War Resister Rodney Watson wishes he could be with his parents and other family and friends in his home town of Kansas City, Missouri. He’d like to see his wife and four year old son more than just on weekends in Vancouver, B.C. too. He’d also like to take his young family home to the United States and have his wife and his son meet his parents. But he can’t. Rodney has been living in the sanctuary of United Church in Vancouver since September 18, 2009. He eats and sleeps there and still cannot leave the Church without the risk of being deported back to the United States and to a military brig. After a tour of Iraq, in which he witnessed the senseless brutality of the war and the same racism toward the Iraqi people by U.S. enlisted soldiers and American contractors that he knew so well from experiencing it as an African-American, growing up in the United States, Rodney was stop-lossed.
Army Spc. Rodney Watson joined the Army in 2004 under a three year contract. In 2005, he was deployed to Iraq. He signed up to be a cook and instead was made to search vehicles and Iraqi civilians for explosives, contraband and weapons before they entered the base. In 2006, when his tour of duty there was over, he was informed that his contractual obligation to serve in the Army was being extended , without his consent, and he would not be discharged from military service at the agreed upon time. Rodney was a victim of the Army Stop Loss program. Rather than continue to serve in the Army and face re-deployment to Iraq in a war he knew was illegal and immoral, Rodney deserted and took refuge in Canada.
Presently, Rodney finds himself in a legal limbo that has meant no change in his case for quite a while. His lawyer will soon be re-submitting an application for him to be granted asylum on Humanitarian and Compassionate Grounds so that he can stay in Canada and be able to resume being a father to his four year old son and a husband on a daily basis. Because Rodney is confined to the church, he only sees his wife and his son on weekends.
Rodney recently told me, “Any conscientious objector to the Iraq war should not be punished because our leader, George Bush, himself went AWOL. No Iraq war Veteran should be punished for waking up and going AWOL after George W. Bush went AWOL from the National Guard and then later led us into a war based on lies about weapons of mass destruction. He should be locked up and not any of us awakened veterans from that Iraq war. The war criminals are free while I’m sitting in sanctuary in a church not able to go out in public. Thousands more [war resisters] are underground in the states who had disagreement with that war. It doesn’t make any sense to be punished for your conscience. I’m not a pacifist but the Iraq war was an unnecessary aggression and it was for natural resources and based on lies.
“If there is anything I can say to my fellow troops who are waking up to the lies and corporate greed and corruption, it is that I salute you and real change is not made by silence. I salute you for standing up and speaking out.
“I still love America. It’s my home. I miss my home. We’re in a state of endless war. I would like to be able to cross any border freely as a free man. There should be amnesty for Iraq war veterans. There are soldiers, here in Canada, who have come with their families from the states and soldiers who have made families here. There should be amnesty for those who have woken up to the lies and the corruption of the Iraq War.
Join us in helping Rodney with his monthly food and phone expenses. Please donated via our friends at vancouverwarresisters.org with a one-time or monthly PayPal contribution.
“I’m treated like a dangerous criminal because I decided that war wasn’t worth killing over. Why are we punished for saying we don’ t want to risk our lives for it anymore? I have a very deep feeling that there is going to be some kind of atonement for this. This is not right. This war was evil. Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Bush are running around free. If that’s not an axis of evil, I don’t know what is. “I thought I’d be protecting my country when I joined the Army. It was a lie.
“Being a deserter and a refugee has put a strain on my marriage and family. My wife is presently going to school to become a nurse’s aide. I risked my life for a stupid war that was wrong. I have no fear of risking my freedom and my life again for what is right—for truth.
“I just feel in my heart that I have every right to speak my mind against this war that I was involved in because I was actually there and I lost my friend there and I risked my own life for a war that was based on lies.”
Rodney appreciates the support he has received from Courage to Resist, the War Resisters’ Support Campaign, and donations from individual Quakers. It is fundraising for him that has sustained him. Rodney welcomes anyone who wants to connect with him to do so at his Facebook page, War Resister in Sanctuary.
Bob Meola is a member of the Courage to Resist Organizing Collective, the War Resisters League National Committee and the Bradley Manning Support Network Steering Committee. As a City of Berkeley Peace and Justice Commissioner, he authored the city’s resolutions honoring Conscientious Objectors and War Resisters, making Berkeley a sanctuary city for war resisters and urging Universal Unconditional Amnesty for war resisters.