Private First Class Kimberly Rivera, mother of four children and pregnant with a fifth, was sentenced on April 29 to 14 months imprisonment, which was lowered to 10 months based on a plea agreement.
After serving a tour of duty in Iraq in 2006, she found herself unable to return.
She tells Amy Goodman in the Guardian why:
“I had a huge awakening seeing the war as it truly is: people losing their lives for greed of a nation, and the effects on the soldiers who come back with new problems such as nightmares, anxieties, depression, anger, alcohol abuse, missing limbs and scars from burns. Some don’t come back at all.”
Her attorney, James Branum, who defends soldiers who resist deployment, told me:
“She felt that she morally could not do what she was asked to do; at the same time, she realized that she would put other soldiers in danger if she didn’t pull the trigger when the time came. She talked to a chaplain about it. The chaplain largely pushed her aside, did not give her the counsel that she really needed.”
Never Advised Of Her Rights As A Conscientious Objector
This so-called Christian chaplain could have advised her that there was a regulation, AR 600-43, that gave her the right to petition to be classified a conscientious objector. He chose not to do the Christian thing.
Since she was never advised of her rights as a conscientious objector, she believed that she had no options but to return to Iraq or to emigrate to Canada. Rivera and her husband and two children fled to Canada in February, 2007, settling in Toronto.
Amnesty International identifies Rivera as a prisoner of conscience, the first American female conscientious objector to flee to Canada; she has the support of many Canadian members of Parliament, as well as that of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a Nobel Peace Prize winner. Yet the Canadian government denied her refugee application, and she turned herself in to US authorities at the border on September 20, 2012.
Now the United States Army has sentenced Rivera to 10 months behind bars, where she will give birth to her fifth child.
Kimberly Rivera had the courage to refuse to shoot at children in Iraq; she had the courage to dissent, to resist. As a reward for this act of bravery, she will now sit in prison, away from her husband Mario, and their four young children: Christian, 11; Rebeca, eight; Katie, five, and Gabriel, two.
Who Is The Real Hero: George W. Bush Or Kimberly Rivera?
Just two days after Rivera was sentenced to sit behind bars for 10 months for courageously giving voice to her conscience, George W. Bush was proudly holding forth at the dedication of his Presidential Library in Texas.
“Ultimately, the success of the nation depends on the character of its citizens,” declared the former president.
Rivera stopped believing she was doing the right thing in Iraq, and she stopped believing the United States was doing the right thing in Iraq. Americans were getting wounded and killed, but she saw more of Iraqi suffering.
As iPolitics.ca reported in 2012:
Rivera was troubled by a two-year-old Iraqi girl who came to the base with her family to claim compensation after a bombing by US forces.
“She was just petrified,” Rivera explained. “She was crying, but there was no sound, just tears flowing out of her eyes. She was shaking. I have no idea what had happened in her little life. All I know is I wasn’t seeing her: I was seeing my own little girl. I could imagine my daughter being one of those kids throwing rocks at soldiers, because maybe someone she loved had been killed. That Iraqi girl haunts my soul.”
George W. Bush, by contrast, refused to admit that he might have made a mistake, refused to listen to the thousands of protestors who demanded an end to the war in Iraq, a war which killed over 114, 000 people, including over 4,500 US soldiers. He never apologized, never admitted that he had any regrets at all about this mass slaughter.
He gets a Presidential Library, while Kimberly Rivera, who dared to speak her mind, gets to sit in prison.
And do you remember hearing too that Bush also went AWOL? But of course he was not punished. Unlike Ms. Rivera.
If you believe this sentence is outrageous, and that Kimberly Rivera is being punished for acting honorably and courageously, please sign the petition, demanding that she be released from prison and reunited with her husband and children.
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Photo Credit: Pan-African News Wire File Photos