FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Private Refused to Fight in "Dehumanizing" War

by JONATHAN FRANKLIN

US army private Jeremy Hinzman fought in Afghanistan and considers himself a patriot. But when his unit was ordered to Iraq, he refused to go and embarked on a radical journey that could make legal history.

Private first class Hinzman left the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, taking his wife and son to Canada. Officially, he is awol (absent without leave), and, instead of fighting insurgents, he is battling the US military in the Canadian courts.

This month Pte Hinzman, 25, filed legal papers to become the first US soldier objecting to the Iraq war to be granted refugee status in Canada. His case is expected to be a test of new Canadian immigration laws and the country’s traditional role of accepting refugees from the US military.

An estimated 250 Americans every year seek refugee status in Canada, the vast majority making mental health claims, according to Jeffrey House, a Toronto criminal defence lawyer who represents Pte Hinzman.

“This is the first time a soldier from the Iraq war is seeking protection. He does not want to fight in Iraq and he will do any lawful thing to stay in Canada.”

If he returns to the US, Pte Hinzman could be prosecuted as a deserter, according to Sergeant Pam Smith, a spokes woman for the 82nd Airborne. “We don’t have time to go and track down people who go awol,” she told the Associated Press. “We’re fighting a war.”

On the telephone from Toronto, Pte Hinzman said: “I signed up to defend my country, not carry out acts of aggression.”

He hopes other soldiers will refuse to serve in Iraq and come to Canada: “I think I am the first, but I encourage others to do the same. I do not want to sound seditious, but there is strength in numbers.”

Pte Hinzman told the Fayetteville Observer that he had liked the subsidised housing and groceries offered by the army and the promises of money for college. “It seemed like a good financial decision,” he said. “I had a romantic vision of what the army was.”

From the start of basic training, he was upset by the continuous chanting about blood and killing, and what he called the dehumanisation of the enemy. “It’s like watching some kind of scary movie, except I was in it,” he said.

“People would just walk around saying things like ‘I want to kill somebody’.”

Human rights lawyers and religious counsellors in the US predict that the case is the start of a huge wave of protests and legal moves by military personnel and their families.

Volunteers at the GI Rights Hotline, a legal aid centre for soldiers, are receiving about 3,500 calls a month from military personnel looking to leave the armed forces.

With a growing number of dead and wounded, the Pentagon is struggling to maintain troop levels in Iraq. Nearly 40% of those now deployed are national guard or reserve troops. “These guys are not going to re-enlist, that is for sure,” said Giorgio DeShaun Ra’Shadd, a lawyer in Centennial, Colorado, who represents several military families. “Soldiers are fighting to get out of the service.”

In late January the Pentagon cancelled retirement dates for an estimated 40,000 soldiers. This unilateral move postpones soldiers’ return to civilian life.

Military families erupted in protest at the decision and immediately launched websites and demonstrations.

“Can the US president with the signature of a pen indenture tens of thousands of US citizens? That is the question we are now investigating,” said Luke Hiken, a lawyer in San Francisco. “This is a tremendous militarisation of civilian families. Soldiers are now being asked to stay for two more years. This takes civilian families and turns them into military families.”

Based on his work with US military personnel in Germany, Mr Hiken estimates that there are “thousands” of soldiers who want to escape from Iraq. “When they brought them home for vacation in the US, about 15%-20% simply never went back. They stayed with their families.”

Pte Hinzman said his family was part of his reason for going awol.

“I vowed to myself, to my wife and son, that I would not go to Iraq. To me it was a war fought on false pretenses. Dr Blix [the former chief UN weapons inspector] went time and time again [to Iraq] and he said there are no weapons of mass destruction.

“They are exploiting the events of September 11, based on greed and our need for oil.”

JONATHAN FRANKLIN writes for The Guardian of London.

 

 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

July 20, 2017
Sebastian Friedrich – Gabriel Kuhn
A New Class Politics
Patrick Cockburn
The Massacre of Mosul: More Than 40,000 Civilians Feared Dead
Paul Street
The Abandonment: Reflections on James Foreman’s “Locking Up Our Own”
Kim Codella
A Practical Education
Frank Scott
America’s Trump, Not Trump’s America
Louis Proyect
Clancy Sigal Goes Away
Don Monkerud
The Real Treason in DC: Turning Our Lives Over to Corporate
Brian Dew – Dean Baker
Are Amazon’s Shareholders Suckers?
Ralph Nader
Detecting What Unravels Our Society – Bottom-up and Top-down
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Covering Islam, Post-Jack Shaheen
Binoy Kampmark
Uhlmann’s Trump Problem
Patrick Walker
In Defense of Caitlin Johnstone
Barry Lando
Those Secret Putin-Trump Talks
Sean Marquis
Thank You, Donald Trump
July 19, 2017
Adam Ziemkowski and Rebekah Liebermann
How Seattle Voted to Tax the Rich
Patrick Cockburn
Why ISIS Fighters are Being Thrown Off Buildings in Mosul
John W. Whitehead
Zombies R Us: the Walking Dead of the American Police State
Mateo Pimentel
Net Neutrality’s Missing Persons
Adil E. Shamoo - Bonnie Bricker
Yemen Policy is Creating More Terrorists
L. Ali Khan
U.S. Misreads Pakistan’s Antifragility
David Macaray
Fear and Trembling in the Workplace
Brian Trautman, Gerry Condon and Samantha Ferguson
Veterans Call on U.S. to Sign Nuclear Ban Treaty
Binoy Kampmark
Militarising Civilian Life: Australia, Policing and Terrorism
Ricardo Vaz
Venezuelan Opposition “Consultation”: Playing Alone and Losing
Jesse Jackson
Trump’s Cold-Hearted Agenda is Immoral
Raul Castro
We will Continue to Advance Along the Path Freely Chosen by Our People
July 18, 2017
James Bovard
Obama’s AWOL Anti-War Protesters
Gary Leupp
CNN: “Russia is an Adversary, Ukraine is Not.”
Ryan Shah
Beware the Radical Center
John Carroll Md
Cold Hands Don’t Need Narcotics
Derrick Jensen
Endangered Species Don’t Need an Ark – They Need a Living Planet!
Kenneth Surin
Brief Impressions of the Canadian Conjucture
Arturo Lopez-Levy
Trump’s Cuba Restrictions: a Detour, Not the Future
Russell Mokhiber
State Street Bentley University Business Ethics and Corporate Crime
Laura Finley
Being Too Much
Robert J. Gould
What is Our Experience of our Flawed Democracy?
Taju Tijani
The Burden of Indivisible Nigeria
Guillaume Pitron
China Now Leads in Renewables
Ted Rall
How I Learned Courts are Off-Limits to the 99 Percent
Binoy Kampmark
Militarising Civilian Life: Australia, Policing and Terrorism
July 17, 2017
Gregory Wilpert
Time for the “International Left” to Take a Stand on Venezuela
Gary Leupp
Trump’s Embrace of the Saudi Crown Prince, and a Qatar Nightmare Scenario
Thomas Hon Wing Polin
Liu Xiaobo: the West’s Model Chinese
Terry Simons
Why I Did Not Go to Vietnam
Jim Green
Nuclear Power’s Annus Horribilus
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail