Army Pvt. Brandon Hughey, who deserted his Fort Hood unit last year, told Canadian immigration officials Thursday that he would go to prison if he is forced to return to the United States.
Hughey is seeking political asylum in Canada.
He told Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board Thursday that he refused "to kill people or lose my life under false pretenses."
"I believe some things are worth fighting for, like defending my home and my family," Hughey told the board.
"I had no moral objection to fighting back then. In some circumstances, war can be justified."
Hughey says when he joined the military at 17, he was looking for a way to put himself through college and respected the military, but he says he believes the war in Iraq is illegal and his conscience obliged him to desert his unit.
Hughey is the second deserter to appear in front of the board.
Jeremy Hinzman, a reservist who served in Afghanistan, was denied political asylum in March after the review board said it wasn't convinced he'd face persecution or cruel and unusual punishment if returned to the United States.
Seven other American military personnel have applied for refugee status.