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
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
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
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, www.couragetoresist.org an organization that
supports military war resisters.