BY HEIDI ULRICHSEN
Darrell Anderson may only be 23, but he’s already travelled halfway across the world to Iraq with the American army, been injured in combat and fled to Canada to avoid being sent overseas again.
Last January, he became one of about 20 young Americans to seek refugee status in Canada as conscientious objectors to the war in Iraq.
If Anderson ever decides to go home, he’d likely be arrested, tried in military court and sent to jail for one to five years.
The young man joined the military in 2003 because he wanted to earn enough money to afford health insurance and an education. This was several
months before Bush ordered troops to invade Iraq, said Anderson, who spoke to students at Sudbury Secondary School Tuesday morning.
“I did a lot of negative stuff, and I learned a lot from it. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without the tragedies and harshness of war,” said Anderson.
“I would just be another kid with a toy gun saying ‘Rah, war!’ Now I realize what war is. There’s no benefit from war on either side.”
Anderson was deployed in Iraq from January to July 2004. He quickly realized his country was there to gain control over oil reserves, not to get rid
of weapons of mass destruction or spread democracy.
The military used brutal force to combat Iraqi insurgents, said Anderson.
If one person shot at a tank, the soldiers were under orders to spray everyone in sight with bullets. It sickened his heart when he was forced to kill innocent people.
But one day, Anderson saw one of his friends die after being hit with an explosive. He was filled with rage, and actually wanted to kill Iraqi people, even if they hadn’t done anything wrong.
“I point my weapon at the first person I see, and I go to fire my weapon, but it’s on safe. So I put it back on fire, and I aim again, and it’s a 14-year-old kid just running from the violence. I realize that, but I still want to kill. He runs away,” he says.
“You feel a sense of kill and rage. That’s what being in that environment breeds.”
On the same day his friend died, Anderson received a severe flesh wound when a bomb blew up and a hunk of metal became lodged in his side. He was bandaged up and stayed in Iraq for a few more months.
When he finally got home to Lexington, Kentucky, he made the decision to apply for refugee status in Canada. Right now, Anderson is living in Toronto and working as a carpenter’s assistant while awaiting a hearing.
He hopes the Canadian government will grant asylum to all conscientious objectors to the Iraq war.
The NDP and several unions already support their cause, he said.
He was joined by Lee Zaslofsky, who fled to Canada in 1969 after being drafted to fight in Vietnam.
The war resisters were also scheduled to speak at Laurentian University and the Sudbury Arts Council later in the day.
Zasolfky, 61, says talking to Anderson immediately brought him back to the early 1970s when 60,000 Americans fled north to escape the Vietnam draft.
If the war in Iraq continues as it appears it will, many more young Americans will follow Anderson’s lead, he says.
“I’m saddened that, once again, we see American young people having to knock on Canada’s door because America is doing something that’s really evil, and they don’t want to be part of it,” he says.
“The thing that I’m concerned about now is that Canada (continue to) open that door, and make it possible for them to stay here as I do.”