DAY 1 - DECEMBER 6, 2004
(Notes by Lee Zaslofsky, who is solely reponsible for any errors)

The day began early, with a demonstration in the snow outside 74 Victoria Street, where the Immigration and Refugee Board is located. About 50 people turned out. There were banners from the CAW, from the Steelworkers, there was a group of Ryerson students, a rep from the Labour Council of Toronto, OPSEU, and of course the War Resisters Support Campaign. A special treat was a sign from the South Dakota Peace and Justice Center which read: South Dakotans Are Proud of Jeremy Hinzman. (Jeremy is from Rapid City, SD).

At about 9:00 AM we went inside to the hearing room, where we saw a huge assembly of media people with cameras, microphones, and tape recorders. They surrounded Jeremy, his spouse Nga and their 2 year old son Liam, flashing away for about 20 minutes.

The Adjudicator, Brian Goodman, came in at 10:00, and the cameras left. The hearing began.

The first two hours or more were taken up with laying the groundwork for the rest of the hearing. Documents were prsented and listed as exhibits; several decisions were made as to what would be admitted as evidence, and Mr. Goodman set out the way the hearing would proceed. He is a soft spoken, careful and seemingly fairminded man. Too bad he ruled that the illegality of the Iraq war is not relevant to Jeremy's case.

[ It was decided that Nga and Liam could stay or leave as they wished, Jeremy being their spokesman. There seems to be no provision at all for a room or other place where a parent can go with a small child(ren) when the child begins to get bored etc. This is a serious oversight in a place where many families must go for refugee hearings.]

[A surprise visitor to the hearing was Randy White MP, a BC Conservative with right wing views. He stayed all morning.]

Once the admin issues were dealt with, it was time for the Refugee Protection Officer (RPO), Christina Dragaitis (?) to question Jeremy. Her job is to be a neutral agent of the Board, clarifying the details of the refugee claim. She spent the rest of the day (about 5 hours) doing so.

Jeremy did a great job of answering the endless stream of questions,. He is eloquent,  truthful, intelligent, with occasional flashes of dry wit.

The RPO started her questions with Jeremy's decision to enlist in the US Army --  he said it was on his own initiative, he was not approached by recruiters. He was strongly motivated by the offer of about $50,000 for university tuition on completion of his 4-year enlistment. He also wanted to be part of what he understood to be a noble institution  committed to democracy.

On Jan. 17, 2001, Jeremy enlisted and was flown to Fort Benning, GA, where he went through Basic Training. He chose to be in the infantry -- what he called the "essence of the Army".  At Ft. Benning he also attended Airborne school, where, as he put it, he learned to "fall out of planes" (with a parachute of course).

Already in Basic Training, Jeremy began to have strong reservations about the way the new soldiers were desensitized, through tough discipline, hard physical effort, and  chants like "Trained to Kill, Kill We Will!" and "What Makes the Grass Grow? Blood! Blood! Blood!" He began to understand the real purpose of the infantry: to kill and destroy.

Jeremy was a good soldier.. He won an Expert Infantry Badge and was promoted more quickly than usual.  But his doubts grew.

On Aug.2, 2002, Jeremy, applied for Conscientious Objector (CO) Status. He and Nga had discussed his doubts about the Army, and his growing interest in Buddhist principles. They attended local Quaker meetings, . He wanted to stay in the Army, but in a noncombat role.. He was willing to defend his unit, but could not in conscience participate in offensive action. He considered it immoral to kill human beings.

His CO application was processed when Jeremy's unit was in Kandahar, Afghanistan, where he spent a year working long hours in the mess hall. His application was denied.

By this time, the US had invaded Iraq. By summer 2003, Jeremy realized that the invasion's "justifications" had all been exposed as fraudulent. In December, he learned (via CNN) that his unit was about to be sent to Iraq. Jeremy and Nga discussed his options. He would not go to Iraq as an infantryman. A new CO application would probably be denied. He would not be permitted to change from an infantryman to some other job. There remained two possibilities: to go AWOL (Absent Without Leave) and try to hide somewhere in America; or try Canada.

In February 2004, Jeremy and Nga came to Canada. By doing so, Jeremy lost his $50,000 for university. He faces immediate arrest if he returned to the US, a probable court martial, and time in a military prison followed by a Dishonourable Discharge and the career difficulties that brings. But he and Nga agreed that he could not participate in a combat role in an illegal, unjustified, and criminal war.

DAY 2 - DECEMBER 7, 2004
(Notes by Lee Zaslofsky, who is solely reponsible for any errors.
With the kind assistance of Dylan Penner)

There were two main segments to today's hearing: Jeremy's questioning by the Minister of Immigration's representative, Janet Chisholm; and the appearance of Jimmy Massey as a witness for Jeremy.

Once again the media were out in force, taking many photos of Jeremy, his spouse Nga and his son Liam; and later barraging Jimmy Massey with flashes and video cameras. The dry warmth and bright light in the room contrasted with the thick fog that hung over the city in the morning and the heavy rain that fell most of the day.

Ms. Chisholm started off by asking Jeremy about his unit in the Army, the 82nd Airborne Division. Earlier he had stated that a major reason for his deserting the Army was his concern about his possible complicity in war crimes that might be committed there. (His unit had been ordered to go to Iraq.) He later said that in his unit it was a common belief that all Iraqis are terrorists, unworthy of having their rights respected. He said he often heard that his fellow soldiers wanted to "jack up the some terrorists" -- i.e. kill them.

Ms. Chisholm asked whether Jeremy had heard of war crimes being committed in Iraq. He said he had -- especially from Jimmy Massey, a former Marine Staff Sergeant who witnessed war crimes and is speaking out about what he saw. She then asked whether Jeremy knew of war crimes committed by the 82nd Airborne itself. 

(This line of questioning seems to be based on the idea that maybe Marines commit war crimes, but the 82nd Airborne can be relied on not to do so. Given that the conditions in Iraq are similar for all infantry units, this is pretty illogical.)

She then asked Jeremy some hypothetical questions: what if the Security Council had approved the invasion of Iraq? Would you have gone then? (Jeremy -- It didn't approve. There were no grounds for the war, not WMD, no Al Qaeda connection.)

What if there were WMD in Iraq? (Yes, then I would have gone.) What if you had been able to go as a noncombatant -- if your Conscientious Objector application had been approved? (Yes -- I would not have had to take part in offensive action. 

A whole series of similar questions followed, probing to see whether there were conceivable conditions under which Jeremy might have gone to Iraq; or, alternatively, whether he might have found some other way of getting out of the Army without deserting. Jeremy handled this barrage of hypotheticals with his typical honesty and clarity. He made it clear that desertion was the only realistic way of avoiding complicity in a war he believes is immoral and illegal.

Ms. Chisholm then moved on the questions about the likelihood that Jeremy would suffer cruel and unusual punishment if he returned to the Army to (in the words of Globe & Mail columnist Margaret Wente) "face the music". She claimed that deserters receive relatively mild punishment if they return -- Camilo Mejia received a 1-year prison sentence, for example. Jeremy stated that "even one day is too long when you haven't done anything wrong." He also pointed out that there was no guarantee he would get a "light" sentence.

Jeremy made an important point when he stated that the current regime in the US treats dissent more harshly than past administrations. He pointed to the concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay, where prisoners rights and dignity are ignored. He mentioned the popular culture now prevalent in the US, which would regard him as "treacherous". He has received threats via his website, and according to some reports (not Jeremy's) a bounty has been placed on his head by some gangsterish former Navy SEALs. Jeremy expressed fear of how he might be treated in a military prison, by the authorities and by other inmates of a "patriotic" bent. "I'd be worried something might happen in the shower room or something," he said.

Some questions from the Adjudicator, Brian Goodman, showed the isolation Jeremy and Nga experienced as his opposition to the Iraq War grew. He did not communicate with anyone but Nga about this -- hs fellow soldiers would have rejected him, his chaplain would report him.

Jeremy stated that he has told his story publicly in part as a safety mechanism: he knows many people regard a refugee claim by a US citizen as "preposterous".  By reaching out for public support he is trying to assure himself of fair consideration and  deal with the question: "You're an American, what the hell are you doing?" He  said he strongly believes his claim is justified, and that he will receive fair consideration from the Refugee Board.

After lunch, former Marine Staff Sergeant Jimmy Massey came in to answer questions. Mr. Massey lives in North Carolina with his spouse, Jackie. Both are intelligent and articulate, speaking with a southern accent that Jimmy is sometimes self-conscious about. He was in the Marines for 12 years, having joined in 1992. He rose to the rank of Staff Sergeant, and commanded anywhere from 25 to 55 Marines. He had planned to make the Marines his career until he went to Iraq.

Jimmy spoke about several incidents that occurred as his unit took part in the US invasion.

He told of being ordered to set up a checkpoint north of Naziriya. The Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) was to park the unit's Humvees in such a way as to be able to fire on anyone who failed to stop at the checkpoint. A "Green Zone" was established. If a car entered it, it was ordered to halt, and a warning shot was fired. If it stopped, it was searched, and any suspicious people would be taken into custody. Closer to the checkpoint, a "Red Zone" was set up, marked by a sign in Arabic (possibly incorrectly spelled)..

A vehicle entered the checkpoint. The driver was waving a white flag. In the rear seat was a small apparently dead body -- a child -- wrapped in linen. The father indicated he was going to bury the child, who had been wounded by US bombs. When Jimmy looked more closely, he saw that the child was still alive, just barely. But soon the boy died. The Marine medic said he had probably bled to death internally. He was less than 7 years old.

Closer to Baghdad, Jimmy's platoon set up another checkpoint. They were told that there was intelligence that fedayeen and Republican Guard troops -- in civilian clothes --  were in the area, that suicide bombers were active. Near the checkpoint a peaceful demonstration by a few civilians was going on, with shouts of "Go Home!" Over a period of hours, four different cars approached the checkpoint. None stopped when warned. All were fired upon by the Marines. All occupants of the cars were killed. When checked, none had any weapons, there was no evidence of connection to terrorists. One man who jumped out of his car with his hands up was killed. Jimmy regards these killings as murder.

The protesters continued their demonstration near an underpass some distance away from the checkpoint, to its front. Suddenly a bullet whizzed overhead, crossing above the Marines from somewhere to their right. Immediately they opened fire on the demonstrators, killing all of them. On checking, it was found that none were armed. More murder. The origin of the stray bullet was never found.

After this another Marine company was told to take over the checkpoint. Jimmy's Company was moved away. Soon another car approached -- the new Company opened fire, killing five people -- no weapons were found.  

In Baghdad, the "Red KIA incident" took place. A red KIA approached the checkpoint, failed to stop, and was fired upon. Three passengers were fatally wounded; the driver, unscathed, ran around literally pulling his hair out, lamenting his brother's death. Again, no weapons were found. 

In all, Jimmy estimates that in a 48 hour period, he witnessed the killing of 30 to 40 civilians, none of whom posed a threat to the Marines, but all of whom seem to have been confused by the checkpoint, failing to stop when "warned". Later, he learned that the gestures and warning shots the Marines used to get drivers to stop meant completely different things to the average Iraqi. The "sign in Arabic" was probably not copied correctly by the Marines, who had mass-produced them while waiting in Kuwait for the invasion to start. 

Jimmy spoke about the mentality of the Marines, trained to kill and destroy. He esplained terms like "Free Fire Zone" and "Weapons Free Zone" -- in which Marines are at liberty to open fire on anyone, armed or not. The "Dead Check" is when Marines check out a prone body to see whether the person is really dead. Often, as in a video recently shown on TV, a Marine will "place a rounds in the head of someone who is playing possum". Actually, Marines are supposed to check for booby traps by looking carefully, talking to see if there is an answer, and patting down apparently injured enemy fighters. Often they don't bother. In all this they are protected by the Marine saying that "What happens on the battlefield stays on the battlefield" -- a code of silence Jimmy compared to the Mafia code of Omerta. 

After witnessing this orgy of killing, Jimmy became agitated, couldn't sleep, tried to express his concerns to his fellow Marines. Eventually he was relieved of duty, examined by a psychiatrist who diagnosed major depression and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. He received an Honourable Discharge for Medical Disability. Last Saturday, at a public meeting where Jimmy and his spouse Jackie spoke, Jackie told of his difficulty sleeping, his shouts in the night, and other symptoms that have changed their life together. Luckily, their love for each other has not changed.

At 5:00 PM the day's hearing ended. It will start again tomorrow at 9:00 AM, and probably conclude a few hours later.