Some people will just never accept that the 1960s are over, said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. In the latest spasm of hippie nostalgia, as many as 500 young Americans have fled north into Canada, just as thousands did during Vietnam, to avoid being sent to fight in Iraq or Afghanistan. Like their Vietnam-era predecessors, these modern-day draft dodgers are appealing for asylum on the grounds that their conscience won’t let them fight—but there’s a problem with that argument: The U.S. no longer has a draft for them to be dodging. These deserters all volunteered for the military “knowing full well they could be sent overseas and into combat,” and only decided later that they’d made a mistake. Fortunately, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is denying the deserters asylum, and has pledged to arrest them and send them home to face justice.
Jailing me wouldn’t be justice, said Corey Glass, one of the deserters, in The Toronto Sun. When I joined the Indiana National Guard in 2002, I was told that the only way I’d see combat was “if there were troops occupying the United States.” Three years later, I was sent not to New Orleans to help Americans hurt by Hurricane Katrina but to Iraq, to fight a war that had been “started on the basis of lies” and in defiance of international law. I deserted not out of cowardice or disloyalty, but because “innocent people were being killed unjustly.” I felt duty-bound not to be part of it. Most Canadians support you, said Henry Aubin in the Montreal Gazette, and the House of Commons has even passed a resolution urging Harper “to refrain from ousting war resisters,” who shouldn’t be forced to fight in a war that was launched on the basis of their government’s lies.
Sadly, that’s not how it works, said the Los Angeles Times. When people volunteer to be soldiers, they “forfeit the right to act on their personal beliefs about the righteousness of the war they are ordered to fight.” That said, some of those seeking refuge in Canada did serve in Iraq, and are saying they decided not to go back because they saw U.S. troops mistreat civilians and prisoners and commit breaches of the Geneva Conventions. That may not justify desertion, but these soldiers deserve a full hearing. “We cannot lightly dismiss expressions of moral outrage from those who fight for us all.”