Army deserter tells of his time behind bars

Tony Perry / Los Angeles Times

Instead of waking up to his son, he woke up to “… high fences and razor wire.” Robin Long, released from Miramar Marine Corps Air Station, said the hardest part of his 12 months in the brig was being away from his young son. He had fled to Canada in opposition to the Iraq war. By Tony Perry July 11, 2009 Reporting from San Diego — Army deserter and antiwar activist Robin Long said Friday that the most difficult part of his 12 months behind bars was being away from his young son. Long, 25, released Thursday from the brig at Miramar Marine Corps Air Station, said he missed celebrating Christmas and other special occasions with his 3-year-old son, Ocean.

Robin Long Robin Long Meeting reporters outside the Veterans Museum and Memorial Center in San Diego, Long said he wished every morning that he could see his son running toward him and hear his voice. “Instead I woke up to reveille and I saw high fences and razor wire,” said Long, from Boise, Idaho. “This punishment was for having a moral opposition to the Iraq war.” Long enlisted in 2003 and was trained as a tank crewman but fled to Canada in 2005 when his unit was on the verge of deploying to Iraq. He said his views about the war had changed since his enlistment. Long said that, like much of the American public, he began to doubt the wisdom of the war when the U.S. was unable to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Long said he was influenced by a quotation attributed to Voltaire: “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” In Canada, Long sought refugee status but was turned down.

The decision by the Canadian government to deport him to the U.S. for court-martial caused a political furor in Canada. He is considered the first U.S. deserter to be deported by Canada during the Iraq war. Long said he plans to enroll in a school in San Francisco to learn massage therapy. He also plans to reunite in Seattle with his wife, Renee, and their son and to continue speaking out against the Iraq war. His wife, a Canadian citizen, has remained in Canada to receive care for multiple sclerosis. As a convicted felon, Long may be barred from reentering Canada, but he said he plans to appeal. Although he was sentenced to a dishonorable discharge from the Army, he is still on active duty but not being paid. Long said he had no major complaints about his treatment in the brig. “The food was horrible and it was a filthy place to be,” he said. “But I was treated pretty well.”

19-Year-Old Soldier Sentenced to 14 Months of Confinement for Refusing to Deploy to Iraq

19 year-old Army private Tony Anderson was court martialed Monday and sentenced to 14 months of confinement and given a dishonorable discharge from the military for “desertion with intent to avoid hazardous duty” and “disobeying a lawful order.” The young soldier refused to deploy to Iraq in July of this year on the grounds of conscientious objection to war.

“I know in my heart that it is wrong to willfully hurt or kill another human being. I simply cannot do it. I don’t regret following my conscience,” he said at his trial as he struggled to compose himself. “I know there must be consequences for my actions and I must accept this fact.”

Members of Iraq Veterans Against the War and Colorado Springs peace organizations attended the Ft. Carson, Colorado court martial to show their support for the young soldier. Immediately after being sentenced, Anderson was placed in handcuffs and taken to the Colorado Springs Criminal Justice Center, where he will be held for a few weeks until he is moved to an army stockade.

The 14 month sentence is one of the longest given to a U.S. military serviceperson for refusing to fight in Iraq.

Who is Tony Anderson?

Hailing from the small city of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, Anderson says that he was never very attracted to military life, but joined the service at the behest of his father, who had always regretted not joining the military himself. Once in the ranks, Anderson realized that he had made an unfortunate decision. During basic training, he found himself ethically opposed to taking a human life in a military conflict. He was disturbed by seeing soldiers on his base return from Iraq deeply traumatized from their experience in combat. “I didn’t want to mess myself up for the rest of my life doing something I didn’t want to do to begin with,” he says.

Anderson had vague thoughts about filing for conscientious objector (C.O.) status but was discouraged from doing so by his commanding officers, who told him that it would not be possible for him to obtain, and even falsely informed him that he was “not the right religion.” Anderson was led to believe that filing a C.O. application would be futile.

Anderson says that when he was ordered to deploy to Iraq on July first, he “freaked out.” “What upset me most was the thought having to hurt or kill someone else,” he said at his trial. “I know this may be hard to believe, but I never really thought about the idea of hurting or killing another human being before I joined the military. And then in training, it just didn’t seem real. I knew I could be deployed someday but I just never gave it much thought. But when I got to Ft. Carson and heard that I would be going to Iraq, I realized that this was something I would have to resolve.”

Just hours before boarding his flight, he went AWOL, eventually turning himself in after 22 days in hopes of diminishing the severity of his punishment. On his return, Anderson was again ordered to deploy to Iraq immediately. This time, he simply refused, and he says, “they haven’t tried to deploy me since then because they realize I’m not going to go.”

Objection to war

Anderson is not alone: a growing number of U.S. troops are refusing to fight in the so-called “war on terror.” Army soldiers are resisting service at the highest rate since 1980, with an 80 percent increase in desertions, defined as absence for more than 30 days, since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, according to the AP Press. Over 150 resisters have come out publicly against the war, and some cases, such as Lt. Ehren Watada, the first army officer to refuse to deploy to Iraq, have garnered widespread support and attention.

Meanwhile, an increasing number of active duty G.I.s have been joining Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), an organization comprised of over 1,200 U.S. veterans who have served since September 11, 2001. With 12 active duty members at Anderson’s base alone, IVAW has taken a position of open support for G.I. resisters.

The rising number of troops who do not want to join the war face a challenge because conscientious objector status is difficult to obtain. C.O.s must prove that they are opposed to war in all forms, that their objection is based on “religious training and belief,” which can include moral or ethical training, and that their beliefs are “sincere and deeply held.” The application process is arduous and includes written applications, a series of examinations, and a hearing with an investigative officer. A decision on an application can take up to a year, and in the interim a C.O. application cannot forestall deployment to a combat zone, although it can help ensure that applicants are assigned duties which conflict as little as possible with C.O. convictions. Applicants face pressures to drop the issue from commanding officers, who “accidentally” lose the applications, impose informal punishments on C.O. applicants, or give false information about the process, as in the case of Anderson.

There has been no reliable study of the difficulty of obtaining C.O. status. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report finding that between 2002 and 2006, the Marine Corps and Coast Guard approved a third of C.O. applications, Army officials approved 55 percent, the Air Force approved 62 percent, and the Navy approved 84 percent. Critics claim, however, that these figures are grossly misrepresentative, as they do not factor in the number of potential applicants who are deterred at all stages of the process: anyone who did not make it entirely through the application process was not counted by the GAO.

Elizabeth Stinson, Director of the Sonoma County Peace and Justice Center, urges potential applicants not to be deterred by the difficulty of obtaining C.O. status and counsels them to seek support from allies in the peace movement. “Applying for conscientious objector status is hard,” she says. ” Still, I would love to see the amount of conscientious objector applicants go up. For some, it can be the most liberating thing ever.”

“There is a huge problem with people being discouraged by the chain of command from going through the process of applying for C.O. status,” said Andrew Gorby, who was discharged from the Army in May 2007 as a conscientious objector and now works for the Center on Conscience and War, a counseling organization that works to defend the rights of conscientious objectors. “But being granted C.O. status is possible. It is a matter of getting in touch with a qualified C.O. counseling organization.”

Court Martial

The young soldier, who remained in tears during much of the trial, did not have family present at his court martial. His mother sent a statement saying she does not agree with what her son did but believes that he was sincerely trying to follow his conscience.
Anderson’s civilian lawyer, James Branum, expressed frustration with the lack of fair process for cases of conscience and said, “I am disappointed by how long Tony’s sentence was. 14 months is on the high end, but it could have been worse. At least Tony was able to have his day in court.”

At the trial, Tony read a statement explaining that he was sincerely trying to do the right. He told of being deterred from for conscientious objector status at every step along the way, leaving him with the impression that his only option was outright refusal. He expressed regret that he did not initially move forward with the conscientious objector application.

Anderson closed by saying, “I only ask that you remember that I was trying to do the right thing.”

For more information about Tony Anderson’s case, and to find out how you can donate to help cover his legal expenses, please visit: www.couragetoresist.org

Robin Long, War Resister Deported from Canada, Faces Trial This Week

Alternet

By Sarah Lazare, Posted August 21, 2008.


The first war resister to be deported from Canada since the Vietnam War faces court-martial and three years in jail. Who is next?

Three years ago, Robin Long fled to Canada rather than fight a war in Iraq he deems immoral. Just over a month ago, the Canadian government forcibly returned Long to U.S. military custody, making him the first war resister deported from Canadian soil since the Vietnam War.

Long now faces court-martial and the possibility of three years in prison. Meanwhile, another war resister living in Canada, Jeremy Hinzman, received a deportation notice a few days ago, and other war resisters in Canada wonder if they will be next.

The Canadian government’s actions flaunt its long-standing tradition of providing safe haven for U.S. war resisters and ignore widespread grassroots efforts in that country to protect U.S. soldiers seeking sanctuary.

Long is a part of a growing movement of GI resistance against the Iraq War, and his case has been met with widespread support from friends and allies throughout the United States and Canada.

Who is Robin Long?

Born in Boise, Idaho, Robin Long was raised in a military family, playing with G.I. Joes and dreaming of one day joining the service. Upon enlisting in the Army in June 2003, the recruiter promised that Long would not be sent to Iraq. Long was excited about this chance to serve his country and finally make something with his life, and he headed off for basic training feeling he had made the right decision. “When the United States first attacked Iraq, I was told by my president that it was because of direct ties to al Qaeda and weapons of mass destruction,” Long told Courage to Resist in an interview in January. “At the time, I believed what was being said.”

Over the next few months, Long’s enthusiasm began to wane. His drill sergeant repeatedly referred to Iraqi people as “ragheads” and led the troops in racist cadences. When Long protested, he was punished by senior officers and alienated by his peers. At this point, Long began to suffer a crisis of conscience. “I was hearing on mainstream media that the U.S. was going to Iraq to get the weapons of mass destruction and to liberate the Iraqi people, yet I’m being taught that I’m going to the desert to, excuse the racial slur, ‘kill ragheads.'”

After basic training, Long was transferred to the nondeployable base at Fort Knox. Upon meeting soldiers returning from Iraq, Long was horrified by their stories of violence and brutality. Soldiers bragged about their “first kills” and showed pictures of people they shot or ran over with tanks. “I had a really sick feeling to my stomach when I heard about these things that went on,” he said.

In 2005, Long received orders to go to Iraq. The only soldier to be deployed from his unit, a nondeployable unit, Long received a month’s leave to check out of Fort Knox and report to Fort Carson, Colo. He was scheduled to report to Iraq a few weeks later.

While on leave, Long educated himself about the “behind the scenes” story of the Iraq invasion. He talked to friends about whether to go through with his deployment. By his scheduled departure day, Long had made the decision not to go. He skipped his flight and stayed in a friend’s basement in Boise over the next few months. From there he caught a ride to Canada. “I knew that my conscience couldn’t allow me to go over there (to Iraq),” he said.

Long spent the next three years building a life for himself in Canada. He met a woman, had a child and established contact with other war resisters in Canada. Long applied for refugee status on the grounds that he was being asked to participate in an illegal war and would suffer irreparable harm if he returned to the United States. Not only was his bid rejected, but Canadian authorities responded by mandating that Long report his whereabouts every month. He eventually settled in Nelson, a small town in British Columbia.

Deportation Orders

Robin Long found his new life in Canada to be increasingly precarious.

He was issued a warrant for arrest by the Canadian Border Services Agency on July 4 of this year, on the grounds that he did not adequately report his whereabouts to the authorities, and he was told a few days later that he would be deported to the United States. Long appealed the order, and his supporters rallied throughout the United States and Canada, urging Canadian authorities to let him stay. Despite these efforts, Long was deported on July 15, after the judge ruled that he would not suffer irreparable harm if returned to the United States.

Long now sits in the El Paso County Jail near Colorado Springs, Colo., awaiting a court-martial for desertion “with intent to remain away permanently,” a charge that carries a maximum of three years of confinement, forfeiture of pay and dishonorable discharge. His trial is set for Friday, Aug. 22, and it is expected to move quickly, with his unit command hoping to convict him as rapidly as possible. Despite these grim prospects, Long remains in good spirits, according to Buff Whitman-Bradley, a volunteer with Courage to Resist who regularly corresponds with him. “He feels more strongly now than ever that he is right,” said Whitman-Bradley, “and he is willing to accept the consequences, whatever they might be.”

The first war resister to be deported from Canada since the Vietnam War faces court-martial and three years in jail. Who is next?

Long’s family remains in Canada, and he worries about the separation, which could last a number of years. “I have a son I wouldn’t be able to see. It’s kind of hard to think about that,” he told Courage to Resist.

Grassroots Support for Iraq War Resisters

The government’s policy of deporting U.S. soldiers is unpopular with the Canadian people. Canada is home to an estimated 200 U.S. soldiers who have refused to serve in the Iraq War, and 64 percent of Canadians favor granting them permanent residence, according to a June 27 Angus Reid Strategies poll. The Canadian House of Commons passed a resolution on June 3 calling for a halt to the deportation of U.S. war resisters and allowing them to apply for permanent residency in Canada. The ruling came after months of organizing by grassroots and political supporters of Long and other war resisters.

However, the resolution amounted to nothing more than a recommendation; it was nonbinding, and it did not prevent Canadian authorities from deporting Long — and also moving to deport Hinzman, who was the first U.S. soldier to seek refugee status in Canada. Corey Glass, another war resister living in Canada, is also fighting a deportation order issued last month. Glass won a stay of reprieve while his case moves through the Canadian courts after his supporters held rallies at 14 Canadian consulates throughout the United States.

Critics regard the flurry of deportations and threats as an effort by Canada’s right-wing Harper government to appease the United States. Since his conservative government won election in 2006, Stephen Harper has established a cozy relationship with the U.S. government and shown sympathy to U.S. policy in Iraq.

“Canada is supposedly not participating in the war against Iraq,” said Whitman-Bradley. “Yet, by sending soldiers back, they are supporting the war.”

“The deportation of Robin Long is a gift from Harper to the Bush administration,” said Gerry Condon, a Vietnam War resister and active supporter of the GI movement against the Iraq War. “This is one neo-conservative supporting another.”

The Harper administration’s policies have been devastating to Robin Long. It has been difficult, too, for his friends and allies, who remain determined to support him and other Iraq War resisters. “None of us should have to go to jail for standing up for what we believe in and refusing to fight in an immoral war,” said Ryan Johnson, a friend of Long’s and himself an Iraq War resister living in Canada. “He is the first one of us to be deported to the United States, and that has a lot of significance up here in Canada.”

A Growing Movement Against the War

The high profile of Long’s case is also a sign of the growing significance of the GI movement against the Iraq War. As the war effort becomes increasingly unpopular, more and more soldiers are speaking publicly against the invasion and refusing to serve out their contracts, with high-ranking military officials like Ehren Watada publicly denouncing military atrocities, despite facing harsh penalties for doing so.

Meanwhile, Iraq War veterans are teaming up with war resisters and other civilian and veteran supporters to build the GI movement against the war. Iraq Veterans Against the War, whose membership consists of people who have served in the U.S. military since 9/11, has been active in supporting Long and other war resisters. Several other groups, such as Courage to Resist and the War Resisters Support Campaign (Canada), have risen to support soldiers willing to take a stand. The orders for Long’s deportation were met with protests throughout the United States and Canada.

“Veterans and war resisters are beginning to see that they are in the same boat, that they are brothers and sisters, and it is one struggle,” said Condon. “The fact that people are showing this kind of solidarity with each other is really profound. Resistance within the military is certainly growing.”

Despite the steep punishments he faces, Long says he wouldn’t have it any other way. “Regardless of what hardships I go through, I could have easily put a family or someone else in that country through way more hardship,” he said. “I have no regrets.”

U.S. army deserter to be deported from Canada

CBC News

One of the first U.S. army deserters from Iraq to seek refugee status in Canada has been ordered deported.

Jeremy Hinzman deserted the army in 2004, two years after enlisting. After learning his unit was to be deployed to Iraq, he refused to participate in what he calls an immoral and illegal war.

Hinzman fled to Canada along with his wife and son and sought refugee status.

Outside the Canada Border Services Agency office in Mississauga, Ont., where the order came down Wednesday, Hinzman said he was disappointed but added he still thinks he did the right thing.

“Life goes on and we’ll make the most of it wherever we end up,” he said.

He has been ordered out of the country by Sept. 23.

The Immigration and Refugee Board rejected his claim in 2005 and the Federal Court of Appeal held that he wouldn’t face any serious punishment if returned to the United States.

Hinzman, who lives in Toronto, could face a court martial and five years in prison upon his return to the United States.

Arrests for War Resistance Increase Again

We can never forget that everything that Hitler did in Germany was ‘legal,’ and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did was ‘illegal.’ It was ‘illegal’ to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany, but I am sure that if I lived in Germany during that time I would have comforted my Jewish brothers even though it was illegal… we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive.

– Martin Luther King, Jr.

There have been over 15,000 arrests for resistance to war since 2002. There were large numbers right after the run up to and invasion of Iraq. Recently, arrests have begun climbing again. Though arrests are a small part of anti-war organizing, their rise is an indicator of increasing resistance.

The information comes from the Nuclear Resister, a newsletter that has been reporting detailed arrest information on peace activists and other social justice campaigns since 1980. Felice and Jack Cohen-Joppa, publishers of the Nuclear Resister, document arrests by name and date based on information collected from newspapers across the country and from defense lawyers and peace activists.

Since 2002, the Nuclear Resister has documented anti-war arrests for protestors each year:

2002 – 1800 arrests
2003 – 6072 arrests
2004 – 2440 arrests
2005 – 975 arrests
2006 – 950 arrests
2007 – 2272 arrests
2008 – 810 as of May 1

“Arrests for resistance to war are far more widespread geographically than most people think,” according to Cohen-Joppa of Nuclear Resister. “Yes, there are many arrests in DC and traditional big cities of anti-war activity — like San Francisco, NYC and Chicago, but there have also been anti-war arrests in Albany, Ann Arbor, Atlanta, Bangor, Bath, Bend, Brentwood, Burlington, Campbell, Cedar Rapids, Chapel Hill, Charlottesville, Chicopee, Colorado Springs, Denver, Des Moines, East Hampton, Erie, Eugene, Eureka, Fairbanks, Fairport, Fort Bragg, Fort Wayne, Grand Rapids, Great Dismal Swamp, Hammond, Huntsville, Joliet, Juneau, Kennebunkport, La Crosse, Los Angeles, Madison, Manchester, Memphis, Newark, Northbrook, Olympia, Omaha, Pittsburgh, Portland, Portsmouth, Providence, Richmond, Sacramento, San Diego, Santa Fe, Smithfield, Springfield, St. Louis, St. Paul, Staten Island, Superior, Syracuse, Tacoma, Toledo, Tucson, Tulsa, Vandenberg, Virginia
Beach, Wausau, Wheaton and Wilmington just to name a few.”

“In fact,” notes Cohen-Joppa, “in 2007, anti-war arrests were reported during 250 distinct events in 105 cities in 35 states and the District of Columbia. So far in 2008, arrests have been reported at 65 events in 43 different cities in 19 states and D.C.”

An example of the scope of resistance can be found in the Chicago-based Voices for Creative Nonviolence. They joined with other major peace groups like CODEPINK, Veterans for Peace, and the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance in early 2007 to launch The Occupation Project, a campaign of resistance aimed at ending the Iraq War. Theirs was a campaign of sustained nonviolent civil disobedience to end funding for the U.S. war in and occupation of Iraq. The Occupation Project resulted in over 320 arrests in spring of 2007 in the offices of 39 U.S. Representatives and Senators in 25 states.

“I am energized by the dedication of so many conscientious activists across the country willing to take the risks of peace and speak truth to power,” says Max Obuszewski of the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance. “We have been unsuccessful so far in stopping this awful war and occupation of Iraq, but it is not for the lack of direct action. We are taking on the greatest empire in world history, but we will continue to act.”

“There are large numbers of new people being arrested,” notes Cohen-Joppa, “most typically saying, ‘I have tried everything else from writing to voting, but I have to do more to stop this war.’ The profile of people arrested includes high school teenagers to senior citizens, mostly people under 30 and over 50.”

Anti-war arrests are significantly under-reported by mainstream media. For example, around the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq in March 2008, most news stories wrote that there were 150 to 200 arrests nationwide. Cohen-Joppa and Nuclear Resister report there were over double that number, well over 400, many outside the cities where regular media traditionally look.

Though arrests typically drop off in election years, as people’s hopes are raised that a new President or Congress will make a difference and stop the war, this year looks like arrests are likely to continue to rise. In part, that will depend on the attitude of authorities in Denver and Minneapolis, where the political conventions are being held. In 2004, New York City authorities overreacted so much to protestors at the Republican convention that they arrested historic numbers of protestors — including hundreds who had no intention to risk arrest. If Senator McCain is elected, anti-war resistance activities are expected to rise much higher.

Why do people risk arrest in their resistance to war? Perhaps Daniel Berrigan, on trial for resistance to the Vietnam War, said it best:

The time is past when good people may be silent
when obedience
can segregate us from public risk
when the poor can die without defense.
How many indeed must die
before our voices are heard
how many must be tortured dislocated
starved maddened?
How long must the world=s resources
be raped in the service of legalized murder?
When at what point will you say no to this war?
We have chosen to say
with the gift of our liberty
if necessary our lives:
the violence stops here.
The death stops here.
The suppression of truth stops here.
This war stops here.

Though war resistance activities and arrests have not stopped the war in Iraq, those struggling for peace remain committed. “None of us know what will happen if we continue to work for peace and human rights,” says a handmade poster of one involved in the resistance, “But we all know what will happen if we don’t.”