TORONTO – An American seeking to become the first US soldier granted
refugee status in Canada after refusing to serve in Iraq told immigration
officials yesterday that the Army was drilling its soldiers to think of all
Arabs and Muslims as potential terrorists.
“We were being told that it was a new kind of war, that these were evil
people and they had to be dealt with,” Pfc Jeremy Hinzman, 26, told the
Immigration and Refugee Board on the second of his three-day hearing for
“We were told that we would be going to Iraq to jack up some terrorists,”
said Hinzman, who fled from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, on January 2 and
now lives in Toronto with his 31 year-old wife, Nga Nguyen, and 2 year-old
He said US military training since Sept 11 is designed to “foster an
attitude of hatred. It gets your blood boiling to carry out the mission.”
Hinzman is arguing that the war in Iraq is illegal and fighting in it would
have made him a war criminal.
He also said he would face prosecution if forced to return to the United
States because he likely would be court-marshalled and sentenced to an Army
Immigration and Refugee Board officials noted that others who had deserted
from the military typically spent only one year in jail.
“Serving one day in prison for refusing to comply with an illegal order is
one day too long,” Hinzman told the tribunal, which likely will take
several weeks to reach its decision.
Hinzman said he enlisted for four years in 2000 to experience the army,
believing it would give him guidance and maturity. But he fled the 82nd
Airborne Division about two weeks after learning his outfit would be sent
to Iraq. Hinzman had served three years in the Army and applied for
conscientious objector status before his unit was sent to Afghanistan in
2002, but the Army told him it lost his application.
He said he wanted to fulfil his service obligation but not to participate
in combat. “The military is to fight justified wars,” said his lawyer
Jeffrey House, an American who first came to Canada as a draft dodger
during the Vietnam War”¦