Mar 27, 2006
Allen Abney, a 56-year-old Canadian citizen, was arrested on March 9 for deserting from the U.S. Marines 38 years ago. Abney, who lives in Canada, had entered the U.S. hundreds of times since his desertion. But this time, he was detained and sent to Camp Pendleton, California, for a week before being released.
It wasn’t an isolated incident. The U.S. military has been opening AWOL files that had long been closed. In the last 18 months, the Marine Corps has looked for, found and arrested 34 of some 160 remaining Marine deserters from the Viet Nam war. One of them, a 65-year-old man, was held for five months, four of them in solitary confinement.
The desertion rate was high during Viet Nam – 33,000 went AWOL in 1971 alone. The reason so few still remain at large today is because two presidents, Ford and Carter, pardoned Viet Nam deserters in the 1970s. Those remaining are basically the people who didn’t bother to turn themselves in to be officially pardoned.
“It wouldn’t have taken a brain surgeon to find me at any time,” said 55-year-old Ernest McQueen, one of the arrested deserters. “It must be to send a message to the young guys in Iraq not to desert. Why else would they suddenly be chasing down old men?”
It wouldn’t take a brain surgeon either to see why the military would want to send this “Don’t desert or else ...” message to the troops now! The U.S. military has acknowledged nearly 9,400 desertions since fall 2003, not counting the much larger number of reservists and National Guard troops who have not reported to duty. In the latest polls an increasingly large majority of both the troops in Iraq and the population in the U.S. want out.