been in the IRR (Individual Ready Reserve) for five more years before I had no obligation.

I have not heard of the military having any ability whatsoever to activate someone who is not, at minimum, in the IRR.

Again, please, I am NOT defending any of this - I think stop-loss is beyond hideous. But, I do think it's important to know that - with all of the recruitment sleight of hand, the poverty draft that l-girl highlights, etc., LOTS of people join without realizing that they have, IN FACT, signed up for an obligation beyond that they imagine. And, yes, the military has them by the proverbial XXX. It sucks.

The whole thing sucks. Frankly, I am much more horrified by people who think they are getting off active duty and going to the relative safety of the IRR who get stop-lossed than I am the person in the IRR who gets called up. Not that there should be a hierarchy to the abuse... Oh, geez, let me stop before I go on too long a rant!

BTW, the AARP used to be the American Association of Retired Persons (you didn't have to be a "professional"), but, for some reason that is probably worthy of another post entirely, they have officially changed their name to AARP. And, no, although eligible (horrors!) I am not a member. :-)

L-girl said...

Thanks for that, MSEH.

I have not heard of the military having any ability whatsoever to activate someone who is not, at minimum, in the IRR.

I'm not sure what you mean. I know what the IRR is (or at least I think I do). I'm sure I've heard resisters here in Canada tell me their contracts were completely finished when they were stop-lossed. What am I missing?

And I sure know you're not defending the US military and their practices. :)

Re AARP, I got the name wrong, persons - not professionals. That's better!

I thought maybe Canadians didn't know the organization at all, or why someone's wife would say, "but he just joined AARP", meaning, "he's too old"!

Gordie_Canuk said...

I have to agree with Skinny Dippers' point about 'economic soldiers'. While there are certainly many who enlist in Canada's military for patriotic reasons...i think there are a good number who enlist for a job. I spent some time going to school in the maritimes, and a roomie of mine said that in the Miramachie (sp) where he was from...the armed forces was an option of last resort that many took when they couldn't find gainful employment elsewhere.

MSEH said...

"I'm not sure what you mean. I know what the IRR is (or at least I think I do). I'm sure I've heard resisters here in Canada tell me their contracts were completely finished when they were stop-lossed. What am I missing?"

I kept thinking about that after posting. Here's what I'm guessing. And, really, guessing. Soldier X signs up for a three year tour. Serves three years. Thinks s/he's getting out. Gets told, "No, you're not." Really the soldier had an eight year (that used to be the standard, I don't know what it is now) obligation. Three years active duty and five years in the IRR. In the IRR you - TYPICALLY - didn't do anything - unless you chose to do some intermittent service to get points toward retirement. You're a name in a computer. Every four years (again, that's how it used to be) you'd get told you had to have a physical, but other than that, you could spend your remaining years never doing a day of active duty. Then things changed and people started being activated out of the IRR. Shockeroo!

Although I wouldn't put anything past the US government, I just don't see how anyone who has fulfilled his/her obligation (e.g., the 8 year contract) could be called back. That would be the same as telling you - or any other civilian - that you were being activated. But, I'm open to finding out some bizarre story where the government figured out some frickin' loophole...

Most of the folks who I've read about were still on their active duty contracts when they were told that they were going (back) to Iraq. Others were in reserve units or the IRR. I haven't yet seen a clear case of someone having completed their contractual obligation and being told they were being recalled. If anyone reading comes across such a case I'd very much appreciate getting the details.

I suspect that what is really happening is that, because of the history, the earlier folks really had no idea that once their (e.g.,) "3 years" were up they were still subject to recall.

Another interesting story are the folks who came out in the military, were not discharged under DADT but are in the IRR, and, even though very much out, have been ordered to active duty. And the reserve/guard policies about people who come out in a unit about to be deployed... that's interesting, too. Another post, another time.

MSEH said...

P.S. I've got to go do some digging now. This has really got me intrigued. I re-read the original post about Bandel and I just can't imagine. But, like I said, the government can do pretty much any frickin' thing it wants...

MSEH said...

P.P.S. For anyone interested in wading through some military gobbledygook: http://www.cpol.army.mil/library/mobil/mob_annex_e.html

Scroll almost to the bottom for info on stop-loss. Still doesn't address the stories in the press about folks being called up years after having fulfilled their obligations, but interesting nonetheless.

L-girl said...

Thanks, MSEH. Interesting.

I don't want to dispute what you're saying, and I don't have the background for it. But the people I know who were stop-lossed all say their obligation was completely finished and they were then recalled.

It could be they're shortening the story for the sake of simplicity and sound-bite effectiveness. But in some cases, it's sworn testimony before the IRB, so they really can't skip steps.

Among resisters, stop-loss is discussed as a separate thing from being called up from the IRR.

That would be the same as telling you - or any other civilian - that you were being activated.

Except these folks were trained, and they did sign a contract at some point. And - this is what I'm told - the fine print says, we can change the terms of this contract without your consent, and you're still bound by it.

The fact that they can't take the contract home or show it to a lawyer in advance of signing raises a red flag.

So... I don't know.

Cornelia said...

This might be worthwhile knowing, too:

http://www.couragetoresist.org/x/content/view/651/1/

Quoting:
Because of falling reenlistment levels, the United States is finding it difficult to procure sufficient manpower in its efforts overseas. Thus the U.S. government is finding it necessary to reactivate members from the IRR to stave off its shortage of personnel. Thousands of individuals are now being faced with the decision to reactivate and forgo the lives they have built since their discharge. I am ignoring my orders and encouraging others in the IRR to make an informed decision on whether or not they should do the same.

The most important fact about this decision is that members of the IRR do not fall under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) until they report to the evaluation for activation. After being discharged from the military, veterans are bound only by civilian laws, and there exists no civilian mandate that states they must report for their evaluation. This means that the military has no formal judiciary measure for bringing criminal charges against an individual that ignores orders and fails to report.

Of course the military has certain forms of coercion and harassment that it utilizes to ‘prompt’ persons into reactivation, but these threats have no legal grounds. For example, if the military sends a veteran a letter that says to report for a court martial or a separations hearing, the military cannot actually hold a court martial or separations hearing unless that person reports for it. This means that a vet would have to volunteer to be court marshaled under the UCMJ. In the case of a separations hearing, a vet would have to agree to voluntarily participate, as in the well-known case of IRR resister and fellow IVAW member, Matthis Chiroux.

If members of the IRR ignore all attempts by the military to contact them, through not signing certified letters, or answering their phone calls, then the most probable situation is either a general separation from the IRR citing ‘a failure to contact,’ or, at worst, an other-than-honorable discharge from the IRR. What is important to understand is that a discharge from the IRR, in whatever capacity, does not affect a vet’s discharge from active duty. That means that at this time no one has incurred any loss of benefits or standing from an original active duty discharge. An other-than-honorable discharge from the IRR could, however, affect those that apply for a federal job requiring a national security background check, such as a position in the FBI or NSA.

Of the facts surrounding the IRR, it is important to know that about thirty to forty percent of personnel fail to report. Unfortunately many of them do comply after the military uses scare tactics to get them to reactivate. About fifty percent file for medical or hardship exemption and about fifty percent of those get approved. Individuals with more than thirty percent disability are most likely to succeed. The reality is that most service members in the IRR do not even have to file for exemption if they simply fail to report.

Cornelia said...

Of course I am glad there is neither a draft in Canada nor in the US (because I am against forcing people to do something they don't want to do.) However, the problem in the US is that the Bush Administration has been hell-bent to wage the Iraq war despite all ever-increasing opposition and rightful demands to stop it and that there is also a horrid grievous lack of social security stateside. While from an emotional point of view, I like both the US and Canada, I am ready to admit at any time that the situation is way better in Canada and that there are much less grievances and hardships and wrongs. And I'm glad that you have been able to move to Canada so that you can live where you like it better, Laura!