Here is a fun story for everyone, courtesy of The Guardian, from its U.S. edition. It appears that there are approximately 15 U.S. service members who deserted the American military in the years following the start of the Iraq War in 2003. They fled to Canada, but now face possible deportation back to America for their crimes. The deserters are currently pleading with the Canadian government, under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, to allow them to remain permanently in Canada.
According to The Guardian report, approximately 200 U.S. service members deserted the American military to Canada after the latter declared it would not participate in the Iraq War. The deserters fled American military service, in which they were already enlisted, to avoid further service during the conflict. This differentiates the deserters from Vietnam-era “draft dodgers,” who fled to avoid being drafted into the U.S. military in the first place. According to The Guardian, up to 90,000 Americans sought refuge in Canada during the Vietnam War. The U.S. military today does not rely on a draft. All military members volunteer to serve.
The Canadian-based Iraq War “resisters,” as some Canadians and The Guardian refer to them, have found little support from the Canadian government. During the previous (Conservative) government, they faced active scorn, and lived under the constant threat of deportation, as the Stephen Harper government consistently denied them permanent residency status.
Now that a Liberal government is in power, some of the deserters are beseeching Trudeau to allow them to stay in Canada permanently. While Trudeau sounded conciliatory toward the deserters during his bid to become prime minister, promising compassion toward them, since ascending to that office in late 2015, Trudeau and his government have failed to deviate from the Conservative government’s policy, or to alleviate the uncertainty facing the deserters.
Further complicating matters for the Trudeau government, which is surely feeling the pressure being applied by the deserters and those who support them (pictured above), a Canadian court recently ruled that Trudeau’s government has until mid-September 2016 to decide on its policy toward the deserters. More specifically, the court ruled that Trudeau must decide whether or not he will preserve the former Conservative government’s policy or change it.
Meanwhile, 63 percent of Canadians, in a recent poll, said they favored allowing the deserters to stay in Canada. Most in the country opposed the Iraq War, thus the poll results are not surprising. It is unclear what punishments, if any, the deserters would face if they were deported back to the United States. Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), American military deserters could face a general court-martial (the most severe judicial proceeding in the U.S. military), followed by two years imprisonment, dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and demotion to the lowest possible rank.
That would assume, of course, that the U.S. military chose to prosecute the deserters to the fullest. They could also simply be dishonorably discharged and face no jail time. This author, for one, would advocate throwing the book at them. They chose to serve—until they decided not to, during wartime—and instead of fulfilling their obligation, they fled. They should accept the consequences of their decisions and face the music.