four recent articles on war resisters

[Allan Guest Post]

Here are four recent news stories on Iraq War resisters -- two each from Canada and the United States:

Canadian Press, March 11, 2009:
When Rodney Watson signed up for the U.S. army, he intended to be a military cook.

But when he was deployed to Iraq, Watson was given the task of inspecting vehicles for explosives.

He vividly remembers the day an Iraqi vehicle pulled up to the military base with a civilian who'd been shot bleeding inside.

Watson said he called and called for medical assistance that was readily available, but no help came. After an hour, the man died.

And after Watson's tour of duty came to an end, so too did his military career.

"I am no longer a soldier, I am a warrior. The difference between a soldier and a warrior is a soldier listens to everything he's told and does what he's told. I pick and choose my battles," Watson said.

Watson is among an estimated 250 U.S. war resisters who fled to Canada. ...

Philadelphia Inquirer, March 10, 2009:
Fleeing Fort Carson, Colo., in an old Camaro, Army deserter Joshua Key had a secret destination: Philadelphia.

After serving seven months in Iraq as a combat engineer, he went on the run during a home leave in 2003 rather than return to a war he had concluded was immoral.

"At the very beginning, I asked a military lawyer, 'What are my choices?' " he recalled recently. "He said, 'You have two: Get back on the plane and go to Iraq, or you're going to jail.'"

Key, then 25, gave himself a third choice, to disappear "into the crowd of a big city," he said. He grew his hair, sprouted a beard, and tried to act as though his time in the Army "never happened." For 14 months, he, his wife, and their four children lived in the Philadelphia area, moving "in total paranoia" between highway rest stops and cheap motels. They survived on her waitressing tips and his day jobs as a welder.

In March 2005, his panic rising, he fled with his family to Canada. ...

(The PI headline -- "Canada Has Cooled Its Welcome For U.S. Deserters" -- is highly deceptive. Lee Zaslofsky, a Vietnam-era deserter and spokesman for the War Resisters Support Campaign, correctly notes that Canadians "have not changed". The actual stumbling block is the current conservative Canadian government that continues to ignore the will of Parliament and a majority of the Canadian people.)

Broward Palm-Beach New Times, March 11, 2009:
For now, the campaign gives [Iraq War resister Aslan] Lamarche some financial assistance, as do his parents, who live in Miami. Both of his parents emigrated to the United States, his mother from Trinidad, his father from Cuba. He speaks to them a few times a week. "It's sad. My parents came to the U.S. for a better way of life," he says. "And now, their oldest son had to leave that same country for the same reason." ...

As for critics who might argue that Lamarche volunteered to fight and then later refused to go, he says he refused to honor a contract for a government that lied to go to war. "Why should I give my body for a contract with a government that doesn't honor me? My government lied to me. They've lied to the world and to the American people, and draft or no draft, there's no excuse. ..."

Calgary Herald, March 12, 2009:
A prison sentence for desertion is the likely outcome for a U.S. soldier who spent nearly three years on Gabriola Island while his comrades shipped off to Iraq.

But if he's found guilty and spends time in prison, artillery specialist Cliff Cornell hopes to return to Canada when he gets out. ...

As an adult, he had few job options, so when an army recruiter offered a $5,000 signing bonus in 2002, he joined.

He said he believed the recruiter, who said he wouldn't have to fight. He abandoned his post in 2005 when he learned his unit was bound for Iraq.

After spending a few months in Toronto, he found work at a grocery store on Gabriola, a community that accepted him and made him feel welcome.

Desertion is a serious offence in the U.S. The death penalty remains a sentencing option, although that hasn't happened to a soldier since 1945. ...

[Cornell's lawyer, James Branum:] "He fell in love with the country there and he'd really like to get back to it."

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