Tuesday, March 6, 2007

The Deserter's Tale

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The Deserter's Tale
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When it comes to the war in Iraq we hear a lot about troop numbers and deployment strategies but very little from soldiers on the ground about what their experience of the fighting is.

Joshua Key is a young man from Oklahoma who signed up with the US Army in 2002 with the aim of lifting his family out of poverty. A year later the US invaded Iraq and Josh was sent to Ramadi. Josh says that what he witnessed - and participated in - during his 6 months in Iraq, transformed him from a naive patriot into an army deserter. After going AWOL from the US Army, Josh and his family went into hiding in the US before crossing into Canada, where he is now claiming refugee status on the basis that the US Army is forcing hime to take part in a war which makes no distinction between civilian and combatant.

Joshua KeyAWOL U.S. Soldier.
Title: The Deserter's Tale: Why I Walked Away from the War in IraqAuthor: Joshua Key as told to Lawrence HillPublisher: Text Publishing
Phillip Adams
Story Researcher and Producer
Sarah Kanowski

The Deserter's Tale: Why I Walked Away from the War in Iraq Joshua Key, as told to Lawrence Hill Non-fiction paperback ISBN: 978-1-921145-90-2 RRP: $32.95 240 pp

I asked Sergeant Jones about the point of the war.'There is no point, it's just your job,' he said.'But what's the justification for this war?''The justification is that you signed a contract and you're told to be here.''But when do I get to go home?' I said.'Private,' he said, 'we can keep you here just as long as we want, and we ain't never got to send you home.'

In 2002, a young man from Oklahoma signed up with the US Army to provide a better life for his family. A year later Private First Class Joshua Key was sent to Iraq. He quickly discovered the war did not mean fighting terrorists and evildoers as he had expected. Instead he saw American soldiers beat, maim and shoot Iraqi civilians, with little or no provocation. He witnessed the killing of a seven-year-old girl who was scrounging for leftover army rations; he watched while dead bodies provided sport for US soldiers. After months of active duty, Key returned home for a holiday and made the decision to desert.

The Deserter's Tale is an unflinchingly honest and devastating account of the Iraq war witnessed by a soldier who was in the front line. It is not an exposé of terrible atrocity, but an account of an experience where human rights abuses and impunity for committing them were routine. It is the story of a conservative-minded family man and patriot from Oklahoma who went into the war believing unquestioningly in his government's commitment to integrity and justice, and how what he saw in Iraq transformed him into someone who could no longer serve his country.

'Joshua Key reminds us why there are rules of war. He walks away from the Iraq War, but it is the international community that is deserting International Humanitarian Law.'Senator Natasha Stott Despoja

Lawrence Hill, the award-winning Canadian novelist and journalist who helped Key write The Deserter's Tale, does a marvelous job preserving Key's authentic voice. The writing is fluid, crisp and compelling. The story is shocking.

Key provides an unvarnished and gut-wrenching account of his company's "war on terrorism"--complete with beatings and mistreatment of Iraqi civilians, outright looting and even killings.' The Deserter's Tale is not for the faint of heart. Gazette (Montreal),

'The case of Joshua Key...is unique. He is the first U.S. soldier who actually served in Iraq to claim sanctuary from the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, based on his 'personal experience with atrocities' in Iraq....Combatant Key will be able to raise the question of the war's legality as a defense.' Michael Roberts, The Province Unwind Sunday Magazine (British Columbia)

'The American Army is having a lot of trouble attracting new recruits, in part because of the war in Iraq--its horrors, the lies, and the sixteen hundred GIs who are dead. Joshua Key enlisted. But after eight months in Ramadi and Fallujah, taking advantage of home leave, he deserted....He left behind the hardship of war, the blood, the lies. Like thousands of others.' Le Monde (Paris)

'I would like to dream without nightmares about the people that I traumatized in Iraq. I would like to have a few acres of land, and make a steady living so that my children can grow up decently clothed and properly fed. I want to be a good man to my wife, who gave up her family and her country to support me in my flight from the war in Iraq.' Former Private First Class Joshua Key, May 2006
Publication/embargo date: 5 March 2007

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