Berkeley City Council recommends universal and unconditional amnesty for Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan war military resisters and veterans

Courage to Resist. March 30, 2010

On Tuesday, March 9, 2010, the Berkeley (California) City Council passed Resolution No. 64,803 N.S. recommending “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.”

It was adapted, with some changes, from the original resolution passed by the Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission on November 2, 2009. The resolution recommends that all military personnel, serving since October 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 and/or Afghanistan and/or Pakistan.

The resolution also 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 Pakistan since October 7, 2001 be granted amnesty for those convictions. And it supports granting amnesty for all veterans with less than honorable discharges for absence offenses determined to be due to personal conscience regarding opposition to the wars commencing on or after October 7, 2001 and that those veterans 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.

This is the first time the subject of Universal Unconditional Amnesty has been brought up since President Jimmy Carter granted Unconditional Amnesty amounting to “full, complete and unconditional pardon” to draft resisters following the Vietnam War. Universal Unconditional Amnesty had been the demand of Vietnam Veterans Against the War.

Berkeley’s resolution called for copies of it to be sent to President Obama, Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, and Congressperson Barbara Lee.

Bob Meola, Berkeley Peace and Justice Commissioner and immediate past Commission Chairperson, who wrote the original draft of the resolution, stated, “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. 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 sheroes and should be treated as heroes as they are welcomed back into civilian society.”

Berkeley has been a sanctuary city for conscientious objectors since 1991. In 2007, it became a sanctuary city for military resisters to immoral and illegal wars, even if those resisters were not traditional conscientious objectors, and for draft registration resisters and for draft resisters if the draft should be reinstituted. May 15th is International Conscientious Objectors Day. In 2007, Berkeley also proclaimed May 15th of every year as Berkeley CO and War Resisters Day.