March 25, 2005


Military deserters have been in the news lately. Most recently, a deserting soldier has been denied refugee status by Canada, as they have decided he will not face persecution or cruel and unusual punishment should he return to the United States. He would, however face a likely jail term as a deserter, even though he seems to feel the war is illegal. The strangest thing so far is a comment from the soldier's attorney, Jeffry House, "We don't believe that people should be imprisoned for doing what they believe is illegal." Read that a few times and tell me if it makes any sense. I'm hoping that the man was somehow misquoted, as what is written here effectively says that you should not have to go to jail if you thought what you were doing was illegal. So, you should only be imprisoned if you thought it was OK?

Anyhow, the point here is not to point out this attorney's mangled syntax so much as to talk about the issue at hand. In my estimation, these deserters don't have a leg to stand on. The choice to join the military is currently a voluntary one. The draft has not been in effect since Vietnam, so every soldier who is in the military is there out of his own free choice. Inherent in that choice is the decision, conscious or otherwise, that you have given up the power to decide whether a particular mission/battle/war is worth fighting or legal. If you think military service is wrong and you don't want to fight, then you should not have joined up in the first place, as it might have been peacetime when you signed the forms, but hostilities could break out at any time, as the soldiers in Iraq can surely tell you. Applying for conscientious objector status after things heat up won't fly, and it isn't, especially after you joined up on purpose.

What I think happens with some of these people is that they are trying to get some money out of the deal. The Army will pay for college and the Reserves will pay for the well known one weekend a month and two weeks a year of service. These are pretty good deals, if I say so myself, especially for people without the means to pay for college on their own and the desire to wrack up some debt to Uncle Sam. However, when there's a war on, the Army calls in its favors to you and gets some return on its investment. At least some of these deserters I would imagine were thrilled to get the cash, but less excited when the Army's special form a payback reared its head, so now they claim to be objectors or that the war is illegal. Like they always say, you can't get something for nothing.

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