Should He Stay or Should He Go

Monday, December 13, 2004

  • Hinzman


Written by Kyle Lambert

U.S. Army Private Jeremy Hinzman has applied for refugee status in Canada on the grounds that if he returns to the United States, he risks prosecution as a deserter, as well as a number of other potential problems. First off, I empathize greatly with Mr. Hinzman. He says that he entered the army based on false pretences, a storybook vision of the military that is presented by recruiters. His goal was to earn money to pay for college tuition, one of the main recruitment tools used by the military. However, Mr. Hinzman says that he soon realized that his visions of the armed services were far different from what has called a “dehumanizing” reality.

One of the greatest tragedies of the Iraq war is that those who are gaining from it are not those who are dying. Most U.S. soldiers come from poor backgrounds and enlist because the idea of three meals/day, housing, and a decent wage is a little better that working for next to nothing in a ghettoized setting. Those who are getting the very short end of the stick when it comes to the Bush regime’s policies are those who are enacting his will on the front lines of the battlefield. Mr. Hinzman, it seems, is part of that tragedy.

Mr. Hinzman’s arguments that the Iraq war is happening out of greed and a thirst for oil will certainly not be countered here. His distaste for the dehumanizing aspect of military service is also something that likely draws many away from enlisting, that and the fear of potential going into battle of course. Yet, where I will disagree with Mr. Hinzman is on his overall logic for wanting refugee status.

While his family’s economic situation may have led him to enlisting in the military, he was never forced to join up. From everything he’s said, I don’t think Jeremy Hinzman is a fool. He must have known the ultimate risk of joining the army, the risk of being sent into battle and having to risk his life following orders, whether he agreed with them or not. That is the way it works in the military. While I, and many Canadians apparently, believe that Jeremy Hinzman should have been allowed to leave the army because he objected to the Iraq war, that is not my decision to make. When he signed up for service, Jeremy Hinzman essentially signed away that decision-making power to the U.S. military.

Another argument against his claim is that on behalf of the thousands of refugee claimants that are rejected each year by Canadian Citizenship and Immigration department. Those who seek refugee status are, I would argue, all more than likely of facing violent persecution in their home country. Yet, despite that knowledge, many are turned away each year because we simply can’t afford to bring in every person who claims refugee status. It is a horrible choice to have to make, but although it is not government policy to say so, such decisions are made.

Should Jeremy Hinzman be granted refugee status while thousands from much unfriendlier places than the United States of America are turned away? I don’t think so. If those rejected refugee claims are taken into account, many of which quite likely are the result of a fear of forced military service, how can allowing Jeremy Hinzman to claim refugee status be anything more than a political statement against the United States. Rejecting his claim should not be based on a fear of pissing off Americans, but accepting it should not be about a political statement to the other effect.

To all those who are certainly disagreeing with my position by now: The Iraq war is wrong. Having young men and women enlist in the military because they have very few other options is wrong. Accepting an American refugee who made a conscious decision to enter the army over thousands who face very real persecution in their homelands is also wrong. If you believe that all refugee claims should be accepted, that is another matter, one that would involve much more than a rubber stamp. However, under our current system, it is not the case.

One final argument, Jeremy Hinzman said, according to an article published February 21, 2004, by the Guardian/UK, that he fought in Afghanistan and considers himself a patriot. The war in Afghanistan was as much about resource exploitation as that in Iraq, it was just less obvious. However, the natural gas pipeline over which the conflict was really fought is very much a reality. Jeremy Hinzman hasn’t expressed concern over that unjust war. So what suddenly gives about Iraq? While I do not envy that position of Mr. Hinzman or his family, his decision to enlist in the U.S. military and its subsequent actions should not be the grounds for claiming refugee status in Canada.

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