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U.S. Army War Resister Jeremy Hinzman: “I Have a Duty to Disobey”

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U.S. Army war resister Jeremy Hinzman made his case Monday for Canada to give him refugee status. Hinzman fled there in January after his application for Conscientious Objector status was rejected by the U.S. military. Jeremy Hinzman joins us from his home in Canada. [includes rush transcript]

U.S. Army war resister Jeremy Hinzman made his case Monday for Canada to give him refugee status. Hinzman fled to Canada in January after his application for Conscientious Objector status was rejected by the military. He is believed to be the first U.S. soldier to file for refugee status in Canada for refusing to fight in Iraq.

His lawyer and the Solicitor General’s office are expected to file written submissions by Jan. 24. After that, the judge has said a decision would be made as soon as possible. If the board denies his request he could be sent back to the U.S. to face a military tribunal.

Hinzman is currently living in Toronto with his wife and son. He joins on the phone from his home.

  • Jeremy Hinzman, a US Army conscientious objector. He is currently in Canada where he is seeking asylum.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Hinzman is currently living in Toronto with his wife and son. He joins us on the phone from his Canadian home. Welcome to Democracy Now!

JEREMY HINZMAN: Good morning, Ms. Goodman.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you back on. We had you in the studio up at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation when we broadcast from Toronto. Can you tell us about the hearing last week.

JEREMY HINZMAN: Well, before the hearing even commenced, we had our hands tied a bit. As you have stated, the solicitor general of the Canadian government intervened in our case, and that’s only done in about 5% of cases. Anyway, they raised the issue that they felt that the legality of the war in Iraq was irrelevant to our refugee claims. So, we were unable to argue that in any way.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain what that means.

JEREMY HINZMAN: Well, basically, they said whether the war is legal or whether it’s illegal, it’s irrelevant to what you are trying to do here. Which, I mean, I would argue is pretty ludicrous, because that was almost my entire rationale for coming here in the first place.

AMY GOODMAN: So, what did you do?

JEREMY HINZMAN: We still argued our case. I mean, we — every day we see things happening in Iraq of an atrocious nature, and I think based upon how often they’re occurring, it’s clear that they are not merely anomalies, but that they’re systemic, and we tried to illustrate that through both submitted evidence and then also a former marine staff sergeant, who took part in the Iraqi war testified in my hearing.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Jimmy Massey?


AMY GOODMAN: Jimmy Massey, who was also on Democracy Now!, talked about the killing of unarmed civilians in Iraq?

JEREMY HINZMAN: Correct. He spelled that out in the case. It was very powerful. You could hear a pin drop in the room when he was giving his accounts of what happened. I think it made an impression on the — well, Canada in general, but the hearing officer in particular. And then it’s one thing if we say all of this stuff is happening in Iraq, or if it’s illegal, but if you actually see the face of what happened over there, it’s a lot more powerful.

AMY GOODMAN: For listeners and viewers who might not have caught you on Democracy Now!, you did serve in Afghanistan, is that right?


AMY GOODMAN: And can you talk about the decision that you made, why you decided you did not want to go to Iraq?

JEREMY HINZMAN: Well, I think it was — if you are ever going to go destroy a country or wreak havoc on a country, it would need to be justified. Every justification or rationale that we have ever offered for going to Iraq has been bogus. There were no weapons of mass destruction there. There have been no links established between Saddam and international terrorists, and then the notion that we’re going to bring democracy to Iraq is — we’ll see if that comes to fruition, but I don’t think we’ll see it, unless it’s convenient to America’s agenda. So anyway, I felt that we had attacked Iraq without any defensive basis, and I think it’s been well established at Nuremburg that in those instances, you cannot simply just say that you’re following orders, but you have a duty and obligation to disobey.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the day you made your way up to Canada with your wife and child, what that meant for you? I mean, it was an enormous decision?

JEREMY HINZMAN: Well, it was definitely a big turning point in life, and I mean, when we made the decision, it — I mean, when we left, the decision had been made for weeks, so we were pretty intent on what we were doing, but whether we succeed or fail, the consequences and repercussions will be lifelong in terms of either going to the States for jail or not being able to go to the States because we can remain in Canada.

AMY GOODMAN: So, what happens now? Your hearing is held. When does the decision get made, and what does this mean for you? Can you stay in Canada?

JEREMY HINZMAN: Well, a decision will be handed down by the board member sometime after the written submissions are sent in, and I assume that would be February or March. And then in the event that he ruled in our favor, it would be done. We would fill out papers and be landed. But realistically, if he rules against us, first of all, we would appeal based on the grounds of we weren’t argued — we weren’t allowed to argue the legality of the war. And we would go from there. I think that based on a lot of case law that my lawyer has obtained, that the notion that we — the notion of saying that a soldier can’t choose not to participate in a war that’s illegal or wrong is ludicrous, because if you do, you’re essentially — knowingly, you’re a mercenary.

AMY GOODMAN: If you were to come back to this country, if Canada rules you cannot get political refugee status, you would be tried by a military tribunal?

JEREMY HINZMAN: A court martial.

AMY GOODMAN: And what is your comment on that?

JEREMY HINZMAN: Well, you know, if I had did something wrong in the army, if I had broken military equipment, if I had — heck, if I had yelled at my commanding officer or anything, sure, that deserves punishment to the uniform code of military justice. A military cannot function if you don’t have firm discipline, but when you refuse to do something that’s wrong, I don’t see what good there is in being punished for it. It just doesn’t make sense to me and I would argue that the commander-in-chief of the military — what we’re doing overseas is an act of hooliganism, and I would be subjecting myself to a hooligan form of justice. My sentence would — there’s no set sentence. It would be arbitrary. It would be based upon the decision of the command, and I don’t think serving five years or one day for doing what I did is justified.

AMY GOODMAN: We had on the program with you when we were in Canada, Brandon Hughey, who also was appealing for political refugee status. What is the latest with his case? Do you know, Jeremy Hinzman?

JEREMY HINZMAN: He had a hearing date sometime in November. In October my hearing was postponed. We share the same lawyer, and there was some sort of deal that my hearing would be first. I assume his hearing will be shortly after the new year. I don’t know any concrete date.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you very much for being with us, Jeremy Hinzman, U.S. Army conscientious objector, currently in Canada where he is seeking asylum.

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