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Iraq War Deserters Seeking Sanctuary In Canada


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#1 MaraM

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Posted 07 October 2006 - 12:28 AM

I was reading the below news segment and although I was only a young teenager at the time, it brought back so many memories of the Vietnam War.

Perhaps the Iraq war (or Peace Keeping Mission, in the case of Canadians) is truly just a later version of the agony the Vietnam War caused? I truly don't know, but my heart weeps for all the soldiers fighting - and all those that don't believe in it, too. No easy answers, but lots of agony. Sigh.

(Quote)
New documentary profiles Iraq war deserters seeking sanctuary in Canada
NELSON WYATT

MONTREAL (CP) - Kyle Snyder just wants to live like a regular 22-year-old. But right now he's fighting to gain asylum in Canada after deserting from the U.S. military in Iraq because he felt he was fighting an unjust war.

"I would rather take jail than go back to Iraq and fight for something that I don't believe in," he said in a telephone interview from Alberta where he is awaiting his first refugee board hearing. "If I could avoid jail, that's what I'm going to do and I'm going to do whatever it takes to do that."

Snyder is one of the deserters profiled in Breaking Ranks, a new documentary by Vancouver-based filmmaker Michelle Mason, which looks at the lives of four Iraq war resisters who want to be taken in by Canada.

The film premieres Wednesday at the Montreal World Film Festival and will be shown in Calgary and Vancouver before being broadcast on Global TV on Oct. 7.

Mason got the idea for the documentary while promoting her last film The Friendship Village, which was an account of reconciliation between American and Vietnamese veterans.

She had planned to do a film about draft dodgers in the Vietnam War but that project was turned on its head when Jeremy Hinzman became the first deserter from Iraq to seek refugee status in Canada in 2004, just as she began her research.

"I realized that was the story to pursue," she said.

Hinzman is also profiled in her film along with Snyder and fellow deserters Joshua Key and Brandon Hughey.

During the year that she followed the four men around with her camera crew, Mason found that things have changed since Canada welcomed tens of thousands of draft dodgers and deserters during the Vietnam War in the 1960s and '70s.

Opinions may be just as polarized over Iraq as they were over Vietnam but immigration rules are tighter and Canada has troops backing U.S. forces in Afghanistan, making the crisis of conscience of deserters a black and white issue to some.

While the political element is key to Mason's film, its main objective is to put a human face on the war resisters.

"It seemed like the best way through was really just to tell their story in their words and kind of leave it to the audiences to determine what they thought about it all," said Mason.

Snyder was trained as a landscaper after a troubled and abusive childhood that landed him in foster care. After completing his high-school equivalency, he was recruited for the U.S. army, which he thought would have him serving in the engineers as a heavy construction equipment operator.

"I originally joined because I wanted to start a family, I wanted to basically start a life," he said.

"I couldn't start a life in the military. I wanted to reconstruct roads, I wanted to build foundations for the country that we had bombed and it was nothing like that.

"I always tell people if I wanted to be an infantryman, I would have signed up as an infantryman."

Instead of driving bulldozers, Snyder found himself behind a .50-calibre machine-gun in the turret of a Humvee.

Snyder said he heard fellow troops raising questions about the war as he headed to Iraq in 2005 and said when he got there he found a bunch of twentysomethings who didn't know why they were there or what they were supposed to do.

Those questions deepened when the soldiers found themselves fighting heavily armed teenagers or people Snyder described as protecting their homes against occupiers.

"Every time we were told to talk to the media or something like that we would have to tell them our mission in Iraq is to liberate the Iraqi people," he said. "It kind of got old, really old when you're explaining that to people and you don't really believe it yourself."

Snyder quoted Pentagon figures saying that about 40,000 of the United States' 200,000-person military have deserted.

Mason said people's views of why they serve their country is one of the key aspects in the film.

"We have a very altruistic notion of military service but what I found in the course of researching and making this film is that things aren't so cut and dried in terms of why people enlist to serve in the military," said the filmmaker whose husband was a conscientious objector during the Cold War. He was released from the U.S. military during troop reductions after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

"The reality is that most of them come from poor and working class backgrounds and the military in the United States is really the only form of universal health care and education so that kind of starts to call into question the notion of the all-volunteer military."

Snyder, who says he has received support from some of the members of his unit, hopes to get other people to speak out against the war. And he denies he's a coward.

"I think everybody's scared out there," he said. "I would be lying to you if I said I wasn't scared. But the reason for me coming to Canada had nothing to do with that. I would be willing to fight in a different war if I believed in it."

And he can see the other side.

"I just want to show people that I'm a human being and I should be able to make moral decisions. Anybody should be able to make moral decisions.

"Basically all I'm trying to show people is, look, just because I don't believe what you believe doesn't mean I'm the scum of the earth."

The Canadian Press, 2006 (Unquote)
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#2 Wildabeast

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Posted 07 October 2006 - 11:28 PM

I remember the VietNam war too. I was also in the Navy just after it was over. When you enlist in the armed services you sign a contract agreeing to do what you are told to do. You know going in that if there is a war, justified or not, that you have agreed to do what you are told to do in that war. If you don't want to fight in a war, or as in the early Viet Nam, police action, then don't go in the military.
I'm not saying that the war in Iraq is justified, just that the military does not lie when it comes to this thing. If you don't agree, don't sign up.
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#3 kbk

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Posted 08 October 2006 - 10:46 AM

I don't think the war is justified, but the fact of the matter is that we're there, and we're not just going to be able to leave. If we did that, we would basically be admitting defeat, the insurgents would win, and we would be humiliated. I don't know about ya'll, but I don't want to see this country get humiliated like that. I know that all the leftists in this country would love to see us leave and fail so that they could shove it in the republican's faces, they clearly don't care about this countries image at all.. (This is my personal opinion, I'm sure there are those of you who would dissagree..)
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#4 no one

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Posted 08 October 2006 - 12:08 PM

I signed up my junior year of high school for the Marines.(a few years after VietNam) I was in the NG a few years after that, WTH did they think they were signing up for ? Summer Camp? If you don't feel a need to serve your country in some way , then don't, but don't waste my money(the tax payers)and the Gov's valuable time if you aint got the guts to do what you said you would and what your being paid for. JMHO

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if it's in English, Thank a Soldier.

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#5 ussr1943

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Posted 08 October 2006 - 12:48 PM

" I signed up my junior year of high school for the Marines.(a few years after VietNam) I was in the NG a few years after that, WTH did they think they were signing up for ? Summer Camp? If you don't feel a need to serve your country in some way , then don't, but don't waste my money(the tax payers)and the Gov's valuable time if you aint got the guts to do what you said you would and what your being paid for. JMHO"


HOOAH!

desertion is a traitorus act and those who are trying to get into canada should be dealt with the full extention of U.S. Federal Gov't law.
when you sign up you can't just pick and choose what war you want to go to.
the people that truely serve our country care about spread democracy and defending freedom, they arn't in it for the pay, cuz you dun get much! if you dont like the war i can see, but you signed up for it. what did you think was going to happen? and if you dont have the mind to kill a little kid who has to hold an AK-47 at hip cuz the stock is too big for his shoulder, but is willing to kill an american, then you shouldnt have signed up anyways.

Edited by ussr1943, 08 October 2006 - 12:49 PM.

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#6 KoanYorel

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Posted 08 October 2006 - 01:35 PM

It appears that Kyle Snyder has many more problems too.
One simple thing is he can't get or keep facts and figures straight.

Snyder quoted Pentagon figures saying that about 40,000 of the United States' 200,000-person military have deserted.



The real numbers are closer to this.
8,000 desert during Iraq war

And older story, but it provides some additional insight.
U.S. Soldiers Seeking Refuge In Canada May Face Serious Penalties

I respect the choice/opinions of those that don't want to serve for what ever reason they come up with.
But then one has to pay the penalty of that decision under USA law.
Evasion of a Draft call is one thing. Desertion is a more serious crime.
Jail, Brig, Stockade, Federal Pen - or leave the USA and never return.
If one would ever change their mind about returning to the USA, then they should expect to pay the full penalty according to the laws they've broken.

Bush Hunting Down Vietnam War Deserters

(I also joined a Naval Reserve component while a Junior in High School simply to avoid a 1-A draft classification. I got to choose the job speciality I was to train in too. As you might be able to discern, I served 30 years, not because I loved the military, but because I loved the special job I worked in most all of that career. I'd like to think I helped to save more lives than I might have been responsible for taking. I didn't always agree with the political bent of the time either.)
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#7 MaraM

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Posted 08 October 2006 - 02:26 PM

I agree that one should surely know what they are signing up for, but I wonder if , for some, the mental image of what war is like and the urge to serve one's country is so vastly different from reality, that they can't - literally can't - cope.

On a personal level, I feel sorry for them as the shame involved must be horrendous - not just for themselves but for their families?

Quote: "we're there, and we're not just going to be able to leave. If we did that, we would basically be admitting defeat, the insurgents would win, and we would be humiliated".

Vietman springs to mind when I read the above words - sigh.

I'm not sure either that the war "is justified" either, but more than anything, I hope that the soldiers who are fighting so hard are always offered respect and heartfelt thanks and never ever treated as some of the returning Vietnam Vets were by the citizens of their own country.

I could be wrong about this, but to me there are two types of war protesters ... those that scream for peace and condem those that are loosing their lives to provide the peace those protestors are enjoying. :thumbsup:
And those who support the soldiers, if not the government's decision to have the war and continue with it.

As for offering sactuary for deserting American soldiers here in Canada, I have mixed feelings. Sympathy for those who's reality of war is so far from their coping skills, they choose what must be an agonizing decision - and the realization along with all the Americans who have lost their lives, an additional 40 Canadian 'peace keepers' have died, as well.

War is a scary thing but I do agree, don't sign up unless you know what you're getting into. (I suspect I'd feel differently if there was a 'draft' going on, though).
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#8 MaraM

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Posted 08 October 2006 - 02:39 PM

I realize I'm wandering 'off topic' here, but may I ask something please? I feel that men and woman who are serving or have served in the armed forces are surely the ones that know - really know - what war is all about.

According to our history lessons, the bombing of Hiroshima was a horror that ended the war much sooner and saved countless allied soldiers lives.

And I often wonder if I'm being naive when I think of the old adage, "If you're going to do something, really do it - no half measures!" as something that wasn't done when it came to the Vietnam War. (And nope, I'm not advocating dropping hydrogen bombs). And in turn, perhaps soldiers feel that 'half measures' are now being used once again -in the Iraq War.

I ask this question with the greatest respect - and my sincere thanks for all the soldiers everywhere that enabled me - and continue to enable me - to, as NoOne said, write in English because of a soldier.
Never let your computer realize you are in a hurry or just typing the last few words of a vital document.

While outer events might make one happy or sad, happiness itself is entirely internal, and at all times completely within one's power.




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