In defence of the United States
Re: MPs vote to give asylum to U.S. military deserters
As a retired U.S. army officer, I can no longer remain silent while apologists for Iraq war deserters accuse my country of war crimes and denigrate our armed forces. I would remind them that the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison were reported by a soldier, just as the massacre at My Lai in Vietnam was reported to an army chaplain by a soldier.
In war, just as in civilian society, people may commit crimes. However, it is not the policy of the U.S. or its army to violate the Geneva or Hague conventions. I have taught the "law of war" to many soldiers, and I can tell you that they are taught to disobey any order that they believe to be illegal or immoral. This training works: Our soldiers do refuse illegal or immoral orders, and they do report violations of the law of war.
The deserters from the U.S. army were not draftees; they were volunteers. They joined the army of their own free will. These people who have come to Canada are not heroes. It is moral and physical cowardice masquerading as principle. The only "asylum" they should be granted is at the U.S. military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
Do not embrace these fugitives from justice. I can guarantee you this: If Canada were attacked, these deserters would desert you, too.
James R. Reese, Major, U.S. Army (Ret.), Toronto
Can you spot the holes in this man's reasoning? I mean the holes big enough to drive a Humvee through? These five Canadians did!
James R. Reese, a retired U.S. army major, writes, "I can no longer remain silent while apologists for Iraq war deserters accuse my country of war crimes and denigrate our armed forces."
In what appears to be a feeble attempt to put a positive spin on two dark points in U.S. history, he argues that the abuses at both Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and My Lai in Vietnam were reported by soldiers. He fails to note, however, that both of these heinous events were perpetrated by U.S. soldiers.
Reese also notes that "it is not the policy of the U.S. or its army to violate the Geneva or Hague conventions." Sure, while it may not be a formal policy to violate either of these noted conventions, they are being violated just the same. Consider extraordinary rendition and waterboarding.
Finally, he says, "The deserters from the U.S. army were not draftees; they were volunteers. They joined the army of their own free will. These people who have come to Canada are not heroes."
The argument that current U.S. deserters are professional soldiers and not draftees has been uttered many times by people who hold viewpoints similar to those of Reese. However, the argument is largely irrelevant. If a war is illegal and unjust, it is illegal and unjust to all aggressors, not just to those who didn't volunteer.
Reese is fully within his rights to consider U.S. military deserters as cowards, but he is wrong to imply that the U.S. always takes the moral high road. It clearly doesn't.
R. Glenn McGillivray, Oakville
Retired U.S. army major James R. Reese says he is opposed to Canada granting asylum to U.S. military deserters. He also states that he has taught the "law of war" to many soldiers, and that they are taught to disobey any order that they believe to be "illegal or immoral."
With that reasoning, all of the U.S. armed forces deployed in Iraq would have been fully justified in laying down their arms and deserting once they realized that the war had been waged on spurious grounds and was deemed illegal by the United Nations.
Mohamed M. Jagani, Markham
As a retired officer of the U.S. army, a force guilty of documented excesses and various corrupt and illegal acts, James R. Reese is hardly qualified to lecture Canadians on morality and justice. And if "it is not the policy of the U.S. or its army to violate the Geneva or Hague conventions," perhaps he can explain why U.S. troops are in Iraq under false pretenses, killing, maiming and torturing innocent citizens.
Our Prime Minister may do as he's told, but for now, Canadians are still free to think for themselves.
Randy Gostlin, Oshawa
Retired U.S. army officer James R. Reese states that U.S. soldiers are taught to "disobey any order that they believe to be illegal or immoral." If this is the case, all U.S. military personnel should have refused to take part in the Iraq war, which is illegal and immoral.
Unlike Reese, I believe that those soldiers who decided not to participate in this war and have taken refuge in this country should be supported by Canada and given the chance to stay here.
Ramin Farsangi, Innisfil, Ont.
I wonder if James R. Reese, a retired major in the U.S. army, would consider an order to wage an illegal war based on distorted intelligence and false premises grounds for disobeying orders. He then says, "If Canada were attacked, these deserters would desert you, too."
I wonder if Reese could let us know when Iraq attacked the United States. I would remind him that his country was the last to attack Canada. (We won that one.)
Howard Kaplan, Toronto
Terrific letters! Perhaps you will take a minute and write one of your own.