Monday, April 09, 2007

Perspective: Army Is Cracking Down on Deserters

Jeremy Hinzman is a former United States Army private from the 82nd Airborne Division in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. In January of 2004, he fled the United States as one of nine American deserters openly seeking refugee status in Canada. On March 24, 2005 an immigration panel rejected Hinzman's claim, determining that he was not a conscientious objector and was thus ineligible for refugee status. His case is now before Canada's Federal Court of Appeal.

Army prosecutions of desertion and other unauthorized absences have risen sharply in the last four years, resulting in thousands more negative discharges and prison time for both junior soldiers and combat-tested veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Army records show.

The increased prosecutions are meant to serve as a deterrent to a growing number of soldiers who are ambivalent about heading — or heading back — to Iraq and may be looking for a way out, several Army lawyers said in interviews. Using courts-martial for these violations, which before 2002 were treated mostly as unpunished nuisances, is a sign that active-duty forces are being stretched to their limits, military lawyers and mental health experts said.

Read the rest at the NY Times