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Canada Rules Against AWOL Soldiers

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Jeremy Hinzman with his wife and childTwo U.S. Army deserters who fled to Canada and sought refugee status on grounds of their opposition to the war in Iraq have lost their bids to have the Supreme Court of Canada hear their cases.

The court refused to hear the appeals of Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey Thursday, who were rejected two years ago by Canada's Immigration.

The board ruled they would not be at risk of their lives if they returned to the United States, nor were they at risk of "cruel and unusual treatment or punishment."

Hinzman and Hughey deserted the U.S. Army in 2004 after learning their units were to be deployed to Iraq to fight in a war they have called immoral and illegal. The men argue that serving in Iraq would force them to commit crimes against civilians, and that they would be persecuted if forced to return to the United States.

Brandon HugheyCanadian immigration officials ruled, however, that “as mere footsoldiers,” American war resisters “could not be held responsible for the breach of international law committed by United States in going to Iraq.” Immigration authorities also ruled that “ordinary footsoldiers are not expected to make own personal assessment as to the legality of any conflict they may be called upon to fight.” They also said there is no internationally recognized right to object to particular war.

During the Vietnam war between 30,000 and 60,000 draft dogders sought sanctuary in Canada. Veterans of that fight say the atmosphere in Canada today is very different than it was during the Vietnam war.

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One of those soldiers, Army Medic Augustin Aguayo, refused to load his gun in Iraq and then escaped through a base window in Germany rather than be deployed a second time.

The Defense Department reports that 5,361 active-duty service members deserted the US Armed Forces last year. Nearly 37,000 have deserted since October 2001.
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Pacifica radio network reporter Aaron Glantz is author of the new book "How America Lost Iraq" (Tarcher/Penguin). More information at www.warcomeshome.org

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