Thursday, August 28, 2008

War Resister Robin Long Sentenced to 15 Months in Prison

War Resister Robin Long Sentenced to 15 Months in Prison

By Sarah Lazare, Courage to Resist August 25, 2008.

Long, an Iraq War resister deported from Canada last

month, was sentenced to 15 months of prison and

dishonorable discharge. --

This is an update to AlterNet's previous story,_war_resister_deported_from_canada,_faces_trial_this_week/ on the case of Robin Long.

Robin Long, an Iraq War resister deported from Canada

into U.S. military custody last month, was sentenced

today to 15 months of confinement and dishonorable

discharge, receiving credit for 40 days of time served.

Long's supporters, who flooded the Fort Carson ,

Colorado courtroom where the court martial was held and

held a vigil in his honor, expressed dismay at the

harsh verdict. "It sets a very chilling precedent that

someone who is brought back gets the book thrown at

them," said Ann Wright, a retired U.S. Army Colonel who

publicly resigned in opposition to the invasion of Iraq

and served as a witness at Long's trial. "I hope the

Canadian government recognizes that."

Three years ago, Robin Long fled to Canada rather than

fight a war in Iraq he deems immoral and illegal. On

July 15th, 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.

The Canadian government's actions flaunt its long-

standing tradition of providing safe haven for U.S. war

resisters and ignore a non-binding parliamentary

resolution to allow U.S. soldiers to stay in Canada .

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

Court Martial

Long's court martial was held near Colorado Springs ,

where he was charged with desertion "with intent to

remain away permanently." He was given the maximum time

of confinement negotiated in a pre-trial agreement,

despite the testimony of several supporters, including

Colonel Ann Wright and Matthis Chiroux, an army

journalist who recently refused to deploy to Iraq .

Long's sentence stands as one of the longest handed to

an Iraq War resister.

Long gave an impassioned testimony at his trial, in

which he declared that he was still convinced that he

had done the right thing morally, even if he did not

make the most prudent legal and tactical decisions. He

said that he was glad that he did not go to Iraq but

wishes that there was another option available to him

other than facing court martial and confinement.

The trial was packed with Long's supporters, including

members from Iraq Veterans Against the War, Veterans

for Peace, and the Peace and Justice Coalition of

Colorado Springs. The courtroom was so full that many

of his supporters had to wait outside. When Long

stepped out of the courtroom, he was met with throngs

of people who cheered him on loudly, despite being

pushed across the street by military police. Long's

supporters have spent months rallying on his behalf,

and Courage to Resist raised funds for his civilian

lawyer, James Branum.

"I think it was a long sentence but it was positive

that he got his day in court and got to speak up and

say what he believed," said Mr. Branum. "His spirits

were relatively good. Having two war resisters show up

at his trial meant a lot to him."

Colonel Wright says that she is disappointed in the

steep verdict, but she believes the outcome would have

been far worse if Long had not received such

overwhelming support. "Once soldiers are returned to

military control, it is in the best interest of

everyone if there is support for war resisters.

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 unit 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, Long received a

month's leave to check out of Fort Knox and report to

Fort Carson, Colorado. He was scheduled to deploy 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 .

Orders for Deportation

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's family remains in Canada , and before the trial,

he expressed concern 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.

Canada is home to an estimated 200 U.S. soldiers

refusing 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 non-binding

resolution June 3rd, calling for a stop to the

deportation of U.S. soldiers and allowing them to apply

for permanent residency in Canada , but the resolution

was ignored by the conservative Harper administration.

Several other war resisters living in Canada face the

immediate threat of deportation, including Jeremy

Hinzman, who received a deportation order for September 23rd.

"We would hope that the Canadian government allow the

men and women who refuse to fight a war that Canadians

also refuse to fight to stay up there, especially after

seeing the heavy punishment that Robin Long faces," said Ann Wright.

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 September

11th, 2001, 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 Gerry Condon, a

Vietnam War resister and active supporter of the GI

movement against the Iraq War. "The fact that people

are showing this kind of solidarity with each other is

really profound. Resistance within the military is

certainly growing." --

Sarah Lazare is the Project Director of Courage to

Resist, an organization that

supports military war resisters.

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