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Boardman writes: "So this Canadian-American collusion, which started with the illegal war in Iraq, continues to illuminate the likelihood that when you have authoritarian officials in charge, you get a judicial system that imprisons a poor, pregnant, thirty-year-old mother of four for her conscientious objection to an illegal war."

Kimberly Rivera. (photo: Aaron Vincent Elkaim/The Canadian Press)
Kimberly Rivera. (photo: Aaron Vincent Elkaim/The Canadian Press)

Pregnant Conscientious Objector Sentenced to Prison

By William Boardman, Reader Supported News

02 May 13


Criminalizing resistance to war crimes

mnesty International identifies her as a prisoner of conscience, she was the first American female conscientious objector to flee to Canada, but mainstream media mostly ignore this Iraq war vet with PTSD – unless they're labeling her a "deserter."

A Texan married to a Texan, Private First Class Kimberly Rivera, 30, is a poor, pregnant mother of four who was sentenced to 10 months in jail on April 29 by the United States Army.

Her crime, after serving a tour of duty in Iraq in 2006, was seeking help from her military chaplain about her growing conscientious objection to the American war in Iraq, getting dishonest advice from her superiors, and thinking as a result that she had no realistic options other than returning to Iraq or emigrating to Canada. She and her husband and two children went to Canada in 2007.

Her story illustrates some of the chronic injustices of American life, not least the extra vengeance the society likes to visit on those who resist, and who make that resistance public.

Economic Coercion Boosts Enlistment Rate

By 2005, Kimberly and Mario Rivera had two children and financial pressure, even though they both had jobs at the local Walmart, where they'd met. Kimberly, then 22, had her first child when she was 19 and the second two years later. They were living in Mesquite, Texas, a city of about 140,000 within the greater Dallas-Forth Worth metro area.

Surveying their limited prospects, Kimberly and Mario decided that one of them should join the military. Both of them needed to lose weight to qualify. Kimberly lost weight faster and enlisted in January 2006. Her incentives included an $8,000 signing bonus and family health insurance.

The enlistment process led Kimberly to expect to spend her time loading and unloading equipment at Fort Carson, Colorado, where she was a wheeled-vehicle driver in the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. But in the fall of 2006, her unit was ordered to Iraq, where she was a "gate guard," as she put it in an interview with Courage to Resist in 2007:

I was a gate guard. This was looked down on by infantry soldiers who go out in the streets, but gate guards are the highest security of the Forward Operation Base. We searched vehicles, civilian personnel, and military convoys that left and came back every hour. 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.
On December 21, 2006, I was going to my room and something in my heart told me to go call my husband. And when I did, 24 rounds of mortars hit the FOB in a matter of minutes after I got on the phone ... the mortars were 10-15 feet from where I was. I found a hole from the shrapnel in my room in the plywood window. That night I found the shrapnel on my bed in the same place where my head would have been if I hadn't changed my plans and gone to the phone.

What Happens When Your Country's Leaders Betray You?

Kimberly hadn't thought that much about the war in Iraq during 2002-2003. She was preoccupied with being a new mother, and the Bush administration was preoccupied with lying the country into an illegal war. In Iraq, in 2006, her disillusionment grew quickly. She wrote about her feelings later:

Your basic role as a soldier being invalidated, finding out your job has no meaning. No reason. Higher command just let bad people past you, demanding they do not get the same treatment as others who come in the base every day.
This is the same as jeopardizing every man and women on the front line. That was the most angering moment for me. From this point on I had no pride in my work, no reason for being in Iraq. It was obvious to me that security was not the top priority for the troops and as one person not allowed to do my job efficiently and to the highest ability was the final straw. Finding that out is the hardest. It was my last reason for staying. For giving my life. You believe you are doing the right thing.

Kimberly 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 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."

What Happens When You Look for a Christian Answer to War?

Troubled by the war, Kimberly was reading the Bible in an effort to make sense of the conflict between her faith and her experience. She came to believe that, faced by Iraqi civilians and given an order to shoot, she would not pull the trigger. She knew this could put other soldiers in danger if she didn't shoot. She took this concern to her chaplain for guidance.

The chaplain was not about to discuss religious questions with her, certainly not the peaceable aspects of Christianity. He was hard line, unyielding about her duty to fulfill her mission, basically telling her to suck it up.

He could have advised her of her rights, that there was a regulation, AR 600-43, that gave her the right to petition to be classified a conscientious objector. That might have been the Christian thing to do, but the chaplain didn't do it.

In December 2006, Kimberly returned from Iraq on leave for two weeks. She researched her status, but did not seek legal advice. She came to the conclusion that the only way she could avoid going back to Iraq was not to go back to the Army, to go absent without leave (AWOL, as George W. Bush had done under very different circumstances).

"I guess the hardest thing for people to understand is the reason you join the military is not the reason you leave it," she wrote later.

Canadians Provided Shelter – Except the Government

On February 18, 2007, Kimberly and Mario Rivera and their two children, Christian and Rebecca, entered Canada and found sanctuary among the war resister community in Toronto. Kimberly became the first known US war resister to apply for refugee status in Canada.

Her legal struggle to stay in Canada lasted for the next five and a half years, supported by the War Resisters Support Campaign and others.

Among her supporters was Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a Nobel Peace Prize winner like Barack Obama, but with little else in common. Archbishop Tutu published an op ed column in the Globe and Mail in September 2012, opposing the Canadian government's effort to deport Kimberly, calling it unjust:

When the United States and Britain made the case in 2003 for the invasion of Iraq, it was on the basis of a lie.
We were told that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, and that these weapons posed an imminent threat to humanity….
But those who were called to fight this war believed what their leaders had told them. The reason we know this is because US soldiers such as Kimberly Rivera, through her own experience in Iraq, came to the conclusion that the invasion had nothing to do with weapons of mass destruction. Indeed, the presence of US forces only created immense misery for civilians and soldiers alike.

Should a Government Be Swayed by Facts, Justice, or Mercy?

But Premier Harper and other government officials still supported the war on Iraq, and that had politicized the American war resisters seeking shelter in their country. Twice the Canadian Parliament voted to support these political refugees. A large majority of Canadians, 64 per cent, wanted to allow conscientious objectors to the Iraq war to remain in their country, but the Harper government gave no ground.

On February 2013, in another case, the Federal Court of Canada ruled in favor of a war resister's right to due process in Canada, since the American military justice system was so flawed that it "fails to comply with basic fairness requirements found in Canadian and International Law."

In a reference clearly relevant to Kimberly Rivera's case, the court also found that consideration should be given to evidence that soldiers who have spoken out publicly about their objections to US military actions are subjected to particularly harsh punishments because of having voiced their political opinions.

And still the Harper government gave no ground.

Ordered deported, Kimberly Rivera surrendered to US border officials on September 20, 2012, and was immediately taken into custody. Faced with a court martial and a possible sentence of five years in a military prison, Kimberly made a plea agreement that limits her prison time to ten months, but includes a dishonorable discharge. At her sentencing hearing April 29, she pleaded guilty to two counts of desertion.

Military Justice Is to Justice as Military Music Is to Music

Her attorney, James Branum, has also represented dozens of other conscientious objectors and is legal director for the Oklahoma Center for Conscience and Peace Research. While acknowledging that some war resisters have been sentenced to as much as two years, Branum told DemocracyNOW that Kimberly's sentence was relatively harsh:

… many other resisters receive little jail time or no jail time. And people that desert, generally, over 90 percent do no jail time at all. And so, we feel that Kim was singled out.
Another thing, the prosecutor at trial said that he asked the judge to give a harsh sentence to send a message to the war resisters in Canada….
... the Canadian government, in deporting Kim, said she would not face any serious punishment because of her political and conscientious objection to war. And in reality, that's exactly what happened. That was the prosecution's argument: that because she spoke out against the war, she therefore should be punished.

So this Canadian-American collusion, which started with the illegal war in Iraq, continues to illuminate the likelihood that when you have authoritarian officials in charge, you get a judicial system that imprisons a poor, pregnant, thirty-year-old mother of four for her conscientious objection to an illegal war.

Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu asked: "Isn't it time we begin to redress the atrocity of this war by honouring those such as Ms. Rivera who had the courage to stand against it at such a cost to themselves?"

William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theatre, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner


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+105 # PGreen 2013-05-02 12:26
"you get a judicial system that imprisons a poor, pregnant, thirty-year-old mother of four for her conscientious objection to an illegal war."
That pretty much sums it up. The military establishment, which itself is harnessed to pull the wagon of elite interests, would scarcely function if proper moral and legal protocols were followed. I'm not surprised that she was not told that she could apply for conscientious objector status. Gitmo, torture, the list of other abuses goes on; these are crimes of policy and leadership. And why are we in the Mid-East pursuing policies which cultivate terrorism? It can't be for defense because violent actions simply irritate the situation and make it worse. We become not more safe, as a nation, but less so.
+60 # curmudgeon 2013-05-02 13:30
I don't recall any mention of children of pregnancy in mainstream press.

What a travesty!
+64 # MidwestTom 2013-05-02 13:32
We are becoming like our enemies.
+30 # fuzzbuzz 2013-05-02 14:00
Quoting MidwestTom:
We are becoming like our enemies.

You're a lot worse than your enemies.
+51 # MsAnnaNOLA 2013-05-02 14:18
We are so far down that rabbit hole. Everything the government seems to do these days is in contravention of our traditional norms and values as a nation.
+17 # geraldom 2013-05-02 18:40
Quoting MsAnnaNOLA:
We are so far down that rabbit hole. Everything the government seems to do these days is in contravention of our traditional norms and values as a nation.

MsAnnaNOLA, maybe you can tell me when our values, our morals and our ethics changed for the worse. It seems to me that they changed dramatically right after WWII. Most every military conflict we got involved in after WWII seems to includes actions by our govt which I find to be reprehensible.

But even before WWII, it is rumored that the U.S. began certain wars based on known lies like the Spanish-America n war under Theodore Roosevelt when we claimed that Spain blew up the USS battleship Maine which recent evidence indicates that it was an accident, that its boiler had blown up. Using the destruction of the Maine as an excuse to start a war with Spain, Theodore Roosevelt sent the U.S. military all the way across the Pacific ocean in order to attack and conquer the Philippines. Many tens of thousands of Filipinos died as a result of defending their own country from an illegal invasion by the United States. An order was given out by a U.S. military officer that all male Filipinos above a certain age, about 14 or 15 years and older, were to be summarily executed whether or not they were carrying any weapons. Does that sound in any way familiar with our invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, and especially with the drone attacks against the indigenous people of Yemen?
+9 # flippancy 2013-05-03 08:27
Don't blame Roosevelt, he was a soldier, not the president then. McKinley was the president. But the war was BS.
+72 # NanFan 2013-05-02 14:38
Quoting MidwestTom:
We are becoming like our enemies.

We've ALWAYS been like the enemies: we created them. Most Americans just don't know that the terrorism we get is the terrorism we have given.

This is so sad.

+9 # The Voice of Reason 2013-05-02 18:13
What enemies are you talking about? certainly not the Muslim victims you're so quick to apologize for. Or is it the communists we do business with? Face it, we don't have enemies, we have partners in war. Both sides are up to their eyeballs in murder and mayhem to justify their military budgets and high oil prices.

But does anyone have a clue on how to get out of this mess? I don't think 'more of the same' electioneering is the answer. Dum or Thug they both collect their paycheck and we lose. So ... anyone want to write a new system of governance that is guaranteed to work?
+61 # angelfish 2013-05-02 14:11
Pogo, via Walt Kelly, was SO right! "We have met the enemy, and he is US"!
+8 # Interested Observer 2013-05-02 14:46
But unfortunately it is also them. We're surrounded.
+47 # David Starr 2013-05-02 14:36
U.S. political/milit ary leaders are certainly in no position to condemn other countries for using and abusing "commoners" for imperial wars.

Economic coercion is inexcusable, and is an "artful" tool within the nature of capitalism, i.e, MONEY is EVERYTHING, and to be used as a means which produces the wide class gap between the 1% and 99%.
+19 # Urbancurmudgeon 2013-05-02 14:43
To quote a very intelligent character names POGo, "We have seen the enemy and they is us."
+40 # Archie1954 2013-05-02 14:50
Unfortunately we in Canada are burdened by an extremist, right wing government hell bent on helping the US destroy poor third world countries.
+11 # Urbancurmudgeon 2013-05-02 14:52
Pogo says,"We has met the enemy and they is us."
+35 # lorenbliss 2013-05-02 14:55
Unfortunately Mr. Boardman ignores the paramount question -- what happens to a child who is born in a military prison?

If the fate of the mother is the same as in many U.S. civilian prisons -- and since Ms. Rivera is in a military prison it will no doubt be infinitely worse -- she will be shackled to a bed, chained into a position intended to inflict maximum agony during the birth process. (See )

Then her child will be taken from her before she is allowed to touch it. Thus forever deprived of vital maternal love, the infant will in all probability be placed in the notoriously hostile environment of foster care – this by invocation of deliberately sadistic U.S. immigration policies.

Once Ms. Rivera is out of prison, she can of course petition for custody of her child, but that option typically takes years, and the fact of her record -- especially the dishonorable discharge -- means any judgment of "unfit mother" is effectively irreversible.

In any case the traumas of foster care will have already doomed the child to a life of relentless psychological misery and socioeconomic dysfunction if not angrily defiant crime.

Such is the vengeance the USian Empire takes against those who dare defy it -- not just the New Rome, but ever more obviously the Fourth Reich -- its escalating savagery yet another example of “change we can believe in.”
+15 # Regina 2013-05-02 17:35
Remember: Only the entrenched misogyny of American "law" could bring about this outrage.
+6 # flippancy 2013-05-03 08:30
Her husband will get the child and the child will have his mother back. But don't interpret this as agreeing with jailing her.
+17 # James Marcus 2013-05-02 15:38
Criminal, and Inhumane . Proving 'A Conspiracy', held together only by threads of terror, imposed by sociopathic Co-operatives (possibly 'not human')
+27 # madams12 2013-05-02 15:51
I can only imagine the flood of Conscientious Objectors who might have gone to Canada, thereby Resisting this Illegal war of 'Choice'...had her story received ANY distribution in the MSM. The elites learned that one lesson from Vietnam...dont report on C.Os. Dont allow Canada's Bush imprint, (Harper) to reject or resist Bush imperialism and illegal wars. Harbush just like like buddy Dubya should face impeachment and worse...for crimes against humanity and waging illegal/crimina l wars. Our hearts go out to this resister and her family.
+14 # Joe6pK 2013-05-02 15:54
After such a sickening ass-kissing Premier Harper and other government officials rejected a pregnant US soldiers plea for political sanctuary under conscientious objector status, this veteran calls for a boycott of Canada because they still support the illegal war in Iraq! This veteran is asking all Americans to boycott Canada, for this unconscious behavior, the pipeline poisoning and their part of the Horizon deep water oil affair. A complete boycott is called for; plus large signs that deliver the message, Canadians stay away on all highways in California and other American states. Especially those like this 67 year old veteran who find the new Canada not an ally, but a threat and another rightwing bootlicker nation. We must boycott all of Canadian products, services and especially tourism. That is unless you enjoy this pipsqueak nation acting like our crackhead christians fundamentalists do. Which is crude, rude and undemocratic, this behavior toward our citizens seeking refuge from politically correct government agents is unacceptable, as everyone over 5 realizes they operate with blind adherence to a criminally sanctioned law. Please do not glaze over; no response will only reward uncivilized nations and their leaders.
+1 # LightWorker 2013-05-05 15:17
Please note that the ultra-extremist RWing Harper government does not speak for its citizens, any more than Rove and Cheney spoke for me or many, many others. The majority of Canadian citizens are as appalled as I am about this outrageous assault. The following quote is from:

In stark contrast to this outpouring of support, Conservative MPs cheered when the Rivera family’s removal was announced in the House of Commons.

“The Conservative government knew that Kim would be jailed and separated from her children when they forced her back to the U.S., yet they cheered her deportation,” said Michelle Robidoux, a spokesperson for the War Resisters Support Campaign. “They are out of step with the great majority of Canadians who opposed the Iraq War and who support allowing U.S. war resisters to stay in Canada.”

Question is, how do we let Mr. Harper know how we feel without raining the same kind of prejudicial anger on those Canadian citizens who are essentially as blameless as most of the victimized Iraqi citizens who 'got in the way' of a bullet in The Bushies' war, or even as, dare I say it, me and you? Governments make tragically heartless decisions in all of our names: this is the crux.
+22 # vgirl1 2013-05-02 15:58
Well, it the neocons didn't send the message to the poor that their only way out is fight our wars then where would the capitalists get the soldiers to do their dirty work while they prosper from war.
+22 # tigerlille 2013-05-02 16:55
I googled Kimberly's name after reading this article, and learned that there is a fund you can contribute to to help Kimberly and her family at
I read interviews with Kimberly and her husband Mario at this site, and it is evident that the children are severely traumatised, and that the family is in dire financial straits. The father has serious medical issues, is unable to work, and is in chronic pain. An address is given for Kimberly's attorney, and it is possible to write letters of encouragement to her in his care. Please show some compassion and contribute money to help this family. I have no connection to the family, and had no previous knowledge of the situation before reading this article at RSN.
+7 # keenon the truth 2013-05-02 19:37
'I googled Kimberly's name after reading this article, and learned that there is a fund you can contribute to to help Kimberly and her family at'

Thank you for that. I will follow up.
+23 # Art947 2013-05-02 17:08
During the Vietnam-war era, many of the individuals who were drafted into the military believed in the doctrine - FTA. The lies of our government and the acquiescence of the officer corps in that conflict, produced a response that treated returning soldiers in a pitiful way. We may have reached a similar stage with respect to the actions in Iraq, Afghanistan and other theatres of conflict. It is a shame that the brunt of these conflicts will once again be felt most by the poor grunts who are sent into the arena of danger. My sympathies for this young woman and her family. My condemnation for the political lowlifes that permit this to continue.
-5 # fliteshare 2013-05-02 17:22
Right decision wrong argument.
Don't scare yourself into playing the conscientious objection card. You joint a volunteer army out of your own free will and will subsequently lose that argument.

Go all in, on refusing to cooperate in the continuation of a war-crime (Nuremberg interpretation).
And prove that the Iraq war was started on the basis of a pack of lies. Feel free to refer to gobs of WikiLeaks information.

The prospect of having such information out in a public trial might be too hot a potato to handle for the government.
+14 # geraldom 2013-05-02 17:37
What's happened in Canada ever since Stephen Harper became Canada's Prime Minister (PM) just shows that Canadians are human & they make the same mistakes as Americans. Like the United States, the Canadian people deserve the govt that they voted for.

PM Stephen Harper is an extremist at best & the fact that he's survived as PM of Canada this long I find to be incredulous after all the damage he has done to what used to be one of the best Democracies in the world. I ask the question as to why the Canadian people have not long ago (indirectly) voted him out of office by selecting a more moderate group to control their parliament?

It seems to me that in almost all cases, including those eastern European countries that used to be part of the old Soviet Union (SU), voters seem to be easily manipulated & influenced into voting for the wrong leaders, leaders that are more sympathetic to U.S. interests than than are to their own people.

The tragedy of the eastern European countries who gained their freedom & sovereignty from Russia is that they just gave it all up by giving that freedom & that sovereignty away to the United States.

The U.S. massively violated the agreement that they made with Mikhail Gorbachev in which Gorbachev agreed to allow the breakup of the old SU as long as the U.S. & NATO promised to make no attempt to encroach upon these new nations either politically or militarily. Both Clinton, Bush and Obama have violated this agreement big-time.
-66 # Above God 2013-05-02 17:41
Limberly Could Have Done Her 10 Months In The Brig But Instead Deserted And Is Now A Conscientious Objector. Canada Can Have This Traitor. A Firing Squad Would Set A Good Example.
+32 # Smiley 2013-05-02 18:18
People of conscience who act on it go to prison. People of no conscience run the country.
+9 # Hexalpa 2013-05-02 19:15
Do not pillory our Canadian brothers and sisters because of what one Troglodyte P.M. has managed to do. Remember, it was just a few short years ago we had our own Troglodyte Chief-of-State in "Dubya". We certainly wouldn't want our people... our nation... judged solely based upon HIS performance in office. I suspect most Canadians are heartsick over what their las election produced. Canada is our Last, Best Hope. Our refuge in times of trouble. Just because "it didn't work this time" shouldn't cause us to "take our eyes off the prize" of personal freedom.
+12 # conormax 2013-05-02 20:16
Lets get NOW involved also...this is absolutely ridiculous. You got Bush trying to rewrite history by insisting Iraq had WMD's. Why isn't he being prosecuted instead of an honest objector who knew in her conscience that the war was wrong. History has proven it, why isn't she being defended in a civil trial with a group of young attorneys fighting for justice?
+5 # cafetomo 2013-05-03 03:07
When we hold these people up as examples, the system does the same. In their own special way, of course. These examples may have been poor and ignorant, but not stupid. They discern truth as well as any, when it comes to light. But in the military. You are not allowed your own moral compass.

We possess only the most utterly sanitized version of what is actually going on, despite our illusions of connectedness to information, it is not the same as being connected to people. Personally. Returning soldiers are a rare chance to rectify this, but we see them in abstract terms of re-assimilation or sympathy.

Economic desperation causes most to enter the pact of enlistment. When the devil tricks us we may feel bound by his terms, but when he lies outright, he does not abide by his own.

I'll bet they'd rather both be back in Texas, working at Walmart, trying to live off food stamps.

Even that would suck less.
+6 # kalpal 2013-05-03 09:58
There are certain people you must never trust in the military. Foremost are the clerics who deny that anything Jesus said is of value or applicable when you are in the military. Sign on the line and forfeit your life.
+8 # angelfish 2013-05-03 12:13
The thing that REALLY irks me is the Mean-Spirited and Punitive aspect of this entire decision! This young woman served honorably until she had her "Epiphany". WHO does it serve to punish her in this way? She has young children who are also being penalized. The entire fiasco makes me ashamed to be an American. The "military Chaplain" should be unfrocked and her advisers, demoted!
+2 # Polar Bear 2013-05-05 15:38
Thanks to people like James Branum,her lawyer..He definitely is not in it for the money
+2 # LAellie33 2013-05-06 04:08
This is sickening. The war was a fraud. Bush, Cheney, and the rest should be in prison....not her.

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