By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday April 02, 2010
The Berkeley City Council recently sent out letters to President
Barack Obama, Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, Speaker
Nancy Pelosi and Congressperson Barbara Lee recommending amnesty for
Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan war military resisters and veterans.
The council approved the recommendation on a 7-0 vote March 9, with
two councilmembers, Gordon Wozniak and Susan Wengraf abstaining on
Although the resolution had initially been scheduled for vote on Feb.
23, it was postponed after some councilmembers said they had concerns
about the way it was worded.
A subcommittee comprised of councilmembers Kriss Worthington and
Linda Maio was formed to edit the language, which when finally
adopted said that the council supported "Universal and unconditional
amnesty for Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan War military resisters
and veterans who acted In opposition to the war for matters of conscience."
The final resolution has some changes from the original passed by the
Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission last November.
The Berkeley City Council's resolution recommends that "all military
personnel, serving since Oct. 7, 2001, be granted universal and
unconditional amnesty amounting to forgiveness for all convictions or
pending charges of desertion or Absence Without Leave (AWOL) or
Unauthorized Absence (UA) if such leave or absence is determined to
be caused by matters of personal conscience in opposition to the
illegal wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan."
It also recommends that military personnel convicted due to charges
resulting from exercising free speech about their opposition to the
wars in Iraq and Pakistan since Oct. 7, 2001 be granted amnesty for
The resolution supports amnesty for all veterans with less than
honorable discharges for absence offenses stemming from personal
conscience regarding opposition to the wars starting on or after Oct.
7, 2001. It calls for those veterans to have their "discharges
automatically upgraded to honorable discharges or to general under
honorable conditions and that those veterans be granted all benefits
otherwise due to them."
According to Peace and Justice Commission Chair Bob Meola, the
Berkeley City Council's resolution is the first time the topic of
universal unconditional amnesty has been approached since former U.S.
President Jimmy Carter granted unconditional amnesty amounting to
"full, complete and unconditional pardon" to draft resisters during
the Vietnam War."
"I hope this resolution will serve as a model and inspire cities and
towns across the United States to pass similar resolutions and ignite
a movement which will result in universal and unconditional amnesty
for Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan war resisters and veterans," said
Meola, who wrote the original resolution. "The troops who have had
the courage to resist have been traumatized enough. They have
followed their consciences and deserve healing and support and
appreciation from people everywhere. The GI Resistance movement is
growing. Its members are heroes and heroes should be treated as
heroes as they are welcomed back into civilian society."
Wozniak, who abstained from voting, said that the original resolution
had been "very badly worded essentially giving any serviceman
unlimited amnesty for current or future violation of military rules."
"We currently have an all volunteer army; thus the analogy to the
Vietnam war is inaccurate, since during that conflict there was a
conscript army," Wozniak said. "Although the revised resolution was
more narrowly worded, I still disagree with some of the language.
While I believe that conscientious objectors have the right to refuse
to serve in combat, they also should bear the consequences of their decision."
Berkeley, which has been a sanctuary city for conscientious objectors
since 1991, became a sanctuary city for military resisters to immoral
and illegal wars in 2007.