Nov 16 2007
They signed up for the US army voluntarily during wartime – and then decided they’d rather live out the rest of the Iraq war in Canada. Now we’re sending them back – along with up to 300 other soldiers.
There’s no question that Iraq is a debacle. The country is a shambles and likely a terrorist breeding ground for years to come. And while the US-led multinational force in Iraq operates under a (little-publicized) UN mandate, the whole mission is under fire from the vast majority of pundits of the left and right from around the globe.
But soldiers who volunteer for the army don’t get to choose which wars they get to fight.
I do have sympathy for deserters like US Army Private Brad McCall, currently staying in Vancouver. He’ll surely be affected by the Canadian Supreme Court’s decision.
During a recent conversation with me, McCall told me of how his entire family wished he were fighting in Iraq right now instead of living up north. They won’t even talk to the guy. He is cut off from everyone he ever loved or cared about.
That’s harsh. But he must have had some inkling of what to expect. And if he does face prison time, then that will be another fairly predictable consequence of his actions.
But perhaps there is another way out: clearly, the UN-mandated and US-led NATO mission in Afghanistan has much wider support from the international community and far more support from ordinary Afghans than the Iraq mission has from Iraqis.
Could these soldiers who refuse to serve in Iraq be given the choice of volunteering for the NATO mission in Afghanistan as Canadian assets in return for full Canadian citizenship?
These soldiers don’t want to be called on to commit war crimes in Iraq. Fair enough. Would they be willing to use their war-fighting skills to help their adopted nation bear its own heavy military burden?
These soldiers need a new place to call home. Perhaps they have a way to earn it.