soldiers have rights too: the human right of conscience applies to everyone

This is an excellent letter written by Dick Cotterill, who came to Canada when he deserted the US military during the Vietnam War. Dick wrote the letter in response to this drivel in the Toronto Sun.
Peter Worthington characterizes U.S. Iraq War resisters -- soldiers who refuse to engage in a war that most of the world has recognized as illegal and immoral -- as insulting to the work of our Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan. As a veteran who voluntarily joined the United States Marine Corps during the Vietnam War but left in disgust to eventually find a new home and establish a small business in Nova Scotia, I find his argument insulting to the intelligence of most Canadians and to our soldiers.

I was born in Ithaca, N.Y., in 1950 and grew up on a dairy farm. In June of 1969, after completing my freshman year at Cornell University, I decided not to return in the fall. Many of my high school classmates were in the military and many were already in Vietnam at that time. I felt a patriotic duty to serve my country and enlisted in the Marine Corps for four years. During my second year in the Corps, I was stationed with operational squadrons and the reality of my situation began to become a moral burden. I was a fire control technician, working on F4 phantom jet fighters. My job was to keep the radar and fire control electronics working properly. We had sidewinder and sparrow missiles for air to air combat; rockets, Napalm and bombs for air-to-ground operations. As I met more and more Marines returning from Vietnam it became obvious that the war was a mistake, unjust and immoral. Eventually, I reached the moral and ethical decision that I could not complete my enlistment. I applied for discharge as a conscientious objector and when that failed, I decided to desert.

International protocol and several United Nations rulings recognize the reality and the right of a volunteer soldier to become a conscientious objector. Does Mr. Worthington truly expect soldiers to give up their conscience and all their rights when they enlist? If a war is shown to be based on false pretenses and deliberate falsification of information and not sanctioned by the United Nations, does he really think soldiers should just follow orders when their actions can be judged as criminal?

The international community established key principles after World War II to prevent genocide, invasion, occupation and war crimes. The laws and principles of war under the Geneva Conventions and the Nuremberg principles are part of a soldier's training. Is Mr. Worthington seriously suggesting there are no laws or rules of engagement in war and that soldiers should just ignore their training? If so, why are soldiers being prosecuted in Canada and the U.S. for engaging in war crimes?

Ultimately, Mr. Worthington is in the minority of Canadians who still stand by George W. Bush's illegal and immoral war in Iraq. While he may admit that public opinion is against the war, his suggestion that soldiers must be unthinking robots who follow illegal orders does not stand up to common sense or the basic standards of international law.

The fact remains that the Iraq War was wrong -- even Prime Minister Stephen Harper agrees, having said that it was "absolutely an error" -- so our government should welcome Iraq War resisters just as I was welcomed in Canada.

Dick Cotterill
Truro, Nova Scotia

Wmtc readers, don't forget to contact Michael Ignatieff and other Liberal non-voters. Tell them how you feel about their betrayal of basic values of justice. See this thread, including comments, for details.

No comments: