Thomas Hayden, the retired California state senator, one time husband to Jane Fonda, and anti-war activist, believes that there is a humanitarian crisis within the United States and that it is Canada’s role to get involved.
Hayden has teamed up with Celeste Zappala, whose son died in Iraq last year, and Canadian human rights lawyer Jeffry House to appeal to Ottawa to establish a new category of refugees. The trio wants the Canadian government to provide work permits and opportunities for asylum and sanctuary for these new refugees. If they get their way, these new refugees will be United States military personnel who no longer wish to serve their country. Hayden has even gone as far as to claim that the dissension among US military personnel is a “humanitarian crisis”.
But can a deserter be considered a refugee simply because of their refusal to fulfill the Oath of Enlistment and the duties that they volunteered to fulfill? Is a person a refugee simply because they fear combat or dislike military service on whatever grounds? Is a person a refugee because they will surely face prosecution if they return to their own country?
Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board says no. In fact, it was only last month that U.S. Army Specialist Jeremy Hinzman lost his bid for refugee status after he had abandoned his unit because he believed the invasion of Iraq was “criminal”. This is the same Hinzman who joined the Army 10 months prior to September 11th. His job? A paratrooper in the Army’s most gung-ho unit, the 82nd airborne.
Hinzman is not a draft dodger, nor is he a refugee. The US military is a voluntary service, just as Canada's is. When Hinzman and others volunteered to serve their country, they were aware of the magnitude of the commitment and they pledged to abide by the Oath of Enlistment
. This oath is the same for all branches of the US military with the exception of the Army National Guard, who pledge to obey both the President and the Governor of the State in which they serve. With that Oath, a soldier, sailor, airman, or marine is no longer a civilian. They now serve their country and their Commander in Chief. Yes, they may not agree with the decisions made by the President, but their job is not to question those decisions, it is to follow though with them. To avoid fulfilling that volunteer duty is simply desertion and that is simply cowardice.Expat Talkback:
Should Canada create a new category of refugee particularly for US military deserters?