The news that Jeremy Hinzman was ordered deported from Canada struck like lightning! Hinzman, a 29-year-old war resister who has been living in Canada since 2004 lost his bid to remain in Canada by way of a decision of Canada’s Border Services Agency. The agency found that Hinzman did not qualify for compassionate or humanitarian consideration in his bid to remain in Canada.
Hinzman’s story is not all that different from many other war resisters. He joined the Army out of a sense of adventure and to get money for college. Like many others, when he heard the chant “Trained to kill! Kill we will!” in basic training he was revolted and sought a way out.
Hinzman applied twice for conscientious objector status. The first application was lost and the second one was denied. While waiting for a decision on his second application for C.O. status he was sent to Afghanistan and fled the military when he learned he would soon be deployed to Iraq. He fled to Canada. If Hinzman is convicted by court martial, which is likely given the public nature of his case, he faces a five-year prison sentence. It seems that the Canadian government gives more consideration to war resisters who have already served in Iraq, a fact that was not good news for Hinzman.
It is not so strange that Jeremy Hinzman’s case brings back so many memories. When I visited with war resisters in Montreal in early 1970, I had just returned from basic training in Georgia. The chants of “Charley,” and “Gooks,” both pejorative references to the Vietnamese, were fresh in my mind. The recruit who shot his foot off rather than a certain deployment to Vietnam was equally disquieting. The knowledge of war atrocities on the part of the U.S. was widely known.
The major difference between 1970 and the present is that Pierre Trudeau, then the liberal prime minister of Canada, had declared that nation a haven from “militarism.” The present government of Canada is now led by the conservative Stephen Harper, who contrary to public opinion supporting the several hundred resisters now living in Canada, cannot do enough to please U.S. President George Bush. Bush’s military record in and of itself is enough to make the entire understanding between governments both suspect and immoral.
Eventually, war resisters living in Canada in 1970 would total about 90,000 men. According to the New York Times, about 25,000 of those resisters still reside there. A total of about 209, 517 men became draft violators during the Vietnam War, and about 550,000 were military resisters.* The scene I vividly recall in the meeting room of the American Deserters Committee was gloomy, with many men wandering in during the morning I visited with them. Most still wore their green Army fatigue jackets.
All of these years later I recoil at the news that a fellow war resister will in all likelihood be deported back to the U.S. Only a final appeal can stave off that result. The U.S. continues to fight wars of aggression. Now the military is made up of volunteers, but that does not mitigate the reality that many men and women are not able to tolerate the brutality of war, its immorality and horrors, and the rude awakening that awaits many in the training process.
HOWARD LISNOFF is an educator and freelance writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
*Jordan, Harold. “What Happened to Vietnam Era War Resisters.” American Friends Service Committee, undated.