By Colin Perkel, Canadian Press, in the Toronto Star, September 17, 2010
The federal government has maintained the U.S. military is a volunteer defence force, in contrast to the forced draft that many young Americans faced in the Vietnam War era.
Still, the House of Commons, in a non-binding motion, called on the government in 2007 to allow those who refused to serve in Iraq on conscientious grounds to remain in Canada.
Bill C-440, currently before the Commons, would force the government to allow the deserting soldiers to apply for permanent residence in Canada.
These lines are from a story about Michael Moore, famed liberal film-maker who was speaking at the Toronto International Film Festival about Canada's refusal to grant amnesty to American military personnel who disagreed with the Iraq war.
The argument that the U.S.military "is a volunteer defence force" rather than a "drafted force" as was the case during the VietNam war is a distinction without a difference, especially since our country did not enter that war and we consider it one of our proudest moments, and one of the most honourable legacies of then Prime Minister Jean Chretien that Canada did not join the fight.
Think, for a moment, about the hundreds of thousands of "voluntary" recruits who enlisted in the U.S. military in the years prior to the 2003 declaration of war on Iraq. They did not envision, nor could they have imagined, that they would be called upon to fight in a war that was without precedent in its design as a pre-emptive strike against a country that posed no danger of attack on the U.S., in its presentation to the American people, based as it was on lies told over and over by the administration about the existence of weapons of mass destruction, and in its scope, as only in 2010 are combat personnel being removed from that country. Some of the personnel have served two or three deployments to the Iraq war theatre.
Yesterday in the Huffington Post, a story by Greg Mitchell depicted the sad tale of one American army recruit, a female translator who was assigned to the interrogation of prisoners, who took her own life partly as a consequence of her abhorence at the tactics that were being used in the interrogation process. The story appears because September 15 was the anniversary of her death the story of which has still not been officially disclosed to her parents in Oklahoma.
The Canadian government should pass bill C-440, as a sign of our national commitment to those men and women who refused to follow orders, after having enlisted in a war that will besmirtch the global reputation of the United States for at least the next century, came to this country as conscientious objectors, in a courageous move of non-violence, and even it could legitimately be argued, in a move of honourable and legitimate protest against unnecessary violence, bloodshed and death, both of American military personnel and of Iraqi men, women and children in a war that should never have been declared or fought.
In fact, so strong were the arguments against this war that the current sitting president succeeded in becoming the Democractic candidate for president, over his then rival Hillary Clinton, largely because of his clear, unequivocal and early opposition to that war in Iraq.
Canada, here is another opportunity to declare our unique sovereignty in a courageous, honourable piece of legislation, which, although late, is nevertheless still worthy of the Canadian people and our government.
Michael Moore is right; we should be ashamed of how we have treated these men and women. We ought to be honoured to receive, accept and integrate them into our national life, and we should do it with thanks, in humble gratitude.