October 11, 2004

BIRDS OF A FEATHER:

American Deserters Find a Mixed Reception in Canada: A Few Iraq War Objectors Follow Well-Worn Path of Vietnam Era (Doug Struck, October 11, 2004, Washington Post)

Jeremy Hinzman enlisted in the Army in Boston, did a tour in Afghanistan and prepared for elite Ranger school. Then came orders to go to Iraq. He neatly piled his Army gear in his living room at Fort Bragg and fled to Canada with his wife and baby.

"No matter how much I wanted to, I could not convince myself that killing someone was ever right," Hinzman, 25, said in an interview here.

Spec. Hinzman is a deserter, one of at least four who have followed the path of Vietnam War resisters a generation ago to seek refuge in Canada. Here, they have been embraced by many from that time -- former peaceniks who are now pillars of the community.

The government is less welcoming. Despite Canada's opposition to the Iraq war, the government also is opposing the deserters' refugee applications, saying the soldiers are not persecuted. It is resisting the argument that the Iraq war is illegal.

"Canada is worried if they grant us refugee status, others would come up," said Hinzman.

The deserters in Canada provoke anger in the United States among people who argue they are shirking a duty to which they willingly agreed. "There's no draft. These people volunteered for the military," said Jerry Newberry, a spokesman of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in St. Louis. "These people want to have their cake and eat it, too."


Can't blame them though for thinking they'd be welcome there.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 11, 2004 4:20 PM
Comments

What a wonderful opportunity for the French to lend assistance.

Posted by: luciferous at October 11, 2004 4:50 PM

This same guy got written up a few months ago--I remember the Vietnamese wife.

Couldn't they find another chicke--er, war objector to write about? There must be at least a dozen.

Posted by: Mike Morley at October 11, 2004 4:55 PM

We could assist them in their quest to remain in Canada if we promised to seek the death penalty if they are convicted of desertion. Sounds like a win/win to me.

Posted by: David Cohen at October 11, 2004 4:55 PM

Oh boy. More craft fairs.

Why do these guys always describe the border crossing as if they had just cut through the Berlin Wall or were slaves on the Underground Railroad? Sanctuary in a Quaker House? Give me a break. A good piss-up in a sports bar is more likely.

However, in the interests of historical truth, the article is wrong. Canada never "welcomed" draft dodgers. In 1967 or 68, the government under Pearson simply decided that selective service status would not be a factor in immigration applications--then much easier than now. Forgive me, but that is not an ipso facto unfriendly act. Would the U.S. refuse an immigrant from Germany, Sweden or Israel on the grounds that he was still liable for service at home? Frankly, I don't recall it being as much of an issue with Americans, even conservative politicians, as it is now.

Desertion was something very different and I frankly can't remember exactly how that story went. I could be wrong, but I don't think deserters were scott-free at all. I'm also a little doubtful Trudeau would have ever said we were a refuge from "militarism", not because he wouldn't have wanted to, but because that doesn't strike me as 1969 language and he would have been creamed if he had. The World War Two generation was still very much in charge.

Posted by: Peter B at October 11, 2004 5:37 PM

PeterB,

You mean that Canadian World War II generation that exempted Quebecois from the draft and engaged in riots in Montreal where they would chant 'Mort aux Juifs?'

Posted by: Bart at October 11, 2004 6:53 PM

Good of the Post to print this story the day after the story about declining morale amongst Marines in Iraq. Good thing the Post is keeping morale high on the home front.

Anyone seen any stories in the Post about heroism in battle over the last 18 months? You know, people fighting for their country out of honor, obligation and love? Well, other than Jessica Lynch, I mean.

Any articles about Capt. Brian Chontosh?

Or Sgt. Paul Smith?

Or PFC Christopher Fernandez?

No, of course not.

Oh, wait--I thought of one: Lt. John F. Kerry.

Posted by: jsmith at October 11, 2004 7:27 PM

Bart:

Back to your history books, please. What exemption?

Posted by: Peter B at October 11, 2004 8:02 PM

Maurice Duplessis forced through an exemption so that the government would get his party's support. Of course, the anti-Jewish riots were encouraged by M. Duplessis' bully-boys and by the anti-semite Mackenzie King.

Posted by: Bart at October 11, 2004 8:18 PM

Bart, where do you pick up this drivel?

Duplessis was not premier until 1944 and there was no exemption. He was a Union Nationale "bleu" who despised and was despised by the Liberals, who were in Ottawa throughout the war and were hardly looking for his support. They were looking for his defeat. Quebec at the time was ultramontane, pacifist and xenophobic, and there were indeed crypto-fascist, anti-semitic student movements inspired by Mussolini and Franco that marched in the streets before the war in small numbers calling for all manner of things that didn't happen. They were about as determinative as Father Coughlin. You may not have heard, but Canada fought Germany rather forcefully. Do you really think English-Canadians would have sat back and watched their sons sent to die in Europe while Quebec took a pass?

The draft was indeed unpopular in Quebec, which is why it wasn't implemented until later in the war, but there was no exemption.

Geez, man, with anti-semitism on the rise around the world for reasons very different than in the past, you'd think we could do better than try and beat the drum for a distorted history. Wanna answer for American conservative values from that era?

Posted by: Peter B at October 11, 2004 8:44 PM

I remember reading about this several years ago and I will have to look into it, because I do take facts seriously. When I was last in Quebec City a few years ago, I saw the statue of Duplessis which makes a reference to his fight against compulsory military service for Quebecois during WWII.

Mordechai Richler's description of the riots makes them sound a lot more serious than you make them out to be.

Posted by: Bart at October 11, 2004 8:56 PM

When Canada goes to war with Denmark where will the Canadian deserters go? Cuba?

Posted by: carter at October 12, 2004 1:42 AM

Carter:

Hanover, N.H. Can't think of a place where they'd be more welcome.

Bart:

Oh, he fought it, all right, but he lost. I'm not going to pooh-pooh the riots or Quebec's anti-semitism, but do you mock America's war effort because of the KKK or anti-semitic bullying in the immigrant communities of NYC? Richler's accounts are chilling, but the man did make Quebec his home most of his life. If you were a Montreal Jew watching it happen, it was terrifying, (but, in truth, more threatening than damaging) but compared to what was going on elsewhere, it was minor and, most importantly, unpopular. King was a weak jerk who did nothing to help Jews and probably didn't care, but it is ridiculous to suggest he was an active anti-semite who encouraged riots. I don't even think Duplessis was that.

The reason I am going on about all this is that I am angry when the anti-semitic, anti-Israeli acts of today, like the Montreal school bombing and Concordia riots, are dismissed by the progressive community as just a re-emergence of dormant historical trends they blame solely on long-dead traditionalists or religious thinking. They wring their hands, go on candlelight marches, blame a religious influence that has long disappeared, and then call for more anti-hate legislation and a fairer deal for the Palestinians. It is fine to know one's history, but modern types tend to use history as a teflon shield--seeing themselves as blameless because they insist modern evils all stem only from historical creeds and beliefs they reject. It doesn't help when we aid and abet them by painting pre-war Quebec as akin to pre-war Europe.

Posted by: Peter B at October 12, 2004 6:38 AM

It's absurd to think that a man who joined the US Army and applied for Ranger School was a pacifist before he got orders to Iraq.
Further, if Spc. Hinzman abhors killing, why did he serve a tour in Afghanistan, where he supported those who killed ?

Perhaps in his mind, Iraqis are human, and Afghanis are the Other.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at October 12, 2004 7:09 AM

Irving Abella in None Is Too Many has gone into great detail about King's Jew-hatred.

The recent riots at Concordia and the public statements of Svend Robinson and others are merely Canada returning to form, not anything new.

Posted by: Bart at October 12, 2004 11:23 AM

You mean that the U.S. Army Ranger School isn't a haven for pacifists and draft dodgers? Who knew?

Posted by: jefferson park at October 12, 2004 3:23 PM
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