why not let them stay? current conservative arguments demolished

The Conservatives' arguments against letting US war resisters stay in Canada are lame and getting lamer by the minute. Conveniently ignoring that Parliament has now voted twice to let them stay - conveniently ignoring a little thing called democracy - they are currently focusing on two things.

One, I call "but they volunteered": Vietnam was different, those were conscripts, that's why Canada took them in, these people volunteered.

And two, Obama will save them. Bush is gone, Obama is going to end the war in Iraq, and under an Obama administration, the war resisters won't be punished harshly.

Shine a light on either of these excuses and they melt faster than snow in June.

Let's look first at "but they volunteered".

  • Know your history. Not all the Americans who came to Canada during the Vietnam War were avoiding conscription. Many had volunteered for military service. When they saw what was really happening in Vietnam, they decided they could not participate. They deserted the military and came to Canada. And Canada allowed them to stay.

    Here's one man who is testament to these facts, and there are many others.

  • More recently, many Americans joined the National Guard in order to help their country in times of national emergency – and were then deployed to Iraq. They never volunteered to fight in Iraq, but had no legal option to refuse deployment. That cannot be considered volunteering.

  • Many soldiers were promised that they would not see combat because they had families with young children. They were also deployed, and had no legal option to refuse.

  • Some soldiers volunteered after the September 11th terrorist attacks. After deployment to Iraq, they discovered they had been misled about the purpose of the war. They had no legal option to separate from the military.

  • Some soldiers served their entire tour of duty and were honourably discharged, then were involuntarily re-enlisted, a practice known as "stop-loss". That cannot be considered volunteering.

  • Under international law, a soldier has not only a right to refuse to participate in human rights abuses and war crimes, but a duty. Many former US soldiers seeking refugee in Canada witnessed abuses against prisoners and civilians. It is their right and duty to refuse to participate, irrespective of how they joined military service.

    Now that we've demolished that excuse, let's turn to excuse number two: Obama.

  • No matter what Obama plans to do in the future, the war in Iraq is going on right now. Is a Commander In Chief of the US armed forces going to absolve deserters during an ongoing war? The idea is preposterous. Progressive people who imagine this are fantasizing. Conservatives who raise this issue are either lying or extremely ignorant.

  • Changes in the civilian justice system do not effect the war resisters. If deported back to the US, war resisters will not stand trial in civilian court - they will be court martialed. That is, they will be tried and judged by their accusers, the military. As some southern USians say, it's all over but the shoutin'. During these court martial, the only thing in question is the sentencing: how long the jail time, and what kind of discharge.

  • Robin Long is now serving a 15-month sentence in a military brig. His original sentence was 30 months, but peace-activist lawyer James Branum managed to have it reduced. Daniel Sandate, who was AWOL in Canada and turned himself in, was sentenced to eight months. James Burmeister, who also turned himself in, was sentenced to 9 months.

    A US soldier who murdered four Iraqi civilians for no reason was sentenced to seven months.

    Indeed, there is a large and growing body of evidence showing that AWOL soldiers who speak out against the war are being punished more harshly than the many soldiers who quietly desert and don't voice their political opinions or moral beliefs.

    * * * *

    Those are the only responses necessary to the "Obama will save them" non-argument. But if you are speaking to a Canadian who mistakenly views the Democrats as the party of peace, consider this: Obama has advanced a military budget that is $21 billion larger than the Bush military budget. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates - meet the new boss, same as the old boss - has called for eliminating certain expensive weapons systems, but the overall budget he's asking for and will receive is larger than his previous budget.

    Once upon a time, when the Soviet Union collapsed, we talked about a "peace dividend" - all the money that could now be diverted from the military into the general US budget. Then terrorism replaced communism as the excuse du jour. US military budgets don't get smaller. They only grow.

    Bush's DoD budget was $513 billion budget. Obama's is $534 billion. On top of that, Obama will ask Congress for yet more funds - probably $75.5 billion more - to wage war against Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

    Is this a party of peace?

    * * * *

    Next time you hear Canada should deport war resisters because they volunteered, and can deport them because they won't be harshly punished anyway, you'll know what to say.
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