3.15.2009

two excellent war resister stories

Here are two good war resister stories that ran recently in a US newspaper. I must note the factual error in the headline: Yes Canada! These people of conscience and peace picked the right country. But too many Canadians picked the wrong party to lead Parliament. Well, they did, but ultimately, that's not the problem either. The problem is that a party with 37% of the vote can hold the rest of us hostage to their pro-war, pro-US idealogy.

But these are good stories, and include some very good photos if you click through.
No Canada: U.S. military deserters once again flock to Canada to avoid war. Looks like this time they picked the wrong country.

Just five feet tall, with a baby strapped to her chest and a soft, faltering voice, Kim Rivera is anything but soldierly. Yet two years ago she was a Texas private in the Iraq War, guarding a gate with an M4 rifle and frisking Iraqi civilians at a base in eastern Baghdad.

Now, on a Wednesday evening in January, the 26-year-old mother of three stands in a room in frigid, snow-covered Toronto. Her fair-skinned face and round blue eyes are framed by auburn hair pulled back in a low ponytail, and she places a hand on her bundled baby as she faces some 100 people seated in folding chairs in the middle-class apartment building's community room.

Rivera clears her throat and unfolds a sheet of paper.

"I was fighting your kind for killing my kind," she begins, reading a poem she wrote last summer and dedicated to the people of Iraq. "I was fighting for your liberty; I was fighting for peace." She pauses and takes a deep breath. "But in reality, I was fighting to destroy everything you know and love."

The audience listens in silence. Some nod. A few wipe tears from their eyes. They are peace activists and professors, fellow American Iraq War deserters in their twenties and American hippies in their sixties, Vietnam draft-dodgers and Canadian mothers.

They're all rooting for Rivera, red-state warrior turned peacenik deserter. They're hoping and praying that by some lucky chance — or the benevolent hand of a politician or judge — the young mother will escape the deportation order that has been issued here and the court-martial that awaits back home.

Three years ago, before Iraq and Canada, Rivera's dreams of going to college and developing a career had faded. She'd spent five years working at Wal-Mart in her hometown of Mesquite, Texas, met her husband in the store's food court and had her first two children. After several years of living with relatives and struggling to save for their own apartment, Rivera saw the Army as her only way out. Through the military, she could make more than $10.50 an hour, plus get health insurance and higher education. And because she and her husband were both overweight and she was certain that she could shed the necessary pounds faster than he could, she began talking to recruiters.

She enlisted in early 2006. When she signed the contract, she thought of the war in Iraq as a remote and necessary evil. She was raised to praise the Lord and praise her country, and if that meant ridding the world of terrorists while allowing her and her family to get ahead, so be it. Yet after three desolate months in Iraq, consumed by homesickness, missing her children and disgusted by what she saw of the war, she deserted while on leave in 2007 and fled with her family to Canada. [Continued here.]

And...
Harsh Memories Haunt a Missouri War Resister

Joshua Randall, a 21-year-old Branson native, calmly recounts most of his four months as a U.S. Army medic in Iraq over the phone to Riverfront Times. But there are some memories this self-described "war resister" living in Canada would prefer not to discuss.

Randall says the primary reason he walked into the Branson recruiter's office in April 2006 was that the Army would cover his college tuition. But he also wanted to serve as a medic in Afghanistan and Iraq because, at age eighteen, he viewed those conflicts as "humanitarian missions" and believed "that things were actually getting accomplished and we were fighting for freedoms."

Still, certain aspects of his training began to gnaw at him before he ever set foot in Iraq. During basic training enemies were referred to as Hajjis, a derogatory term. After four months of medical courses, he joined the 187th Infantry Battalion of the 10th Mountain Division, stationed in Fort Drum, New York. Part of his training there required him to perform life-saving procedures on anesthetized sheep with incurable cancers.

"I learned a lot from it, and they were going to die soon anyway," he says. "But morally, I didn't think it was right."

Randall spent nearly a year at Fort Drum, where he met a Canadian girl online and married her in August 2007. The following month, his unit was deployed to Iraq. "Walking up the stairs of the plane, my knees were weak," he recalls. "A half-hour into the flight, it got really quiet. It hit a lot of people: There's no turning back now."

On Randall's first day at FOB McHenry, a base between Mosul and Kirkuk, an Iraqi army soldier was brought in for treatment — Randall's first patient. The soldier had seven bullet wounds, from his knees up to his chest, and lay unconscious. Randall's job was to plug the blood flowing from the soldier's groin wound.

"The reality sunk in that I was actually at war," Randall recounts. "The glory was sucked out of it a little bit."

In the following weeks while on patrol — eight-hour trips in cramped Humvees, rolling over bleak terrain — Randall says he never visited Iraqi hospitals to provide free healthcare, as he was told he would.

Sometimes, he says, in the middle of the night, his unit would enter a village where an improvised explosive device had recently exploded. They'd round up all the males over age twelve and take them to the detainee center at FOB McHenry. "If I were in their shoes," he says, "I would have nothing but hate for the Americans."

Randall claims he was forcibly restrained from treating Iraqi civilians in need. He begins to tell a story about a young girl, but stops. "I can't do this tonight," he says, but mentions a post on his website, www.londonresisters.ca, where he has written: "It's hard to say how you will react when...your holding a 30 kg, 10 year girl bleeding to death in your arms and you don't have the knowledge to fix her." [Continued here.]

Thanks to David and Stephanie for posting these on Facebook. I might have missed them otherwise.

16 comments:

Stephanie said...

welcome back. ;-)

redsock said...

I'm taking that personally.

Stephanie said...

Not at all!!! ;.p

L-girl said...

I think she meant from California.

We're sharing this blog for the next week or two.

L-girl said...

Typo: week or so.

redsock said...

Hmmmmmmm. Alright ....

:<|

Stephanie said...

Indeed welcome back from California, no slight intended in fact I look forward to the 'co-blogging'...

Cornelia said...

Very interesting article with a lot of info on Kim, Dale and the others. Poor lady, hope she won't get deported and locked up...

Cornelia said...

It was very moving to read how Dale had always wanted to work for the Dems and how he could not be around at Obama's inauguration due to Bush's Iraq war...and I thought we have gotten rid of Bush, but not yet of Harper and Kenney so there was even another deportation after Obama's inauguration and the danger of deportations is still impending...

impudent strumpet said...

And because she and her husband were both overweight and she was certain that she could shed the necessary pounds faster than he could, she began talking to recruiters.

This is the most tragic thing I've ever heard.

L-girl said...

This is the most tragic thing I've ever heard.

As consolation, I will say that in all my interviews with Kim (I was originally going to write about her, that's how we became friends), her explanations for why she signed up were all over the map. I think she was unclear as to what her motivations were, or there were so many of them that it's hard to explain (bonus, health care, way out of dead-end Wal-Mart job, etc.). I don't think this was the primary reason.

But, yes, it is very sad.

Cornelia said...

O yeah, it's very sad. Part of it was very hard for me emotionally.
And this is the link to the appeal on Kim's case from Courage to Resist:
http://www.couragetoresist.org/x/content/view/689/1/

Cornelia said...

(I was originally going to write about her, that's how we became friends)

That would be very interesting to read!

Cornelia said...

As consolation, I will say that in all my interviews with Kim (I was originally going to write about her, that's how we became friends), her explanations for why she signed up were all over the map. I think she was unclear as to what her motivations were, or there were so many of them that it's hard to explain (bonus, health care, way out of dead-end Wal-Mart job, etc.). I don't think this was the primary reason.

Thanks, yeah, I also think it was, like in most cases, several reasons mixed up and adding up alltogether, also her difficult personal situation above all due to the grievously insufficient social security stateside.

L-girl said...

That would be very interesting to read!

Thank you, Cornelia. It would have been very interesting to read! But unfortunately, no one wanted the story. I had a close call with a huge Canadian women's magazine - which would have been fantastic for both the campaign and me personally - but ultimately they decided against it. (They went with a female soldier fighting in Afghanistan instead.)

The recent crisis has made the story much sexier to print media, but now it requires the quick turnaround that only a staff writer can do, not a freelancer.

But my interviewing Kim was a good experience for both of us. Talking helps her, I learned a lot and we became close. All good.

Cornelia said...

I see, Laura. I regret they didn't publish the story but I'm glad the interviews were good both for you and Kim and you became friends that way!