[Part one - Part two - Part three - Part four]
The final examination was from the Immigration and Refugee Board member, Mr Ken Atkinson.
He asked about Josh's attempts to get out of the Army, seemingly implying that he hadn't tried hard enough. I also thought he tried to imply that Josh has not received an official diagnosis of PTSD.
Early on, Mr Atkinson asked about Article 15. If you read my post about war resister Dale Landry's recent federal court hearing, you'll recall that the Crown attempted to portray Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice as a "dispute resolution mechanism". (See the reaction of a former member of the US military, here.)
At this point, Alyssa strenuously objected, and attempted to clarify what Article 15 actually is: punishment without a court martial. For a deserter, the outcomes of Article 15 could be jail and a discharge, or jail and forcible return to Iraq. The outcomes of court martial: jail and discharge, or jail and forcible return to Iraq.
The Board member insisted that Article 15 is something less onerous than court martial. Alyssa was as strong as she could have been, but it's unwise for a refugee claimant's counsel to go up against the board member too strongly, and she had to let it drop.
The Board member asked if there has been any change in the procedures for house raids in Iraq, if the US military is still stopping Iraqis' cars at checkpoints, and how Iraqi detainees are now being processed. To Josh's knowledge, nothing has changed. The IRB member then implied that perhaps Josh is just ignorant of these changes. And what does this have to do with Josh's claim for refugee protection? I'm not sure.
In response to a question from the member, Josh briefly described what it was like to "live in the shadows" for 14 months in Philadelphia. Driving to work by a different route every day. Seeing a police car and changing course, driving into a wealthy neighbourhood and pretending to live there. Never revealing anything about himself, never trusting anyone, living hour to hour, day to day.
Mr Atkinson asked a lot of questions about refusing illegal orders, and about the chain of command. There's clearly a disconnect here, where the IRB believes - or wants to believe, or uses a feigned belief as an excuse - that a soldier in the US military can simply say, "I don't want to participate in this," and continue living a normal life.
The member brought up an incident in Ramadi, in which Josh's entire squad objected to an order, an insane suicide mission from which none of them would have returned. Weren't those orders changed? Josh explained that (a) that mission was out of the ordinary (unlike the house raids), and (b) the entire squad, including the squad leader, had objected.
The Board member seemed to pretend not to understand the difference.
* * * *
Alyssa's cross-examination again helped clarify some of the Board member's erroneous implications.
Is there an appeal from a court martial sentence? There is no appeal for the charge of desertion. And for any appeal, the soldier serves time in prison while waiting for the appeals process.
What was the difference between the incident in Ramadi and the house raids? The orders in Ramadi were for a one-time mission. Also, tellingly, the refusal to participate was out of concern for the lives of the US soldiers themselves. It was not a refusal based on concern for the victims of the mission: the squad was being sent to blow up a school.
Final part next.