Amnesty for Iraq War Deserters

By: Daniel Nardini

Former U.S. Army Private Kimberly Rivera* will go on trial in a U.S. military court for desertion. If found guilty, she could face many years in prison for her objection to be stationed in Iraq. She had previously fled to Canada, but was forced to leave because the Canadian government, under a very conservative prime minister, does not want U.S. war deserters in Canada. If convicted, Amnesty International will adopt Rivera as a prisoner of conscience (i.e. a political prisoner). The crazy thing is that the U.S. part in Iraq has been over for almost two years, and there are no U.S. military personnel left in that country.

So, why bother with trying to indict and imprison those Iraq War deserters now? Because no one in the U.S. government told the military not to. Because of this, the U.S. military will indict and imprison those who objected to the legality of the Iraq War and the number of deployments they were put through. Like the Vietnam War, the legality of this war remains questionable. But questionable or not, the war is over for the United States and the American people. But those Iraq War deserters who remain in Canada still have much to fear if they try to return to the United States. Those Iraq War deserters who are now in hiding in the United States or anywhere else in the world still have to face possible trial and maybe execution (yes, folks, this “crime” carries the death penalty).

The weird thing here is that the U.S. government knows that the Iraq War remains highly controversial, but has done nothing to try and heal the psychological and physical wounds. It seems that if anything, U.S. President Barack Obama is simply carrying out the same policy of former U.S. President George W. Bush—to indict, imprison and throw away the key on as many former U.S. military Iraq War deserters as possible. This policy will not make America safer, nor make America’s standing in the world (not to mention in the realm of human rights) look any better.

What the United States needs to do is grant a full amnesty to the few Iraq War deserters there were. They may have been a couple of hundred, but we as a nation need to put this behind us. More than that, this country needs to stay out of the incessant wars and conflicts that go on in too many places around the world (unless, of course, we are directly attacked). In 1977, then U.S. President Jimmy Carter passed a general amnesty for all draft deserters who had fled either to Canada or elsewhere. We need to do something like this again. Prosecuting and persecuting people for their moral objection to a war now finished makes no sense.

*Since I wrote this article, Kimberly Rivera was given 10 months in prison. She is lucky it was not a whole lot worse.

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