Another US War Resister From Canada Court-Martialed

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CommonDreams.org

Another US War Resister From Canada Court-Martialed

by
Ann Wright

In June, 2008, by a vote of 137 to 110, Canadian parliamentarians in a non-binding resolution asked the Harper government not to deport US war resisters “who have refused or left military service related to a war not sanctioned by the United Nations.” Yet, one month later, in a controversial move, Canadian police jailed and then deported on July 15, 2008, US war resister Robin Long for having not reported a change of address. Canadian Immigration put Long into the waiting hands of US law enforcement authorities who immediately turned Long over to the US Army.

In a court-martial convened in record time at Fort Carson, Colorado, on August 23, 2008, US war resister Robin Long was convicted of being absent without leave from the Army and sentenced to 15 months imprisonment and a dishonorable discharge. Long agreed to a plea bargain with the US Army — the maximum sentence for the charges was three years imprisonment.

Long had gone to Canada after he was sent from his non-deployable unit at Fort Knox, Kentucky to Fort Carson, Colorado to be deployed as an individual replacement into a unit deploying to Iraq. He was outspoken publicly in Canada about his opposition to the Bush administration’s war on Iraq. Long lived in Canada for three years before he was deported. His Canadian citizen partner and their 2- year-old son still live there.

Long’s fifteen month sentence is the longest length of imprisonment for a war resister. US Army Sergeant Kevin Benderman, a 10 year Army veteran who had served in Iraq, also was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment. Although he had never gone AWOL, he refused to deploy to Iraq in a unit that was incompetently led. Benderman and his wife Monica also were very outspoken on the war itself. He was imprisoned for 13 months.

Long is the third US war resister who went to Canada to be court-martialed. On July 16, 2008, James Burmeister was court-martialed at Fort Knox, Kentucky and given a six months jail sentence and bad conduct discharge. Burmeister had served two tours in Iraq and was injured in 3 Improvised Explosive Device (IED) explosions. Despite a traumatic brain injury and severe post traumatic stress, he was ordered to return to Iraq. Instead, he went to Canada for 10 months. While in Canada, Burmeister spoke publicly about the Army’s use of a “bait and kill” technique to lure persons into a kill zone where they were then shot. He voluntarily returned from Canada and turned himself over to the military in May, 2008. Because of his dishonorable discharge, Burmeister’s traumatic brain injury and post traumatic stress will not be treated by the Veteran’s Administration when he is released from jail and treatment while in military prisons will be minimal, if at all.

US Marine Ivan Brobeck completed a standard 7-month tour in Fallujah, Iraq in 2004. While in Iraq, he decided that the US war on Iraq was the “problem, not the solution.” Upon his return from Iraq, he went to Canada in April, 2005. He voluntarily returned to the United States and turned himself into the Marines in November, 2006. He was court-martialed on December 5, 2006 and convicted of unauthorized absence and “missing a military movement.” He was sentenced to imprisonment for 8 months and a dishonorable discharge. He was released from prison in February, 2007.

Not all service members who went to Canada have been court-martialed upon their return to the United States. US Army Specialist Darrell Anderson served a tour in Iraq in 2004 and was wounded there. When facing orders for a second deployment to Iraq, Anderson went to Canada in January, 2005. He was outspoken in Canada about the shooting of innocent civilians at Iraqi checkpoints. He spent 20 months in Canada and returned voluntarily to Fort Knox in September, 2006 to get treatment for his post traumatic stress. Anderson was not court-martialed by the Army for his absence but instead was given an administration separation and an “other than honorable” discharge.

Approximately 30 US service members have been court-martialed for their opposition to the Iraq war. Their sentences have ranged from confinement to their military base for three months (in one instance) to 15 months imprisonment. The average sentence is 6-8 months imprisonment although three have received sentences of 12-13 months) and either a dishonorable or bad conduct discharge.

Around two hundred US service members remain in Canada awaiting the Canadian government’s determination of whether they will be accorded refugee status or whether they will be denied and deported back to the United States. Although Canada has refused to send its military to Iraq as a part of the “coalition of the willing,” Canada is cooperating with the Bush administration in punishing those in the US military who are opposed to the war on Iraq. By returning the war resisters to the United States military, the Canadian government is insuring they will be court-martialed and imprisoned, a dramatic, 180 degree change from the Canadian government’s policies during the war on Vietnam that granted immediate political asylum to all US service members and draft resisters who went to Canada.

In other instances of Harper administration alliance with the Bush policies, Canada has paid Canadian citizen Maher Arar $10 million dollars for the Bush administration’s kidnapping, extraordinary rendition to Syria where he was tortured for ten months. Also, the Harper administration is using the politically tainted FBI’s National Crime Information Center data base to deny entry to US citizens who have been arrested in the United States for misdemeanor violations while protesting the war on Iraq and torture.

Please support the war resisters in jail and in Canada with your letters and financial support.

 

Ann Wright is a retired Army Reserve colonel and a 29-year veteran of the Army and Army Reserves. She was a US diplomat and served in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia, Afghanistan and Mongolia. She resigned from the Department of State on March 19, 2003, in opposition to the Iraq war. She is the co-author of “Dissent: Voices of Conscience” (www.voicesofconscience.com). She testified as a character witness for Robin Long in his court-martial.

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