Tuesday, July 25, 2006

"Deserter" Pushes the Envelope

Huffington Post
Peter Laufer
"Deserter" Pushes the Envelope

I've got breaking news to report about a U.S. soldier who deserted to Canada rather than be redeployed to fight in Iraq. Darrell Anderson is his name, I first met him last year while researching my book about U.S. soldiers rejecting the mission in Iraq. And he's not just any soldier. This veteran of the gruesome street fighting in Iraq came home with a Purple Heart, awarded for his injuries in gruesome George Bush's war of choice.

I've written about Darrell here at Huffington Post before, and passed along his stories of the how the war is decimating Iraqi civilians.

Darrell has been engaged in a political battle up in Canada, trying to convince the government there to grant him refugee status. But when I spoke with him the other day he told me he's realized his fight is not with the Canadian government, but with the Bush Administration. So he had another life-changing epiphany; he's had second thoughts about his exile up north. Not that he's worried much about deportation: He married a Canadian woman since I saw him, a romantic decision that probably will guarantee him permanent residency.

Here's what's happened. Darrell has decided to return to the U.S. He expects to be arrested when he presents himself to authorities at the border.

"The war's still going on," he told me. "If I go back, maybe I can still make a difference. My fight is with the American government."

It's not only anti-war work that's motivating Darrell to go home, he's thinking about his future. "Dealing with all the nightmares and the Post Traumatic Stress, I need support from my family." And he's not worried about those who question his courage because he deserted. "I've been to Iraq and now I'm going to go to jail. I've proved to myself and to anybody who doubts me that I'm not a coward."

He hopes his surrender stimulates the anti-war movement in the United States.

Darrell expects to be convicted of desertion and he says he'll use his trial and prison time to continue to protest the war; he imagines just the sight of him in a dress uniform covered with the medals he was awarded fighting in Iraq will make a powerful statement.

"I can't work every day and act like everything is okay," he says about his life in Toronto. "This war is beating me down. I haven't had a dream that wasn't a nightmare since I came to Canada. It eats away at me to try and act like everything's okay when everything's not. I can't live with myself living in Canada like everything's okay when I know innocent Iraqi children are dying everyday, and innocent Americans are going to Iraq and they're getting messed up in the head and committing atrocities. They shouldn't be going to jail, they're not the ones who wanted to go to Iraq and kill people, that's what they were trained to do."

Not that Darrell feels his time in Canada was a waste.

"There was no way I could have gone to prison at the time, I would have killed myself. I was way too messed up in the head to even think of sitting in a prison cell. I owe a lot to Canada. They saved my life. When I came back and was talking about the war, Americans were calling me a traitor. Canadians were the people who helped me when I was at my lowest point after the war."

Imagine the strength of character, the resolve, the courage that it takes for soldiers such as Darrell Anderson to stand up and repeat the refrain made famous by their Vietnam War compatriots, "Hell no, I won't go!" He and the other soldiers opposed to the war deserve our support for their heroic stand against the machine.