Press Coverage of the Fort Lewis prisoner abuse situation

Quite a bit has happened over the last week on the case.

First, here are the press releases we have sent out:

Fort Lewis Soldiers abused in the brig (October 8, 2009)

Fort Lewis continues to deny prisoners right to counsel (October 13, 2009)

Here are the stories that have ran in the press:

Tacoma News-Tribune: Lawyer says rights violated in brig

KIRO: Attorney: 2 Soldiers Jail At Fort Lewis Mistreated

KPLU: Ft. Lewis Prison Complaints


MEDIA ADVISORY: Cliff Cornell to face court-martial


WHO: PFC Cliff Cornell, a native of Mountain Home, Arkansas, who was recently deported from Canada after having fled there to avoid the illegal war in Iraq

WHAT: The U.S. Army has prosecuted PFC Cornell under a General Court-Martial. A hearing will be held to accept PCF Cornell’s guilty plea and to argue over what the sentence should be.

WHEN: April 28, 2009, 2:15 p.m.

WHERE: Fort Stewart Courthouse, near Hinesville, GA

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Civilian attorney James M. Branum will be available for interviews following the trial by telephone at 405-476-5620 or 1-866-933-ARMY. (we anticipate this will be in the evening)

News about the ongoing campaign to free PFC Cornell from being unjustly imprisoned for his beliefs can be found soon at

More responses to Rondi Adamson’s op-ed attacking deported war resister Robin Long

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. . . 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!

Interesting (but rather biased) story by Augusta, GA alt-news weekly on Ryan Jackson case 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 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.

A response to Rondi Adamson’s anti-war resister op-ed in the Christian Science Monitor

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 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.

Horrific new statistics on the incidents of rape in the US military given in Congressional testimony

CNN: Sexual assault in military ‘jaw-dropping,’ lawmaker says

(emphasis added in the quotes below is my own)

WASHINGTON (CNN) — A congresswoman said Thursday that her “jaw dropped” when military doctors told her that four in 10 women at a veterans hospital reported being sexually assaulted while in the military.

A government report indicates that the numbers could be even higher.

Rep. Jane Harman, D-California, spoke before a House panel investigating the way the military handles reports of sexual assault.

She said she recently visited a Veterans Affairs hospital in the Los Angeles area, where women told her horror stories of being raped in the military.

“My jaw dropped when the doctors told me that 41 percent of the female veterans seen there say they were victims of sexual assault while serving in the military,” said Harman, who has long sought better protection of women in the military.

“Twenty-nine percent say they were raped during their military service. They spoke of their continued terror, feelings of helplessness and downward spirals many of their lives have taken since.

“We have an epidemic here,” she said. “Women serving in the U.S. military today are more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire in Iraq.”

I believe the validity of these numbers. I have represented several victims of sexual assault and sexual harassment in the military, and I have yet to see the military prosecute any of the perpetrators (but I have seen them go after an assault victim and attempt to prosecute her for making false statements).

Here are some more excerpts of the article with commentary…

. . . In 2007, Harman said, only 181 out of 2,212 reports of military sexual assaults, or 8 percent, were referred to courts martial. By comparison, she said, 40 percent of those arrested in the civilian world on such charges are prosecuted.

Defense statistics show that military commanders took unspecified action, which can include anything from punishment to dismissal, in an additional 419 cases.

But when it came time for the military to defend itself, the panel was told that the Pentagon’s top official on sexual abuse, Dr. Kaye Whitley, was ordered not to show up despite a subpoena.

“I don’t know what you’re trying to cover up here, but we’re not going to allow it,” Rep. Henry Waxman, D-California, said to the Defense official who relayed the news of Whitley’s no-show. “This is unacceptable.”

Rep. John Tierney, the panel’s chairman and a Democrat from Massachusetts, angrily responded, “these actions by the Defense Department are inexplicable.”

“The Defense Department appears to be willfully and blatantly advising Dr. Whitley not to comply with a duly authorized congressional subpoena,” Tierney said.

An Army official who did testify said the Army takes allegations of sexual abuse extremely seriously.

“Even one sexual assault violates the very essence of what it means to be a soldier, and it’s a betrayal of the Army’s core values,” Lt. Gen. Michael Rochelle said.

Wow, it looks like Dr. Whitley is taking the same stance as Karl Rove, but I don’t see how in a million years that the testimony that Dr. Whitley would give would in any way be protected by executive privilege.

And as for Lt. Gen. Rochelle, he is a liar. The Army doesn’t take sexual assault seriously and he knows it. And the last time I checked, lying in a congressional hearing is a crime.

. . . The Government Accountability Office released preliminary results from an investigation into sexual assaults in the military and the Coast Guard. The GAO found that the “occurrences of sexual assault may be exceeding the rates being reported.”

“At the 14 installations where GAO administered its survey, 103 service members indicated that they had been sexually assaulted within the preceding 12 months. Of these, 52 service members indicated that they did not report the sexual assault,” the GAO said.

The office found that the military and Coast Guard have established policies to address sexual assault but that the implementation of the programs is hampered by an array of factors, including that “most, but not all, commanders support the programs.”

“Left unchecked, these challenges can discourage or prevent some service members from using the programs when needed,” the GAO said. . . .

From what I’ve seen, the opposite is true. A rare few commanders support the programs to stop sexual assault, but most do not actively and proactively support the programs. (and a few commanders do their best to completely undermine the programs, often because either they or other members of their unt’s leadership were be found guilty of either participating or condoning sexual assault).