10.07.2010

letters in the toronto star: some smart people weigh in on war resisters and the liberal "leader"

In today's Star:
Re: Ignatieff did the right thing, Letter, Oct. 6

Letter writer George Pengilley mistakenly believes that U.S. war resisters deported from Canada “will get a short prison term, dishonourable discharge and they can then carry on with life.” I do not feel 15 months in prison is a just sentence for the “crime” of refusing to kill innocent civilians who were never a threat to the U.S. That's how long Robin Long, a war resister deported by the Harper government, served. Additionally, a dishonourable discharge is a life sentence, limiting one's opportunities forever: no student loans, no mortgage, no jobs.

Pengilley says that Canadians are proud of our troops who do their duty. I agree. I am proud of every veteran who recognizes their duty to refuse to participate in war crimes. Haven't we learned the price of soldiers “just following orders”? I am proud to welcome U.S. war resisters to Canada.

Laura Kaminker, Mississauga

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Angus Reid has consistently shown that nearly two-thirds of Canadians support American soldiers who stood up to George Bush and the illegal war in Iraq. That's on top of the 82 per cent who think it was a good idea that Canada did not send our troops into Iraq. Michael Ignatieff and Stephen Harper enthusiastically supported the initial invasion, then issued very weak mea culpas after the war went bad. If politicians can change their minds on the disastrous Iraq war, why can't soldiers who see the horror of the war up close do the same thing?

David C. Fox, York

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I was 20 years old before I figured out that wars are started by politicians, fought by soldiers, then settled by the same politicians after a sufficient number of lives have been lost, property destroyed and tears shed. I welcome deserters and wish more soldiers understood that moral responsibility always trumps their signature on a recruiting document.

James Russell, Toronto

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George Pengilley thanked Michael Ignatieff regarding Bill C-440. He said Ignatieff finally stood up and showed some Canadian backbone.

Bill C-440 was defeated. Ignatieff and a number of Liberals absented themselves from the House during the vote. Their absence ensured the bill was defeated. I would call that an insult to democracy.

If Ignatieff was opposed to letting American Iraq war resisters stay in Canada, he should have voted against the bill. If he was in favour of having them stay, he should have voted for the bill. Ducking out is not acceptable.

Paul Copeland, Toronto

Let me repeat James Russell for emphasis: I welcome deserters and wish more soldiers understood that moral responsibility always trumps their signature on a recruiting document.

8 comments:

johngoldfine said...

I do not feel 15 months in prison is a just sentence for the “crime” of refusing to kill innocent civilians who were never a threat to the U.S.

I just finished Piper Kerman's 'Orange is the New Black,' her description of her 15 months in the 'country club' federal prison at Danbury. The conditions she describes shock me, and I am a reader of every prison memoir I can find. 15 months in such a place are life-altering--and life-altering for the better only if one has extraordinary inner resources and outside help.

For the rest of us, it would just be a long excursion into meaningless pain and darkness.

L-girl said...

I've also read a few prison memoirs, and one my closest friends is a prosecutor in LA, fighting to defend prisoners from gang exploitation within prisons. She has told me some unbelievably shocking stories. Once inside, you have no human rights whatsoever.

Military prisons are not "country clubs," that's for sure. Wmtc readers may remember my interview with some activist friends who visited a war resister in the brig, after he was deported from Canada.

Short version here, full interview here.

M. Yass said...

Additionally, a dishonourable discharge is a life sentence, limiting one's opportunities forever:

That's pretty accurate, yes. The military calls it a "punitive discharge" and I've been told it's akin to having a serious felony conviction on one's record.

no student loans,

This part is not accurate. The only thing that will make one ineligible for U.S. student loans is a drug conviction. Oh, and not paying back loans you may already have.

no mortgage,

Not sure about this one. Certainly no VA subsidised mortgage. Mortgage from anywhere else, probably no effect.

no jobs.

You are correct that a DD can make it very difficult to find a good-enough paying job that would support a mortgage.

M. Yass said...

Military prisons are not "country clubs," that's for sure.

No, those are only for rich white people who steal old ladies' retirement nest eggs.

M. Yass said...

For the rest of us, it would just be a long excursion into meaningless pain and darkness.

Oh no, it's very meaningful - and lucrative - for the rich white folks who run the private concerns that run many U.S. prisons. Also, don't forget, the incarceration industry is one of the very few remaining American growth industries.

L-girl said...

M Yass, regarding a Dishonourable Discharge - as well as the Bad Conduct Discharge - we've had this conversation several times, and I'd rather not continue to repeat it. My understanding of the implications of a DD or BCD on the life of a deserter comes from people who have lived with those, and from lawyers who represent deserters.

In most states, anything lower than an Other Than Honourable Discharge renders one ineligible for student loans and mortgages.

L-girl said...

Re mortgages and student loans, it is perhaps more accurate to say this: banks can legally refuse to give a mortgage or loan to an applicant based on the person having a DD. And they do.

So perhaps the person is technically eligible but in reality they are highly unlikely to ever receive a loan or a mortgage through normal channels.

Boyd M L Reimer said...

Those convicted of a felon in the US will permanently lose their right to vote. This definitely meets the criteria of “irreparable harm” because it is permanent.

That point was mentioned on Sept 22, 2008 when Jeremy Hinzman’s lawyer, Alyssa Manning successfully argued that Jeremy should receive a stay of deportation. (Click here for court links, etc, via Wikipedia)

(To get the stay of deportation it has to be shown that the defendant will encounter "irreparable harm.")

(I was in the courtroom in person as an observer, and took detailed notes.)