[Marxism] Facing Iraq Duty, Two U.S. G.I.'s Head North to Seek Asylum

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at osu.edu
Wed Apr 7 12:07:09 MDT 2004

Jeremy Hinzman: <http://www.jeremyhinzman.net/>
Brandon Hughey: <http://www.brandonhughey.org>

*****   Facing Iraq duty, two U.S. G.I.'s head north to seek asylum
Soldiers Choose Canada
by Alisa Solomon
April 6th, 2004 11:00 AM

TORONTO -- Army private Brandon Hughey got in his silver Mustang 
around midnight on March 2, rolled past the gates at Fort Hood in 
Texas, and headed northeast. All he had to guide him was a deepening 
dread and principled objection to the war in Iraq and a promise of 
help from a complete stranger he'd found on the Internet. His unit 
was deploying to the Middle East the next morning and, as Hughey, 18, 
wrote in a February 29 e-mail to the stranger, an anti-war activist, 
"I do not want to be a pawn in the government's war for oil, and have 
told my superiors that I want out of the military. They are not 
willing to chapter me out and tell me that I have no choice but to 
pack my bags and get ready to go to Iraq. This has led me to feel 
hopeless and I have thought about suicide several times."

His heart pounding to the hip-hop beat on his radio, Hughey drove for 
17 hours straight, keeping an anxious eye on the speedometer, 
panicked that he might get pulled over. The activist met him on March 
4 in southern Indiana, stashed the Mustang (with Hughey's dog tags in 
the trunk) in Indianapolis, and took the wheel behind his own car for 
a 500-mile trip to the bridge at Niagara Falls. He gave Hughey a New 
York Knicks cap to pull on over his crew cut so the guards at the 
Canadian border would believe they were on their way to see a Toronto 
Raptors game.

Hughey did watch New York shut down Toronto in a fourth-quarter 
comeback that night -- but on TV from St. Catharines, Ontario, where 
a Quaker couple has taken him in. He is the second American soldier 
who opposes the war to have applied for refugee status in Canada. As 
the occupation in Iraq drags on, morale among soldiers plummets, and 
talk of a post-election draft heats up, their cases will determine 
whether Canada will once again welcome young Americans resisting a 
questionable war.

The first was Jeremy Hinzman, a private first class with the 504th 
Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne, who arrived in 
Toronto on January 3 with his wife, Nga Nguyen, and their 
21-month-old son, Liam. In contrast to Hughey, Hinzman engaged a 
lengthy process of pleading from within his unit for non-combat duty 
as a conscientious objector (C.O.). After his request was denied, 
Hinzman faced orders for Iraq. He and his wife crammed what they 
could into their Chevy Prizm and headed north, with their son, from 
Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Hinzman, 25, understood what he was risking: if he wins his case, 
never being able to visit the U.S. again; if he loses, being 
deported, going directly to jail with a harsh sentence. Desertion 
during wartime is a capital offense; though the last execution for a 
runaway soldier was in 1945, Hinzman worries that the penalty could 
be revived. "The Bush administration has done so many unprecedented 
things," he notes. Nonetheless, seeking sanctuary in Canada looked 
better than any alternative. Hinzman reasons, "I thought of refusing 
orders and turning myself in [as Staff Sergeant Camilo Mejia did last 
month]. But because of how they had handled my C.O. application, I 
wasn't sure I would get a fair shake. Anyway, I don't feel I should 
be incarcerated for following my conscience."

To win refugee status, Hinzman and Hughey will have to demonstrate 
that they are fleeing a well-founded fear of persecution in the U.S. 
-- an extremely tough claim. What's more, notes a former member of 
Canada's Immigration and Refugee Board, refugee law specifies that 
"prosecution is not persecution": Punishment for breaking a law is 
not grounds for asylum unless the law itself -- China's one-child 
policy, for instance -- is deemed a form of persecution.

That is the kind of argument Hinzman and Hughey's attorney, Jeffry 
House, will make before Canada's immigration board about eight weeks 
from now. Essentially, House will be putting the war itself on trial 
by contending that the U.S. wants to send these young men to jail -- 
or worse -- for choosing to comply with international law. "Rather 
than do something unthinkable or horrible as soldiers," House says, 
"they came to Canada. That's a huge step." . . .

<http://www.villagevoice.com/issues/0414/solomon.php>   *****

* Bring Them Home Now! <http://www.bringthemhomenow.org/>
* Calendars of Events in Columbus: 
<http://www.freepress.org/calendar.php>, & <http://www.cpanews.org/>
* Student International Forum: <http://sif.org.ohio-state.edu/>
* Committee for Justice in Palestine: <http://www.osudivest.org/>
* Al-Awda-Ohio: <http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Al-Awda-Ohio>
* Solidarity: <http://www.solidarity-us.org/>

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