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Should the City of Berkeley call for and support universal & unconditional amnesty for Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan war military resisters and veterans?
At its meeting on November 2, 2009, the Peace and Justice Commission unanimously approved the following recommendation:
Adopt a Resolution requiring the City of Berkeley to call for and support universal and unconditional amnesty for Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan war military resisters and veterans.
CURRENT SITUATION AND ITS EFFECTS
Although accurate figures for the number of military personnel who have been classified as Absent Without Leave (“AWOL”), Unauthorized Absence (“UA”), or deserters since 9/11 are not available, the estimates range in the tens of thousands. While it would take a Freedom of Information Act Request to obtain AWOL statistics from the Pentagon, counselors who speak with AWOL military personnel estimate that the percentage of AWOL personnel has more than doubled, from approximately .85% before 9/11 to 1.7 to 1.9% of the current 2.3 million military personnel (or forty-some thousand AWOLS).
Due to an increase in the overall numbers of persons in the military, the number of AWOL persons has greatly increased in recent years. Many of these, mostly soldiers and marines, but including some sailors, air men and women and coast guard personnel, have stated that they came to see the wars as illegal and/or immoral. Such stories have been commonly expressed to counselors on the GI Rights Hotline
(girightshotline.org) over the years and many public resisters have sought assistance from Oakland, California based Courage to Resist and their stories are available at couragetoresist.org. Courage to Resist has assisted approximately 250 public war resisters, about a dozen of which have been charged with speech offenses, and it has counseled approximately 750 more AWOL personnel who have not gone public with their war resistance. Some who have gone AWOL have, like soldiers during the Vietnam War, gone to Canada to live. Kimberly Rivera, Jeremy Hinzman and Robin Long are just a few who have gone to Canada. Some, like Robin Long, have also since been deported from Canada.
A specific example of the burden this current military and civilian policy places on U.S. war resisters and veterans is illustrated by Army Spc. Kimberly Rivera who, while home on leave in January 2007, made the life changing decision that she would not be returning to the Iraq War. She felt the war was senseless and immoral. Instead, she packed up the family car and drove to Canada with her husband and two children. She since has had a third child. She lives in Canada with her husband and her three young children. As of November, 2007 she was one of about fifty AWOL U.S. war resisters who were openly seeking sanctuary in Canada. Kimberly has been fighting the decision of the Canadian government to deport her. On July 9, 2009, following her last hearing to appeal Canada’s decision to deport her and her family, Kimberly stated: “I shouldn’t have to destroy my family for deciding not to destroy somebody else’s family.” Her case is still not resolved.
Robin Long became the first war resister to be deported from Canada since the Vietnam War. After spending fifteen months in a military jail in San Diego, he is now going to school and living in San Francisco. His deportation separated him from his Canadian wife and child.
Soldiers and marines who have spoken out against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have received differential treatment and punishment by the U.S. military for doing so. This amounts to being punished for their moral, religious, or political beliefs. This happened to Jeremy Hinzman. He has also received hate mail threatening him with harm if he comes back to the US.
Kevin Benderman didn't even go AWOL -- he only spoke against the war, while remaining active and following orders -- and he was put in jail!
War Resister, Agustin Aguayo, was gone from base only 24 days. A soldier isn't even officially AWOL until 30 days have passed. But during those 24 days, Aguayo spoke out loudly and publicly against the Iraq War, and they threw the book at him. He has spoken about how he was punished more severely than people who were AWOL much longer, because of his vocal and public opposition to the Iraq War. Aguayo said, among other things, "I have been stripped of the ability to provide for my family adequately." A dishonorable discharge achieves this type of result.
Attorney Eric Seitz, who represented Army Lieutenant Ehren Watada and is an expert on US military law, stated that the military used to allow objectors to quietly fade away. However, since 2002, applicants for conscientious objector status and other AWOL soldiers who speak out publicly against the Iraq War have been subjected to severe punishment, as the military seeks to make an example out of them, attempting to deter other troops from doing the same. War Resister Christian Kjar, left Canada to try to work things out with the military. Because he had spoken out publicly against the war, Christian was hazed and abused so severely that he jumped out of a two-story window in the middle of the night in order to go AWOL again, and went back to Canada. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are far from over. And although not as well known, the United States has waged war in Pakistan, by means of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), commonly known as drones, by secret covert special operations using Navy Seals with long beards and no uniforms, and by use of mercenary contractors including Xe (formerly known as Blackwater).
On January 20, 1977, in order to heal the political and social wounds of the nation, President Jimmy Carter issued an executive order declaring Unconditional Amnesty and granting a “full, complete and unconditional pardon” to hundreds of thousands of men who had resisted the draft or evaded the draft during the Vietnam War by fleeing the country or by failing to register for the draft. The divisiveness of the Bush regime in prosecuting illegal and immoral wars necessitates a new healing and call for amnesty
for America’s wronged military personnel.
RATIONALE FOR RECOMMENDATION
This proposed Resolution is recommended to the City Council consistent with the Peace and Justice Commission’s mandate to advise the Council on matters of peace and justice. (B.M.C. Sect. 3.69.070).
The City Manager takes no position on the content and/or recommendations of the
Robert Meola, Chairperson, Peace and Justice Commission, (510) 644-1102
Eric Brenman, Secretary, Peace and Justice Commission, (510) 981-5114
2. Background information, reference materials and citations
RESOLUTION NO. –N.S.
UNIVERSAL AND UNCONDITIONAL AMNESTY FOR IRAQ, AFGHANISTAN AND
PAKISTAN WAR MILITARY RESISTERS AND VETERANS
WHEREAS, the Peace and Justice Commission advises the City Council on all matters relating to the City of Berkeley’s role in issues of peace and social justice (Berkeley Municipal Code B.M.C. Chapter 3.69.070); and
WHEREAS, the undeclared Iraq War was sold to the American people by the Bush Administration with lies about non-existent “Weapons of Mass Destruction” and a terrorist threat; and the war in Afghanistan is being prosecuted based on fear and misrepresentations as to why it is being fought; and
WHEREAS, United States military personnel have fulfilled their contracts and then due to the policy of “stop-loss,” have been forcibly retained in the military against their will after their legally obligated and agreed upon dates of separation from the military, and in some cases, made to serve fifth, sixth, and seventh terms in the military and, in those wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, during which time, some members of the military have had a crystallization of conscience, based on their experiences, which have led them to resist; and
WHEREAS, men and women in the United States military have, as a matter of conscience, no longer been able to serve in the United States military and have therefore gone Absent Without Leave or on Unauthorized Absence; and
WHEREAS, United States military personnel are subject to formal and informal punishment for what, for civilians, is protected First Amendment speech when that speech is considered to be in opposition to United States government policies in Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan; and
WHEREAS, Berkeley is a Sanctuary City for Conscientious Objectors since 1991 and for War Resisters since 2007; and
WHEREAS, on January 20, 1977, President Jimmy Carter issued an executive order declaring Unconditional Amnesty granting a “full, complete and unconditional pardon” to hundreds of thousands of men who had resisted the draft or evaded the draft during the Vietnam War by fleeing the country or by failing to register for the draft.
NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Council of the City of Berkeley recommends that all military personnel who have served in the United States military since October 7, 2001, be granted Universal and Unconditional Amnesty, such amnesty to amount to forgiveness for all convictions of desertion or Absent Without Leave or Unauthorized Absence stemming from absences since October 7, 2001, when such
leave or absence was caused by matters of personal conscience in opposition to the illegal wars in Iraq and/or Afghanistan and/or Pakistan.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the City of Berkeley recommends that Universal and Unconditional Amnesty be granted to all military personnel who have been charged or who have not yet been charged with desertion, missing movement and/or Absent Without Leave or on Unauthorized Absence resulting from absences since October 7, 2001, due to matters of personal conscience in opposition to the illegal wars in Iraq and/or Afghanistan and/or Pakistan.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Council of the City of Berkeley recommends that military personnel who have been convicted of charges stemming from their exercise of free speech regarding their opposition to the wars in Iraq and/or Afghanistan and/or Pakistan since October 7, 2001, be granted amnesty for those convictions.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Council of the City of Berkeley supports Universal and Unconditional Amnesty for all veterans with less than honorable discharges for absence offenses stemming from matters of personal conscience regarding opposition to war commencing on or after October 7, 2001, and that those veterans have those discharges automatically upgraded to honorable discharges or general under honorable conditions, and, that those veterans be granted all benefits otherwise due to them.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Council of the City of Berkeley send copies of this resolution to the President of the United States, Barack Obama, Senator Barbara Boxer, Senator Dianne Feinstein, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, and Congressperson, Barbara Lee.
The deadline for posting positions was 12:00 AM on January 19, 2010
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