Exploring the Reasons Behind Going AWOL Since the invasion of Iraq three years ago, thousands of American men and women have gone AWOL -- absent without official leave. A former soldier discusses why he fled, and experts examine the legal prospects of amnesty for American deserters.
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Exploring the Reasons Behind Going AWOL

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Exploring the Reasons Behind Going AWOL

Exploring the Reasons Behind Going AWOL

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This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. According to the Pentagon's most recent data, an estimated 8,000 members of the military have deserted or have not reported to duty since the start of the war in Iraq. That's a tiny fraction of the armed forces, and, to put it in perspective, way below desertion rates during the war in Vietnam.

Besides the numbers, we know relatively little about Iraq era deserters--who they are, or whether their motives are personal or political or both. For the most part, their options are limited. During the Vietnam War, many draft resisters and deserters went to Canada, but that is much more difficult today.

In just a moment, we'll talk with one deserter who left for Canada two years ago, whose case for asylum is now making its way through Canadian courts. We'll also explore the issue with a military sociologist and talk with a lawyer about the legal consequences.

Later in the program, a conversation with sports writer David Kindred about his new book about Muhammad Ali and Howard Cosell, Sound and Fury. But first, going AWOL. We're especially interested to hear from members of the military and veterans today, and from those who went AWOL. If you'd like to call in, our number is 800-989-8255. That's 800-989-TALK. The e-mail address is

And we begin with Jeremy Hinzman, formerly of the 82nd Airborne Division. He and his family now live in Toronto, Canada, where he's seeking asylum, and he joins us from the studios of the CBC in Toronto. Nice to have you on the program today.

Mr. JEREMY HINZMAN (Former U.S. Military): Thank you, Mr. Conan.

CONAN: And could you give us an idea of where your case stands at the moment?

Mr. HINZMAN: Right now, my case is in a low level of the appeal system in Canada. What is at, what's at stake is that my case, I think, is becoming more and more about the nature of conscientious objection and less about whatever the reasons were for the U.S. involvement in Iraq, and I'd emphasize that it's my case, personally.

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Mr. HINZMAN: There are other soldiers here who did, in fact, serve in Iraq and came back and then came to Canada. So, right now, we're awaiting the decision from a judge that will state whether or not we get a new hearing...


Mr. HINZMAN: ...before the Immigration and Refugee Board.

CONAN: Your previous hearing before the Immigration and Refugee Board, you were rejected.

Mr. HINZMAN: I was.

CONAN: Yeah. And how long might this spin out?

Mr. HINZMAN: I mean, time can tell. I mean, we could conceivably hear an answer tomorrow, or it could be six months from now, and that's just this stage, and all we get if we win, if you will, this stage...

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Mr. HINZMAN: ...is a new refugee hearing. And the reason we were granted an appeal was because prior to the beginning of our refugee hearing, the Canadian government intervened and stated that the legality of the war in Iraq was irrelevant to my refugee claim.

CONAN: So, you had to shift the basis of your case if you hope to be able to stay. You applied for conscientious objector status when, in fact, as I understand it, when you were in Afghanistan.

Mr. HINZMAN: No, I actually applied before I was in Afghanistan, and before I had any knowledge of...

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Mr. HINZMAN: ...a deployment to Afghanistan.

CONAN: And, well, but the hearing, then, was in Afghanistan.

Mr. HINZMAN: The hearing was in Afghanistan.

CONAN: Okay.

Mr. HINZMAN: I can explain in a nutshell. What happened was I enlisted in the Army for a few reasons. I mean, one was kind of the Jerry Maguire, show me the money, but also another part of it was that I wanted to be a part of an organization that has some more meaning involved rather than just the ordinary give and take of commerce.

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Mr. HINZMAN: And so I enlisted. And I knew that, based on U.S. history, every four or five years we're involved somewhere. It may not necessarily be in a war, but it can be some sort of action, such as Grenada.

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Mr. HINZMAN: And given that I was enlisting in the Airborne Infantry, I had no illusions that I wouldn't be deploying somewhere at some point during my enlistment. The issue that I had really started to come about a month into basic training. I joined not with any sort of real bloodlust, but figuring, you know, if I'm in the situation, I can do what I have to do. And we, so I went to basic training, and it's kind of like it, right now, it's a tamed-out version of what you see in Full Metal Jacket.

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Mr. HINZMAN: It's not as hard as it used to be, and it's mainly just playing a game. But about a month into it, I was marching to the chow hall with my company, and we were repeating the chant over and over, which was trained to kill, kill we will, and our drill sergeant thought our rendition of it wasn't enthusiastic enough, and they threatened us with some extra physical activity.

And what happened was I looked all around me, and all my fellow soldiers were getting red in the face, their voices were going hoarse, and their heads were bobbing up and down, you know, and trained to kill, kill we will, trained to kill, kill we will, and that's just one example of the process of becoming desensitized to what it is you have to do as a soldier.

CONAN: Mm-hmm, yeah.

Mr. HINZMAN: And so, I figured, you know, that would end after...

CONAN: Basic.

Mr. HINZMAN: ...basic training, but it didn't. I got to the 82nd Airborne, who's standard, and rightfully so...

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Mr. HINZMAN: ...is that we exceed the standard, and it continued. And what my issue was is that in order to kill, you can't look at the person you're killing as a person. You have to objectify them and dehumanize them, and you gotta find some way to do that. I mean, there's a variety of ways, whether it be...

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Mr. HINZMAN: ...racial or religious, or you name it, but you have to find a way to objectify them. And so, yeah, that's fine for the enemy, I guess, but you also have to objectify your coworkers, and I became cognizant of this, because every time we would go on a training jump, when 100 people jump out of an airplane, statistically, maybe, you know, two or three are gonna break something.

CONAN: Right.

Mr. HINZMAN: And the person who breaks something, they could've been all laid up as a soldier, you know, and, like, had no hope, or they could've been fast-tracked into sergeant, but it didn't matter. They no longer served a function, and they wouldn't be, you know, going out with the boys drinking on Friday night.


Mr. HINZMAN: And I just wasn't willing to continue living my relational life with what was most of my world, at least 14 hours a day, looking at people as things. And so, I applied for conscientious objector status.

CONAN: We wanted to give listeners a chance to get some questions to you. Again, if you'd like to join us, 800-989-8255. E-mail is talk@npr.org. And let's begin with David. David's calling us from San Francisco.

DAVID (Caller): Hello, how are you?

CONAN: Well, thank you.

DAVID: I guess my comment is both I agree and disagree with what our last caller was saying. I myself served in the Navy for eight years as an officer, and also a gay, but didn't really come out until, of course, I left the Navy.

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

DAVID: I personally feel that if you decide to join the military, you know what you're joining for. Obviously, you know, there is a possibility of war. On the other hand, I left right after the war started, after eight years of service, only because, you know, I didn't join again. So, you know, personally, am I in, you know, is it my right to judge someone who actually had to face a war where they personally felt that it's something they weren't ready for? Some people do make that decision and later on feel like, uh, you know, it's just not for them. But, I guess, my final comment would be that, you, if you make that decision, you kind of have to, you know that it's something that you're deciding for a four-year period, an eight-year period, you have to stick with that decision. So, before someone joins, think very hard about what you're doing.

CONAN: I suspect, Jeremy Hinzman, you would second that advice. Think very hard about what you're doing. But what about David's other point? You knew what you were getting in for.

Mr. HINZMAN: Well, I think what he's getting at is that there's a sense of honor involved, and you have to live with the consequences of your decision.

DAVID: I agree.

Mr. HINZMAN: I completely agree with that. But I don't know, David, if you're aware of the circumstances of my case. I didn't apply for One Alpha Conscientious Objection. I applied for One Alpha Oscor(ph) Conscientious Objection, which is to change my military occupational specialty.

CONAN: To...

Mr. HINZMAN: From a combat arms job...

CONAN: ...to the non-combative.

Mr. HINZMAN: ...to something such as a combat medic. And had I been a combat medic in the 82nd Airborne Division, I would still have been in Iraq. I would have still been seeing the heat. But the one difference is, I wouldn't be putting other things, or people, hopefully, in my sights and pulling the trigger. And if I was to be shot, you know, that would, I mean, it would be horrible for my family, I, but it's game over for me, and I wouldn't know the difference. And that's fine.

DAVID: Well...

Mr. HINZMAN: My objection is...

DAVID: My heart...

Mr. HINZMAN: ...to taking human life.

DAVID: My heart definitely goes out to you, and honestly, I was not put in that position. I flew reconnaissance. I didn't even have a weapon on board. So, honestly, I don't have the right to judge you on that point.

But, on the other hand, when you join, you have to remember, you are government property in a way. And you have to, one question I urge people to always ask themselves before they sign a contract: if you were in that situation, could you kill, or again, be shot at?

And again, my heart goes out to you, because people mature, people evolve, and you, a lot of people have been in the situation where the person they were two, four years ago is not the person there at the time. And morally, they cannot, they do not agree with killing, or, and a lot of people see this, and I myself saw it as a war, that when I joined, I asked myself the question: would I defend my country when I do these things? Yes.

But then yes, a lot of people got in situations with this Iraq war, well this is not what I had in mind. I don't feel like I'm defending my country. I feel like I'm on a campaign.

CONAN: If you're in the military though, you don't get to pick and choose. You get orders.

DAVID: Right, military does not do, does not make policy. Congress and the president does...

Mr. HINZMAN: I realize that but, I think they think they...

DAVID: ...this is not necessarily what I wanted to die for, if the chance came.

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

DAVID: I don't want to die for a campaign. So, like I said, my heart goes out to you. I, I had my comment about be sure what your doing. You have to make sure that's what you want to do when you join, because, in a way, when you sign that paper, you've answered the question. Yes, I will die for my country. I will kill someone, if I have to. But, again, I was not put in that situation. I flew a plane where we had no weapons, so...

CONAN: David, thanks very much for the call, we appreciate it.

DAVID: Thank you.

CONAN: We're going to take a short break and take another couple of questions with Jeremy Hinzman. And when we come back from the break, we'll also be talking with Military Sociologist Charles Moskos, and with David Price, a retired Navy JAG Lawyer who now represents some people who go AWOL to talk about what they do, why they do it, and what happens to them when, eventually, they get caught.

I'm Neal Conan, 800-989-8255. E-mail is TALK@NPR.org. This is the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

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CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. Thirty-eight years ago, Alan Abney boarded a bus and headed to Canada never to return to the United States Marines. Last week, at a border crossing in Idaho, his arrest warrant from 1968 popped up during a routine passport check, and he was taken into custody.

Today, we're talking about people who leave the military without permission, why they do it, and what happens to them. If you'd like to join the conversation, 800-989-8255. E-mail is TALK@NPR.org.

Our guest right now is Jeremy Hinzman. He left the U.S. Army two years ago, fled to Canada as a deserter, and his case for asylum is now making it's way through the courts there in Canada. Let's get another caller on the line. This is Robert, and Robert's calling us from Tulsa, Oklahoma.

ROBERT (Caller): Hi, thanks for letting me make a comment.

CONAN: Sure.

ROBERT: One, I was glad to hear that he did try to change his MOS.

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

ROBERT: One of the comments...

CONAN: That's his military specialty, yeah.

ROBERT: Yeah, one of the comments I would like to make is, I am a combat medic. And as a combat medic, one of the, if you want to call it an oath, or one of the things that is instilled to you as a combat medic is, not only do you have to defend yourself, you have to defend that fallen soldier, whether it's one of our own or one of the others. So, I hate to say it, but don't compare the combat medic into other jobs as the, kind of like the conscientious objector...

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

ROBERT: ...because we're not. The second is, is I applaud this young man in the sense that, in the military--not knowing what rank he was--it takes a lot of intestinal fortitude to make a decision, stand by that decision, knowing that the repercussion of the decision that he makes is going to have a lifelong effect. And I am proud, very proud to wear the uniform of the United States Military. And I'll take any comments off the air.

CONAN: Thanks very much for the call, Robert. Jeremy, I wonder if you had a response to that?

Mr. HINZMAN: Well, thank you, Robert. I knew, I mean, I worked with medics, we had on in our platoon. And, of course, they have a side arm, and that brings me to my conscientious objector hearing, and why it was and why my claim was denied. When we went to Afghanistan, they gave me an M4, and I asked, kind of in a puzzled way, why are you giving me this rifle, if I'm a conscientious objector? And they said well, Hinzman, you still have the inherent right to self-defense. And if we were to be attacked, you have the obligation to defend us. So, that's what they told me, and I accept that. And had I been reassigned to be a combat medic, I'd be carrying a side arm, that's fine.

But what happened was in my hearing, which took place in a tent in Afghanistan, we were sitting in our recliners, or whatever those lawn chairs are called.

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Mr. HINZMAN: And the investigative officers, the First Lieutenants, probably some sort of busy work for him, but he said, you know, if our camp was attacked, Hinzman, what would you do? And I answered, well, and sincerely answered, because I said, well it's my obligation to defend my fellow soldiers, and I'm human. I'd defend myself. If my house was burglarized, I would take measures to restrain the burglar. But I'm not going to use that same logic to commit premeditated, first-degree murder on a collective level. And I realize that premeditated, first-degree murder on a collective level is sometimes necessary, like we don't have another choice...

CONAN: Right.

Mr. HINZMAN: ...at times, but...

CONAN: And what do you call pre-meditated...

Mr. HINZMAN: And that's why my first claim was denied.

CONAN: And what you're calling pre-meditated, first-degree murder would be any military operation?

Mr. HINZMAN: No, any offensive military operation that is like a, well, specifically raids and ambushes, which is what we do...

CONAN: Mm hmmm, in the 82nd Airborne, yeah.

Mr. HINZMAN: ...in the infantry, yeah. A raid or an ambush doesn't just take place in the spur of the moment.

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Mr. HINZMAN: It's well rehearsed. Sometimes weeks ahead of time, and it starts out on a, like a white film screen, then you have terrain models, and then you go through a dry fire and a blank fire and maybe a live fire, and then you're actually you're in the situation. I never really was in the situation, but it doesn't just take place out of the blue. It's very well planned, and that's to the army's credit.

CONAN: I wanted to ask you one question before we let you go. And your case has become something of a cause celeb. There are, well, I think it's estimated there may be as many as 200 other deserters in Canada, and your case is being looked at as a potential, you know, watershed case. Do you feel, sometimes, that you're being, you know, swept up into that symbol status?

Mr. HINZMAN: You know, I've really, I think for the first, probably, six months or whatever, when I was inundated with media from around the world and yeah, I was. And maybe I got up a little caught up in it. But I've had two years. I think I've matured quite a bit in that time, and I really, I'm no one's poster boy. I mean, I don't mean to, I mean, I appreciate support that I get, but I'm not, there's really like a Bolshevik element to some of the support we get.

You know, there's like this party line. For instance, when Mr. Abney(ph) was apprehended, they were all ready to make Free Alan Abney signs without even talking to him. And then when he had a press conference after coming back, he talked about, you know, I was 18, I was immature, I made a mistake. I didn't know what honor and duty was. And, well, we haven't heard about that anymore, at least from the circles that I sometimes swim in. I'm very much my own person, and that's what gets me in trouble in life.

CONAN: Well, Jeremy Hinzman, thanks very much for taking the time to speak with us today. We appreciate it.

Mr. HINZMAN: Thank you.

CONAN: Jeremy Hinzman joined us from the studios of the CBC in Toronto, Canada. To get a better sense of who goes AWOL and why, we turn now to Charles Moskos, professor of Military Sociology at Northwestern University. He's with us today from our studios at NPR West in Culver City, California. Nice to have you on the program, Charlie.

Professor CHARLES MOSKOS (Military Sociology, Northwestern University): Thank you, Neil.

CONAN: I wonder. As you're listening to Jeremy Hinzman's story, to what extent do you think he's a typical deserter, or is there any such thing as a typical deserter?

Professor MOSKOS: Well, Jeremy Hinzman's case is very interesting. He's not a typical deserter by any means. The most serious studies done on deserters in the American Army, starting in World War II through the Vietnam War, show that about five percent of deserters are truly involved in some way with conscientious objection. The other great number, 90-plus percent are family problems, personal problems, failure to adapt, maladjustment--this was even mentioned by Jeremy, immaturity.

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Professor MOSKOS: Problems with the command structure, all things are the big reason. It's also important to note that about half of all deserters, which is usually defined as 30-days absence without leave, beyond 30 days, about half of them come back under their own volition, back into the military.

But in Jeremy Hinzman's case, what's interesting here is that, according to American law, to be a conscientious objector, you have to be against all wars, not just a specific war. And that makes it, you know, much more complex.

You know, it's important, by the way, you might remember that the name of the most famous soldier in World War I, Sergeant York. You know, originally, a Mennonite, started out as a conscientious objector before he became the famous hero, you know, of that war. Now, we do have a treatment of conscientious objectors in America has been varied. During World War II, we locked up Jehovah Witnesses in our jails. By the way, these Jehovah Witnesses were killed in Germany and in Stalin's Russia, too. So, those are the true, I say, conscientious objectors who are willing to suffer. Now, the issue of desertion as a phenomenon, as you mentioned earlier, Neal...

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Professor MOSKOS: ...the rate of desertion in the Iraq war so far is a fraction of what it was during the Vietnam War in terms of proportions. It's about eight to nine times greater desertion rate towards the end of the Vietnam War than what we are currently experiencing.

CONAN: An Army that included many draftees during Vietnam.

Professor MOSKOS: And that's the other important finding. Draftees in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam had a lower desertion rate than did volunteers, which is completely counter-intuitive. I, by the way, I speak as a former draftee. The reason that the, for this lower attrition rate and lower desertion rate of the draftee was several reasons, but the main one was that they usually came from better socioeconomic backgrounds, were more mature, and therefore, and also had a shorter term of service, in many cases.

So, if you really want to get desertion down, maybe one way to do it is bring back the draftee, which is not on the political horizon. But that's a very interesting thing. In World War II, by the way, soldiers with college education had a desertion rate only one-fifth that of the rate of soldiers who only had a grade school education, and that finding has been pretty consistent over the decades.

CONAN: Let's get another caller on the line. This is David. David's calling us from Heidelberg in Germany.

DAVID (Caller): How are you doing?

CONAN: Very well, thanks.

DAVID: My comments are about going AWOL in perspective of my career as soldier and as a civilian personnel specialist. Now, I had a troop while I was stationed over in Germany who went AWOL just to stay with his girlfriend, and the military did pursue him. We, the Germ Politzi(ph) at the time, did capture him, or should say, capture is the probably the wrong word, but did apprehend him and brought him back to us. He tried escaping twice more by climbing the fence, but he was tried in the military court, and, you know, a dishonorable discharge. But the most interesting case I ever had to deal with AWOL was while I was stationed with Miami, in Miami, a civilian came up to me and said I'd like to turn myself in. I've been AWOL for six years.


DAVID: And he was living in Miami. And that was extremely unusual. I had a chance to talk to him for over an hour waiting for military police to come and take him to Fort Bragg. But his case was he went home on leave and disappeared.


DAVID: And stayed as the term is, on the lam for six years, and then he decided that it wasn't worth it anymore, trying to hide. And he turned himself in and was tried and discharged immediately, and came back and actually said thank you for being nice.

CONAN: Huh. Charlie Moskos, those sound, at least from your description, like more typical deserters.

Professor MOSKOS: Yeah, those are the more typical ones. It's interesting. I said over half of deserters, as defined, actually returned back to the military under their own volition.

As David did point out here, you do get an interesting question here. The cases that get the more attention are the deserters who've done it for moral reasons, whether it's religious or political or philosophical. And that counters the more standard definition of the deserter, which is somebody who's left his comrades, who are moral cowards, not brave people.

And somewhere between those two dichotomies, two opposing viewpoints, you probably are going to get closer to the truth. But the fact of the matter is that a great majority of deserters are not doing it for conscientious reasons, but are doing it for, you know, personal problems.

DAVID: Exactly. And that's what I thought of the gentleman that turned himself in in Miami. It wasn't during a time of war. This was after Grenada. This was before Panama, so there was no conflict. There was no moral justification at the time. He just was fed up with the lifestyle of being a soldier.

CONAN: Hmm. David...

DAVID: And it's common, we find it, but some people actually swallow it down and just do their time and then get out. But those that have the intestinal fortitude to stand up and say I can't take this anymore, we classify them as losers, and they're not.

CONAN: David, thanks very much for the call, we appreciate it.

DAVID: Have a good night.

CONAN: We're talking today about those who go AWOL, absent without official leave, or become deserters from the U.S. military, and you're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

And let's get another caller on the line. This is Nancy. Nancy with us from Lansing, Kansas.

NANCY (Caller): Yes, I would definitely have more empathy for the gentleman you interviewed a few moments ago if it were not a volunteer army. But as a mother of two sons who are in the Army, both of whom have participated in tours in Iraq, and one of whom is there now, I wonder if anyone considers the effect that people who volunteer for positions, and then when they don't like what is happening, to decide to leave, about the effect that has on the unit.

I mean, they automatically don't just get someone else to plug that hole. What they have to do is go shorthanded. Go without trained personnel. Which, in turn, affects the ability of the entire unit, and puts them in greater jeopardy than if they were going full strength. And as a mom of soldiers, this is particularly upsetting to me. As if this young man's feelings for home and family and so on were more important than those feelings of my son's.

CONAN: Hmm. Charlie Moskos, there's no question that desertion certainly leaves a hole in the unit.

Professor MOSKOS: It certainly does. But it's also important to note, and I certainly empathize with Nancy's views, that virtually all of desertion occurs, you know, before the deployment. You don't desert in Iraq. You don't desert, you know, in Vietnam and places of (unintelligible), because those are hostile areas.

So, it isn't quite as traumatic, because usually these things can be filled, and there's always a lot of turnover even normally in any kind of a unit. But the issue is, I would think, that the great majority of these deserters probably were never bonded, you know, with their comrades.

CONAN: It's a failure of leadership in some respects, isn't it?

Professor MOSKOS: Well, it's also a failure of followership. We always talk about leadership, but don't forget, as one officer told me, there are some soldiers the 12 Apostles couldn't lead. So you get this kind of situation. I think if you had more privileged youth serving, I think you would find desertion lower, because people say if the top of the social ladder's serving, than I ought to serve, too.

For example, it's interesting to note that all of the Kennedy brothers served. And none of the Kennedy cousins did. And that's the change, I think, without a draft. A draft, not like the Vietnam era draft, but a draft that starts at the top of the social ladder.

CONAN: Nancy, thanks very much for the call, we appreciate it.

NANCY: You're welcome.

CONAN: Bye-bye.


CONAN: Let's go now to Sarah. Sarah's calling us from Eugene in Oregon.

SARAH (Caller): Hi, there.

CONAN: Hi, there.

SARAH: My daughter served a year in Iraq, and then three days before she was supposed to be redeployed to Iraq for another year, she decided to go AWOL. And I've been listening to your program, and I really appreciate Charlie saying that it's personal problems, and that they're not moral cowards because that really gets me.

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

SARAH: You know, my daughter's my hero, for doing this. And I'd rather she leave the Army now than come back in a body bag.

CONAN: Even if this has legal consequences, which it will.

SARAH: I'd rather she spend a year or five years in prison than go to Iraq for another minute.

CONAN: How's she doing?

SARAH: You know, she has PTSD, she suffered from severe sexual harassment daily in Iraq, and the thought of going back for any amount of time just sent her over the edge.

CONAN: Charlie Moskos, is there any evidence that people going back for second or third tours in Iraq are more likely to desert than others?

Professor MOSKOS: We don't have the data on that yet, but common sense would seem to imply that. But again, if the issue's largely personal and familial reasons that probably won't be as big of a factor as we think.

One thing that has not yet been mentioned, unlike Vietnam, today we have a huge known percentage of our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan are Reservists, or National Guards members, and that is another kind of condition that we haven't looked at.

I might add, too, on Sarah's point here. President Ford in 1974 made an interesting kind of decision. By the way, the deserters were largely pardoned by, you know, Clinton subsequently in the late '70s. But President Ford said he would give clemency to any deserter who came back in return for doing a sum of a stint of civilian service.

And I think that would be a very good idea to sort of reintroduce here for deserters. Yes, we'll give you clemency, you know, shame on you, point the finger and all of that, but at the same time, here you are a full citizen again, but you have to do some civilian service instead of the military service you deserted from.

CONAN: Sarah, thank you very much for the call, and we hope this works out well.

SARAH: Thank you.

CONAN: Appreciate it. And Charlie Moskos, thank you as always for your time. We appreciate that too.

Professor MOSKOS: My pleasure.

CONAN: Charlie Moskos is a professor of Military Sociology at Northwestern University, joining us today from the studios at NPR West. When we come back from the break, we'll talk with a former Navy JAG lawyer about some of the legal consequences that those who go AWOL and those who desert will face upon their return to the military, or their return to the American court system.

And we'll also talk with author Dave Kindred, who joins us to talk about two heavy hitters, Mohammed Ali and Howard Cosell. His new book, Sound and Fury. I'm Neal Conan, this is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

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CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. And here are some of the headlines from some of the other stories we're following here today at NPR News. General Motors and its former auto parts supplier, Delphi Corporation, have announced separate agreements with the United Auto Workers. The pacts would offer buyouts for up to 13,000 Delphi workers, and up to 100,000 hourly GM workers. And today, the Supreme Court ruled that it's not enough for just one resident of a home to allow police to conduct a search. The case at issue involved a wife who invited officers in, even as her husband objected. You can hear details on those stories, coming up later today on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

Tomorrow at this time, on TALK OF THE NATION, the history and the art of film criticism. Author Philip Lope'(ph) takes us from H.L. Mencken to Pauline Kale. That's tomorrow on TALK OF THE NATION. In just a few moments, we're going to be talking with Dave Kindred about his biography, dual biography of Muhammad Ali and Howard Cosell. If you have questions for him, give us a call now, 800-989-8255. E-mail is talk@npr.org.

But we want to wrap up our conversation about people who desert. To get a sense of the legal options for military deserters, we turn now to David Price, a retired navy JAG lawyer. He's currently with the law firm McCormack and Associates, who specializes in military law. He's with us by phone from his office in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Thanks for taking the time to be with us today.

Mr. DAVID PRICE (Lawyer, Military Law Specialist): Thank you, Neal, for allowing me to participate in this.

CONAN: Now, your law firm, I know, receives lots of calls from servicemen who are considering jumping ship as it were, and from those who already have. What legal grounds do they have?

Mr. PRICE: Well, Neal, it's very interesting, because, of course, they are under an obligation to serve, and they fall into two broad categories. We've got those individuals who are currently on active duty, and it's just going to be a deployment for them. But the more significant cases that we tend to see are those the reservists, the National Guard.

As Charles just mentioned, there's such a large portion of the troops in Iraq that are reservists, and their cases actually are treated somewhat significantly differently. These are people who, by large measure, allowed themselves to believe what the recruiters told them. That they'd get college education benefits, and they'd drill once a month and two weeks a year, and didn't realize that they actually were going to be mobilized, in some cases on multiple occasions, to deploy for up to a year or two overseas.

And as Charles also indicated, the small number of cases, but those that get the most attention, are the conscientious objector cases. The vast majority of the cases are like Sarah from Eugene, her daughter, who has deployed before, but she has something in her personal life that has come up, and has now caused her to refuse to deploy.

What eventually they face is either obtaining a delay or exemption from being required to mobilize, or eventually that hard choice of show up or face potentially very, very serious administrative or disciplinary action against them.

CONAN: If you turn yourself in, are you better off than if you're found?

Mr. PRICE: Yes, absolutely. One of the aggravating factors in an unauthorized absence case, and as Charles indicated, after a soldier or service member has been gone over 30 days, they are administratively declared to be a deserter. But one of the aggravating factors of a case is did the service member return voluntarily to military control, or were they apprehended? That's the military term for arrest. Were they apprehended and then returned involuntarily to the military?

If they're apprehended, they're much more likely to go into pretrial confinement at the military brig, pending a determination as to how their case is going to be handled--whether it would be perhaps at a lower level administrative or disciplinary case, then followed by an administrative separation, which will result in a bad paper discharge. Typically, an other than honorable discharge.

Or they may go to a court martial. And actually, for a number of reservists and guard who have refused to comply with their mobilization orders, they have found themselves at the highest military court martial, the general court martial, which is the military's equivalent of a felony trial, have gotten a conviction, either a bad conduct discharge or a dishonorable discharge as well as potentially some fairly lengthy periods of confinement.

CONAN: Mm-hmm. Now, again, another factor is how long you may have been in the service?

Mr. PRICE: Absolutely. How long you've been in the service. They do--the military is very good about looking at each offense and each offender. They don't have sentencing guidelines the same as people might be familiar with in the federal civilian court system. They will look at how long you've been in the service.

That is, by your years of service, you're experience, whether you're officer or enlisted, how senior you are within your different category, and the more junior, the more immature, generally the less severe the consequences are likely to be. But if you've been in the military for a number of years, and you happen to be at a higher pay grade as either officer or enlisted, then those individuals are definitely looking at more severe punishment.

CONAN: And from your experience, is the military eager to go after people to make examples of them?

Mr. PRICE: Well, generally no. At this point, they do not normally send out what is called an absentee collection unit to find these individuals and bring them back. Although clearly, in particular cases, it may have obtained some degree of notoriety or publicity then they may be more to do that than others.

Generally, what happens is that after the individual has been away from the military for over 30 days, they're declared to be, administratively declared a deserter. Their name and information then goes into the national crime information center. And typically, what happens is they're stopped for a traffic offense, the police officer runs their driver's license, they're identified as being a deserter from the military. They're arrested on the spot, taken to the local jail, and then the military authorities are contacted to come and pick them up.

CONAN: As we heard earlier, Canada is not much of an option the way it was during Viet Nam.

Mr. PRICE: Well, no. And politically, the world is very different than the situation at the end of the Vietnam War.

CONAN: Thanks very much.

Mr. PRICE: You're welcome, Neal.

CONAN: David Price, a retired Navy JAG lawyer, now with the law firm McCormack and Associates. He joined us by phone from his office in Virginia Beach.

Coming up, Sound and Fury.

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