Courage to Resist. July 15, 2008

Today Army PFC Robin Long became the first U.S. war resister since the Vietnam War forced to leave Canada and turned over to the U.S. military. While dozens of supporters gathered this morning at Peace Arch Park on the Canadian-U.S. border, Robin was already being transported to Fort Carson, Colorado. He is expected to be immediately placed in pre-trial confinement and eventually court martialed for AWOL, desertion, and possibly other violations of military discipline.

Courage to Resist has made civilian legal representation available to Robin and will be doing everything possible to provide him our full support. We plan to collaborate with many other groups in our efforts to help Robin in the coming weeks. Refusing to fight in an illegal war is not a crime—except under the Uniform Code of Military (In)Justice.

At 19, the Boise, Idaho native joined the Army on the promise that he would not be deployed to Iraq. “I made it apparent that I didn’t want to go to Iraq. I didn’t believe in the war that was going on over there so that’s why I was stationed at Fort Knox.” However, later Robin realized that “they didn’t have any new people enlisting so they were just taking anyone they could.”

In April 2005 Robin was ordered to Fort Carson in preparation for deployment to Iraq. Robin recounted, “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.” After his Army “battle buddy” didn’t report for deployment by leaving for Canada, Robin also went AWOL and eventually hitchhiked to Canada. Once there he spent several months doing more hitchhiking and hanging out at soup kitchens before settling down with the help of the War Resisters Support Campaign.

Along with a few other U.S. Iraq War resisters, Robin had been most recently living in Nelson, British Columbia, a town of 10,000 people 30 miles north of the intersection of Washington state and Idaho. Local police have gained a reputation of being hostile to war resisters. “We have enough hippies of our own” seems to sum up their attitude. Authorities claimed that because Robin was staying with different friends around Nelson, he was in violation of a previous order to notify authorities of his whereabouts—and this gave them the opening for an expedited removal. Robin’s bad luck continued when a conservative Canadian Judge ruled against his last ditch appeal.

“This is a gift from Stephen Harper to George Bush,” says Gerry Condon of Project Safe Haven, referring to the conservative heads of state of Canada and the U.S. “And it will trumpet that Canada is no longer a safe haven for AWOL GIs.” However, Gerry believe that “this is not the first of many deportations. It may be the first and the last. A minority government that ignores the will of its people and its Parliament will not be allowed to rule much longer.” Federal elections are expected to take place in Canada this fall.

Check for updates on Robin’s case