Contents: The Sir! No Sir! blog is an information clearing house, drawing on a wide variety of sources, to track the unfolding history of the new GI Movement, and the wars that brought the movement to life.
Where applicable, parallels will be drawn between the new movement and the Vietnam era movement which was the focus of the film Sir! No Sir!
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This paper, by Robin Long, was written while he was incarcerated at the Mirimar Brig and posted to the Blog Free Robin Long, 12 March, 2009.
N 2004, when military resister Jeremy Hinzman applied for refugee status in Canada, the Conservative government stepped in to his Refugee hearing and stated evidence challenging the legality of the War in Iraq can’t be used in his case. However, the U.N Handbook for Refugee’s and the Nuremburg Principles states: a soldier of an Army that is involved in an illegal war of aggression has a higher international duty to refuse service. Said soldier also has the right to seek refugee protection in any country that is signatory to the Geneva Convention. By refusing to allow him- and by precedent ALL other claimants the right to use that argument, they closed the door on that legal avenue for refugee protection.
THE US invasion of Iraq was clearly an illegal war of aggression. The US was not under attack, or the immanent threat of attack from the nation of Iraq, nor was the war approved by the UN Security Council. By taking the stance it did, the Canadian Government implicitly condoned the invasion & continuing occupation of Iraq. Is that what Canadians want? A majority of Americans want it to end and have come to realize it a mistake, at best. Canadians have long known it to be wrong. Why is the minority Conservative government still holding on to the idea, and still deporting war resisters? Why are they separating families and aiding in the imprisonment of morally strong men and women?
IN June 2007, Canada’s Parliament voted on a non- binding resolution to allow war resisters and their families permanent resident status. That vote passed, and in agreement with that vote, a poll of Canadian opinion showed overwhelming support for the resolution. In defiance of parliaments intent and the will of the people, the Conservative minority government, led by Prime Minister Steven Harper and Immigration Minister Diane Finley ignored the bill. The Government stated: All refugee claimants are given a fair chance to plead their case before the Refugee Board, and special treatment to these Iraq resisters were unfair to other claimants. Further, they stated that we are not legitimate claimants because we are from the US, and that the US has a fair and transparent justice system, and that we wouldn’t be singled out for being political.
ON JULY 14th, 2008, in my final attempt to stay in Canada, where my son and community is, Federal Judge Ann Mactavish stated that I didn’t prove I would be treated harshly by the US military for being a politically outspoken opponent to the War in Iraq and Bush Administration policy. She predicted my punishment would be minimal, 30 days in the brig, perhaps. She then cleared the way for my deportation/extradition. She noted only10% of these cases go to Court Martial.
A MONTH later, I was tried in a Court Martial presided over by a judge, a Colonel in the US Army, who has President Bush in her chain-of-command. (She was later appointed by Bush to oversee trials at Guantanamo Bay, no doubt because of her political credentials.
THE ONLY aggravating evidence the Prosecution presented was a 6 minute video of me stating, among other things, that I believed my President lied to me. A political statement. The fact that this was found admissible in court for the charge of Desertion is beyond me. There were no character witnesses brought against me. The ONLY factors the Prosecution wanted shown in determining my sentence was the fact I was political and exercising my freedom of speech in criticizing my Commander-in-Chief.
IT SEEMS like a conflict of interest to have a judge determine my fate when she has to ultimately answer to the President, while I was claiming that same President was a domestic enemy, who used any reason, and manufactured reasons, to invade and wreak havoc in Iraq.
THE JUDGE came back with 30 months- that’s two and a half years for not showing up for work that I believed to be morally objectionable, criminal, and its by far the harshest sentence given to a resister/deserter of the Iraq War.
I was saved from that by a plea bargain that got me 15 months. I STILL get a Dishonorable Discharge (DD). A DD will keep me from many fields of employment, from any Government position to the civilian world. It will make getting home loans all the harder. This is a FELONY CONVICTION- which will make it very hard, perhaps impossible to return to Canada to be with my young family. It is the worst grade of discharge there is.
PEOPLE THAT committed far worse crimes have been getting off with lighter sentences than me. 1st Infantry Division soldier Spec. Belmor Ramos was sentenced to only 7 months after being convicted of conspiracy to commit murder- 4 Iraqi men. I refused to participate in killings, he stood guard while others executed four unidentified Iraqi men, afterwards dumping their bodies in a Baghdad canal on ’07. During his court martial Ramos admitted his guilt, stating: “I wanted them dead. I had no legal justification to do this.” Where is the justice? The system is neither fair nor impartial. Can it really be transparent when you don’t know who is influencing the judge from up the chain of command? Do you see how the military justice system works? – Condone killings with light sentences, but God forbid someone should call President Bush a liar and a war monger. A persons words and political opinion must be far more damaging to the good order of the military if they are anti war and critical of the President, than a soldiers criminal actions in an occupied foreign nation…..
PEOPLE HAVE used the argument that I signed a contract, quite often. I’d like to quote from a letter one o the Founders of our United States wrote to General Washington concerning his thoughts on contracts in April, 1793: “When performance, for instance, becomes impossible, non performance is not immoral. So if performance becomes destructive to the Party, the law of self-preservation overrules the laws of obligations to others. For the reality of these principals I appeal to the true fountains of evidence: the head and heart of every rational honest man.”- Thomas Jefferson. For me to continue in my military contract would have been destructive to me as a person with my views, morals and ideals. Let alone the Iraqi’s, who have died in the hundreds of thousands ….
THE CONTRACT I signed was to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, from all enemies, foreign and domestic, and to obey the LAWFUL orders of the President and those officers over me. I did not sign to be a strong arm for corporate interests or oil. The so called Liberation of Iraq has turned into nothing more than a constant and protracted struggle by the people of Iraq, against forces, seen and unseen, that are trying to impose their will on them in a public war for private power and profit. True freedom is the ultimate expression and condition of a people to control their OWN destiny, not the manufactured variety being offered here. True democracy is not found at the point of a gun. It rises up from within the mass of the people.
IT WASN’T about WMD’s, or we would have found some. It wasn’t about “regime change” or we would have been in Darfur, or Indonesia, or a dozen other countries. It wasn’t about 9/11 because they were from Saudi Arabia. It dosn’t say anywhere in my contract that I would be going to foreign soil, half way around the world, to invade a country that was of no threat to the United States. To risk my life, not in defending the people or Constitution of the United States but creating more enemies for them by being in an occupying force. Iraq, however unhappy under our former ally/client Hussein, was never a real threat. The destabilized nation of Iraq has become a breeding ground and awesome recruiting tool for Al Queda. It has cost the American people an enormous price. Im not talking just te trillion dollar financial burden, but the human cost of the war. The deaths of so many of our brave youth, the missing limbs, the PTSD, the suicides. The invasion has made far more enemies for the United States and made the world a far more dangerous place.
THE ORDER to go to Iraq was not a lawful one. It violates our Constitution. Article IV states that ANY treaty the US is signatory to shall be the supreme law of the land. Last time I checked, the US is signatory to the Geneva Conventions. There are certain laws in that treaty for declaring war, last time I checked, “regime change” wasn’t one of them. A country must be under attack or immanent treat of attack. Neither was true in the case of Iraq. President Bush had no right to interpret the Constitution as he saw fit, on the grounds it was a new world after 9/11, and the 107th Congress had no right to pass HJ Res. 114, which “allowed” the President to invade Iraq. The Constitution was being ignored by the whole lot of them and they were derelict in their duty to uphold it.
THE STAND that the Conservative government of Canada has taken has separated a family, an act totally un-Canadian. I have a young son, a Canadian citizen, and a Canadian partner with MS, left to raise our son while I’m locked in a brig for refusing to participate in a war Canada , in 2003, under a different Government, wouldn’t send troops to. Back then, they saw the holes in Bush’s “intelligence”. By deporting me, and not giving me a chance to leave willingly, I have been barred from entering Canada for at least 10 years. My flesh and blood is there!
The Conservatives are destroying Canada’s tradition of being a refuge from militarism and an asylum from injustices that goes back to the times of slavery. Are they truly representing the people? Who are they working for, really?
THE DAYS of Bush have ended. This new Obama administration has a different view and a different policy. Its now time for Mr Harper to change his view. He should listen to Parliament and the solid majority of his citizens!
Please support the movement to allow War Resisters to stay in Canada and pardon the ones in the US. I ask anyone who reads this: please! Help me return to Canada to be with my partner and son. I want only to live in peace and be in his life.
STOP THE WAR. Peace, love, light.
Incarcerated Prisoner of the US Military
PO BOX 452136, San Diego, CA, 92145
This article, by Nathaniel Hoffman, was published in the Boise Weekly, August 12, 2009
Robin Long ran away twice in order to find himself.
The first time he ran--during his junior year at Timberline High School--Long wandered the United States for more than a year, hitching rides, working odd jobs and eating at soup kitchens.
The second time he ran, Long took a stand against the Iraq War, shirked U.S. Army orders, fled to Canada and became the first U.S. Iraq War resister deported back to the United States. He ended up in a military lockup in San Diego for a year.
In Canada, Long found a community of Iraq War resisters and a cause, according to his attorney, James Branum, who represents many Iraq War resisters.
"He really found his own voice there," Branum said. "He's a lot more confident and assertive and speaking out for what he believes in, more than he was before."
Long has argued that the U.S. war in Iraq is illegal under international law, that former President George W. Bush deceived the public and the military with false evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and that there was no connection between the Sept. 11 attacks and Iraq.
"When I joined the Army in 2003, I felt honored to be serving my country. I was behind the president. I thought it was an honorable venture to be in Iraq. I was convinced by the lies of the Bush administration just like Congress and a majority of Americans," Long wrote in a Nov. 6, 2008, letter to just-elected President Barack Obama. "But just because I joined the Army doesn't mean I abdicated my ability to evolve intellectually and morally. When I realized the war in Iraq was a mistake, I saw refusing to fight as my only option. My conscience was screaming at me not to participate."
Long was the first of at least five runaway soldiers who have been deported from Canada. A handful of high-profile cases are still in process in the Canadian immigration courts, and the Canadian Parliament has voted twice to grant Iraq War resisters sanctuary.
Upon his forced return to the United States, Long was arrested, court martialed, pled guilty to desertion with intent not to return, and received a relatively lengthy 15-month sentence in the naval brig at Miramar in San Diego. He was released last month after serving 12 months of his sentence.
Long's deportation from Canada and his involvement with anti-war groups has earned him some notoriety as a prominent Iraq War resister. In Canada, he is a poster child in the roiling debate over whether to offer sanctuary to U.S. military deserters.
"I guess you'd call me a celebrity because I stood up for what I believe in and I served 15 months," Long told BW during a recent visit to Boise.
Robin Long was never fond of rules. In 2001, sometime during his junior year in high school and soon after the Sept. 11 attacks, the 17-year-old dropped out. He left the strictness of his mother's house for the freedom of the road, hitching rides across America.
"I wouldn't call myself homeless because I chose to be that way," Long said, during a lengthy interview last month in Boise.
Long went to California and Florida and came back to Boise where he met a trucker at a truck stop. The trucker hired him on for a few months and convinced him to get a GED and attend a U.S. Department of Labor Job Corps training program in Bristol, Tenn.
Long entered Job Corps in January 2003, taking courses in welding. But soon after he enrolled, Army recruiters visited the Job Corps center and chatted him up, convincing him to sign onto the delayed entry program. Delayed entry is a form of enlistment that gave Long a year to finish his welding courses before starting basic training.
"You think these guys are cool," Long said. "Young kids don't think that a recruiter can ever lie to them."
Long was recruited just as plans to invade Iraq solidified. Recruiters fanned out across the United States, boosting military rolls, and venues like Job Corps proved fertile ground for recruitment.
In March 2003, the U.S. invasion began. On May 1, 2003, President George W. Bush declared victory in the war.
In October 2003, though Long said he had expressed moral objections to the war in Iraq to his recruiter, a staff sergeant, Long enlisted in earnest.
This was a key moment in Long's story. Per Army protocol, he was briefly discharged from the delayed entry program and then reenlisted in the Army. He could have walked away at that point, but Long said the recruiter sweet-talked him into continuing with the Army, saying that he would not go to Iraq.
"I was prepared to fight for my country, but not in Iraq," Long said.
An eight-hour bus ride landed him at Fort Knox in Kentucky, home of the Army Armor Center and also of the Army's recruitment command.
Long said he had long been interested in the military and that he was eager to serve his country. But his initial experience in basic training soured him even more on the path he'd chosen. Long immediately felt that much of his training was aimed at dehumanizing the enemy. He was marched around the base to cadenced chants of "blood, red, blood," was lectured to about "the enemy" and was repeatedly told that he would be going to the desert to "kill rag heads."
"I never put two and two together that going to the military and killing people was the same thing," Long said.
In May 2006, after he had fled to Canada, Long spoke to BW, further explaining his growing objections to the war:
"Also, the people who were coming into my unit had just come from Iraq, and they were telling me horrific stories. A couple people had pictures of people that had [been] run over with tanks, and a lot of people were proud of what they were doing and a lot of people were grossed out by the total disrespect for human life ... And another thing was that my superiors were telling me, 'You're going to the desert to fight rag heads.' It wasn't like I was going to Iraq to liberate the people. It was like I was going to the desert to kill rag heads. They were trying to make people less human."
Long continued to wrestle with what he believed was the immorality of what he was being asked to do, while still following orders. His assignment was to train second lieutenants--"butter bars"--in how to command a tank. One day, one of the butter bars--who outranked him--hit him in the face with a snowball, and Long was encouraged to punch the guy in the face, which he did.
In training exercises, Long often played the part of Iraqi forces and even of the media. He felt that a "shoot first, ask questions later" mentality ruled the war games. During one of these war games, after a group of American troops "mowed down" a large gathering of "Iraqis," including two American service members who were among the group, the advice offered was to get closer before shooting so they don't kill Americans by accident. Long was also shot at in war games while playing a reporter.
"It's OK to just shoot the media when they get in your face," Long said.
By 2005, Long was sure he could not fight in Iraq. He heard about conscientious objector status for the first time, but when he asked about it, he was ignored and then discouraged. An Army chaplain asked if he was opposed to all wars, and Long said that if the United States was attacked and his family was in danger, he would not be opposed to fighting. But he also told the chaplain that he would not be "the strong arm for corporate interests." Or for oil.
He was advised that his personal stance against the Iraq War would not qualify for conscientious objector status. In April 2005, Long was given a high-priority notice to support the Second Brigade, Second Infantry Division, based at Fort Carson, Colo., in Iraq. He was to report to Fort Carson on May 2, his 21st birthday.
Long said he and his "battle buddy" at Fort Knox were the only two soldiers called up to Fort Carson. After the call up, Long had the same dream four nights in a row: An 8-year-old Iraqi boy, who reminded him of his brother, was running at Long with an AK-47. Long dropped his gun and was shot. He told his commanding officer about the dream and the officer was incredulous, Long recalled.
"A fuckin' dream ... you're telling me about a fuckin' dream," the officer told him.
Long was given PCS, or Permanent Change of Station, leave and came back to Boise for 10 days to get ready for his deployment.
The Army had made at least one positive change in Long's life. His service had helped reunite Long with his family. He hadn't spoken with his mother for about three years before she attended his graduation from basic training, and they remained in touch. Long stayed with his mother while in Boise, but inside, he was still not sure whether he would report to duty for Iraq."I didn't want to bring shame upon myself or my family," Long said. He considered going to Iraq and not shooting his gun.
His mother, who declined to be interviewed for this story, dropped him off at the Boise airport. He had a ticket to Colorado Springs. But instead of flying to Fort Carson, he called a friend and hid in his basement in an East Boise subdivision for a few months.
Long became a deserter. At one point during his hiding, U.S. marshals came to the door, but they were just there for his friend who had missed jury duty. A short time later, Long hitched a ride to Canada.
"If I go to Canada--that's what they did in the '70s--I won't have to stay here in hiding anymore," Long said.
According to media accounts, more than 25,000 U.S. soldiers have deserted military duty since the Iraq War began. Lt. Col. Nathan Banks, a Pentagon-based Army spokesman, said that less than 1 percent of the Army is AWOL, and that the numbers are not a problem for his branch.
"We are more focused on the global war on terror than the fact that we have individuals that choose not to serve at this current time," Banks said.
The Army does not have a program to apprehend deserters; most are picked up on other charges by local law enforcement and handed over to the military. Banks said that nine out of 10 deserters have financial problems or face failures as a soldier, rather than claim moral qualms with the war.
Some estimates put the number of war resisters who've fled to Canada at a few hundred. Fewer than 50 of these have applied for refugee status, according to Karen Shadd, a spokesperson for Citizenship and Immigration Canada, the nation's immigration agency.
Shadd said that immigration cases are private in Canada unless made public by the petitioner. Five Iraq War asylum cases, including Long's, have been heard in public and all of them rejected, with Canadian immigration officials arguing that none of the deserters were in need of Canada's protection.
Shadd said that the Canadian government has a fair asylum policy and does not want to make a special case for Iraq War resisters because it could be interpreted as unfair by asylum seekers from other countries.
Long's deportation and conviction, however, have factored in the cases of other Iraq War resisters in Canada. In at least one case, Long's 15-month sentence and dishonorable discharge was cited as evidence of politically motivated prosecutions in the United States, giving one Canadian judge pause.
The town of Nelson, B.C., is now known as Resisterville for the growing number of Iraq War resisters and the numerous Vietnam War alums and draft dodgers who live there. But Long did not know that when he arrived. He bummed around Canada for six months before hearing about the War Resisters Support Campaign, a group that provides financial support for U.S. military deserters in Canada and helps them with their legal options.
It was in Nelson that Long met a French Canadian woman named Renee Arthur. He returned with her to the town of Killaloe in Ontario for two winters. The couple had a son, who is now 3 years old.
In Canada, as he awaited a resolution to his amnesty application, Long discovered an environmental and peace activist community. He sat in a tree to protest the clearing of a cedar grove for a parking lot. He bought an '82 VW Vanagon and converted it to run on waste vegetable oil. And he started a small company called Food Not Lawns to convert people's lawns into vegetable gardens.
Renee Arthur has multiple sclerosis, and Long worked to provide her with healthy organic food, apprenticing on an organic farm. Long also began to speak out on the war. He was interviewed by the Canadian Broadcasting Company, calling the war in Iraq illegal and asserting that President Bush had lied about Iraq.
He wore dreadlocks and an anarchist-style black sweatshirt with a sew-on patch.
He lost his immigration case. Then he was caught.
In 2007, Long returned to Nelson to seek work. He picked fruit for a time, but in October, while in Nelson, Long was questioned by a Canadian police officer and detained on national immigration hold. Having lost his bid for amnesty, Long was no longer welcome in Canada, but he still had the option of appeals.
Long bailed out from a Vancouver jail but was required to check in every month, prohibiting him from returning to Ontario where his son lived. In June 2008, the Canadian immigration authorities said he had not checked in with them--Long said he did--and on July 4, 2008, he was arrested again. After a series of hearings, Long was escorted through the Peace Arch to Whatcom County, Wash., on July 15 and handed over to the Washington State Police, who delivered him to Fort Carson to face court martial.
It was the first time that a U.S. Army deserter from the Iraq War had been deported from Canada, and Canadians were not happy. The Canadian Parliament had passed a nonbinding resolution a month prior asking the conservative government to grant U.S. war resisters sanctuary in Canada. The government ignored the resolution, which has since passed a second time, after two members visited Long in the brig and read some of his writings on the floor of the Canadian Parliament.
"Our prime minister, Stephen Harper, is not respecting the will of the people or the will of parliament," said Olivia Chow, who represents downtown Toronto in Canada's parliament and visited Long in the brig. "He's anti-democratic, which makes a mockery of the claim of fighting in Iraq for democracy, by him rejecting parliament's decision to not deport war resisters."
Long's deportation garnered a brief in The New York Times.
"I believe I was a headliner," Long said. "I made every paper in the United States pretty much, when I got deported."
Long believes that his deportation and the handful of Canadian deportations since were meant to be an example to U.S. soldiers that Canada would not welcome them.
At his military trial, Long again went his own path. Army attorneys assigned to defend him urged Long to beg for mercy. He declined.
"Instead of making me look good, we put the Iraq War on trial," Long said.
Branum, an attorney based in Oklahoma who specializes in G.I. cases with moral opposition to the war, attempted to elevate Long's case to a moral argument against the Iraq War.
"We mostly focused on the issue of morality, that a person has a right to morality or at least should have that right," Branum said.
Long was charged with intent to shirk hazardous duty in Iraq, which carried a five-year maximum sentence. He pled down to desertion, and the Army agreed to a 15-month maximum sentence, which he was prepared to serve.
Branum said the plea deal allowed Long to open up about his feelings about the war.
He called to the stand Col. Ann Wright, a former high-ranking Army official who resigned in protest of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and he called other war resisters to testify as well.
"I talked about Jesus. I talked about Thoreau," Branum said. "Even if you disagree with Robin, our society has benefited from the civilly disobedient."
Branum also suggested a Nuremberg defense, that Long was legally correct to oppose immoral orders from the state. And he argued that the prosecutions and strong sentencing of war resisters were politically motivated.
"Robin, from Day 1, wanted to speak the truth to the Army," Branum said.
The Army prosecutors argued that Long's desertion and public profile were bad for morale and they showed video of his CBC interview to the judge, dreadlocks and all.
Long and other Iraq War resisters argue that since the United States is a signatory to the Geneva Conventions, the Iraq War was launched in violation of both international and U.S. law.
As Long writes in an essay called "The Contract":
"The order to go to Iraq was not a lawful one. It violates our Constitution. Article IV states that any treaty the [United States] is signatory to shall be the supreme law of the land. Last time I checked, the [United States] is signatory to the Geneva Conventions. There are certain laws in that treaty for declaring war, last time I checked, 'regime change' wasn't one of them. A country must be under attack or immanent threat of attack. Neither was true in the case of Iraq. President Bush had no right to interpret the Constitution as he saw fit, on the grounds it was a new world after 9/11, and the 107th Congress had no right to pass HJ Res. 114, which 'allowed' the President to invade Iraq. The Constitution was being ignored by the whole lot of them and they were derelict in their duty to uphold it."
In 2006, BW asked him about his oath to serve. "I never really ... I guess I was kind of not being mature," Long said. "I was 19 years old at the time I was swearing in. It also says to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States and at first I thought, when they told us we were going over there, I thought, it was an honorable thing. I thought hey, there really are weapons of mass destruction and Saddam Hussein really is a bad man in power. I really thought it was an honorable thing. But as the war kept progressing, then is when I started to see that things were not really adding up."
Long was one of two deserters serving time at Miramar, where he said many prisoners are sex offenders.
"I had to make sure people wouldn't steal pictures of my son," he said.
In addition to his incarceration, Long was stripped of his rank and given a dishonorable discharge. His discharge remains on appeal. As he tours the country speaking out in opposition to the war, Robin Long remains in the Army, getting military medical benefits, though he is no longer being paid.
He argues that his desertion was not dishonorable and that the unfavorable discharge status--a felony--affects his ability to return to his family in Canada and his ability to get work in the United States.
In Long's open letter to Obama, he asked for a better discharge status: "I ask you to please consider granting me presidential clemency or a pardon. I have given this to many different organizations and people to ensure that you receive a copy. I am so happy that you were elected President. I feel real change coming. You are the light after the storm, 'Hurricane Bush' if you will."
He has not heard back but continues the appeal.
His wife is unable to move to the United States because she receives full medical benefits for her MS in Canada and would not be able to get treatment here, Branum said.
After his release from the brig in San Diego, Long moved to San Francisco where he is living communally with other activists and studying massage therapy. He is being sponsored on a trip to Israel and Palestine in October to speak to Army resisters there and meet with high school students. But ultimately Long would like to return to Canada, to be reunited with his son and the community he found there.
"Canada has a long history of being a refuge from injustice," Long said.
This article, by Anthony Lane, was originally publishd in the Colorado Spprings Independent, April 13, 2009
Since ditching the Army and the Iraq war two years ago, Kim Rivera has seen some things go her way.
The former Fort Carson soldier and her family found a new home in Canada, along with supporters to help them plead their case. From Toronto, the mother of three watched as American anti-war sentiment helped launch Barack Obama to the presidency.
But even as sentiment and sympathy align, the Texas native faces possible deportation, and imprisonment back in the States. Borys Wrzesnewskyj (pronounced rez-NEV-skee), a member of Canada's Parliament, says efforts to stop his country's government from deporting Rivera and hundreds of other Army deserters seem to be going nowhere.
"The government is standing shoulder to shoulder with the former Bush administration," Wrzesnewskyj says.
Given that the Obama administration has shown no sign of easing up on deserters, Wrzesnewskyj says, his question for Canada's conservative government is simple: "Why would you send this mother to prison and separate her from her three small children for taking a principled stand against an unjust war?"
Canada's minority government, led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, has deported at least four U.S. deserters since July over the objection of a majority in Parliament who have voted twice to let the them stay. Robin Long, another Fort Carson soldier, got wide publicity as the first to be deported, and he is now serving 15 months in a California military jail.
Rivera was preparing to be deported March 26 before a Canadian federal judge granted her an emergency stay of removal, based on the similarly harsh sentence she could get in the U.S. She is now waiting to find out if the courts will review her application for refugee status in Canada.
"It gives me another day to fight," Rivera said in a March 25 press conference.
Though Rivera could not be reached for this story, she told the Dallas Observer that she joined the Army mostly to provide a better living for her family than she could by working at Wal-Mart. She later found she objected to the war effort and missed her loved ones.
Her publicity could hurt her if she's deported. Lee Zaslofsky, national coordinator of the Toronto-based War Resisters Support Campaign, says Long's outspokenness against the war could explain his 15-month sentence, nearly twice what another Fort Carson deserter received and longer than those of some soldiers who have admitted to taking part in the murder of Iraqi civilians.
Strictly speaking, desertion is punishable by death during time of war, though the Army has not tried to go that far. The first year of the Iraq war, 2,610 soldiers deserted. That number climbed to 4,698 in the year between October 2007 and September 2008. Most deserters just try to lie low in the States; those who avoid speeding tickets or other law-enforcement contact run little risk of getting scooped up by the Army.
Though many Vietnam-era deserters and draft-dodgers were later forgiven, few expect that to happen for modern-day deserters, particularly while combat continues. And despite Obama's position that soldiers shouldn't have been sent to Iraq to begin with, Army spokesman Lt. Col. George Wright says he's unaware of any plans to change treatment of those soldiers who opted out on their own.
This appeal, by Robin Long, was posted to Courage to Resist, March 2008
In 2004 when Jeremy Hinzman applied for refugee status in Canada the Conservative government stepped in at his Refugee Hearing and said that evidence challenging the legality of the war in Iraq can’t be used in this case. The U.N. Handbook for Refugees and the Nuremburg Principals say:
a soldier of an army that is involved in an illegal war of aggression has a higher international duty to refuse service. They also have the right to seek refugee protection in any country that is signatory to the Geneva Convention.
By refusing to allow him, and by precedent all other claimants, the right to use the argument that the war was illegal, the decision closed the door on that legal avenue for refugee protection.
The invasion of Iraq was clearly an illegal act of aggression. The U.S. was not under attack or the imminent threat of attack from the nation of Iraq. The action was also not approved by the U.N. Security Council. By taking this stance, the Conservative government is condoning the invasion and continuing occupation of Iraq. Is this what Canadians want? A majority of Americans want it to end and have also realized it to be a mistake. Canadians have long known it to be wrong. Why is the minority Conservative government still holding onto the idea and still deporting war resisters? Why are they separating families and being complicit in the incarceration of morally strong young men and women? What message is this sending?
Parliament voted to let war resisters remain
In June of 2007 Canada’s Parliament voted on a non-binding resolution to allow war resisters and their families permanent resident status. The vote passed. In agreement with the vote, a poll of Canadian opinion showed overwhelming support for the resolution. But I defiance of Parliament and the will of the people, the Conservative minority government led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Immigration Minister Diane Finley ignored the bill. The government stated that all refugee claimants are give a fair chance to plead their case at the Refugee Board, and special treatment to these Iraq resisters wasn’t fair to the other claimants. The government has also stated in the past that we are not legitimate claimants because we are from the U.S. which they say has a fair and transparent justice system and we wouldn’t be singled out for being political.
On July 14th,2008 in my final attempt to stay in Canada, where my son and community are, Federal Judge Ann Mactavish stated that I didn’t prove I would be treated harshly by the U.S. military for being a politically outspoken opponent to the war in Iraq and the Bush administration policy. She predicted that my punishment would be minimal and I’d serve at most 30 days in the brig. (This is probably because less than 10% of AWOL cases are brought to court martial.) She then cleared the way for my deportation. Convicted of a felony Less than a month later I was tried in a court martial presided over by a judge who is a colonel in the Army, a person who has the President in her chain of command. (A person late appointed by Bush to Guantanamo Bay no doubt because of her credentials and political position.) The only aggravating evidence the prosecution presented was a 6 minute long video of me stating among other things that “I feel my president lied to me.” (A political statement.) The fact that this was found admissible in court for the crime of desertion is beyond me. There were no character witnesses brought against me. The only factor the prosecution wanted shown in determining a sentence was the fact that I was political and exercising my freedom of speech in criticizing the Commander in Chief. It seems like a conflict of interest to have a judge determine my fate when she has to ultimately answer to the President, while I was claiming the President was a domestic enemy. While I was openly saying in my defense that the Bush administration created reasons to go to Iraq, she had superiors to answer to who answer to the President.
The judge came back with a 30 month sentence; that’s two and a half years for not showing up for work I thought to be morally objectionable, by far the harshest sentence given to a deserter from the Iraq war. The only thing that saved me was a plea bargain for 15 months. I still received a dishonorable discharge. A dishonorable discharge will keep me from ever having a government job and be at a disadvantage in the civilian sector as well. I will have a hard time ever getting a loan for a house or a car. This conviction is also a felony! A felony will make it hard for me to return to Canada to be with my young family. Then again, Judge Ann Mactavish had already made sure I wouldn’t be allowed in for ten year.
People who committed far worse crimes have been getting off with lighter sentences than mine. I refused to participate in killing and got 15 months, but a First Infantry Division soldier, Spc. Belmor Ramos, was sentenced to only seven months after being convicted of conspiracy to commit murder in the case of four Iraqi men. In 2007, he stood guard while others blindfolded and shot in the head four unidentified Iraqi men, afterwards dumping their bodies in a Baghdad canal. During his court martial, Ramos admitted his guilt, stating, “I wanted them dead. I had no legal justification to do this” Where is the justice? The system is not fair and impartial. Can it really be transparent when you don’t know who is influencing the judge from up the chain of command? See how the military justice system works? It gives light sentences for killing, but God forbid someone should call the president a liar and war-monger. In a court martial, a person’s words and political opinions – if they are anti-war and critical of the president – seem be far more damaging to his case than someone’s illegal actions in an occupied foreign nation.
What about the contract I signed?
Often, people have argued that I signed a contract. I’d like to quote from a letter one of the Founding Fathers wrote to George Washington on his thoughts about contracts:
When performance, for instance, becomes impossible, non- performance is not immoral. So if performance becomes Self-destructive to the party, the law of self preservation Overrules the laws of obligations to others. For the reality of These principles I appeal to the true fountains of evidence, the head and heart of every rational man.--Thomas Jefferson, April 1793
For me to continue in my military contract would have been destructive to me as a person with my views, morals, and ideals. The contract I signed was to support and defend the Constitution of the United States from all enemies foreign and domestic, and to obey the lawful orders of the President and those officers appointed over me. I did not sign to be the strong arm for corporate interests of oil. The so-called “liberation” of Iraq has turned into nothing more than a constant and protracted struggle for the people, against the forces that are trying to impose their will upon them for power and profit. True freedom is the ultimate expression and condition of a people to control their own destiny, not the manufactured, force-fed variety being offered to the people of Iraq. True democracy is not found at the end of the end of a gun barrel. It rises up from within the masses. The government manufactured pretenses for the war
The invasion of Iraq wasn’t about WMDs, or else we would have found some. It wasn’t about regime change, or else we would be in Darfur, or Indonesia. (Besides, regime change is not a legitimate reason to go to war.) It wasn’t about 9/11 terrorists because most of those were from Saudi Arabia. It didn’t say anywhere in my contract that I’d be going to foreign soil halfway around the world, to invade a country that was no threat to the U.S. It didn’t say in my contract that I would be called upon to risk my life, not defending the people or the Constitution of the United States, but creating more enemies for our country by being an occupier. The invasion of Iraq has made the world a much more dangerous place.
Iraq was never a real threat. And now the destabilized nation of Iraq has become a breeding ground, an awesome recruiting center, for al Qaeda. And it has exacted a great price from the American people. I’m not talking about the huge monetary price, but the human cost of war, the deaths of so many of our brave youth, the missing limbs, the PTSD, the suicides.
The order for me to go to Iraq was not a lawful one. It violated the Constitution. Article VI of the Constitution states that any treaty to which the U.S. is a signatory shall be the supreme law of the land. The last time I checked, the U.S. was a signing party to the Geneva Conventions. There are certain rules in that treaty for declaring war, and the last time I checked, regime change was not one of them. A country must be under attack or be under threat of imminent attack. Neither was true in the case of Iraq. Former President Bush had no right to interpret the Constitution or the Geneva Conventions simply as he saw fit, and the 107th Congress had no right to pass H.J. Res. 114 which “allowed” the president to invade Iraq. The Constitution was being ignored by the whole lot of them and they were derelict in their duty to uphold it.
The stand that the Conservative government of Canada has taken has separated a family – an act totally un-Canadian. I have a young son, a Canadian citizen. My partner, also a Canadian citizen, has multiple sclerosis and has been left to raise our son alone while I’m locked in the brig for refusing to participate in a war that Canada itself wouldn’t even send troops to. In 2003 the then Liberal government saw the holes in Bush’s intelligence and refused to participate in the invasion. The Canadian government not only deported me, but barred me from entering Canada again for ten years! My flesh and blood is there! Uphold Canada’s humanitarian tradition
The Conservatives are destroying Canada’s tradition of being a refuge from militarism and an asylum for those escaping injustice – a tradition that goes back to the times of slavery. Are they truly representing the people? Who are they working for really? The days of Bush have ended. This new Obama administration has a different view and different policies. It’s time for Mr. Stephen Harper to change his view. He should listen to what his Parliament and a majority of Canadians are saying.
Please support the movement to allow war resisters to stay in Canada and to pardon those in the U.S. Please help me to return to Canada to be with my son. I want only to live in peace and be in this life. Stop the war!
Robin Long, Prisoner L4830R35, NAVCON Brig Miramar
Courage to Resist announces a National Week of Letter Writing to Show Support for War Resisters March 16-23, 2009
Where: In your community (at your house, community center, religious space, etc.)
Organize a letter-writing party in your community to show support for war resisters. Robin Long, recently deported from Canada, is serving a 15-month sentence for refusing to fight in Iraq. Tony Anderson is currently serving a 14-month sentencing for resisting deployment to Iraq. Many more war resisters are sitting in prison for refusing to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, and countless more live with that possibility. Several war resisters have been threatened with deportation from Canada, and Chris Teske and Cliff Cornell have already been forced to leave.
We are asking allies of the G.I. resistance movement to gather together to write:
Letters of support to war resisters in prison, awaiting trial, or seeking refuge in Canada
Letters to the Canadian government asking that war resisters be granted sanctuary
Letters to our own government demanding amnesty for war resisters
War Resister Letter-Writing Parties provide a concrete way to show emotional support for war resisters and establish human connections between civilian support networks and troops refusing to fight. The idea is for a group of people to bring their community together to write letters and to use the occasion to build awareness and solidarity around the issue of G.I. resistance.
We are asking folks to organize their letter-writing events around the sixth anniversary of the Iraq War so that we can take this somber occasion to recognize the brave troops who refuse to fight: the people who give us hope that an end to unjust war is possible.
Courage to Resist will provide you with all of the materials and information you need to host your letter-writing party, including: information and contact info of war resisters, template letters for U.S. and Canadian governments, and literature about G.I. resistance.
If you are interested in organizing a letter-writing party, or if you have any questions, please contact us at [email protected] or 510-488-3559.
We are happy to walk you through the process of organizing a letter-writing party and brainstorm ways to tailor your event to the needs of your community.
Here are a few of thr folks we willbe sending lteetrs to:
Anthony Michael Anderson, PO Box 305, Fort Sill, OK 73503-5305
Iraq War resister currently serving a 14-month sentence at the Fort Sill stockade. Expected release: November 2009
Robin Long, PO Box 452136, San Diego CA 92145-2136
Iraq War resister deported from Canada currently serving a 15-month sentence at the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar brig. Expected release: July 2009
Cliff Cornell, c/o Courage to Resist, 484 Lake Park Ave #41 Oakland CA 94610
Iraq War resister currently pending court-martial at Fort Stewart, Georgia after returning from Canada.
Robin Long was deported from Canada and is serving time at the air base. He is separated from his ailing Canadian partner and their child.
An American army deserter who has been living in Canada in an attempt to avoid serving in the U.S.-led war in Iraq has joined a growing list of refugee applicants to be refused asylum in Canada.
Chris Teske, 27, who joined the army after the 9/11 attacks in New York, asked the Federal Court for a stay of removal but was denied late Monday night and told to leave Canada by Tuesday or be removed by force.
Michelle Robidoux, a spokeswoman with the War Resisters' Support Campaign said Teske was to be driven Tuesday to the Canada-United States border near Vancouver with his wife Stephanie.
B.C. Southern Interior MP Alex Atamanenko urged the Conservative government to take immediate action to stop the deportation and others.
Given a lack of confidence in the House of Commons by the Opposition and U.S. President Barack Obama's stance against the Iraq war, Atamanenko said the Canadian government should reconsider its position and intervene.
``Should there ever be a coalition government then it's my assumption and hope that we can review this and then put a stop to all of this,'' he said.
Teske served two tours in Afghanistan and says he suffered from post traumatic stress disorder before being called to train gunners in Iraq in 2006. He refused to go to Iraq on moral and conscientious grounds because he believed the war immoral.
He and his wife then fled to British Columbia where they have lived for the past two years in the West Kootenays in the Interior of the province. Teske has been working at a truss construction company.
Earlier this month, Kimberly Rivera, who served in Iraq in 2006 but deserted after being informed of her redeployment the following year, went before the Immigration and Refugee Board in Toronto with her husband and two young children to ask to stay in Canada on compassionate and humanitarian grounds. Instead, she was given until Jan. 27 to voluntarily leave or face deportation.
At the time, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney accused the deserters of filing ``bogus'' refugee claims.
There are at least four other American army deserters and their families facing deportation in January.
This article, by Jason Buckland, was published in the Toronto Sun, January 20, 2009.
The January weather isn't as pleasant as her native Texas, but U.S. Iraq war resister Kimberley Rivera wants desperately to stay.
With her 7-week-old daughter, Katie, strapped close to her chest, the first known female war resister to seek re-fuge in Canada faces deportation next week.
Rivera was joined by supporters at Nathan Phillips Square yesterday for the kick-off of "Let Them Stay Week" in support of five U.S. Iraq War resisters in Canada set to be returned to the States during the next 10 days.
The mother of three faces deportation -- and possible jail time -- on Jan. 27.
'KNEW IN MY HEART'
Rivera, who served in Iraq, came to Toronto in early 2007 from Texas. Along with husband, Mario, and kids Christian, 6, Rebecca, 4, and Katie, Rivera moved to Parkdale where she planned to start their new life.
"I just knew in my heart and in my mind that I couldn't keep doing what I was doing," she said.
But now, as the U.S. government is lobbying for her return to native soil, Rivera fears she may go the way of Robin Long, a war resister living in Canada who was deported, court martialed and sentenced to 15 months in prison.
"(She) would also receive a dishonourable discharge which is the equivalent of a felony charge," said Lee Zaslofsky, co-ordinator for the War Resisters Support Campaign. "We feel that is extremely harsh."
Zaslofsky draws on the House of Commons motion passed last June calling on the Government of Canada to immediately cease deportation proceedings that have been commenced against all U.S. Iraq War resisters.
"We thought at the time there was a good chance the government would actually carry out the will of parliament," he said. "It turns out their ideological convictions were otherwise."
The grisly state of the Iraq War was highlighted yesterday by resister Joshua Key, who is AWOL from his call of duty but is not yet facing deportation.
He said he decided to flee the military after coming across two decapitated bodies on the bank of an Iraq river.
"I looked to my right and there was one American soldier holding back screaming Iraqis and to my left there were two American soldiers kicking around their heads like a soccer ball," Key said.
"I made the decision then I didn't want to be a part of that anymore."
This article, by Tony Perry, was originally published in the LA Times, January 14 2009. This version was found on Lexis-Nexis, January 14, 2009.
Antiwar activists have taken up the cause of an Army deserter who was deported from Canada and is now being held at the brig at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.
Two dozen members of Military Families Speak Out and San Diego Veterans for Peace protested Tuesday afternoon outside the base in support of Robin Long, a onetime Army private who was sentenced in August to 15 months behind bars and a dishonorable discharge.
The activists support Long's view that the Iraq war is illegal and say his sentence is particularly cruel because it could prevent him from returning to his sick girlfriend and their 2-year-old son in Canada. Canadian law makes it difficult for convicted felons to enter Canada.
"Here's a guy who did what his conscience told him to do," said Dave Patterson, who was in the Air Force during the Vietnam War.
"Why do we need to put him in prison? That's crazy."
Long, 25, of Boise, Idaho, enlisted in 2003 and deserted in 2005 when his Ft. Carson, Colo.-based unit was ordered to Iraq. He fled to British Columbia and applied for refugee status on the grounds that, as an opponent of the war in Iraq, he would suffer irreparable harm if returned to the United States.
Long's application was rejected and he was deported in July. His court-martial case is on appeal to a military appeals court. Also, activists have appealed to President-elect Barack Obama to pardon Long.
Long was the first U.S. service member who sought sanctuary in Canada to be deported. His deportation caused a political controversy in Canada because it seemed to signal a reversal of Canada's welcoming attitude toward deserters and draft resisters from the U.S. during the Vietnam war. About half a dozen American service members in Canada are now believed to be facing deportation.
As the Long case continued, the lower house of the Canadian parliament passed a nonbinding motion calling on the government to allow U.S. deserters to remain in Canada.
The Conservative Party government has not followed that policy.
In Canada, Long met a Canadian woman, fathered a child and opened a business encouraging water conservation by replacing grass lawns with less thirsty plants. His attorneys believe that Canada and the U.S. military have dealt harshly with him as an example to other troops.
"It's such a waste," said James M. Branum, Long's lawyer.
Joel Guberman, an immigration lawyer in Toronto who is not involved in the Long case, said a deportation order and a criminal conviction will make it difficult, but not impossible, for Long to return to Canada.
Guberman said Canadian law allows three avenues of appeal: Long could seek a "waiver of admissibility" based on the argument that desertion from the U.S. Army is not a serious crime in Canada. He could wait five years and assert that he has been rehabilitated. Or, he could get a hearing after being sponsored for return by his girlfriend, a Canadian citizen.
"It's not quite as dire as I'm hearing," he said in a telephone interview.
Military rules prohibit brig prisoners from talking to reporters. But before he was deported, Long was quoted on an activist website as saying, "Regardless of what hardships I go through, I could have put Iraqi families through more hardships. I have no regrets."
U.S. Army Specialist André Shepherd, who went AWOL after serving in Iraq, has applied for asylum in Germany. Shepherd refused military service because he is morally opposed to the Iraq War.
"It is a sickening feeling to realize that I took part in what was basically a daily slaughter of a proud people," said Shepherd at a press conference announcing his application for asylum. "I am remorseful for my contribution to these heinous acts, and I swear that I will never make these mistakes again."
Shepherd, who has been living underground in Germany for nearly two years, applied for refugee status on November 26th on the grounds that the Iraq War is illegal.
This makes Shepherd the first Iraq War Veteran to apply for refugee status in Europe. His case may have profound implications for the growing ranks of troops who are refusing to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Who is André Shepherd?
Shepherd did not set out in life intending to build a career in the military. He grew up in Cleveland, Ohio and went to school at Kent State University, where he studied computer science. He graduated in 2000 in the midst of the dot-com bubble burst, and he found himself unable to get a job in his field. Shepherd embarked on a litany of odd jobs to get by, including working fast food, stuffing envelopes, couriering, and selling vacuum cleaners. Yet it often wasn't enough to cover his basic living expenses.
In the summer of 2003, Shepherd ran into an army recruiter who told him of the army's benefits: free travel, healthcare, and free housing. "At the time, I was living in my car, so that sounded appealing," said Shepherd.
On January 27, 2004, Shepherd decided to join the army. "At that time, I didn't have the knowledge I have now. All I had was pretty much what the mass media was telling me and what the Bush Administration was saying on the mass media," said Shepherd.
Shepherd was trained in Apache helicopter repair and sent first to Achach Germany, then to Iraq, where he was stationed from September 2004 to February 2005.
"While I was in Iraq, the first thing I noticed was when the local population would come on our base. Usually when you liberate a people, they are overjoyed to see you, they are happy to see you, they would welcome you with open arms," said Shepherd. "When I would see the Iraqi population, they didn't look like they were in any way happy to see us. They looked like either they were afraid of me or if I turned my back without my weapon, they would probably want to kill me. That started me thinking."
Shepherd started talking to soldiers on his base and was shocked to learn that many did not understand why they were there and did not see any benefit. He began doing research and started seeing "inconsistencies between what the Bush Administration was saying and what was actually happening."
Eventually, Shepherd began analyzing his own contribution to a war that was making less and less sense to him. "My job appeared harmless until one factors in the amount of death and destruction those helicopters cause to civilians in Iraq," he said.
"Once I pretty much figured out the truth, that this war was nothing more than a fraud, not only on the American people but the entire world, I resolved within myself that I would no longer go on another deployment to Iraq," he said in an interview with Courage to Resist, one of the many U.S.-based organizations rallying support for him.
Refusal to deploy
On April 11, 2007, Shepherd went on leave to southern Germany. "I made a decision within that two week period that I would have to walk away from the service rather than get myself killed or get someone else killed," he said.
He carried out that decision and lived underground in Germany until going public with his request for asylum last week. During this time, he had no contact with his family, in order to protect them being implicated in his case. Now that he is open about his situation, Shepherd is back in touch with his family. He says they are worried about what could happen to him but supportive of his decision.
Shepherd has been met with a groundswell of support for his decision to refuse further military service. The Military Counseling Network, a German organization that counsels American soldiers who are questioning going to war, has been instrumental in helping him go public with his case, and his refusal to serve has garnered international press.
"The peace movement in Germany is rallying to support Shepherd's cause. We are working on an appeal to the German government, collecting signatures and other forms of support, and there is definite interest in all parts of the country," said Tim Hubert of the Military Counseling Network in Germany.
Shepherd is also a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), an organization comprised of over 1,300 U.S. veterans who have served since September 11, 2001 and call for immediate pullout from Iraq.
"I think it is very courageous of him to step away from the military and the situation and prevent himself from being drawn into a war crime," said Mathis Chiroux, an IVAW member who is currently refusing orders to reactivate into the military and deploy to Iraq. "I certainly hope the german government responds to his request and allows him to stay."
Significance of Shepherd's case
Several factors lean in favor of André's bid for asylum. The German government came out against the Iraq War, a majority of Germans are opposed to that conflict, and not a single German soldier has been sent to fight in Iraq. Furthermore, the German Federal Courts ruled that the Iraq War violates international law. A European Union regulation guarantees refugee status for soldiers who are fleeing military service in wars that have been declared illegal by international standards. And in 2005, the German Federal Court ruled that a German army officer could not be demoted for refusing to develop a computer he feared would be used by the United States to aid the Iraq War effort.
"The Nuremberg Trials took place here, and the notion of all soldiers taking personal responsibility is widely respected in Germany," said Tim Hubert. "That said, German exports and the greater economy are very financially dependent on the United States, and the political repercussions of granting asylum would definitely be an affront to a long-standing friendship, making André's case an uphill battle."
Germany is home to roughly 60,000 U.S. soldiers, and Germany's airspace has been used by the United States since the beginning of the Iraq War. "It's time for the German government to come down off its fence and pick a side, and I think André is offering them a unique opportunity to stand up for the Geneva Conventions," said Hubert.
Shepherd joins a growing number of U.S. troops are refusing to fight in the so-called "war on terror." Army soldiers are resisting service at the highest rate since 1980, with an 80 percent increase in desertions, defined as absence for more than 30 days, since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, according to the Associated Press. An estimated 200 Iraq War resisters are residing in Canada, and over 150 resisters have come out publicly against the war. Some cases, such as Lt. Ehren Watada, the first army officer to refuse to deploy to Iraq, have garnered widespread support and attention.
Robin Long, an Iraq War resister who applied for asylum in Canada in 2004, was rejected by Canadian authorities this September and deported into U.S. military custody, making him the only war resister to be deported from Canada since the Vietnam War. Dozens of other cases are still making their way through the appeals process in Canadian courts.
Many applaud Shepherd's decision to refuse deployment and apply for asylum, despite the uncertainty he faces. "I think it is important that soldiers are examining the conflicts they are asked to fight in and are making a decision to not fight based on their values and sense of morals," said Andrew Gorby, who was discharged from the Army in May 2007 as a conscientious objector and now works for the Center on Conscience and War, a counseling organization that works to defend the rights of conscientious objectors."It is powerful that here you have a soldier making a decision not to fight regardless of the consequences."