2008
08.24

NY Times: Soldier who deserted to Canada draws 15-month term

…Mr. Long’s civilian lawyer, James M. Branum, said after the hearing that he would appeal the sentence.

“I felt he doesn’t deserve a day in prison,” Mr. Branum said. “Any jail time is unjust.”

Mr. Branum added that “he may have committed an illegal action, but morally he was right, and it meant a lot for him to say that to the Army.”

Karen Linne, a Fort Carson spokeswoman, said the Army had no comment. …

2008
08.24

(see earlier JMBzine post: Robin Long Press Coverage – Intro)

Local Colorado News Coverage

The Gazette (Colorado

Springs): Fort Carson deserter sentenced to 15 months in prison – by Tom Roeder

…Long’s civilian attorney, James Branam, closed his part of the sentencing hearing by comparing Long to Ghandi

and Martin Luther King Jr.

“The morality of what he did should lessen the punishment,” Branam said.

If it were up to Boudreau, Long would have gotten double the amount of time he was sentenced to.

The judge said she wanted Long behind bars for 30 months, but she was forced to cut that in half because of a plea agreement.

Afterward, Branam said Long’s sentence was a penalty for his outspoken stance on the war.

“It was on the upper end of the scale,” he said.

But the prison time did make Long a martyr who was lauded by more than a dozen anti-war activists during the proceedings.

As Long, handcuffed and shackled, was hauled away in a Humvee, the crowd clapped and cheered.

“Robin Long you are a hero,” one of them shouted.

KRDO: War Objections a Growing Issue – by Scott

Harrison (Text and Video)

KRDO.com: Soldier Sentenced For Desertion (video and text, great story 1:52 minute long)

KKTV.com: Soldier Sentenced To 15 Months (also see earlier story,
KKTV.com: Peace Activists Rally In Support Of Robin Long)

KOAA.com: Ft. Carson soldier sentenced in desertion case – by Sharon Brandman (also see older stories,
KOAA.com: Ft. Carson soldier plans to plead guilty to desertion – by Sharon Brandman and KOAA.com: Army deserter in El paso County Jail (video and text)

Rocky Mountain News: Soldier to plead guilty — Deal reached for reduced charge

Denver Post: 15 months for AWOL soldier

2008
08.24

There has been oodles of press coverage (we have been fortunate to receive mostly very even-handed press locally and internationally), so I thought I would post links to the coverage here and later at FreeRobin.org (a website created by my friend Rena for the soon-to-be-formed Free Robin Long Action Committee.

I’ve decided to break the coverage down into categories…

Local Colorado News Coverage

US News Coverage

English-language International News Coverage

Non-English Language Coverage

Op-Ed Coverage

Blog and other Coverage

Stayed tuned for the first installment…

2008
08.24

The Robin Long trial

The last few days have been a dizzying blur for me. I’ve been in Colorado Springs for Robin Long’s court-martial at Ft. Carson, as well as to the support IVAW’s State of the Union base tour.

The trial itself was pretty intense. I was so proud of Robin and witnesses: Pete Haney (of the Colorado Springs Justice & Peace Commission), SGT Matthis Chiroux (IVAW and resister to an ordered Iraq deployment) and COL Ann Wright (who can’t even begin to summarize her bio). I also want to thank the folks who sent supporting written statements. We used some in the trials, but will be using all of them in the upcoming clemency/parole fights.

In the next day or two, I’ll write up a lengthier blow-by-blow account of the trial, but for now I’ll just say that while we (Robin and I) are disappointed by the sentence, we are happy that we got to present Robin’s case. I think that in the future, the record will show that Robin’s decision to go to Canada might have been illegal under US law, but it was supremely moral act and it was one in compliance with International law.

Personally though, I’m pretty drained. There’s so much I want to say but it will probably be a few days before I can find the words to do it with.

I am staying in CO for a bit longer. Mostly to be on standby, in case crazy stuff goes down at the IVAW protests at the DNC and active-duty soldiers need legal help, but also to be a witness to history. I’m hoping to get to visit Robin maybe tonight or tomorrow, so I’ll be sure and post something about how he is doing soon.

2008
08.13

I’ve been thinking some about the tragic war going on between Russia, Georgia and South Ossetian forces (by the way, if you want to get a feel for how much of a mess this situation is, read the wikipedia article on South Ossetia — to say the least, Bush’s bellicose speech against Russia is woefully simplistic and uninformed. There are no good guys in this fight, except for the civilian caught in the middle), as well as the Olympics and the fact that the war in South Ossetia started when the Olympics began.

Something is messed up here. During the ancient Olympics, things were quite different.

From: Wikipedia: Ancient Olympic Games – Olympic Truce

During the Olympic Games a truce or ekecheiria was observed. Three runners known as spondophoroi were sent from Elis to the various participant cities at each set of games to announce the beginning of the truce. During this period armies were forbidden from entering Olympia, wars were suspended and legal disputes and the use of the death penalty were forbidden. The truce was primarily designed to allow athletes and visitors to travel safely to the games, and was for the most part observed, although Thucydides wrote of a situation where the Spartans were forbidden from attending the games and fined 200,000 drachmas for assaulting the city of Lepreum during the period of the ekechiria, claiming that the truce had not yet taken hold.

So here’s my proposal for future modern Olympics. We need to reinstitute the Ekecheira.

This modern Olympic truce would be simple. All nations participating in the Olympics would pledge to not engage in any military actions for the duration of the games. If any nation breaks the truce, their athletes would be not allowed to compete from the moment the first shot is fired.

What would this mean if we had an Olympic truce in place now? — Russia would be out of the games. Georgia would be out. The USA would be Iraq. Canada would be out. The UK would be out. Iraq would be out (except they aren’t in). Columbia would be out. Any nation engaged in military actions of aggression against anybody would not be allowed to participate.

Now such a truce wouldn’t make the world free of war forever, but it would maybe give the nations of the world a cooling off period every 2 years (for the winter and summer games), which seems like a really good thing to me.

2008
08.13

This is an update to an earlier JMBzine post

There have been a few response’s to Rondi Adamson’s poorly reasoned op-ed attack piece against Robin Long and other war resisters (not near enough though). The most important point made by them is one that I should have made and didn’t in my own response to Rondi, that the war resisters are not “draft dodgers” but resisters to war itself.

The Common Ills: Rondi Adamson lies

Rondi Adamson’s “U.S. military deserters don’t deserve refugee status” (Christian Science Monitor) is the usual string of lies from Adamson — that, however, does not excuse the Christian Science Monitor for printing it. (Link provided for everyone to laugh at the under-educated, uninformed Adamson.) Rondi, a big mouth with no brain to back it up, starts from the premise that, during Vietnam, Canada welcomed “war resisters” which is defined as “draft dodgers.” Wrong, Dumb Ass Rondi.

It’s a real shame that you didn’t value your education enough to actually learn but it’s more shocking that the Christian Science Monitor would print your garbage. Canada welcomed draft dodgers and deserters. On the latter category, deserters were not required to have been drafted and many weren’t. The draft was never an issue in Canada — which didn’t have a draft. The illegal war was the issue. . .

Cedric’s Big Mix: From the TCIWire

. . . Yesterday the National Lawyers Guild’s James Branum takes on Rondi (and today Ithica Journal re-prints Rondi’s crap). Branum, who is defending Robin Long and has defended many others resisters (and co-chairs, with Kathleen Gilberd, NLG’s Military Law Task Force), makes many strong points but leaves out the most important one: During Vietnam, Canada welcome “deserters.” It wasn’t just “draft dodgers,” Canada also welcomes “deserters.” Canada did not have a draft, Canada’s position was not based on a draft. Deserters were not asked, “Did you enlist or were you drafted?” It wasn’t an issue. The issue was the illegal war. When Rondi shows her ignorance, it’s important to call her out on that basic fact. War resisters in Canada today have been undermined repeatedly by ‘voices’ that refuse to acknowledge the vast number of deserters that Canada accepted during Vietnam. But not noting that very real reality, today’s war resisters (and their supporters) have to make the case: “Well, during Vietnam, you welcomed draft dodgers, so you should expand that today to welcome us.” The real argument is: “During Vietnam, Canada welcomed deserters and they should today since this is another illegal war the Canadian government has refused to officially sanction.” With the first argument, war resisters are placed in a position of weakness where they beg for something more. In the second argument, war resisters are not asking for ‘special treatment’ or anything different; they’re merely asking Canada to do what it did before. That is reality. Rondi is a foreigner to reality. But that’s a point everyone else needs to make. That Rondi either didn’t know reality or thought she could lie about it goes to the failure to stick to the facts: Canada accepted draft dodgers and deserters during Vietnam. . .

LondonResisters.ca: A Great Response to the Christian Science Monitor Thingie

. . . I can understand disagreeing with our position due to actual researched positions and logical reasoning…but when the premise of your article is *BOO HOO TOO BAD YOU SIGNED THE CONTRACT!!1!!1!!* smacks of pure ignorance and lack of education about the issue. . .

In the interest of fairness, I did find one pro-Rondi blogist out there, a self-described “Christian, Monarchist Canadian Tory” (wow, I didn’t know there were that many defenders of monarchism anymore) . . .

Dr. Roy’s Thoughts: Rondi Adamson on the US deserters

My friend Rondi Adamson has a great piece in The Christian Science Monitor about the US deserters. As I have said before deport the lot of them!

2008
08.13

MetroSpirit.com: Reefer resister (video and story) — PFC Ryan Jackson, now in the brig, has been called a hero by peace groups after smoking marijuana and going AWOL for more than three months (thanks to UCMJDefense.blogspot.com for alerting me to this story)

Also be sure and watch the accompanying video from the story that was posted to Youtube

This is an interesting story. On the positive, the reporter dug deep and actually took the time to try to understand the court-martial process and Ryan’s case in some level of refreshing detail.

On the negative, the author definitely chose to emphasize minor elements of the case (i.e. the marijuana issue) in an effort to undermine Ryan’s credibility.

Still it’s worth reading.

2008
08.13

I want to take this moment to echo Sinister’s endorsement of Cindy Sheehan for Congress.

I am supporting her because Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Party establishment have done jack squat to end the war in Iraq. Cindy probably has little chance of winning, but I hope the race is close enough to scare Nancy and remind her that the Democrats came into power because the public was sick of business as usual and the public was sick of the war in Iraq, and that it is time for D’s to deliver on their promises.

2008
08.10

Christian Science Monitor: U.S. military deserters don’t deserve refugee status — They broke their contract. Even Canada gets that, by Rondi Adamson

Also see Rondi Adamson’s blog

I am disturbed beyond belief that the Monitor (an otherwise better than average national newspaper in the USA) has chosen to run such a ridiculously offensive op-ed smear piece against the first US soldier to be deported from Canada, after having sought refuge there, since Vietnam.

Thus far, the Christian Science Monitor has not published any of the LTE’s that Robin Long’s supporters have sent in, so I’m going to publish my own response here on this blog. I also will likely reprint (with the authors’ permission of course) the rejected LTE’s that the Monitor has refused to run, but I’ll give the Monitor another week or two just in case they are planning to still run the LTE’s.

Since I’m not limited to the constraints of an LTE, I’m going to respond to Adamson’s column below, in the context of what she has said. Also for the sake of fairness, I should admit my bias from the get-go. I am Robin Long’s civilian defense attorney and I’m a bi-vocational Mennonite minister. As such, I strongly favor respect for freedom of conscience, and am more than a little biased here . . .

Toronto – American military deserter Robin Long may well have reasons to think he should not serve in Iraq. That said, I was relieved to hear he had been deported from Canada – where he had lived since June 2005 – to the United States on July 15.

The Boomer generation got its wish for a volunteer army after the draft of the Vietnam War. And that is a good thing, for myriad reasons. A volunteer military is more effective and professional, and it certainly makes the matter of deserters an open-and-shut case.

No, it is most definitely not an open-and-shut case. The US may not have a standard draft, but we certainly do have a poverty draft in America (see AFSC.org: The Poverty Draft (PDF download), Soujourners: The Poverty Draft, and Political Affairs Magazine: No Where Else to Go: Latino Youth and the Poverty Draft)

Quaint notions of integrity, duty, and honor aside, cases such as Mr. Long’s boil down to a simple contract matter, not one’s opinion of a particular war. A volunteer army renders moot the idea that Canadians should provide a haven to those who wish to break their contract with the US military.

Of the many things I disagree with Ms. Adamson on, this paragraph is the one I find most offense with. Let’s break it down in more detail.

First, Robin was promised by his recruiter that he would never see combat in Iraq. Robin was a fool for believing his recruiter, but I would say that it is understandable that he would believe his recruiter and understand that his recruiter is an agent of the US military and is tellilng the truth. And in basic contract law (outside of the military context), such statements could very well be interpreted as part of the contract itself, even if those statements aren’t in writing.

Second, a basic tenant of contract law is that a contract isn’t binding if it forces a party to engage in an immoral, unethical or illegal action. I would argue (as would Robin and millions of other people) that the Iraq war is all three of those things, and as such an enlistment contract should be invalid if it purports to force a party to participate in such a war. (of course, the enlistment “contract” isn’t really a “contract,” but that’s another discussion. It would be fairer to say that it is an agreement to voluntarily become a slave of the state.)

Third, Robin Long left his unit and went to Canada in large part due to his conscience. Throughout history, we as a people (and I’m speaking of all North Americans and really all people of the world), have respected the idea that sometimes one must break the law if it conflicts with conscience. Dr. King, Gandhi, Thoreau, Jesus Christ, they all lived out this ideal. Contemporaries of the civilly disobedient often attack the character of those who refuse to submit to unjust laws, but the history books paint a different story.

And let’s also remember that the US and other nations have long argued in favor of the Nuremberg principles, namely that obedience to the law of the state is no excuse for actions that defy international law. Surely you would agree that a deserter from the Nazi Army during WWII would be taking a righteous act? How is it different for Robin Long?

Integrity, duty and honor — I think those are great words to describe Robin Long.

One could be forgiven for concluding otherwise.

Since 2004, US deserters have been trickling into Canada – today there are about 200 – to praise from aging Vietnam draft dodgers, the chattering classes, Canada’s literati, and the overlap of the three. These sympathizers refer to the deserters as “resisters.” A stroll through upscale Toronto neighborhoods isn’t complete without seeing “War Resisters Welcome Here” stickers in the windows of homes far beyond the financial reach of most of the deserters.

Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) has not been so welcoming. The IRB has turned down applications for refugee status from several American deserters, most of whom are still here, running down whatever legal avenue they can find. Refugee cases in Canada can take years, thanks to an accessible appeals system and a lumbering bureaucracy.

Broadly speaking, refugee status in Canada is reserved for people who have fled from unfree countries and who might reasonably fear for their safety should they be returned home. As the days of the draft are long gone, so are the days of Eddie Slovik the World War II private who was the first deserter since the Civil War to be executed.

With all due respect, the days of Eddie Slovik are not that far in the past. Execution is still on the books as a penalty for desertion in time of war, and the US Supreme Court has not ruled definitively on the matter, so arguably the penalty is still there.

But, death is not the only fear that is valid. The military does not properly hear the cases of conscientious objectors (one hero of mine, Jake Malloy, had an iron clad perfect C.O. application and was recommended initially for discharge on the basis of conscience, but his discharge was refused because the command believed that it was impossible for a Baptist to be a conscientious objector. The truth is that the U.S. military’s provisions for conscientious objection sound good in paper, but are a cruel joke in practice.

In some cases, it’s not clear what the deserters are seeking refuge from. Corey Glass, who faces deportation, was discharged from the US military some time ago, according to ABC News. In other words, he’s free to go – but might he miss the sight of those antiwar protesters carrying placards in his defense?

How dare you judge Corey Glass? Did it ever occur to you that maybe the Army discharged him without his knowledge? Weird things do happen in the miliatry. There is a reason that the phase SNAFU (Situation Normal, all f***ed up) was birthed by rank and file GI’s.

There has also been a sea change in attitudes and behavior toward veterans themselves. Try to imagine the reaction to someone spitting on a soldier returning from Iraq or calling him or her a “baby killer.” Public condemnation has been replaced with public sentimentality, even, oddly enough, from those who claim to abhor the policies that the soldiers they now “support” have been carrying out.

I encourage you to read the book, The Spitting Image – Myth, Memory and the legacy of Vietnam or the movie Sir, No Sir!, as those sources demonstrate the fallacy of the “spitting” myth.

With desertion rates up significantly since 2003, one imagines the US Army won’t risk being mired in more battles at home. Indeed, a cursory look at the punishments meted out to deserters who have voluntarily faced military justice reveals relatively mild prison sentences. Most have run from two to 15 months, along with dishonorable, bad-conduct, or other-than-honorable discharges.

On what planet is 15 months is prison a “mild sentence”? If you are the one being sent to prison, I bet you would feel differently. Many people convicted of very serious crimes in some US states (sexual assault, drug distribution, even manslaughter) are given less than 15 months in prison.

And a dishonorable discharge is a slap in the face to many combat veterans (which some of the resisters in Canada are) who would be forever denied access to VA assistance for the PTSD that will stalk them for the rest of their lives. Also this discharge will take away their constitutional rights to own a firearm and in many states the right to vote.

This is a very big deal.

Whether their desertion was motivated by ideology or fear, these men and women have accepted the consequences of their decisions. Most of us would consider that more honest than running away. Not to mention that having the courage of one’s convictions merits respect, even from opponents. Deserter Jeremy Hinzman, in Canada since 2004, is not Muhammad Ali.

But staying in Canada has its benefits. Attention, fundraising concerts, book deals (in the case of Joshua Key, in Canada since 2005), fawning interviews on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and pundits bandying your name about. In June, a nonbinding resolution that would allow “conscientious objectors … to apply for permanent resident status” passed in the House of Commons.

Here’s the rest of the story — war resisters seeking refuge in Canada are seperated from their family, friends and their country. I have had clients tell me that they missed the funerals of dear loved ones and big moments in their siblings’ lives because they were in Canada. Resisters also have to live in constant fear that they could be deported or worse (many receive death threats from chickenhawk “patriots.”)

It’s a symbolic poke in the eye of President Bush, but it’s hardly meaningful legislation. After all, there’s a big difference between conscientious objectors and deserters. The former have long been accommodated by US law – but the key word is “conscientious.”

As the US Selective Service asserts: “…a man’s reasons for not wanting to participate in a war must not be based on politics, expediency, or self-interest. In general, the man’s lifestyle prior to making his claim must reflect his current claims.” If the deserters don’t meet that test, why should Canada welcome them?

Many of these soldiers would meet the test, but the US military will not give their beliefs a fair hearing.

Others would flunk the test because they object to the morality of this war, but not to all wars. US law currently requires soldiers to check their beliefs at the door and to participate in wars that they believe are immoral, unless the servicemember can prove that they are actual opposed to all wars.

I think the US is wrong. Dead wrong.

Many faith traditions recognize the importane and validity of Selective Conscientious Objection, but I think the folks from Catholic Peace Fellowship do the best job of explaining it. (also see the academic paper, Integrity and Selective Conscientious Objection by Paul Robinson

In a sense, that has already happened. In October, 2006, deserter Darrell Anderson, who spent nearly two years availing himself of Canadian naiveté, returned home – where he faced no prison time, no court martial, and only an other-than-honorable discharge. In an impressive display of ingratitude, he took the time before leaving to harshly criticize Canadian involvement in Afghanistan.

• Rondi Adamson is a Canadian writer

Please note that the case of Darrell Anderson was very, very atypical. And how is it a “display of ingratitude” for Darrell to criticize Canada for engaging in the same sins that the US is engaged in. I think Darrell is consistent in his opposition to war if anything. This in no way negates his gratitude towards the people of Canada who helped him.

I am glad that you do not speak for all Canadians. And I am grateful that most resisters (including one from my own home state, Joshua Key) have received a warm welcome from your country.

But it was a tragic shame that Robin Long was deported. Canada bears the guilt for the persecution he is currently undergoing. I and others are fighting like hell to get him the best deal possible, but currently he is sitting behind bars in a county jail in Colorado Springs. He is stuck in a horrific, inhumane facility where he doesn’t get to see the outdoors and is deprived of the most basic elements of liberty and dignity.

But, Robin did the right thing (because morality trumps legality), and that’s more important than anything. I am proud of him as are many in both the US and Canada.

I wish you could see past your prejudice and see the truth of Robin’s witness for peace. I know I’ve expressed a lot of anger here, but part of me feels sadness for you, because I once was where you are now.

Tenyears or so ago, I would have stood in agreement with your attacks on Robin and other war resisters, but for me, I had to change my views after being confronted with the peace teachings of Jesus Christ (namely the Sermon on the Mount). I don’t know your religious/philosophical background, but I hope that you hear the message of peace from whatever source is right for you. The power of conscience is that it is universal and that it speaks to everybody. My hope and prayer is that your conscience will speak to you.

2008
08.10

Washington Post/MSNBC: Beijing curbs religious rights — Christian activists detail harassment

. . . Officially, China allows worship only at registered churches belonging to the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, a government-controlled organization of about 25 million members founded in the 1950s to free China from foreign funds and foreign influence. Beijing has about 30 official Protestant and Catholic churches.

But many members of China’s rapidly growing Christian community prefer to worship in unofficial or underground churches where there are no restrictions on teaching children and where leaders are not controlled by the Communist Party. House church membership ranges from 50 million to 100 million nationwide, activists say, with as many as 1,000 unregistered churches in Beijing that include tiny congregations that meet in people’s bedrooms.

. . . “An important reason for the crackdown is the Olympics. This year, Chinese leaders face more pressure from outside groups, house churches and even ordinary individual citizens,” said Fan Yafeng, a law professor at the Institute of Law at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and a leader of the 80-member Sina house church. “The Public Security Bureau always misuses its power. . . . They have lost their humanity.”

“In the Olympic Village, you can find religious freedom. Maybe some foreigners can worship,” Fan said. “But I tell you, the real crisis in China now is that there are no reformers left. The power struggle among the leadership is for power, not reform. To have real political reform, they would lose their power.”

MSNBC: Bush sharpens China criticism — President singles lack of freedoms, including religious expression

. . . “This trip has reaffirmed my belief that men and women who aspire to speak their conscience and worship their God are no threat to the future of China,” Bush said, adding that the United States had “made it clear that trusting their people with greater freedom is necessary for China to reach its full potential.”

I am glad that Bush is speaking out in China. I still think it was a bad idea for him to attend the Olympics, but if he was going to, I’m glad that he has taken a more strident pro-freedom stance that he had previously articulated.

On a somewhat related note, I think it is worth noting (based on the statistics cited in the first article), that there 25 million members of the government sanctioned protestant Christian Three Self Patriotic movement (see wikipedia article), while there are an estimated 50-100 million members of unauthorized Christian churches.

One has to wonder why the majority of Protestant Christians in China (maybe Catholic Christians too, but i don’t have ready access to stats on them) chose to be members of illegal unauthorized churches? I think in large part it is because they see that a self-professed “patriotic” church, is no church at all. Part of being a follower of Christ, is subscribing to the idea that one’s true citizenship and highest calling is to the Kingdom of Heaven, and that the dictates of God and conscience are higher than the dictates of the state.

It is ironic that in China the majority of Protestant Christians are actively resisting the heresy of patriotic Christianity, while the majority of American Protestants are actively adopting the heresy.

I think the Chinese believers are right. Every time the church has become too cozy with the state, bad things have happened. The two big examples that come to mind are: (1) how the Christian faith became militaristic and void of meaning after Constantine legalized the religion in the Roman empire and then co-opted it for his own purposes and (2) when theologians in Germany preached that faith and state should be one, and then Hitler came along and turned the church into a fundamental backer of his regime and the holocaust.

I don’t think we should thumb our noses at the law without cause, but if the law and our consciences conflict, then we should defy the law. Churches are supposed to support that notion. In China, most people seem to understand that. I wish American Christians would wake up to this truth too.