"stand firmly with those soldiers who say the hell with this war"

Three war resister stories, all worth reading.

From the Nanaimo Daily News:
U.S. war resister Cliff Cornell was arrested on Wednesday after crossing the border from Canada into Washington State.

Last month, the Arkansas native, who had been working on Gabriola Island, lost his bid to quash a deportation order from Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

Cornell grew up in Mountain Home, Ark., and in 2002, after leaving high school and with few employment prospects in sight, he accepted a $5,000 signing bonus for a career in the U.S. Army. A few months later, the U.S. went to war against Iraq. Cornell moved to Canada after he learned his unit was to be sent to fight in Iraq. He said he had no interest in "an immoral and illegal war."

He spent a few months in Toronto before moving to Gabriola Island, where he worked as a grocery clerk at Village Food Market.

"He was a wonderful worker, it is very sad that he had to leave and that the U.S. arrested him," said market co-owner Gary McCollum.

"He won a national award for us for setting up the best display in the country last November," McCollum said. "I know the entire store misses him and he got a great deal of support from across Gabriola."

Cornell has said he was prepared to comply fully with U.S. laws and turn himself in to his former unit at Fort Stewart, Ga., but he was arrested by U.S. border police and is being held at Whatcom County Jail in Bellingham, Wash. He now faces a court martial and jail time.

Albert Stewart, a member of the Nanaimo chapter of the War Resisters Support Campaign, said he was not surprised to learn of Cornell's arrest and thinks it's shameful the Conservative government does not bow to the will of Parliament when it comes to deporting American war resisters.

"I fully expected to hear of his arrest and I know Cliff was expecting to be arrested as well," Stewart said.

Last June, Parliament passed a motion that called on the federal government to create a program to allow U.S. war resisters to apply for permanent resident status in Canada and to cease all deportation and removal proceedings. Following the Parliamentary vote, 64% of Canadians said they want U.S. war resisters to be allowed to stay, according to a poll conducted by Angus Reid.

"Look most Canadians are against this and the majority of Parliament is against sending these people back," Stewart said. "I guess this is democracy Stephen Harper-style, ignore the will of Parliament."

"I guess that's the way I feel about it, too," McCollum said after hearing Stewart's comments.

Robin Long, another former resident of British Columbia who was deported from Canada in July 2008, is now serving a 15-month prison term. After he was returned to the U.S., he was court martialed.

Another from Nanaimo.
War deserter's mom worries about death penalty

Annie Nichols imagines the worst for her adopted son, U.S. Army deserter Cliff Cornell, when he turns himself in to the American government on Tuesday.

"They will probably court-martial him. What happens from there I don't know," Nichols said by telephone from Mountain Home, Ark. "It can be anything from 'you can go home' to life in federal prison. In wartime, it can be a death sentence."

Cornell, a quiet, unassuming man, has fallen into the unlikely role of firebrand in the divisive issue of whether deserters fit into Canada's longstanding tradition of harbouring conscientious objectors. Because they willingly signed up, some critics say deserters who avoid the battlefield are cowards.

But he's a hero in Nichols's eyes, and she said she's surprised Canada deported him, "because Canada doesn't extradite people facing the death sentence, and that is a possibility."

James Barnum [sic: it's James Branum], a lawyer who specializes in representing army deserters, said technically that could happen, but so far the military "has not chosen to prosecute anyone under this criteria."

Most have received sentences ranging from a few months to more than a year in jail. But it doesn't stop Nichols from worrying about the boy who was a childhood friend with her four children and lived with them for several years.

"If I start crying, tell me to chill, because I haven't seen him in four years," said Nichols.

Cornell was arrested on Wednesday by U.S. Border Agency guards en route to his old unit at Fort Stewart, Ga., where he planned to turn himself in. He is now free on his own recognizance and plans to turn himself in to military authorities on Tuesday.

Most of the four years Cornell spent in Canada was on Gabriola Island, where he worked as a grocery clerk. Like most deserters he came to Canada to avoid an Iraq battlefield.

Nichols said she considers him "the son of my heart." Hers was the house where teenagers hung out, and became a refuge for Cornell, whose natural family was troubled by alcohol abuse.

"His biological family, they put the functional in the word dysfunctional," Nichols said.

When he turned 18, he left home and she welcomed him as another son.

He signed up for the Army in 2001 after a few unsuccessful years searching for work in the state's depressed Ozark region.

"He went in to get training for a job he could make a living at. That was his ambition. The recruiter also assured him he would get this training and that he would never go out of the States. Then this Iraq thing blew up.

"Last time I saw him he said: 'I can't kill babies.' And the next thing, we got a call from him in Canada."

It's been a difficult four years for Nichols, who said she supports his decision to leave his military post just as much as she would have supported him if he had gone to war.

"This is not an easy decision for him to make, I mean, come on, I don't know if I would be that brave, to follow my conscience. He's my hero. He is somebody who can stand up for the right thing. Everyone else just follows along like sheep."

Cornell was recently lost his fight to stay in Canada when he was ordered deported. The issue has split Parliament between Opposition parties, who support allowing deserters to stay and the governing Conservatives, who want them thrown out.

It has also spawned division on Gabriola, where some of its 4,000 inhabitants have started to question Cornell's right to stay on the website [you can find that yourself if you want].

"It was created especially because of the divisive nature of making out that everyone on Gabriola supports desertion of the voluntary army, which we don't," said Jeremy Baker, a Gabriolan of 40 years.

But Nichols is thankful for those on Gabriola who helped her adopted son.

"I'd like to say thank you to all the people who have helped Cliff through this ordeal," she said. "I am very grateful to Canada and its people. There are no words to express my gratitude."

Barnum called it "shameful" Canada is deporting Cornell.

"Canada has been a beacon of hope and refuge from militarism in the past," he said. "I'm disappointed that Canada has chosen to forsake this important part of its legacy."

Barnum will represent Cornell and plans to accompany him to Fort Stewart on Tuesday.

And from the San Diego Union Tribune.
Activists take up war resister's case

Supporters rally for soldier in brig who refused to go to Iraq and had fled to Canada

Antiwar activist Dawn O'Brien of Oceanside frets plenty about her three Marine sons, two of whom have served in Iraq.

She worries almost as much, though, about another young soldier – the one who is sitting in the brig at Miramar Marine Corps Air Station because he refused to fight.

Pvt. Robin Long, 25, enlisted in the Army in 2003. Ordered to Iraq in 2005, he fled to Canada. He was deported last year, the first to be sent home under a crackdown on the estimated 200 war resisters who have taken refuge north of the border.

After a court-martial last August, Long was sent to Miramar to serve his 15-month sentence. O'Brien and others in San Diego County's small but fervent community of peace protesters have taken up his cause.

"We knew this kid made a moral decision, and he was honestly being punished for it," said O'Brien, president of the local chapter of the antiwar group Military Families Speak Out. "It's not illegal to refuse to fight in an illegal war."

That many of the county's current and former service members may disagree doesn't deter them. Antiwar activists held their third monthly vigil yesterday evening across Miramar Road from the air station's north gate, carrying signs that say "Free Robin Long" and "REALLY Support the Troops."

"We've been trying to figure out ways that we can help him out," said Dave Patterson, president of the San Diego chapter of Veterans for Peace.

Miramar officials say the vigils haven't caused disruption.

"They're exercising their rights," said Maj. Jay Delarosa, a base spokesman. "We don't see anything wrong with it."

The activists have taken turns visiting Long each Sunday afternoon. They have put money in his prison bank account so he can call family and supporters. They are flying his mother in from Boise, Idaho, this weekend to visit.

They also send money each month to his girlfriend in Canada, who has multiple sclerosis and is raising the couple's 2-year-old son. And they are lobbying to have his sentence reduced and his dishonorable discharge erased. Unless his prison term is cut, Long will have great difficulty crossing the border after his release.

Long grew up in a military household, and eagerly joined the Army. He has said he grew disillusioned after hearing Iraq war veterans brag about killing people and seeing them show off pictures of dead Iraqis.

He questioned the war's legitimacy after learning that Saddam Hussein had no apparent connection with al-Qaeda and that no weapons of mass destruction had been found. So he left for Canada instead of returning to Fort Carson before his unit's deployment.

"When I realized the war in Iraq was a mistake, I saw refusing to fight as my only option," Long wrote in November in an open letter to Barack Obama published on the Web site of the war-resistance support group, Courage to Resist. "My conscience was screaming at me not to participate."

Long traveled to Nelson, British Columbia, where he supported himself picking fruit and running an environmentally friendly landscaping business. His application for refugee status was denied, and he was ordered deported.

His attorney, James Branum, said Long rises each morning at 5 and works as a supply clerk at the brig. In the evenings, he lifts weights four nights a week and watches TV or plays cards. He has received more than 3,500 letters since arriving at Miramar in September.

After his release, Branum said, Long's goal is to return to his family in Canada and become a massage therapist.

Even after Long is released later this year, local antiwar activists, like Chuck Winant of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, are preparing for more resisters to come to Miramar.

Canadian immigration officials have ordered four more deserters deported. The reception has been quite different than it was during the Vietnam War, when Canada welcomed tens of thousands of American draft evaders.

"I stand firmly with those soldiers who say the hell with this war," Winant said.

No comments: