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War Resister: Rodney Watson on 365 Days in Sanctuary

Iraq War Resister Rodney Watson
Marks First Anniversary in Sanctuary
by War Resisters Support Campaign
VANCOUVER On Saturday, September 18 decorated Iraq War veteran Rodney Watson will have spent one year in sanctuary at First United Church in Vancouver. Mr. Watson is living in the church with his Canadian wife and son.

Despite two motions to let Iraq War Resisters stay in Canada that were adopted by the House of Commons on June 3, 2008 and March 30, 2009, the Conservative minority government ordered Mr. Watson to leave Canada on September 11, 2009. Mr. Watson appealed to the First United Church for sanctuary, and given the injustice of the Canadian government’s decision to send Mr. Watson to prison in America, the church accepted his request.

“This year of Sanctuary has been a very important pause in the unfolding application of the law, allowing critical space for upholding justice rather than simple legal process,” said Rev. Ric Matthews of Vancouver’s First United Church. “It is our deep hope that Bill C-440, the ongoing protests of those seeking justice for war resisters, and the support of the citizens of Canada will soon allow Rodney – and other war resisters – to be welcomed fully and freely into Canada.”

“To embrace those resisting war is part of out heritage, the will of the majority in Parliament and the desire of the majority of Canadians. The time in sanctuary will be well worth it if it prevents Rodney from being summarily deported and finally allows him to be given a fair opportunity to be accepted into this country,” said Rev. Matthews.

Mr. Watson is still awaiting a decision on his application to stay in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

After completing one tour of duty in Iraq, Mr. Watson was informed that the U.S. Army was unilaterally extending his contract in order to send him back to Iraq. While serving in Iraq, Mr. Watson saw the true nature of the illegal occupation and refused to return.

“I did not return to Iraq because it is a war of aggression based on lies about weapons of mass destruction. I witnessed U.S. soldiers beating Iraqi civilians and using racist terms,” said Rodney Watson.

Rather than go to prison in the U.S. while the criminals who started the war remained free, he came to Vancouver in 2006.

With the assistance of the War resisters Support Campaign, Mr. Watson appealed for refugee status on the grounds that he faced persecution in America for his refusal to take part in an illegal occupation that involved war crimes against the people of Iraq.

Since the arrival of the first U.S. Iraq War resister Jeremy Hinzman in 2004, Canadians have opened their homes and hearts to them.

“Canadians have reacted to the arrival of War Resisters with logic and compassion, citing our history of being a place of political refuge over many generations, and have been shocked at the government’s interference in the refuge process and its refusal to honour the will of Parliament,” said Sarah Bjorknas, spokesperson for the War Resisters Support Campaign in Vancouver.

“The case of Rodney Watson living in sanctuary has become a test of national honour for many who believe that Canada’s strength is in its collective compassion,” said Bjorknas.

Mr. Watson is eagerly awaiting the upcoming House of Commons vote on Bill C-440 that will amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to allow U.S. Iraq War resisters to apply for permanent resident status in Canada. The second hour of Second Reading debate on Bill C-440 is scheduled for Monday, September 27 with a vote expected to take place on Wednesday, September 29.

The war in Iraq continues with over 50,000 U.S. soldiers still occupying the country. Iraqi civilians and American soldiers are still being injured and killed in combat.

A public opinion poll conducted by Angus Reid Strategies shortly after Parliament’s first vote found that 64 per cent of Canadians want the Government of Canada stop the deportations and grant permanent resident status to Iraq War resisters.

- 30 -
For Immediate Release
September 17, 2010

To arrange interviews with Rodney Watson or for more information, please contact:

Sarah Bjorknas, Spokesperson in BC, War Resisters Support Campaign, 604-349-5027;

Reverend Ric. Mathews, First United Church, 604-681-8365 ext.127;

Ken Marciniec, Communications Volunteer, War Resisters Support Campaign, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., 416-803-6066.

Associated Press: 'Combat in Iraq is not over, and we should not uncritically repeat suggestions that it is'
Memo from the Associated Press' standards editor

From: Kent, Tom
Sent: Thursday, September 02, 2010 5:30 PM
Subject: Standards Center guidance: The situation in Iraq


Many AP staffers are producing content that refers to the situation in Iraq. It might be a local story about Iraq veterans, an international diplomatic story that mentions the Iraqi conflict or coverage on the ground in Iraq itself.

Whatever the subject, we should be correct and consistent in our description of what the situation in Iraq is. This guidance summarizes the situation and suggests wording to use and avoid.

To begin with, combat in Iraq is not over, and we should not uncritically repeat suggestions that it is, even if they come from senior officials. The situation on the ground in Iraq is no different today than it has been for some months. Iraqi security forces are still fighting Sunni and al-Qaida insurgents. Many Iraqis remain very concerned for their country's future despite a dramatic improvement in security, the economy and living conditions in many areas.

As for U.S. involvement, it also goes too far to say that the U.S. part in the conflict in Iraq is over. President Obama said Monday night that "the American combat mission in Iraq has ended. Operation Iraqi Freedom is over, and the Iraqi people now have lead responsibility for the security of their country."

However, 50,000 American troops remain in country. Our own reporting on the ground confirms that some of these troops, especially some 4,500 special operations forces, continue to be directly engaged in military operations. These troops are accompanying Iraqi soldiers into battle with militant groups and may well fire and be fired on.

In addition, although administration spokesmen say we are now at the tail end of American involvement and all troops will be gone by the end of 2011, there is no guarantee that this will be the case.

Our stories about Iraq should make clear that U.S. troops remain involved in combat operations alongside Iraqi forces, although U.S. officials say the American combat mission has formally ended. We can also say the United States has ended its major combat role in Iraq, or that it has transferred military authority to Iraqi forces. We can add that beyond U.S. boots on the ground, Iraq is expected to need U.S. air power and other military support for years to control its own air space and to deter possible attack from abroad.

Unless there is balancing language, our content should not refer to the end of combat in Iraq, or the end of U.S. military involvement. Nor should it say flat-out (since we can't predict the future) that the United States is at the end of its military role.


New YouTube video:
Michael Moore & Paul Laverty criticize the Harper government's treatment of U.S. Iraq War resisters

Also see:

Filmmaker Michael Moore calls Canada 'shameful' on U.S. war dodgers
The Canadian Press | Sept. 16, 2010

Filmmaker Loach presses Canada to let US war resisters stay
Agence France-Presse | Sept. 15, 2010

Iraq War resisters deserve fair treatment
Gerard Kennedy for Embassy Magazine | Aug. 18, 2010  
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