Laptop Anthropologist

Movement of the People

By Tara Murtha
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 4 | Posted Jul. 16, 2008

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Civil war: A small group of protesters call on Canada to provide safe harbor for Corey Glass and other American Iraq War deserters.

Bouquets of the city's khaki-clad business-casual chit-chat between sips of cigarettes. Young men in blazers saunter by in loose packs, texting or talking into earpieces while women flip-flop their way between Charles Schwab and PNC Bank.

Near the curb, with Billy Penn as backdrop, nine people ranging in age from their late 20s up to about 70 gather in front of the Canadian consulate to protest the deportation of an ex-U.S. soldier named Corey Glass from Canada to the United States. A few hold up handmade posterboard signs: "REFUSING TO KILL IS NOT A CRIME," "WAR IS NOT THE ANSWER" and "SHAME ON CANADA!"

The protest has been organized by Eric Gjertsen of Payday, a men's organization with headquarters in London, the Philippines and Philadelphia. They operate on a simple philosophy that says society should invest in caring not killing, and that money would be better spent investing in communities than in the military.

Fourteen simultaneous protests are taking place at this moment around the country. Here, the protesters smile and act real friendly as they try to stuff informational pamphlets into the hands of passers-by, who mostly wave them off and march on, weary of burger coupons and store openings and discounts on places they'll never go.

Corey Glass, the Indiana-born sergeant who deserted the National Guard and fled to Toronto with his wife and child in 2006, is thought of by this group and sympathizers as the poster boy of the war resisters movement.

He's said he was told when he signed up for the National Guard that the only way he'd be in combat was if foreign troops occupied the United States, and that his military intelligence role in Iraq made him realize "innocent people were being killed unjustly." He believes what we're doing in Iraq is immoral, that it's an unjust war.

It's estimated 200 to 400 American soldiers have fled to Canada during the Iraq War. In a video plea to the prime minister of Canada taped in May, Glass says he believes that if deported to the U.S., he could face court martial, jail time or redeployment to Iraq.

On June 3 deserters in Canada won a symbolic victory when the House of Commons passed a nonbinding motion to "immediately implement a program to allow conscientious objectors and their immediate family members ... to apply for permanent resident status and remain in Canada."

A public poll shows almost two-thirds of Canadian citizens want American war resisters to be able to stay in Canada. During the Vietnam War, 30,000 to 50,000 American soldiers were given legal refuge there.

But Canada's Ministry of Immigration didn't accept the House of Commons motion, and Glass was scheduled to be shipped back to the States.

Back at Liberty Place, a man watches the protesters from 15 feet. He's not impressed. He says they look like a bunch of draft dodgers.

"If everyone avoided the draft and ran to Canada, you have to ask, 'Do you like your freedom?' I happen to have two brothers in the military. One's been in Baghdad for three years," he says.

He shrugs and says there are different people out here every day protesting this or that.

After a few mini speeches, it's time for Payday's Gjertsen to head up to the 36th floor to discuss the Corey Glass case with the Canadian consulate.

The security guard planted in Liberty One's huge marble tomb tells us to wait and gratuitously shoos us to the side, which seems rude considering the passivity of this small group of extremely civil protesters. Gjertsen generously suggests they're concerned about blocking the area, even though it's practically empty.

When the counsel's representative finally descends, perfectly coiffed, wearing metro glasses and speaking in an enviable French accent, he says only four people are allowed up into his office.

I introduce myself as a reporter and am glad when he doesn't pay enough attention for it to register. Then Gjertsen and his crummy, seemingly sterling integrity makes a point of it.

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Comments 1 - 4 of 4
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1. lenni_lenape said... on Jul 15, 2008 at 10:43PM

“Very well done, and movements by the people are fueled by the press. The war in Iraq/Afghanistan is the result of sociopaths running the country. Canada should not give in to pressure from the US and return people who refuse to be drafted into military service. That being said, this particular individual was not drafted. There's no draft, is there? He apparently signed on, but I'm not sure when. Was it before we invaded Irafastan? His moral objections to the war are pretty much irrelevant. He joined the National Guard. What were his morals telling him then? How long did he serve? He started a family? You never say he was actually in combat as an intelligence officer. You're the anthropologist, what's this all tell you about Humankind? Maybe about a man who took a job because he had limited options. "He was told when he signed up that the only way he'd be in combat was if foreign troops occupied the United States." That's it? What did he think he would be doing? Teaching Humanities & Art to the occupying forces? Movements are fueled by a free press. This one is maybe misdirected.”

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2. scooterman said... on Jul 16, 2008 at 06:44AM

“I would "enjoy my freedom" more if I didn't think we were fighting a war so George Bush has money to retire on”

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3. Frank Sherlock said... on Jul 16, 2008 at 01:49PM

“Lenni, Glass served five months in Iraq in 2005. He reported to his ranking officers his concern with the legality of the actions he was participating in, which included what he perceived to be abusive treatment of Iraqi civilians and the failure of his superiors to address these charges. He was given a two week leave, after which he failed to report back for duty. You are correct. He's not a draft dodger. He's AWOL and was discharged. To answer your question, Corey Glass has explained what he thought he'd be doing in the National Guard when he joined in 2002 (pre-Iraq War). "I signed up for the National Guard to ... do humanitarian work, filling sandbags if there was a hurricane ... I should have been in New Orleans, not Iraq." Disaster response has in recent times been the primary activity of the National Guard. The use of the Guard for a foreign war hasn't hit the current deployment percentage since World War One. 8,700 Guardsmen were deployed to Vietnam. 86,000 have been deployed to Iraq. While Rumsfeld was blind to some aspects of the Vietnam War's history that he doomed us to repeat, he did learn the lesson of perception. It was Donald Rumsfeld's abuse of Guard deployment for his invasion and occupation (?) strategy that "dodged the draft", depleted Guard numbers in the States and left American civilian disaster victims from the Midwest to the Gulf to fend for themselves. But Corey Glass will be the one put on trial if he's forced to return. What does that tell you about Humankind?”

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4. lenni_lenape said... on Jul 16, 2008 at 06:45PM

“They're all criminals. Corey is a victim. However, if he would have taken a position like you say he started to, instead of fleeing, I could see him being "thought of by this group and sympathizers as the poster boy of the war resisters movement." As it is, he deserted a few things, and the outcome, for him anyway, looks the same. It says a lot about Humankind. The good guys only win in the movies?”


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