600 Soldiers sign "Appeal for Redress" to Withdraw from Iraq

The Soldiers Speak Out

"As a patriotic American proud to serve the nation in uniform, I respectfully urge my political leaders in Congress to support the prompt withdrawal of all American military forces and bases from Iraq. Staying in Iraq will not work and is not worth the price. It is time for US troops to come home.

This statement – the Appeal for Redress – has been signed by over 600 active-duty soldiers who have had enough of seeing their brothers and sisters sacrificed to the disastrous war in Iraq. In this month alone, 101 American soldiers have been killed, more than in any month since January, 2005 and the fourth highest monthly total since the war began in March, 2003.

Seaman Jonathon Hutto and Marine Sergeant Liam Madden spearheaded the Appeal which is co-sponsored by Iraq Veterans Against the War, Veterans for Peace and Military Families Speak Out. It is the latest effort stemming from the antiwar energy that has emerged among military families, veterans, and active military, including generals and other high-ranking officers. It's also the first antiwar movement organized by active military personnel since the Vietnam War.

Hutto, who served off the Iraq coast from September 2005 until March, told the Washington Post, "I hear discussions every day among my shipmates about the war in Iraq and how it doesn't make any sense at this point. There is no victory in sight."

Madden served in Anbar province from September 2004 until February 2005. "I don't think any more Iraqis or Americans should die because of the US occupation," he told ABC News. "If people want to support the troops, then they should support us coming home." Madden cited his disillusionment with a war based on non-existent weapons of mass destruction and phantom links between al Qaeda and Iraq.

One soldier, speaking under condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, said, "I don't think that the American public realizes just how many soldiers and service members in general really do have reservations about what is going on over there….It's very hard. These soldiers seeing all this tribal fighting, ethnic fighting going on around them.…There is not really anything you can do to stop this."

Another soldier said he believed the Appeal would have "a snowball effect" and more and more people would sign on. "Once they start seeing momentum going forward and more and more service members coming out, they will be much more inclined to come out as well."

The names and comments of those signing onto the initiative are not made public. The Military Whistleblower Protection Act allows for "a protected communication" with Congress – but only while off-duty and out of uniform. The Appeal will be delivered to Congress on Martin Luther King Day, 2007.

These brave men and women, who put their lives on the line for our nation every day, must be heard.

The Nation
BLOG | Posted 11/01/2006 @ 5:08pm

Memo to Kerry: Criticize, Don't Apologize

Senator John Kerry's recent comments to a group of college students that they could work hard in school or risk getting "stuck in Iraq" put the draft dodgers in the Bush Administration in predictable paroxysms of rage. Kerry, who first responded with anger at the GOP's criticism but later apologized, should stop being nice about the Deserter in Chief. He should be reminding voters that the President who has sent more than 3,000 US soldiers and allies and untold thousands of Iraqis to their deaths deserted his post during the Vietnam War.

Kerry should be reminding voters that while he served honorably in Vietnam, a war he disagreed with, almost the entire Bush team dodged the war that they supported. Just as few if any of the legislators now calling for staying the course have any family members out there in Iraq.

He'd do well to bring to voters' attention the continuing arrogance of the President, as revealed to Bob Woodward in Bush at War: "I'm the commander--see, I don't need to explain--I do not need to explain why I say things. That's the interesting thing about being the president. Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don't feel like I owe anybody an explanation."

Finally, Kerry should consider drawing public attention to Bush's own conduct during the Vietnam era, drawn from my 2004 book, Deserter: Bush's War on Military Families, Veterans, and His Past.


When the government was drafting George W. Bush's contemporaries and sending them to Vietnam, Bush joined the Air National Guard in Texas, and ticked the box saying "no" to overseas service: a choice denied most of his contemporaries then, who did not have the Ivy League connections to enter such units. More important, such choices are denied now to the National Guardsmen who were not only called up for service in Iraq but have found their terms extended while they were out in the desert. All over the world, men and women are now dying and being maimed because Bush had lived through "the war of his generation" without hearing a shot fired in anger, and perhaps because "Little Googen," as his indulgent parents called him, has been trying to emulate his genuinely heroic father--without actually risking his life. His father left school at 18 and used his family connections to become the youngest pilot in the Navy.

Soldier of Fortune

Since he has persuaded the vast majority of Americans, if not the citizens of any other country in the world, that Saddam Hussein was responsible for the attacks on the World Trade Center, perhaps we should not be surprised at Bush's success in passing himself off as a veteran with so many Americans, including many who are actually combat-seasoned veterans themselves.

As the Tet Offensive was winding down, family, friends and his own faith in his entitlement slid him into 111th Tactical Recon Texas Air National Guard. Having plotted the course, young George took the aptitude test for Air Force officers on January 19, 1968, in New Haven, Connecticut. The test showed him with a grade of 25 percent for pilot aptitude, 50 percent for navigation and 95 percent for "officer quality." There were 500 applicants. Bush was accepted immediately.

One suspects that you get 75 percent for "officer quality" by simply answering yes to questions like "Is your family rich and politically connected, and did you go to Yale or Harvard?" Indeed, the tests could not be too hard, because he scored an impressive 85 percent on verbal aptitude. It must have been a multiple choice test, since one cannot really see him getting that score if he had had to write a sentence.

Texas circles knew this unit specifically as "Air Canada," since joining it had all the advantages of fleeing north of the border as far as service in Vietnam was concerned and none of the political or meteorological downside. It was a "champagne unit" since its personnel was so rich and well connected. Another comrade out of arms was the son of Lloyd Bentsen, which is one reason why the Texas Dems have pushed this issue over the years.

In the unlikely event that the ghosts of Santana and Zapata would rise on the Texas border to reclaim the Lone Star State for the United States of Mexico, the Texas National Guard may have seen some tough fighting. But there was no way they were going to Vietnam--hence its popularity. As Colin Powell said in his memoirs, before joining Bush's Cabinet, "I can never forgive a leadership that said, in effect: These young men--poor, less educated, less privileged--are expendable (someone described them as 'economic cannon fodder'), but the rest are too good to risk."

Powell added, presciently and inconveniently, "I am angry that so many of the sons of the powerful and well placed managed to wrangle slots in Reserve and National Guard units. Of the many tragedies of Vietnam, this raw class discrimination strikes me as the most damaging to the ideal that all Americans are created equal and owe equal allegiance to their country."

Bush's first solo flight was hymned by the PR office of the unit, "George Walker Bush is one member of the younger generation who doesn't get his kicks from pot, or hashish or speed. As far as kicks are concerned, Lt Bush gets his from the roaring afterburner of the F-102." One cannot help wondering about the significance of the omissions in that press release. Did the PR drafter know something, since booze and cocaine are conspicuously absent from the pilot's alternative kick list? Certainly, veteran correspondent Helen Thomas reduced White House spokesman Scott McClellan to incoherent evasion in February 2004 when she asked him if the President had been ordered to do community service. McClellan wriggled, squirmed, tried counter-attacking, and was being so obviously evasive that the rest of the press corps joined in trying to get him to either say yes or no or that he would approach the President to answer the question. The failure to respond should perhaps be set next to the refusal to deny categorically the use of illegal drugs before 1974, and perhaps also his sudden conversion to charitable work in inner cities at a time when he was supposed to be flying with the Guard. One does not have to be too partisan to smell a fish here. We do not know its size, or its species, or even where it is lurking, but you do not need the nose of a conspiracy theorist to smell it.

Was George W. Bush a deserter? Almost certainly in the legal sense, but certainly in the moral sense. He took active and multiple steps to avoid physical risk in "the war of his generation," to which he lent political support.

Absent without leave? Certainly. He went missing in Alabama when he asked to be posted there so he could campaign for a family friend. He failed to report for duty and defied a direct order to attend a medical examination. In doing so he made himself unfit for his duty, flying, every bit as surely as if he had "let off a shotgun next to his ear," as he complained other people did to avoid conscription. The only credible person who saw him on a base for a year was a dentist who examined his teeth. Once. Contemporary National Guardsmen are now in custody for refusing to return to Iraq. Sgt. Camilo Meija served a year in military prison for refusing to return to war. Bush never went.

James Madison in Political Reflections (1799) described two "momentous truths" in politics: "First: That the fetters imposed on liberty at home have ever been forged out of the weapons provided for defense against real, pretended, or imaginary dangers from abroad. Secondly: That there never was a people whose liberties long survived a standing army." One cannot help wondering whether Karl Rove and Bush the Younger may not have read this and taken it as more in the nature of sound political advice than a principled warning!

While the Founders envisaged unscrupulous monarchs, chief executives or generals using the army to seize power, it is not so much the actual Army but its prestige that the modern-day putschists abuse. They are what Christopher Hitchens calls the "braver sort of Pentagon intellectuals," who are too cerebral to wave flags but quite happy to encourage the habit in others, and their comrades in the White House, such as Dick Cheney and his entourage, not to mention the Civilian in Chief himself.

In the name of those hyped-up external dangers, they have made it almost blasphemous to question the finance, purpose or conduct of the armed forces or of the President who has done so much to destroy the lives and living standards of serving military and veterans alike.

There should be hoots of derision every time Bush and his chickenhawk entourage play soldiers. As Peter Ustinov said, most kids play soldiers when young, but most grow up. Thanks to Bush, lots of children across the world are growing up without a parent. And some will never grow up at all.


Key Denied Refugee Status in Canada Courts

House to appeal decision to Federal Court
November 4, 2006


A U.S. military [war resister] who allegedly saw an Iraqi soldier's severed head get kicked around by his comrades has been denied refugee status in Canada.

Joshua Key, 27, a father of four, is the third high-profile [war resister] to be refused asylum by the Immigration and Refugee Board.

"I am sure he will be terribly disappointed," Jeffrey House, Key's lawyer, said yesterday. "I thought we had an invincible case."

Key was shipped to Iraq in April 2003 and left 240 days later, disillusioned by the war and shaken by the actions of fellow soldiers.

Board member Keith Brennenstuhl heard a litany of horrors that Key, an explosives expert, alleges he witnessed, including seeing soldiers kick the severed head of an Iraqi in Ramadi "like a soccer ball."

House is appealing the decision to the Federal Court of Canada.

More and more [war resisters] are fleeing to Canada as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan worsen, House said, with about two a week showing up at his Toronto office.

"There are hundreds in the system in Canada," he said. At least 35 have filed refugee claims in Canada, he said.

The IRB doesn't want to hurt relations with the U.S. by granting refugee status to [war resisters], House charged.

[War resisters] Jeremy Hinzman, 27, and Brandon Hughey, 20, also were refused refugee status and have taken their cases to the Federal Court of Appeal. Hinzman and Hughey, both now living in Toronto, left the U.S. before they were to be deployed to Iraq in 2004.


hear no see no speak shit

VELVET REVOLUTION -- Revolution Begins at Home!

2nd Annual Our Way Home Peace Event and Reunion

Once again the world's attention is centered on this cross-borders peace event being planned for July 4th to 8th, 2007 at the Brilliant Cultural Center in the community of Brilliant, part of the city of Castlegar, British Columbia, Canada. We invite you to participate in the 2nd Annual Our Way Home Peace Event and Reunion Weekend.

US war resisters who came Canada during the Vietnam War offer our world an important model of non-violence, as do those US war resisters arriving in Canada today during the US War in Iraq.

The 2nd Annual Our Way Home Peace Event and Reunion will mark the courageous legacy and honour the contribution made to Canadian life by the US war resisters who came to Canada during the Vietnam War. The Our Way Home Reunion will also honour the courage of those resisting current US militarism by seeking safe haven in Canada now, during the US war in Iraq. The Our Way Home Reunion will honour the thousands of Canadians who helped them resettle in this country, both then and now.

The Our Way Home Peace Event and Reunion will include workshops, keynote presentations, panel-discussions, on-stage theatre performances, a film festival and a major peace concert.

The 2nd Annual Our Way Home Peace Event and Reunion will provide an opportunity for those who came to Canada as war resisters during the Vietnam War to be reunited with those who assisted them in Canada.

Inauguration of international war resisters organization

Join us this summer for the inaugural address for the War Resisters of Foreign Wars, an international war resisters organization. With speeches by former Israeli Air Force captain, Yonantan Shapira, and Our Way Home event director, Isaac Romano.

Learn About the Our Way Home Institute

Come and participate in presentations sponsored sponsored by the Our Way Home Institute, who's mission is to reveal the human cost military conflict on combatants and civilians, with workshops promoting healing and reconciliation for both War Resisters and Veterans.


The Vietnam War, and the widespread war resistance it spurred, proved a turning point in Canada's development as a nation. In an assertion of sovereignty in its post-WWII relationship with the United States, Canada opened its border and provided Americans with an opportunity to oppose the Vietnam War by moving to a new country and starting new lives.

From 1965-1973, more than 100,000 draft-age Americans who refused to participate in the Vietnam War made their way to Canada. More than half of those who came remain in the country today. Many of them settled in rural areas, becoming part of the 'back to the land' movement of the late sixties and seventies. Others gravitated to Canada's urban centres, and continue to work promoting and maintaining the kind of social justice they experienced upon arrival to this country.

At the time, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau said: "Those who make the conscientious judgment that they must not participate in this war... have my complete sympathy, and indeed our political approach has been to give them access to Canada. Canada should be a refuge from militarism."


We are pleased to hold this event at the Brilliant Cultural Centre, a beautiful performance hall in the community of Brilliant, part of the city of Castlegar, B.C. Canada. The Brilliant Cultural Centre was founded by the Doukhobor population of the region, whose ancestors fled Russia in 1899 after destroying their weapons as a demonstration of their refusal to fight in the Tsarist Army. Russian author Leo Tolstoy was responsible for helping pay for the Doukhobors travel as new immigrants to Canada.

The towns of Castlegar and nearby Nelson, BC and the surrounding region of the West Kootenays were a leading terminus in what was known as the "Underground Railroad". It is estimated that as many as 14,000 US war resisters came to the area at the height of US immigration to Canada during the Vietnam War. New arrivals were frequently welcomed and assisted by members of two resident pacifist groups, the Doukhobors and the Quakers, the latter having earlier settled in the area after fleeing the US during the McCarthy period.

The community of Brilliant, part of the city of Castlegar is located on the confluence of the Kootenay and Columbia Rivers, and surrounded by mountains. The present day West Kootenay Region, with an estimated population of 40,000, consists of many communities rich in arts, cultural life and an activism rooted in the contributions of the numerous US expatriates that have made the area their home. Large numbers of Vietnam era US expatriates continue to live in Castlegar, the neighbouring town of Nelson, and throughout the smaller rural communities of the West Kootenays.


Castlegar can be accessed by all current methods of transportation.

Daily service by Greyhound bus & charter.

Domestic air service to Castlegar Airport available.

Note: Suggested travel route from America offering you lower travel costs.

621 km (386 miles) from Vancouver
262 km (163 miles) from Spokane
619 km (385 miles) from Calgary
48 km (30 miles) from U.S. border

View accomodations listed at the Castlegar and District Chamber of Commerce, or at the Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce, or view our list of local Hostels. Also, browse for camping in the kootenays.

2nd Annual Our Way Home Peace Event and Reunion - 2007

Canada has long served as a safe haven for those refusing to participate in war. When the US attack on Vietnam (and all of Indochina) was underway, Canada welcomed tens of thousands of young Americans who were resisting that war. Due to the growing militarism of US foreign policy, especially its illegal attack on Iraq, Canadians can expect to see more Americans of conscience coming across our border for years to come.


Our Way Home Peace Event and Reunion was created to:

  • Honour US war resisters from the Vietnam & Indochina war era and their significant contribution to Canada - as well as their choosing the non-violent path of resisting the war.
  • Honour those who assisted US war resisters who came to Canada - groups such as Quakers, Mennonites, Unitarians, Doukhabours, other groups and the thousands of individual Canadians who provided assistance and support.
  • Conduct a public education campaign in order to prepare Canadians to support war resisters now and in the future.
  • Conduct an educational campaign to provide for healing for both Veterans and Civilians and to reveal the human cost of military conflict on combatants and civilians.

To accomplish these goals, Our Way Home Peace Event and Reunion will organize a number of events in Castlegar, B.C and Nelson, B.C. July 4-8, 2007 which will include, but not be limited to:

  • A reunion for US war resisters - and those who assisted them - to be together and to share their stories.
  • Workshops, panel discussions, theatre performances, films and keynote presentations that will contribute to knowledge and understanding of previous war resistance and connect that understanding to action in today's world.
  • A public music concert for peace.
  • Workshops promoting healing and reconciliation for both War Resisters and Veterans. Through voluntary participation, some will join in a facilitated process that creates a safe space to hear each others' stories.

Support troops who resist illegal wars

by Khadija Qadri

Which one sounds more patriotic? "Support the troops" or "Support the troops who resist an illegal war"? I say more power to those brave heroes who refuse to fight the U.S. imperialists war to dominate the world. For Americans, being patriotic and supporting the American wars is just the same as being good Germans during World War II and supporting Hitler's war. Those little Made in China "Support our Troops" ribbons have no meaning. We slap them on our gasoline guzzling SUVs without sincere concern for what our soldiers are doing in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I do willfully support the brave and courageous troops who are refusing to fight these illegal wars in Iraq and elsewhere, though I do not support the U.S. troops who do the fighting. Such men and women are my heroes and give me hope that there are many good people who think independently and intelligently. I am proud of war resisters like 28-year-old U.S. Army 1st Lieutenant Ehren Watada, Sgt. Ricky Clousing, Sgt. Kevin Benderman, Katherine Jashinski and many more like them who show their courage to speak out. Watada was the first officer to publicly refuse to fight the war. He gave his reasons in an interview with the Seattle Times, "It usurps international treaties and conventions that by virtue of the Constitution become American law. The wholesale slaughter and mistreatment of the Iraqi people with only limited accountability is not only a terrible moral injustice, but a contradiction to the Army's own Law of Land Warfare. My participation would make me party to war crimes."

23-year-old Katherine Jashinski's words were, "I have a deeply held belief that people must solve all conflicts through peaceful diplomacy and without the use of violence. Violence only begets more violence."

Ricky Clousing told the judge, "My experiences in Iraq forced me to reevaluate my beliefs and ethics". Sgt. Benderman's proud words were, "I will not compromise my integrity nor my moral courage." Courageous are these soldiers who question this endless war.

Another hero is 23-year-old Marine Corps sergeant Heather Cerveny, who heard the prison guards boasting about torturing the prisoner at the notorious Guantanamo Bay prison and then filed an affidavit with the Pentagon's Inspector General. There have been many more torture allegations at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and wherever U.S. troops are spreading democracy. No, it is not just one or two isolated incidents but a well-documentated system that promotes such horrific abuses. These weird abuses are the same across prisons in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo, so how can we believe White House and Pentagon assurance that they will end the abuses?

Sept. 29, 2006 was one of the saddest days in history. For the first time, U.S. Congress passed a bill allowing torture and revoking habeus corpus, a basic human right since 1215. Like Israel, this government has legalized torture. This law eliminates basic rights and liberties of anyone our government labels as an enemy combatant, even U.S. citizens.

According to The New York Times, there have been many reports of racism towards Arabs and Muslims, both in Iraq and Afghanistan. I have seen and heard such racist remarks myself in recent films and documentaries. The Southern Poverty Law Center (, a watchdog organization, tracks racists and the right-wing and, they say there have been large numbers of neo-Nazis and skinhead extremists infiltrating the U.S. military.

Back in 2003, just before the invasion of Iraq, Bush sent a message to the Iraqis, "Do not destroy the oil wells". I am sure it would have been comforting for Americans if, instead, Bush had said, "Do not hurt the U.S. troops, they are coming to protect you and teach you (American) democracy". A revealing irony is that the war in Iraq was named "Operation Iraqi Liberation" (OIL), later changed to Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Recent polls show 58% now think this war was a mistake. So why don't the majority of Americans speak out against the war? Why do Americans not understand the idea that Americans do not belong in Iraq? It is not about freedom and democracy but Iraqi oil. How long are we going to invade other countries to control or steal the natural resources that do not belong to us? America pretends to be big brother to the world, but in fact it is a thief and bully. Bush has it upside down. We have to worry about global terrorism but we have to see the obvious: It comes as a reaction to the U.S. robbing and exploiting so many nations.
© Copyright 2006 UCD Advocate
to the source:

Take Action to Support GI Resistance and GI Rights Dec. 8-10th!

Military resisters, their families, veterans and concerned community members call for public action Dec. 8-10th!

"All my fellow resisters in Canada and the U.S...We have to stay strong and stand our ground. Because if we keep speaking the truth and stand up for what's right we will always be free inside." -Darrell Anderson

It's time for us to escalate public pressure and action in support of the growing movement of thousands of courageous men and women GI’s who have in many different ways followed the their conscience, upholding international law, taking a principled stand against unjust, illegal war and occupation and stood up for their rights.

Widespread public support and pressure will help create true support for courageous troops facing isolation and repression, and help protect their civil liberties and human rights.

Your participation in these days of action—and beyond-- is crucial to realizing these goals: together, we do have the power to end this war and prevent the next one. As the antiwar movement builds its support for these brave people and their important actions, we hope more will take a stand if we show them they won't be alone.

Those of us outside the military must match their bravery by escalating our support for all GI resisters. They've got to know we're out here for them!

We urge you to join us December 8-10th for a weekend of action in support of GI Resistance and GI Rights!

We ask that you to begin mobilizing your group, community and networks now. As well as educating your organization’s members, please consider hosting one or more public events to help raise awareness and build support.


Partial list of participating groups and individuals:
  • Courage to Resist
  • War Resisters Support Campaign
  • Gold Star Families for Peace
  • Bob Watada and Rosa Sakanishi, father and step-mother of Lt. Ehren Watada
  • Darrell Anderson, Iraq veteran and war resister
  • Stephan Funk, former marine and first resister of Iraq war
  • DeDe Miller, Gold Star Families for Peace
  • Anita Dennis, mother of resister Darrell Anderson
  • Jeff Paterson, former marine and first resister Gulf War I
  • Sara Rich M.S.W., mother of Spc. Suzanne Swift
  • Edward Hasbrouck, draft resister
  • Gerry Condon, Vietnam war resister

For more info visit:

to the source:


U.S. War Resister from Vancouver goes AWOL again

Last Updated: Thursday, November 2, 2006 | 8:36 AM PT

CBC News

An American soldier who deserted the army for a life in Vancouver has gone into hiding in the United States, after an apparent deal to grant him a quick discharge went sour.

Combat engineer Kyle Snyder fled to Canada in 2005 to avoid a second deployment in Iraq.

"Just don't come down. Don't trust it.
... if they're doing this on a case-by-case basis,
like they said, then it's not worth it."

Last week, he left Vancouver to turn himself in at Fort Knox, Ky. He was under the impression he had a deal that would see him quickly discharged with no jail time.

But he told CBC News that upon his arrival in Kentucky, he was told to rejoin his army unit in Missouri.

"All of a sudden, the people that had made the deal with us aren't available, which is weird, because a United States soldier doesn't just come down from Canada every single day," he said.

Snyder refused to report to his unit and said he is now in hiding in Kentucky.

He said if the matter isn't resolved soon, he'll return to Canada and apply for refugee status again.

Snyder also said he wants to warn other U.S. deserters to stay in Canada.

"Just don't come down. Don't trust it. I mean, if they're doing this on a case-by-case basis, like they said, then it's not worth it."

U.S. military officials could not be reached for comment on the case.

Snyder said if the matter isn't resolved soon, he'll return to Canada and apply for refugee status again.

Snyder also said he wants to warn other U.S. deserters to stay in Canada.

"Just don't come down. Don't trust it. I mean, if they're doing this on a case-by-case basis, like they said, then it's not worth it."

U.S. military officials could not be reached for comment on the case.


A n Army soldier who fled to Canada rather than return to his unit at Fort Leonard Wood and go back to Iraq has disappeared again, this time just a day after surrendering to the military.

Pvt. Kyle Snyder, 23, of Colorado Springs, Colo., told The Associated Press he was supposed to return by bus to the Missouri Army post from Louisville, Ky., on Tuesday but didn’t go. He said he went AWOL after Fort Knox officials told him he would be sent back to his unit, the 94th Engineer Battalion.

Snyder returned to the United States on Saturday, after his lawyer said he had reached a deal for Snyder to receive an other-than-honorable discharge. Being sent back to his unit wasn’t part of the deal, according to attorney James Fennerty.

“I came back in good faith,” Snyder said Wednesday by phone. “I put my trust in them one more time. Why should I put my trust in them again when I can just go back to Canada?”

He did not disclose his location.

Messages seeking comment were left with Gini Sinclair, a Fort Knox spokeswoman, but were not immediately returned Wednesday night.

Snyder, a former combat engineer, left the United States in April 2005 while on leave to avoid a second tour in Iraq. He said he worked as a welder and at a children’s health clinic in Canada.

Snyder has said he was put on patrol when sent to Iraq in 2004, which he said he was not trained to do, and that he began to turn against the war when he saw an innocent Iraqi man killed by American gunfire.


I recall two plays from the time I was a boy growing up here in New York City. One was Waiting for Lefty, by Clifford Odets. Some students at my high school put it on and I played the part of Fats, the crooked union boss. The other play was by a man named Irwin Shaw and was called Bury The Dead. I never saw it. I think I read it: In my mind's eye I can see a page of the text. But all I can remember from the play is one line: "Someday they'll have a war and nobody will come."

I presume that this is the thought that brings us all here tonight. I am immensely honored to have been asked to initiate this series of annual lectures, but I am only one of many in the room--some of whom I know, and some of whom I do not know--who have created the tradition and culture that we are gathered to honor.

Let's honor George Houser. He was one of the Union Theological Seminary Eight who, David Dellinger included, not only refused to fight but refused to register for the draft. David says in his autobiography that at Danbury Prison, George Houser was also one of three war resisters who were the best Ping Pong players in the joint. When the Union Eight were released from prison, Union offered them readmission on condition that they would avoid any course of action that would publicize their draft resistance. Mr. Houser was one of five who refused and went instead to Chicago Theological Seminary.

Let's honor David Mitchell. David pioneered in the 1960s the position that is also the position of Lieutenant Ehren Watada, which I wish to explicate tonight. David then, like Lt. Watada today, said that he was not a pacifist. He refused to participate in the Selective Service process because he believed that the actions of the United States in Vietnam were war crimes, as war crimes had been defined at Nuremburg after World War II. He spent two years in prison.

David's wife Ellen Mitchell is also here tonight, despite the fact that it is her birthday. David recently sent me a speech that Ellen made in support of her imprisoned husband at the April 1968 antiwar demonstration in New York City. Let's honor Ellen.

Finally, Elizabeth Peterson made the trip from Vermont to be here with us, along with a younger Dellinger. While David was doing his second prison term for war resistance, Betty was pregnant. David tells in From Yale to Jail how when he was on hunger strike at Lewisburg the warden came to his cell and said: "She's dying. She has sent a message telling you to go off the strike so she can die in peace." David said, "Take me to her." The warden refused and David concluded, correctly, that the warden was lying. The prisoners won one of the major goals of their hunger strike, concerning the censorship of mail. David was given a pile of letters from Betty telling him that she was well and supported the strike. The Dellingers' oldest child, Patchen, was born soon after. Betty, your presence does us honor.

In the company of these heroes and heroines we turn to the message of another hero, Ehren Watada. In the military system of justice--the system that Congress recently turned its back on in setting up military commissions--there is a proceeding similar to the convening of a grand jury. It is called an Article 23 hearing. The hearing officer decides whether there is sufficient evidence to justify a court martial. This past August 17, at Fort Lewis, Washington, there was an Article 23 hearing for Lt. Watada. Early in the hearing the prosecution played video clips from his recent speeches. In one of these speeches, to the national convention of Veterans for Peace, Lt. Watada said: "Today, I speak with you about a radical idea...The idea is this; that to stop an illegal and unjust war, the soldiers...can choose to stop fighting it."

Of course in itself this was not a new idea. It was another way of saying, Someday they'll have a war and nobody will come.

But what is unusual is Lt. Watada's basis for saying No. Like David Mitchell in the 1960s, Ehren Watada is not a pacifist. He offered to go to Afghanistan but refused to go to Iraq. He refused to go to Iraq for the same reason David refused to go to Vietnam, not because of objection to all wars, but because of a conviction that war crimes were being committed in this particular war, giving rise to an obligation, under the principles declared at Nuremburg, to refuse military service.

Take a minute to recognize how radical a change this would be. The concept of Conscientious Objection, as set forth in Selective Service law during and after World War II and in the existing regulations of all the military services, is based on the Christian teaching of forgiveness of enemies, of doing good for evil, of turning the other cheek, of putting up the sword. To become a conscientious objector the applicant must, first, object to "war in any form", which is to say, to all wars, and second, do so on the basis of "religious training and belief."

This is a noble idea. I happen to adhere to it, personally. But it is unlikely ever to be the conviction of more than a tiny minority of persons of military age. It is a legal system written to accommodate the tender consciences of members of certain small Christian sects that came into being during the Radical Reformation: Quakers, Amish, Mennonites, Brethren, and the like. And let's be honest, Conscientious Objection thus defined exists because the powers that be know that it will never be the worldview of more than a handful of persons.

In a volunteer military, there will be very few persons who object to war in any form. Had this been their belief, why would they have volunteered in the first place? True, it is possible to become a conscientious objector while serving in the military. Certain remarkable individuals like Camillo Mejia and Kevin Benderman will deploy to Iraq, be horrified by what they experience, and on reflection conclude that they will never again fight in any war. But common sense tells us that such conscientious-objectors-from-experience will be few.

The system can tolerate traditional conscientious objectors. For those who remember Herbert Marcuse's concept of "repressive tolerance," this is an example: precisely by making room for such atypical refuseniks, the system as a whole can continue undisturbed.

But it might be otherwise if the David Mitchell-Ehren Watada approach became law. Then you might have hundreds, thousands of service men and women saying, in effect: "I can't tell you how I might feel in another war. But I can tell you where I stand about this one. This particular war is a war that requires the commission of war crimes. It may even be a war that as defined at Nuremburg is a war crime in its totality, because it is an aggressive war, a crime against the peace. I ain't gonna study this war no more."

If that idea were once let loose in the land, one might indeed have a war to which very few would come.

So let's try to form a more precise idea of refusal to fight based on the belief that a particular war involves war crimes.

For more than a half century, the verdicts at Nuremberg in trials of German leaders after World War II have provided the fundamental standards by which alleged war crimes are to be assessed.

The Charter of the International Military Tribunal (IMT) identified three kinds of war crimes:

War crimes: namely, violations of the laws or customs of war. Such violations shall include, but not be limited to, murder, ill-treatment or deportation to slave labor or for any other purpose of civilian population of or in occupied territory, murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war or persons on the seas, killing of hostages, plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity;

Crimes against humanity: namely, murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, and other inhumane acts committed against any civilian population, before or during the war; or persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds, in execution of or in connection with any crime within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal, whether or not in violation of domestic law of the country where perpetrated.

Crimes against peace: namely, planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression, or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances, or participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the foregoing.

Apart from the definition of war crimes, three principles set forth in the Charter are of particular importance here. The first is that the defense of "superior orders" is expressly rejected. The second is that aggressive war is a crime no matter what nation may commit it. The third is that international law must take precedence over the law of any particular nation.

The nations which framed the Charter, the judges of the Tribunal, and in particular, the representatives of the United States, considered that henceforth the crimes defined at Nuremberg should apply to all nations, including those that conducted the trials. Among these crimes was the "crime against peace" of aggressive war.

Robert Jackson, associate justice of the United States Supreme Court and chief counsel for the United States during the Nuremberg proceedings, reported that the definition of aggressive war occasioned "the most serious disagreement" at the conference which drafted the Charter. Jackson stated that the United States "declined to recede from its position even if it meant the failure of the Conference." He described the conflict this way:

"The Soviet Delegation proposed and until the last meeting pressed a definition which, in our view, had the effect of declaring certain acts crimes only when committed by the Nazis. The United States contended that the criminal character of such acts could not depend on who committed them and that international crimes could only be defined in broad terms applicable to statesmen of any nation guilty of the proscribed conduct."

Telford Taylor corroborates Jackson's account. According to Taylor, "the definition of the crimes to be charged . . . was an important question of principle which at first appeared to be intractable." The Soviets, Taylor says, wanted to charge the Nazi leaders with "[a]ggression against or domination over other nations carried out by the European Axis . . . ." The Soviets were willing to define "war crimes" and "crimes against humanity" as violations of international law no matter by whom committed. But the Russians -- and the French -- resisted creating a new crime of aggressive war.

At the final meeting of the London conference, the Soviet qualifications were dropped and agreement was reached on a generic definition acceptable to all. In his opening statement to the Tribunal, Justice Jackson articulated the consensus reached by the United States, France, Great Britain and the Soviet Union. "[L]et me make clear that while this law is first applied against German aggressors, the law includes, and if it is to serve a useful purpose it must condemn aggression by any other nations, including those which sit here now in judgment."

Taylor quoted this solemn affirmation by Justice Jackson on the first page of Taylor's subsequent book on Nuremberg and Vietnam. To the same effect, an important modification of the language of the Charter by Law No. 10 was that the latter dropped phraseology limiting the jurisdiction of the tribunals to persons "acting in the interests of the European Axis countries," making way for expansion of the Nuremburg Principles beyond the immediate prosecution of agents of the defeated European powers. As Taylor wrote, "Nuremburg is a historical and moral fact with which, from now on, every government must reckon in its internal and external policies alike." Recalling the declaration of the Tribunal regarding the impartial application of its principles to all, Taylor wrote: "We may not, in justice, apply to these defendants because they are Germans, standards of duty and responsibility which are not equally applicable to the officials of the Allied Powers and to those of all nations."

And on the last page of his book on Nuremberg, published shortly before his death, Taylor once again affirmed what he obviously considered to be the heart of the Nuremberg proceedings. Reflecting on the growing demand in the 1990s for the establishment of a permanent tribunal for the trial of international crimes, Taylor recalled that the Nuremberg Tribunal had jurisdiction only over "the major war criminals of the European Axis countries." Considering the times and circumstances of its creation, it is hardly surprising that the Tribunal was given jurisdiction over the vanquished but not the victors. Many times I have heard Germans (and others) complain that "only the losers get tried."

Taylor continued: "Early in the Korean War, when General Douglas MacArthur's forces landed at Inchon, the American and South Korean armies drove the Koreans all the way north to the border between North Korea and China, at the Yalu River. About a week later the Chinese attacked in force and their opponents were driven deep into South Korea.

"During the brief period when our final victory appeared in hand, I received several telephone calls from members of the press asking whether the United States would try suspect North Koreans as war criminals. I was quite unable to predict whether or not such trials would be undertaken, but I replied that if they were to take place, the tribunal should be established on a neutral base, preferably by the United Nations, and given jurisdiction to hear charges not only against North Koreans but South Koreans and Americans (or any other participants) as well."

And Taylor concluded: "I am still of that opinion. The laws of war do not apply only to the suspected criminals of vanquished nations. There is no more or legal basis for immunizing victorious nations from scrutiny. The laws of war are not a one-way street."

It is crystal clear, then, that after the Nuremberg trials, the United States was committed to having its own conduct judged according to the principles of international law applied in those proceedings.

Expansion and clarification of the Nuremburg Principles was carried forward by the UN International Law Commission in 1950, when it adopted and codified them in broad application to international law, drawing in some cases on the judgments of the Tribunal.

Here the Commission highlighted at the outset the principle "that international law may impose duties on individuals directly without any interposition of internal law," and, as a corollary, that individuals are not relieved of responsibility under international law "by the fact that their acts are not held to be crimes under the law of any particular country." The Commission went on to point out that this implies "what is commonly called the 'supremacy' of international law over national law," and to cite the declaration of the IMT that "...the very essence of the Charter is that individuals have international duties which transcend the national obligations of obedience imposed by the individual State."

The Nuremburg Precedent

During and after the Vietnam war, United States courts and military tribunals were asked to apply the Nuremberg Principles to the conduct of individual soldiers. The civilian judicial system washed its hands of the issue and (to use another Biblical metaphor) passed by on the other side. Military tribunals were far more forthright than their civilian counterparts in facing the problem but did not succeed in resolving the dilemma.

When David Mitchell was found guilty by the trial court and the federal court of appeals, his attorneys sought a writ of certiorari from the United States Supreme Court. The Supreme Court of the United States denied certiorari. Justice William Douglas dissented from the denial of certiorari. He stated in part that petitioner's ...defense was that the "war" in Vietnam was being conducted in violation of various treaties to which we were a signatory, especially the Treaty of London of August 8, 1945, declares that "waging of a war of aggression" is a "crime against peace," imposing "individual responsibility." Article 8 provides: "The fact that the Defendant acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior shall not free him from responsibility, but may be considered in mitigation of punishment...

Mr. Justice Jackson, the United States prosecutor at Nuremberg, stated: "If certain acts in violation of treaties are crimes, they are crimes whether the United States does them or Germany does them, and we are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us."

Article VI of the Constitution states that "treaties" are a part of "the supreme law of the land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby." There is a considerable body of opinion that our actions in Vietnam constitute the waging of an aggressive "war."

This case presents the questions: whether the Treaty of London is a treaty within the meaning of Article VI, cl. 2; whether the question of the waging of an aggressive "war" is in the context of this criminal prosecution a justiciable question; whether the Vietnam episode is a "war" in the sense of the Treaty; whether petitioner has standing to raise the question; whether, if he has, it may be tendered as a defense in this criminal case or in amelioration of the punishment.

These are extremely sensitive and delicate questions. But they should, I think, be answered.

In Mora et al. v. McNamara et al., three young men already drafted into military service--Dennis Mora, James Johnson, and David Samas --refused to deploy to Vietnam. They offered essentially the same defense as had David Mitchell, adding the provisions of the US Army Field Manual, The Law of Land Warfare . This time two justices of the United States Supreme Court, Justices Douglas and Potter Stewart, dissented from denial of certiorari.

Captain Howard B. Levy, M.D., also a draftee, refused to teach medicine to Green Beret soldiers at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. His too sought review by the Supreme Court of the United States. In Parker v. Levy (1974), the high court reversed a decision of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals which had held that Articles 133 and 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice were unconstitutionally vague and overbroad. The Supreme Court upheld the validity of the UCMJ and of Levy's court martial conviction. Justice Stewart angrily read his dissenting opinion from the bench.

Whereas the Supreme Court focused on First Amendment doctrine in relation to the UCMJ, the court martial gave much more attention to Vietnam. And in the course of a ruling on other matters, Colonel Earl Brown, the law officer, suddenly injected the possibility of a defense based on Nuremberg: "...Now the defense has intimated that special forces aidmen are being used in Vietnam in a way contrary to medical ethics. My research on the subject discloses that perhaps the Nuremberg Trials and the various post war treaties of the United States have evolved a rule that a soldier must disobey an order demanding that he commit war crimes, or genocide, or something to that nature. However, I have heard no evidence that even remotely suggests that the special forces of the United States Army have been trained to commit war crimes, and until I do, I must reject this defense."

In colloquy with the prosecutor that followed, Colonel Brown stated that if the aidmen were being "trained to commit war crimes, then I think a doctor would be morally bound to refuse" to train them.

Counsel for Dr. Levy were given one extra day to assemble witnesses to put on a Nuremberg defense. The defense found three witnesses. Donald Duncan was a former Special Forces Sergeant, who became disaffected while serving in Vietnam and resigned from the Army. Robin Moore was the author of a bestselling book, The Green Berets. Captain Peter Bourne was an Army psychiatrist who had served in Vietnam. The defense also proffered as exhibits 4,000 articles describing war crimes in Vietnam, including war crimes by the Special Forces, and a brief by Professor Richard Falk, an international law expert at Princeton, assisted by Richard Barnet of the Institute for Policy Studies. Finally, the defense submitted a list of thirty-eight witnesses to be called should Col. Brown determine that a prima facie case of Nuremberg violations had been made out.

An out-of-court hearing followed. The Law of Land Warfare prohibits assassination of enemy soldiers or civilians. Duncan and Moore described assassination by United States forces and by the Vietnamese personnel that they trained. The Law of Land Warfare prohibits "putting a price on an enemy's head," but Duncan and Moore testified that in Vietnam it was a common practice. Most riveting, it seems, was defense testimony about torture and murder of unarmed prisoners, although The Law of Land Warfare prohibits killing prisoners "even in the case of . . . commando operations."

Assessing the Nuremberg defense presented by Dr. Levy's counsel, Professor Strassfeld comments: "It could have been argued that the Geneva Conventions were largely inapplicable to South Vietnam and U.S. conduct in South Vietnam, especially as it affected civilians. However, the U.S. did not adopt that position. Application of the Nuremberg principles to Levy would arguably extend them beyond existing precedents because of his attenuated relationship to Special Forces conduct in Vietnam."

Instead of grounding the denial of the defense in one of these arguments, Brown simply ruled that Levy had failed to make a prima facie showing.

The evasion of Nuremberg by the United States Supreme Court in the Mitchell, Mora, and Levy cases continues to cast a long shadow. Military tribunals quote and rely on the high court's pronouncement in Parker v. Levy that "the military is, by necessity, a specialized society," and hence "the fundamental necessity for obedience, and the consequent necessity for imposition of discipline, may render permissible within the military that which would be constitutionally impermissible outside it."

However, the United States has now explicitly endorsed the doctrine of preemptive war. In a speech at the 2002 graduation exercises at West Point, President George W. Bush, remarked that for much of the last century, America's defenses had relied on the Cold War doctrines of deterrence and containment. But, the President argued, containment means nothing against "terrorist networks with no nation or citizens to defend...the war with terror will not be won on the defensive," and the United States must be prepared for "preemptive action when necessary." In September 2002, the Bush Administration promulgated a new National Security Doctrine which stated, in part, that "...we will not hesitate to act alone, if necessary, to exercise our right of self-defense by acting preemptively against such terrorists, to prevent them from doing harm against our people and our country.

This new doctrine would appear expressly to violate the condemnation of aggressive war on which the United States insisted at Nuremberg. Certainly a conviction that his country is an aggressor in violation of international law is the essence of Lt. Watada's conclusion that what he is being ordered to do is unlawful. He considers that he is not engaging in "civil disobedience" but rather obeying settled international law that Nuremburg decreed he would disregard at his peril. In his case, then, and in future cases like his, a potential or actual soldier may be entitled to refuse orders not only because they require "war crimes" or "crimes against humanity," but also because they demand obedience to a "crime against peace": aggressive war.

Someday, and would it could be tomorrow, they'll have a war in Somalia to which nobody will come. Someday the Tamal Tigers, without surrendering their vision of liberation, will find a way to pursue it without arms. Someday nobody in Fatah or Hamas will continue fratricidal war in Gaza. Someday in Colombia, and in Ecuador and Oaxaca and Bolivia and Argentina, they'll continue to create picket lines, and blockades, and occupations, but no longer go to war. My daughter had a companero from Chile. Roberto said that when he and other draftees were told to shoot at working-class demonstrators, they fired into the air. I told him I had been discharged from the Army as a subversive. He asked me, Were you tortured? Someday they'll have a war, and try to torture those who say No, and nobody will come.

And soon, very soon, when soldiers are summoned to have a war in Baghdad and Basra, or in Kabul and Kandahar, let alone Teheran, Damascus or Pyonyang, why, they may have to call off the war, because nobody will come*!



Snyder phones Canada about plans

U.S. deserter misses Canada

By matthew burrows

Publish Date: 2-Nov-2006

Talking from Louisville, Kentucky, on a borrowed cellphone, 23-year-old U.S. army deserter Kyle Snyder informed the Georgia Straight he was about to turn himself in.

It was Halloween, and the Colorado-born Snyder was off to Fort Knox—about 55 kilometres from Louisville—to obtain what he hoped would be an honourable discharge from the U.S. military.

Snyder was scheduled to speak at an antiwar protest rally in Vancouver the previous Saturday, where thousands marched from Waterfront Station to the steps of the Vancouver Art Gallery to demand that Prime Minister Stephen Harper bring Canadian troops home from Afghanistan. According to Juergen Dankwort of the War Resisters Network, who spoke to the Straight at the time, Snyder was a no-show because he was antsy about TV cameras ahead of his Fort Knox showdown.

“I think maybe he’s nervous,” said the Swedish-born Dankwort, a Kwantlen University College sociology instructor and Vietnam War–draft evader who came to Canada from New York almost 40 years ago. “I saw him the other night when we all had dinner.”

(Accompanied by Vancouverite Gerry Condon, Snyder was in transit to Kentucky all day October 30.)

In April 2005, Snyder, a gunner, fled the Iraq frontlines to head to Prince George, and eventually Vancouver, because he couldn’t face fighting a war he felt was wrong. He said the experience of seeing death all around him led to nightmares, but insisted he’s “doing okay” now. He added, however, that he’s “anxious and nervous about the outcome” of his request for a discharge.

“Tell everyone there I miss Canada and look forward to returning to Canada for my schooling.”

Snyder is one of a list of young American soldiers—along with names like Jeremy Hinzman, Brandon Huey, and Joshua Key—who have fled the U.S. army and sought refuge in Canada. (Hinzman’s highly publicized refugee-status claim was rejected by the Immigration and Refugee Board.)

Snyder enlisted in the army in October 2003, eight months after the war began in Iraq. He was finishing Grade 12 in Utah when he was recruited. Now he plans to continue his education away from the military cross hairs.

“I plan on going to either Douglas College or UBC to finish my sociology degree,” he said. “I’m about seven credits away from obtaining a degree. I want to make a career where I can actually make change and look over the change.”

The latest war in Iraq has just passed the three-year mark, but ahead of the U.S. midterm elections, Snyder said, it has contributed to the momentum for the outside-looking-in Democrats. They stand to gain a majority in Congress and/or the Senate for the first time since 1994.

“I feel very much that the war is contributing to that, as well as the economy,” he said. “I think those two factors are the main ones influencing the public in this election.”

Snyder was the centre of attention on October 27. He noted that prior to speaking to the Straight before his last-minute rush to get to Fort Knox on time, there had been a news conference in Louisville. It had been a hectic couple of days, but Snyder said he has already seen a lot to convince him something is changing in the country of his birth.

“It looks like the Democrats are going to take many of the seats in Congress and half of the seats in the Senate, so it looks like there’s going to be a significant change in policy over the next year,” he said. “A lot of people I’ve talked to are voting Democrat, and there are a lot of Democrat signs all over. It looks like the American public is ready for a change.”


American Prison Planet

American Prison Planet: The Bush Administration as Global Jailor

By Nick Turse*

Today, the United States presides over a burgeoning empire -- not only the "empire of bases" first described by Chalmers Johnson, but a far-flung new network of maximum security penitentiaries, detention centers, jail cells, cages, and razor wire-topped pens. From supermax-type isolation prisons in 40 of the 50 states to shadowy ghost jails at remote sites across the globe, this new network of detention facilities is quite unlike the gulags, concentration-camps, or prison nations of the past.

Even with a couple million prisoners under its control, the U.S. prison network lacks the infrastructure or manpower of the Soviet gulag or the orderly planning of the Nazi concentration-camp system. However, where it bests both, and breaks new incarceration ground, is in its planet-ranging scope, with sites scattered the world over -- from Europe to Asia, the Middle East to the Caribbean. Unlike colonial prison systems of the past, the new U.S. prison network seems to have floated almost free of surrounding colonies. Right now, it has only four major centers -- the "homeland," Afghanistan, Iraq, and a postage-stamp-sized parcel of Cuba. As such, it already hovers at the edge of its own imperial existence, bringing to mind the unprecedented possibility of a prison planet. In a remarkably few years, the Bush administration has been able to construct a global detention system, already of near epic proportions, both on the fly and on the cheap.

Sizing Up a Prison Planet

Soon after the attacks of September 11th, 2001, the U.S. began the process of creating what has been termed "an offshore archipelago of injustice." In addition to using "the Charleston Navy Brig" and locking up "one prisoner of war in Miami, Florida," according to the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Bush administration detained people from around the world in sweeps, imprisoned them without charges and kept them incommunicado at U.S. detention facilities at a CIA prison outside Kabul, Afghanistan (code-named the "Salt Pit"), at Bagram military airbase in Afghanistan, and at Guantanamo Bay Naval Station, Cuba, among other sites.

Since it was set up in 2002, the detainment complex at Guantanamo Bay has been the public face of the Bush administration's semi-secret foreign prison network -- a collection of camps, cells, and cages that today holds 437 prisoners. But "Gitmo" has always been the tiny showpiece, the jewel in a very dark crown, for a much larger, less visible foreign network of military detention facilities, CIA "black" sites, and outsourced foreign prisons. It is a prison camp that rightly attracts opprobrium, but it also serves to focus attention away from shadowy ghost jails, borrowed third-nation facilities, much larger prisons holding thousands in Iraq, and a full-scale network of detention centers and prisons in Afghanistan.

We may never know how many secret prisons exist (or, for a time, existed) in the shape-shifting American mini-gulag, but according to the Washington Post, some locations for these black sites include itinerant CIA detention centers "on ships at sea," a site in Thailand, and another on "Britain's Diego Garcia island in the Indian Ocean." Uzbekistan has been reported as one possible location, Algeria another. Denials were issued about ghost jails being located in Russia and Bulgaria. The British Guardian named "a US airbase in the Gulf state of Qatar" as another suspected site. And while proposed prisons on "virtually unvisited islands in Lake Kariba in Zambia" were evidently nixed, various black sites located in "several democracies in Eastern Europe" apparently did come into being.

ABC News reported that the "CIA established secret prisons in Romania and Poland in 2002-2003" before shutting them down in early 2006 and moving the disappeared prisoners on to "a facility in North Africa." Following this report, Tomdispatch contacted Major General Timothy Ghormley, then the commander of the Combined Task Force Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) for U. S. Central Command, to inquire about the prisoner transfer. Ghormley stated: "There are no other U.S. bases in the Horn of Africa besides Camp Lemonier [in Djibouti]." He went on to assert, "There are no prisons under CJTF-HOA's command, and Camp Lemonier does not do prisoner transfers." When asked about CIA operations at the camp, he said he was barred from talking about "any security operations worldwide" and could not speak for the CIA. It is, however, worth noting that Amnesty International reported earlier this year on a Yemeni man who was "disappeared" and "flown on a small US plane to a site probably in Djibouti, where he was questioned by officials who told him they were from the FBI."

While these illegal sites, mainly run by the CIA, were intermittently identified in the U.S. or foreign press, it was only this September that President George W. Bush finally acknowledged the existence of the CIA's secret prisons. Still, it's unknown how many CIA black sites are still active and how many clandestine military prisons are still in operation.

What little we do know, however, indicates that the "archipelago of injustice" has grown to world-spanning proportions. For example, in an investigative article in the British Guardian in March 2005, Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark reported that a network of over 20 U.S. prisons was believed to exist in Afghanistan, including "an official US detention centre in Kandahar, where the tough regime has been nicknamed ‘Camp Slappy' by former prisoners." Just recently, Trevor Paglen and A.C. Thompson, authors of Torture Taxi: On the Trail of the CIA's Rendition Flights, confirmed this, reporting that "the U.S. military has erected some 20 detention centers [in Afghanistan]… which all operate in near total secrecy. These are facilities that the U.N., the Afghan government, journalists, and human rights groups can't get into."

We know as well that suspects, swept up around the world, have been outsourced to the prisons and torture chambers of third countries in "extraordinary rendition" operations. The number of prisons operated by other countries is shadowy, but certainly geographically wide-ranging. Foreign facilities available for Bush administration use evidently have included the al-Tamara interrogation center, located in "a forest five miles outside [Morocco's] capital, Rabat"; sites in Jordan including "prisons in the capital, Amman, and in desert locations in the east of the country"; facilities in Saudi Arabia; "a series of jails in Damascus," Syria; "the interrogation centre in the general intelligence directorate in Lazoughli and in Mulhaq al-Mazra prison" in Egypt; "facilities in Baku, Azerbaijan"; and "unidentified locations in Thailand," among others.

The treatment given in 2002 to Canadian Maher Arar, recently the recipient of the Letelier-Moffitt International Human Rights Award, offers a glimpse into the American prison planet in action in its early stages of formation. Arar has described how he was detained and then held incommunicado -- shackled and chained -- in a terminal in New York's JFK Airport before being transported to Brooklyn's Metropolitan Detention Center. At that Federal prison, Arar recalls an Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) agent telling him, "The INS is not the body or the agency that signed the Geneva Convention… against torture."

"For me," said Arar, a Canadian citizen born in Syria, "what that really meant is we will send you to torture and we don't care." He was, in fact, soon flown to Jordan, where he was beaten, and then driven to Syria. There, he was locked in a filthy, dark cell "about three feet wide, six feet deep and about seven feet high" where he was kept in isolation for 10 months and 10 days when not being physically assaulted. Despite being tortured into a false confession, Arar was found to have no links to terrorism and was never charged with crimes of any sort by the United States, Canada, Jordan, or Syria. Instead, he was sent back to Canada without so much as an apology or explanation by the Bush administration. His is the archetypal tale of the American prison planet that has been under construction these last years -- a torture tour of the globe's most dismal hell holes. How many others have suffered variations of this treatment remains unknown. The few useful figures we do have, such as the European parliament's April 2006 findings of over 1,000 secret CIA flights over European Union territory alone since 2001, suggest a large number of "extraordinary renditions" have been carried out.

When President Bush finally came (somewhat) clean about the CIA's illegal prisons (even turning them, along with his torture policies, into a proud election issue), a senior State Department official also asserted that there were "no detainees" still in them. Within days, however, newspapers began to point to evidence that people presumed to have been disappeared by the U.S. were still unaccounted for. In mid-October, a specific case hit the press when it was disclosed that "a Syrian with Spanish citizenship, was captured in Pakistan in October 2005 and is held in a prison operated by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency."

Operation Iraqi Freedom?

The war in Iraq boosted the profile of the American prison planet immeasurably, especially after the Abu Ghraib prison revelations burst into public view in the spring of 2004. At that time, approximately 20,000 Iraqis were imprisoned by U.S. forces, including -- a report that year disclosed -- more than 100 children as young as 10 years of age.

Over two years later, there are still many thousands of Iraqis held by U.S. forces in that country -- including about 3,550 in a brand new "$60-million state-of-the-art detention center" at Camp Cropper near Baghdad's airport and another almost 9,500 in somewhat more primitive prison conditions at Camp Bucca in the south and Fort Suse in the Kurdish north.

Meanwhile, the number of prisoners and detainees held by the U.S.-backed Iraqi government and allied militias and death squads is murky at best, but probably sizeable. Secret prisons -- where the grimmest kinds of torture are performed, often with power drills -- are reputed to be scattered around Baghdad, the capital. In November 2005, then-Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari admitted receiving word on conditions in just one of these. According to the BBC, "173 detainees had been held [in an Interior Ministry building], that they appeared malnourished, and may have been 'subjected to some kind of torture.'" The next month, the Washington Post reported the discovery of a "second Interior Ministry detention center where cases of prisoner abuse have been confirmed by U.S. and Iraqi officials."

By June of this year, it was reported that the Iraqi Interior Ministry was still holding 1,797 prisoners; the Defense Ministry a smaller undisclosed number; and the Justice Ministry, at least 7,426.

Lockdown, USA

The offshore archipelago of injustice garners the headlines, but it's the homeland prison network that locks up far more people and provides at least one possible model for what the foreign network could morph into given the time and funds to expand and harden into a permanent supermax system. Comprised of federal and state prisons, territorial prisons, local jails, "facilities operated by or exclusively for the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement," military prisons, "jails in Indian country," and juvenile detention facilities, the homeland prison system is a truly massive apparatus.

Just as the global network has expanded in the years since 9/11, so has incarceration in the U.S. In fact, it has climbed steadily in recent years. Today, the U.S. stands preeminent among all nations in treating people like caged animals. According to statistics provided to the BBC by the International Centre for Prison Studies, 724 people per 100,000 are imprisoned in the U.S., overwhelmingly trumping even increasingly authoritarian Russia, the world's second-ranked prison power, who's rate of caging humans is only 581 per 100,000.

All told, the U.S. now has 2,135,901 prisoners in domestic detention facilities, alone -- several hundred thousand more than are imprisoned in both China and India, the world's two most populous countries, combined. Of these people, 192,198 are imprisoned in federal facilities -- though just 5.3% of them for the violent crimes of most people's nightmares: homicide, aggravated assault, kidnapping, and sex offenses. Instead, most -- 53.6 % -- are locked up on (often small-time) drug charges.

Of the federal prison population, the government classifies about 0.1 % (100 people) as having committed "national security" offenses. There's no category in the U.S. system for political prisoners, which doesn't mean they don't exist. According to a 2002 Harvard BlackLetter Law Journal article by J. Soffiyah Elijah, there were, prior to September 11, 2001, "nearly 100 political prisoners and prisoners of war incarcerated in the United States" -- many of them the surviving victims of Vietnam-era government campaigns against activists.

There is also another group of political prisoners of indeterminate number not listed on the rolls -- war resisters. Just recently Iraq War veteran turned resister Kevin Benderman was released from a military prison where he had been held for over a year for refusing to redeploy to Iraq due to his conscientious objection to the war. While Army Lieutenant Ehren Watada is currently facing an eight-year prison sentence, if convicted, for similar opposition to Iraq. One website lists 27 war resisters "presently in legal jeopardy, or currently incarcerated" who have gone public with their stories.

Additionally, in the immediate wake of 9/11, the government conducted sweeps of Muslim immigrants (and Muslim-Americans) reminiscent of the detentions of Japanese and Japanese-Americans during World War II, "locking up large numbers of Middle Eastern men, using whatever legal tools they can." There was never any full accounting of these mass roundups, codenamed PENTTBOM, or what happened to all the people who were rousted from beds or yanked out of places of work by federal agents. What little is known suggests that "762 of the 1,200 PENTTBOM arrestees were charged with immigration violations at the behest of the FBI because agents thought they might be associated with terrorism... [but] almost every one was either deported or released within a few months." Only a small percentage of the 1,200 are thought to have even been processed through the federal criminal justice system.

This summer the Washington Post announced that, after 5 years of captivity, Benamar Benatta, "believed to be the last remaining domestic detainee from the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, was released." In mid-October, however, word surfaced that Ali Partovi, also caught in the dragnet, was still being held captive although he "is not charged with a crime, not suspected of a crime, [and] not considered a danger to society."

Preemptive Incarceration

From time to time, certain people in the U.S. also find themselves tossed into special kinds of detention facilities. For example, during the 2004 Republican National Convention (RNC) in New York City, protesters (and also bystanders) swept up in indiscriminate mass arrests or illegal acts of preemptive incarceration were temporarily locked up in "Marine and Aviation Pier 57," a filthy facility of razor-wire topped chain-link cages that was soon dubbed "Guantanamo on the Hudson." While being imprisoned in New York City's own Gitmo didn't begin to compare to being tossed in the real McCoy or any other secret offshore site, there was one striking similarity. U.S. intelligence officials estimated that 70-90% of prisoners detained in Iraq "had been arrested by mistake." That was also 2004. The next year, it was revealed that, of the large majority of RNC arrest cases that had run their course, 91% of the arrests were dismissed or ended in acquittals.

On the American prison planet, not only has the principle of habeas corpus been formally abolished and torture proudly added to the mix, but that crucial tenet of the legal system, the presumption of innocence, has been cast aside. Whether at home or abroad, the solution for U.S. security forces is a simple one, identify the likely suspects, conduct sweeps, and preemptively lock them up.

Concentration Camp, USA?

According to recent statements by the Department Homeland Security 's Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau, some time in the future undocumented economic migrants may be imprisoned on "old cruise ships." Other illegals may even find themselves in a KBR concentration camp.

Earlier this year, news broke that Halliburton subsidiary, KBR -- the firm infamous for building prison facilities at Guantanamo Bay and for scandals stemming from work in the Iraq war zone -- received a $385 million contract from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to build detention centers, according to the New York Times, "for an unexpected influx of immigrants" or "new programs that require additional detention space." For anyone who remembers the First World War-era proposal by four state governors to imprison members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) for the duration of the conflict, or the 1939 Hobbs ("Concentration Camp") Bill that sought the detention of aliens, or the forcible relocation and imprisonment of Japanese and Japanese-Americans during World War II, or the 1950 McCarran Act's provisions for setting up concentration camps for subversives, or the Vietnam-era plans to round up and jail radicals in the event of a national emergency and conduct mass detentions in the face of possible urban insurrections, the announcement may have seemed less than startling. But thought of in the context of prison-planet planning, it nonetheless strikes an ominous note indeed.

One Vietnam-era radical, former Pentagon analyst Daniel Ellsberg, grasped the implications immediately. "Almost certainly this is preparation for a roundup after the next 9/11 for Mid-Easterners, Muslims and possibly dissenters," he said. "They've already done this on a smaller scale, with the 'special registration' detentions of immigrant men from Muslim countries, and with Guantanamo."

Fear of a Prison Planet

In 2005, Irene Khan, Amnesty International's general secretary, described Guantanamo Bay as "the gulag of our time." But the American gulag is so much more than Guantanamo and so much worse. The combination of U.S. "homeland" prisons, where "one in 140 Americans, or as many people as live in Namibia, or nearly five Luxembourgs" are locked away, the offshore imperial detention facilities, the shadowy CIA black sites, and the ever-shifting outsourced detention facilities operated by other nations adds up to something new in history -- the makings of a veritable American prison planet.

* Nick Turse is the associate editor and research director of He has written for the San Francisco Chronicle, the Nation, the Village Voice, and regularly for Tomdispatch. Articles from his recent Los Angeles Times series, "The War Crimes Files" can be found here.

Copyright 2006 Nick Turse




Snyder's press conference answers unspoken questions

'I said NO and I will never regret it' -- Kyle Snyder, war resister

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

An Army soldier who fled to Canada rather than return to Iraq is expected to surrender to military authorities Tuesday at Fort Knox.

Kyle Snyder, 23, of Colorado Springs, Colo., who served as a combat engineer in Iraq before deserting, will turn himself in 18 months after he fled to avoid a second deployment overseas, said Sarah Bjorknas, who works with the
War Resisters Support Campaign in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Snyder scheduled a news conference for Tuesday morning in Louisville and was expected to surrender at 2:30 p.m. EST.

"If I'm able to turn myself in and get it all over with, that's what I need to do," Snyder said Monday.

Snyder returned to the United States on Saturday, in the company of Gerry Condon, who works with the group. Snyder's attorney, James Fennerty of Chicago, said a deal has been reached for Snyder to surrender but not face a court-martial. Instead, he will receive an other-
-than-honorable discharge, below an honorable discharge but better than a dishonorable discharge, Fennerty said.

The above is from Brett Barrouquere's "AWOL soldier expected to surrender on Tuesday" about war resister Kyle Snyder and we'll note Courage to Resist:

"At the end of the day, you have to ask yourself if this is something you can live with. It's your life and the choice is ultimately yours to make. I said NO and I will never regret it." - Kyle Snyder

Kyle Snyder plans to present himself to Army authorities at Fort Knox, KY, Tuesday, October 31. Before turning himself in he will hold a press conference at 10am in nearby Louisville at Central Presbyterian Church, (4th and Kentucky St.) He will arrive at Fort Knox at approximately 2:30 pm.

Donations are urgently needed for Kyle's legal fees. Please
donate today!

"I joined the military when I was 19 years old from a government program called Job Corps, in Clearfield, Utah," Snyder explains. "I wasn't a good kid. I didn't have a good background. I was in foster homes from thirteen to seventeen, then when I was seventeen, I went through a government program called Job Corps. So, from thirteen all the way up, I didn't have parental figures in my life really. My parents divorced; my father was really abusive towards my mother and he was abusive toward me. I've still got scars on my back. I was put in Social Services when I was thirteen. I was an easy target for recruiters, plain and simple. I wanted to go to college. I wanted to provide for a family; I wanted to have a family. I wanted all the benefits that the military had to offer."

Snyder thought about the war in Iraq at the time, but "more than anything I wanted to reconstruct the civilization of Iraq. I wanted to help liberate the people of Iraq, just like the American president was saying. So, I signed up to be a heavy construction equipment operator, part of the 94th Corps of Engineers. I figured if I was an engineer in the United States Army I could build foundations for the Iraqi people to form their new government, to form a civilization after the bombings of 2003."

When Snyder arrived in Iraq, however, he says he saw no reconstruction of Iraq. "The only reconstruction I saw was building Army bases."

In the meantime, he had been retrained to be a 50-caliber machine gunner. "I was in Mosul. I was in Baghdad. I was in Stryker. I was in Scania. [Both, military bases.] I was in Tikrit. There was reconstruction of forward operating bases and military bases, but no city work being done."

Kyle traveled to Canada in April 2005 while on leave from the war in Iraq. Proclaiming that he was lied to by military recruiters and that the war in Iraq is "illegal and immoral," Snyder applied for refugee status in Canada.

Last week, Kyle Snyder was busy saying goodbye to the many friends he has made in Canada. "Many Canadians have supported me in extraordinary ways. I will never forget that," he says. "Canada will always have a special place in my heart."

Returning to the U.S. is a personal decision, says Snyder. "It is my right to return home to my country, and now is the right time for me to do so."

Kyle Snyder's message to soldiers and youth:
"If you really want to 'support the troops,' you don’t send them into unjust, counterproductive wars. Until all our young men and women are home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, I would advise against joining the military.

"If you are already in the military, I would advise you to follow your conscience before simply obeying any order. In fact, under international laws and treaties ratified by both the U.S. and Canada, it is a soldier’s duty to refuse to participate in war crimes.
"Sure, there are consequences to standing up for what you believe in. But there are graver consequences if you just go along blindly following orders. You could be killed or seriously wounded, as over 20,000 U.S. soldiers have been in Iraq. Or you could become a completely different person than the one your family and friends knew and loved. The images and memories of war may haunt you for the rest of your life.
"At the end of the day, you have to ask yourself if this is something you can live with. It's your life and the choice is ultimately yours to make. I said NO and I will never regret it."

Donations are urgently needed for Kyle's legal fees. Please
donate today! For more information visit:

For more info on the War Resisters Support Campaign in Canada visit:

Kyle Snyder is part of a movement of resistance within the military. This is the topic to discuss today with friends and family. More can be found in "Editorial: Kyle Snyder's return to the US is part of a movement of resistance" (The Third Estate Sunday Review).

The e-mail address for this source of this information from (common ills) site is

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