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2.03.2010

battle of the letters, war resister edition, part next

Three more excellent letters, these all from the west coast, in support of war resister Cliff Cornell, and in support of soldiers everywhere who refuese to commit illegal and immoral acts.
Re. Deserter's action shames veterans, Letters, Jan. 26.

Tim Harris has my full backing in his respect for the sacrifices that Canadians have made to protect our democratic rights and freedoms.

Might he also consider this: The current war in Iraq, as Cliff Cornell has found out, was not about protecting the rights and freedom of Americans, not even about bringing democratic rights and freedom to the people of Iraq.

It was about establishing U.S. geopolitical hegemony in that part of the world.

My dad went into the Second World War as a 19-year-old and experienced the full onslaught of the Cruel Sea and the frightening prospect of world domination by monstrous fanatics.

I respect what he did. I also respect his views on the travesty of these ridiculous attempts to disguise our current geopolitical manoeuvrings in Afghanistan and the U.S.'s in Iraq as civilization versus tyranny.

Even the disguise is a failure because no nation can donate democratic rights and freedoms to another nation.

So many U.S. and Canadian soldiers from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have had a dramatic and eloquent education in the current realities of world geopolitics. I'm giving them my every attention, just as I've listened to the older veterans' thoughts about past and present wars.

Jim Edmondson
Vancouver

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I don't understand why people think that a soldier who has left his or her post or refuses to return to duty is making an easy choice or disrespects his or her country.

Putting aggressive and fraudulent recruiting practices aside, many people who join armies expect the chain of command to possess an element of reasonableness. Armies wouldn't want to waste resources, and abuse of soldiers - sexual assault, hazing, forcing conscientious objectors to remain in combat roles - is a waste of human resources.

When that kind of waste happens on the base or on the battlefield, some soldiers experience a profound shock. They spend a long time trying to resolve their trouble within the military, giving the system every opportunity to right itself, frequently failing to find a solution that allows them to stay in uniform.

The defence of 'following orders' when faced with genocidal or inhumane commands was supposed to be discredited by the Nuremburg trials after the Second World War. Questioning orders that needlessly put soldiers' lives in danger and targetted civilians was partly what built the Vietnam Veterans Against the War and bolstered a generation of peace activists before us.

This country prides itself on its human rights record. We are told that we should not do something if it is unethical, that we should report wrongdoing, and that we are protected by law against retribution for whistleblowing. Where is the shame in that?

And yet your contributor insists that a war resister shames war veterans because that resister exercised the rights that vets purportedly fought for. How absurd.

Welcome, Chris Cornell, and thanks for your example of bravery for refusing to fight an illegal war.

Ian Weniger
Vancouver

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I was delighted to read that Cliff Cornell was released earlier than expected from prison and wishes to return to Canada.

Canadians have expressed their views through Parliament in motions that approved granting war resisters sanctuary here, especially those who have had the courage to uphold the real honour and the laws of their country, as is the case of Americans who have refused to participate in illegal and immoral invasions and occupation of foreign countries like Iraq.

It is unfortunate that some readers have expressed the view that any soldier under any and all circumstances must always obey their superiors even when those orders amount to crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Those who have expressed such views sadly failed to understand why we did not allow the excuse of 'just following orders' to exonerate war criminals at Nuremberg.

It might be timely to recall this as we just honoured the day to remember the Holocaust.

Juergen Dankwort
Vancouver

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