Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Seeking Asylum in O Canada!

The article below demonstrates that while there are many seeking asylum in the U.S., there are others that wish to leave the U.S. As you read the article below, remind yourself about the tensions between state and family. That is, does agreeing to military service trump your own wanting to preserve your life, or even vice-versa? Do you hold duty to yourself or to the state? Does not following law create anarchy? Is being sent by the state coupled with your unwillingness to fight in a war in which you could get killed, however likely or unlikely, reasonable grounds for human persecution? Have fun and enjoy!

Will War Deserters
Find Asylum in Canada?
February 8, 2006; Page B1
TORONTO -- Attorney Jeffry House has a simple message for the dozens of young American soldiers and Marines seeking his help staying out of Iraq: He understands exactly where they are coming from.
Mr. House had graduated from the University of Wisconsin and was working at a bank in that state when he received a draft notice for Vietnam. It was December 1969, he was 23 years old, and with a war he abhorred showing every sign of accelerating, he made his mind up quickly. Packing all his possessions into a Volkswagen Beetle, he fled to Canada, joining the thousands of young Americans streaming into the country to avoid fighting in Vietnam.
Now a prominent human-rights lawyer here, Mr. House is working to keep another generation of young Americans out of a contentious war. He is the lead attorney for Jeremy Hinzman, the first U.S. service member to formally seek political asylum in Canada because he refuses to fight in Iraq.
Mr. Hinzman's request was denied last year, but Mr. House persuaded a Canadian appellate court to rehear the case, as well as that of a second deserter, Brandon Hughey, today. Authorities in Canada and the U.S. say that a ruling in the two men's favor could trigger similar applications from American deserters living secretly in Canada -- a group of about 200, according to estimates of Mr. House, among others.
The case is putting the spotlight back on one of the Vietnam era's most divisive dramas -- the mass flight north of an estimated 50,000 young men seeking to avoid serving in the military. Indeed, Mr. Hinzman's biggest supporters come from the thousands of Americans who remained in Canada when the war ended.
The Toronto-based War Resisters Support Campaign -- which is paying some of Mr. House's legal fees and petitioning the Canadian government on behalf of Mr. Hinzman and the other deserters -- is led by a Vietnam deserter and counts numerous others among its membership. At a recent meeting to plan rallies for the day of the protest, one aging deserter wore a T-shirt that said, "Resisting U.S. Wars: A Canadian Tradition."
But there are major differences between Mr. Hinzman's case and those who resisted the Vietnam War. Because the war in Southeast Asia took place while the draft was in effect, deserters could claim they had fled to avoid being forced into service they had neither sought nor agreed to fulfill. Today's military is an all-volunteer force, which means that all of Mr. House's clients willingly agreed to serve. That has led to a healthy degree of skepticism about the deserters' true motivations even in Canada, a place where antiwar feelings run deep and the Iraq war is deeply unpopular.
The Hinzman case has infuriated many Americans, who say that members of a voluntary military have no right to pick which orders they will follow. Some critics note that the volunteers sign an "enlistment contract" that details terms of service and includes an oath to obey orders. Fox News anchor Bill O'Reilly has advocated a boycott of Canadian-made goods if Canada doesn't send deserters back to the U.S. to stand trial.
Mr. House, who considers the Iraq war to be unlawful, because it was started without the United Nations' sanction, and immoral, is at the intersection of both generations of American war resisters. He represents 11 other military-service people with cases similar to that of Mr. Hinzman and has met with a total of 94 deserters who were steered to him by Quaker churches and other groups. He sees an increase in phone calls and emails whenever a U.S. military unit gets a call-up notice for Iraq, and says jittery soldiers sometimes fly to Canada to talk to him about asylum.
U.S. Army deserter Jeremy Hinzman and son Liam at a recent meeting of war resisters in Toronto.
Mr. Hinzman's petition to remain in Canada was denied last March by the government's Immigration and Refugee Board, which ruled that the punishment he faced in the U.S. didn't rise to the level of persecution necessary for gaining asylum. (Under U.S. law, desertion in wartime technically carries the death penalty, although that was last used in World War II. More commonly, deserters forfeit all of their service pay since their enlistment and serve as long as five years in prison.)
The board refused to wade into the politically sensitive area of the war's legality, deeming the question irrelevant. In challenging the ruling, Mr. House hopes the appeals court will order the board to take the legality of the war into account. "The case law in Canada and throughout the world says that soldiers can't be forced to take part in an illegal war," he says.
It is unclear how many Americans are actively avoiding service in Iraq. According to the Pentagon, 110 service members from the various branches of the armed forces filed conscientious-objector requests in 2004, four times the number in 2000, with slightly less than half being granted.
Approximately 6,000 military personnel have deserted since the U.S. invaded Iraq in March 2003. It isn't known how many were captured or turned themselves in. Of those that were, some were sent on to Iraq, while others were court-martialed and received punishments ranging from dishonorable discharges to short prison sentences.
In Mr. House, the deserters find both an advocate and a kindred spirit. His own flight north was spurred by his increasing doubts about the justification for the Vietnam War. He didn't tell his parents until the night before he left. His father, a World War II veteran, angrily knocked a plate onto the floor, while his mother ran into her bedroom and cried.
When U.S. forces poured into Iraq in 2003, Mr. House didn't think it would have any impact on his life. "It had literally never occurred to me that there might be American deserters until Jeremy's head poked through my office door," he says.
Mr. Hinzman, 27, arrived in Canada in January 2004 after an 18-hour drive from North Carolina's Fort Bragg, where his unit, the 82nd Airborne Division, was preparing to deploy to Iraq. A lanky South Dakota native, Mr. Hinzman enlisted in the Army in 2000 seeking money for college and a chance to do something bigger with his life. To the men around him, he was a model soldier. Inside, however, he says he was tormented by doubts about whether killing was ever justified.
Married to a Buddhist, Mr. Hinzman says he and his wife discussed her faith's pacifist tenets. He says she was strongly in favor of his leaving the Army but denies that he left because of family pressure. "I respect the soldierly ethos, but I didn't want to lose my humanity," he says.
In the summer and fall of 2002, Mr. Hinzman filed for conscientious-objector status that would have kept him in the Army as a noncombatant; nothing came of the applications. His unit was sent to Afghanistan a short time later, and an officer from the unit conducted a hearing on his application at the Kandahar air base.
Under questioning, Mr. Hinzman conceded that while he wouldn't want to take part in offensive operations, "it would be my duty to defend this airfield if it were attacked," according to a transcript of the hearing. The officer cited Mr. Hinzman's willingness to fight in his recommendation that Mr. Hinzman's application be denied.
In July 2003, the unit was sent back to the U.S. and received its call-up orders for Iraq in December. On New Year's Day, Mr. Hinzman was ordered to report to the base to repair and inventory rifles. He did what he was told but afterward left his uniform and equipment at the base, along with a note explaining his reasons for deserting, and set out for Canada with his wife and son on Jan. 2.
Mr. Hinzman's first stop was at a Quaker church in downtown Toronto, where worshippers suggested he speak to Mr. House, who had done work for the church. The two men met a few days later.
Today, the Hinzmans live on a tree-lined street in a working-class part of the city. Unable to gain acceptance to college until his case is settled, he works as a bike messenger. A ruling on his case is expected in a couple of months.

1 comment:

zahra said...

i am very comfused about this issue about the american soldiers and whether they have the right to choose not to go to war or not.
i want to say however, that i do not support this war in iraq, but, that is not the basis of my comment. i feel that if one signs a statement that they are to obey orders, even if it is to got to war, then i feel that they should. they knew what they were getting into. on the other hand, why should one fight in war that they do not support? also, a lot of the people that do sign up do it so that they can attend college, which is something that is almost mandatory if one wants to get a decent job these days.

therefore, i dont know how i feel about these people seeking asylum in canada - part of me supports it because if they do not support the war , why should they fight. on the other hand, if they signed a statement knowing what they might be faced with -then suck it up and deal with it.