Friday, July 27, 2007

Perspective: Flights of conscience

Then and Now: Phillip McDowell in Iraq and as he awaits word on his asylum request in Canada.

Phil McDowell is, depending on your view, a deserter, a resister or a traitor; one of thousands of American soldiers who have quit their posts prematurely since the September 11 attacks plunged their country into a brutal, bloody war. A handful have departed the military legally, winning their cases as conscientious objectors. Some have taken drugs and tried to get caught; others have “come out” as gay or pleaded an exit on hardship. The majority, several thousand of them, have simply slipped away from their bases in the US and remain underground, risking up to five years in jail should they be stopped for so much as a traffic offence.

A couple of hundred, like McDowell, have gone further, leaving their former lives to flee to Canada, seeking sanctuary from the long arm of Uncle Sam. It is a well-worn path, trodden first in the 19th century by the pioneers of the Underground Railroad, African slaves fleeing the South, aided by abolitionists who sheltered them along the way. Then, in the Sixties, thousands of young men took the same route in evading the draft for Vietnam. And now, a steady trickle of soldiers, broken on the battlefields of Iraq, is once again following suit.

Read the rest at the Times of London