Except it’s not. In Viet Nam, it was some deserters, but also draft dodgers — young men who had no desire to serve in the military and were facing involuntary conscription. But the draft ended about 25 years ago, and we have no “draft dodgers” any more — these are all deserters, men (the ones listed here are all male) all voluntarily enlisted in the Armed Forces, and now wish to be released from their pledges.
Both governments are playing this issue pretty low-key — the US isn’t making a stink about getting them back, and Canada isn’t rushing to either grant or reject their appeals for sanctuary.
I find myself with truly mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, these men made a commitment to the military — and, by extension, their nation — to serve, and now they are having second thoughts. My first instinct is to schedule a hearing to strip them of their citizenship, and let them decide if they want to come back and fight it.
But I think the governments involved have the right idea. Simply don’t give them any more attention than absolutely necessary. The US should simply post their pictures at border crossings and keep them on the list of “wanted fugitives,” but not press for extradition. Canada shouldn’t make a fuss over them, just let them go through the normal immigration process and decide whether or not they want to keep them — or kick them out. (The Canadian judge who ruled that one of them faces “prosecution, not persecution” had it dead on.)
These guys don’t want to serve in Iraq? Fine. They’ve made that abundantly clear, and as far as I’m concerned they don’t have to. Just let them come back and face military courts on charges of desertion, serve their sentences, then get dishonorable discharges. Then let them live the rest of their lives with that black mark on their record.
Every single one of them willingly signed their enlistment papers, making a binding contract with our nation. Now they want out. There is a price to be paid for going back on your word in such matters; they just don’t want to pay it. They’d rather run away to Canada and try to claim the moral high ground.
Let them stay there — as long as Canada is willing to tolerate their stench.