The first American war resister deported from Canada – where he had fled after refusing to be deployed to Iraq – was sentenced to 15 months in jail yesterday at a court martial hearing in Colorado.
Pte. Robin Long, 25, of Boise, Idaho, was also given a dishonourable discharge after pleading guilty to charges of desertion.
The sentence was the longest any convicted army deserter had received since the beginning of the 2003 Iraq war, said retired U.S. Army Col. Ann Wright, a former diplomat who resigned from her post out of protest at the war’s outset.
Wright testified against the legality of the Iraq war on Long’s behalf.
Of the thousands of soldiers sentenced for desertion or going AWOL – and the estimated two dozen tried for protesting the war – only former army sergeant Kevin Benderman received an equal sentence in 2005.
About two-dozen anti-war supporters gathered around the courthouse at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, Colo., yesterday afternoon as a military judge handed down Long’s sentence.
Though initially sentenced to 30 months in prison, that time was reduced to the 15-month maximum military prosecutors had agreed on when arranging a plea deal last week.
Long, 25, came to Canada in 2005 to flee a scheduled deployment to Iraq. While here, he was briefly engaged to an Ontario woman – with whom he had a child last year – before he moved to British Columbia, supporters have said.
He was deported and taken into the custody of the U.S. Army last month following a series of failed attempts to gain refugee status or permanent residency in Canada.
Late last week, Long’s lawyers reached an agreement with prosecutors that would see him plead guilty on charges of desertion with the intent to stay away permanently.
In return, prosecutors agreed not to move forward on the most serious charges of desertion with the intent to shirk hazardous duty.
Standing calmly and waiting for his sentence after three hours of testimony at yesterday’s hearing, Long appeared stoic and ready to serve his time in a military jail, supporters said.
“He was very calm and very measured,” said Wright. “He fully anticipated that he would be serving the entire 15 months.”
The dishonourable discharge he received could also go down as a felony offence and could restrict his future right to vote or carry a firearm, his lawyer said.
“(He) would pretty much become a second-class citizen,” his Oklahoma-based civilian lawyer, James M. Branum, told the Star earlier this week.
Like many of the other roughly 200 other American war resisters currently living in Canada, Long has said he opposed the conflict in Iraq on legal and moral grounds.
13th Amendment of the United States Constitution:
Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime where of the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
Section 2. Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
Unlike property, a man’s will is inalienable and therefore intransferable. Should a contract provide for payments upfront then breaking the contract would constitute theft which the person breaking the contract and therefore commiting the theft would be expected to pay back. However, that person would still be free to exit without the threat of violence against them.
Murray Rothbard covers this in better detail in The Ethics of Liberty.