Thursday, July 17, 2008

Robin Long

Long and the estimated 200 American war resisters who have fled to Canada since the start of the Iraq War in 2003 have become a cause celebre in Canada. Last month, the Canadian Parliament passed a nonbinding measure expressing support for allowing Iraq War resisters to apply for permanent resident status.
Long's deportation contrasts with the warm reception given by Canadians to deserters and draft dodgers during the Vietnam War. The news was a blow to the Canadian antiwar movement, said Michelle Robidoux with the War Resisters Support Campaign, a Canadian group that helps American Iraq War resisters.
"It's a really shameful day for Canada," she said.
Long, who has a child with a Canadian woman, has been considered absent without leave since he fled the U.S. Commanders at Fort Carson will decide whether he should be discharged from the military, returned to duty, court marshaled or given a less severe punishment, Fort Carson spokeswoman Karen Linne said.

The above is from Heath Druzin's "Hero or traitor: Idahoans weigh in on Army deserter: Pvt. Robin Long was 'asserting his rights,' an Eagle activist says." (Idaho Statesman) -- and the Idaho Examiner runs a summary of the article here while The Seattle Times does so here. Let's stay with Idaho reporting for a moment and pay attention to the detail that's in the excerpt above because it also makes it into Monique James' "War deserter's fate now in hands of U.S. military" (KTVB):

The first Iraq war deserter to be deported back to the United States from Canada is a Boise native.
The U.S. military has detained 25-year-old Robin Long, a Timberline High School grad, on charges that he fled the country to avoid fighting in Iraq.

[. . .]
He's been living in British Columbia for the past three years and has a two-year-old son there.
Long's sister, Christine, says she fears for her brother now that he's back in the U.S.
"When I heard what was going on I’m kind of freaked out because he's my brother, I don't want anything to happen to him," said Christine Long.

The Chicago Tribune files a small brief on Long here. Iran's Press TV goes into more detail:

Reports say there are about 200 deserters from the US military believed to be living in Canada. He applied for refugee status in 2006, saying he would suffer irreparable harm if he was forced to participate in the “illegal war of aggression" in Iraq. Long was arrested last year after his application was rejected and was told to leave the country.

KBOI News files a brief summary. Susan Bourette's "Guantanamo video, deserter case draw Canadian criticism of U.S. ties" (Christian Science Monitor) :

Meanwhile, in British Columbia, protesters gathered at the Canada-US border to dispute a federal court's decision the day before to deport Robin Long, a 25-year-old US Army deserter who fled to Canada in 2005, refusing to fight an "illegal war of aggression" in Iraq.
In a country that provided refuge to an estimated 90 percent of some 100,000 deserters and draft dodgers who went into exile during the Vietnam War, it's an unprecedented decision -- though perhaps not unexpected, given the political temper of the times in Canada.
"These two events are intimately connected," explains Michael Byers, a political science professor at the University of British Columbia. "They are a sad legacy of our alignment with the Bush administration in the post-9/11 world. Both reflect a desire of the Canadian government to choose its relationship with the Bush administration over human rights."
He adds that while the former Liberal government had worked to accommodate some of its closest ally's preferences since 9/11, the Conservative government of Stephen Harper is following in lock step with US foreign-policy goals.

And from Robert Matas' "An AWOL soldier, sent home to the U.S." (Globe and Mail):

Mr. Long was deported early Tuesday morning. Yesterday afternoon, he was transferred from the Whatcom County Jail in Bellingham, Wash., about 35 kilometres south of the Canada-U.S. border, to the custody of military police from Fort Lewis, Wash. The military base, about 80 kilometres south of Seattle, was to make arrangements to send Mr. Long back to the base from which he deserted.

Added, from ETAN:

Joint NGO Statement on the Handover of the Report of the Commission of Truth and Friendship

July 15, 2008

This week the report of the bilateral Commission of Truth and Friendship (CTF) will be handed over to the presidents of Indonesia and Timor-Leste. The report concludes that crimes against humanity took place for which militia groups and the Indonesian military, police and civilian government bear institutional responsibility. The report should be made public as soon as possible, and must not be the end of efforts to assign responsibility for violence in 1999 and before.

While Indonesia bears most of the responsibility to respond to the challenges posed by the report, both countries and the international community must work together to ensure individual accountability for the past, and reform of these institutions in the future.

The Commission was formed by the two governments to “establish the conclusive truth” about the events of 1999 “with a view to further promoting reconciliation and friendship.” In 1999 militias created, trained, and directed by the Indonesian military carried out a terror campaign that left more than 1,400 dead, hundreds of thousands forcibly displaced, and much of the territory’s infrastructure destroyed. According to available information, the report has found that Indonesian security forces often directly participated in the violence.

Flaws in the Commission documented by our own groups and others include: a mandate that put a priority on rehabilitating the names of accused perpetrators over justice or compensation for victims; prohibitions on assigning individual responsibility or on recommending prosecutions or creation of judicial bodies; inadequate witness protection; and a narrow focus on events in 1999.

As a result, despite the intent of the two nations to find “definitive closure,” and a report that contributes to a better understanding of the violence, the Commission cannot be the last word on responsibility for past human rights violations in Timor-Leste. The body is by design inadequate for the task of identifying the truth or obtaining closure in any meaningful sense of the word.

However, despite its limitations, commissioners from both countries made an effort to sift through the information and produce meaningful conclusions. Notably, the Commission did not exercise its power to recommend amnesties for any individuals. The Commission has found that the Indonesian military, as an institution, was responsible for crimes against humanity. This finding leads our organizations to two inescapable conclusions:

An institution that was responsible for crimes against humanity remains a powerful and largely unreformed force within Indonesia. Despite a few important steps following the fall of President Soeharto, such as the separation of the police from the military and the loss of automatic seats in parliament, the military has made little progress in accepting civilian control, divesting of its massive empire of legal and illegal businesses, or holding its members accountable for human rights violations.

A further judicial mechanism is needed to assign individual responsibility for those crimes. Individual responsibility is a fundamental principle of international criminal law and an essential aspect of reconciliation. Some of those implicated in the violence maintain positions of influence in Indonesia, either within the military or as retired civilians active in politics.

It is also important to note that just as the Commission must not be the last word, neither was it the first. A 2000 report by an investigative team from Indonesia’s National Human Rights Commission identified serious violations and recommended investigation of numerous civilian and military officials. Timor-Leste’s Commission of Reception, Truth and Reconciliation (CAVR) produced a comprehensive 2,000 page report with recommendations on accountability and reparations that have been largely unimplemented. The U.N.-backed Serious Crimes Unit in Dili indicted numerous individuals for prosecution, most of whom remain at large in Indonesia. A U.N. Commission of Experts found that Indonesia’s efforts at accountability, the Jakarta ad hoc tribunals, were “manifestly inadequate.” The only defendant serving time for a conviction in those trials, militia leader Eurico Gutteres was recently acquitted on appeal. The CTF report notes serious shortcomings of the Jakarta trials.

Both the U.N. Commission of Experts and the CAVR urged that an international tribunal be formed if Indonesia did not promptly act to hold the perpetrators accountable. It is possible that the findings of the Commission of Truth and Friendship will spur further prosecutions in Indonesia, ideally in conjunction with the international community to ensure both credibility and resources. However, Indonesia’s record in this area is clear, and it is highly unlikely that the Indonesian government will act without clear signals from the international community that an international tribunal remains a credible option.

Those who committed crimes against humanity throughout Indonesia’s invasion and occupation of Timor-Leste must be identified and prosecuted, for the sake of justice for past victims in Timor-Leste and for a future in which human rights are respected in Indonesia. The international community and the government of Timor-Leste must play a role in ensuring both prosecutions and reparations to victims. As recommended by the Commission, Indonesia must comprehensively reform its armed forces.

If Indonesia truly wants closure and full acceptance by the international community as a rights-respecting nation, there is no alternative but an end to impunity through individual as well as institutional accountability.

Association HAK (Timor-Leste)

Australian Coalition for Transitional Justice in East Timor

East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (U.S.)

Human Rights First

International Center for Transitional Justice

The Commission for the Disappeared and the Victims of Violence (Kontras) (Indonesia)

Maria Afonso de Jesus, victims' families representative (Timor-Leste)


Timor-Leste University Students' Front

see also ETAN Renews Call for Meaningful Justice for Victims of Indonesian Occupation; International Tribunal Needed in Wake of Commission of Truth and Friendship Report

Turning to US presidential politics, Progressives Against Obama was noted earlier this week in a snapshot. Here is their press release in full:

New web site serves as hub of liberal backlash against Barack Obama

When Barack Obama broke his promise to progressives, and voted for the FISA
Amendments Act, it was with the assumption that progressive voters would
never abandon the Obama campaign, because they had no alternative. Now a
group is organizing disgruntled voters online with the purpose of proving
Obama's assumption to be wrong. Progressives Against Obama have begun to
organize online at

The FISA Amendments Act is the straw that breaks the camel's back, but it's
not the only betrayal of progressive values by Barack Obama. Progressives
also object to:
- Obama's eroding position on ending the American occupation of Iraq
- Obama's plan to expand Bush's so-called faith-based initiatives
- Obama's use of religion as a tool for his presidential campaign
- Obama's support for liquefied coal and other dirty "clean coal" schemes
- Obama's advocacy for the death penalty
- Obama's opposition to gun control
- Obama's opposition to full marriage equality
- Obama's use of homophobic preacher Donnie McClurkin to campaign for him
- Obama's support for Joseph Lieberman against Ned Lamont in the 2006
Democratic primary

Some say that progressive voters should put their concerns about Barack
Obama's embrace of George W. Bush's politics aside. They say that
progressives should help elect Barack Obama, and then pressure him after
the election to make sure that he does what we want.

There is an old story about a scorpion who asks a frog for a ride across a
river, assuring the frog that he would never sting him, because to do so
would be to kill them both. When the frog reaches the other side with the
scorpion on his back, the scorpion stings him anyway, because it is in his
Progressives have seen the nature of Barack Obama. They have been stung by
him already, and are not willing to carry him to victory just so that they
can get stung again. Obama has broken his promises, and he no longer
deserves the benefit of the doubt.

Now is the time to put serious pressure on Barack Obama. After the
election, progressives will have no leverage. Now is the time to speak
out, precisely because it is so inconvenient for Obama's campaign that we
do so.

Democrat Jonathan Cook, founder of the web site, explains that Progressives
Against Obama has no intention of serving as a tool of the Republican
Party. "We do not support John McCain, and we do not support right wing
and racist attacks against Barack Obama. As progressives, we oppose Barack
Obama from a progressive perspective. We intend to hold true to our ideals,
even as Barack Obama trades them away for the sake of political power."


You can also check out Democrats Against Obama. Meanwhile independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader serves up an open letter to the presumed GOP and DNC candidates:

Nader Lauds Kristof Truth Commission Proposal

Wednesday, July 16, 2008 at 12:00:00 AM

News Release
Contact: Chris Driscoll, 202-360-3273,


The Nader/Gonzalez Campaign today released the following open letter to Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain, calling on them to support Nicolas D. Kristof's proposal in the New York Times for the establishment of a national Truth Commission:

Obama For President
Campaign Office
Suite 1720
233 N. Michigan Ave
Chicago, IL 60601

McCain For President
Campaign Office
Suite M
1235 S. Clark St.
Arlington, VA 22202

Dear Senators McCain and Obama,

In the July 6, 2008 edition of the New York Times, the courageously peripatetic columnist, Nicolas D. Kristof urged the creation of a Truth Commission on torture and other war crimes.

Here is Kristof in his words:

"When a distinguished American military commander accuses the United States of committing war crimes in its handling of detainees, you know that we need a new way forward.

"'There is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes,' Antonio Taguba, the retired major general who investigated abuses in Iraq, declares in a powerful new report on American torture from Physicians for Human Rights. "'The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.'

"[W]e need a national Truth Commission to lead a process of soul searching and national cleansing.

"That was what South Africa did after apartheid, with its Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and it is what the United States did with the Kerner Commission on race and the 1980s commission that examined the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.

"Today, we need a similar Truth Commission, with subpoena power, to investigate the abuses in the aftermath of 9/11.

"It’s a national disgrace that more than 100 inmates have died in American custody in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantánamo. After two Afghan inmates were beaten to death by American soldiers, the American military investigator found that one of the men’s legs had been 'pulpified.'

"Moreover, many of the people we tortured were innocent: the administration was as incompetent as it was immoral. The McClatchy newspaper group has just published a devastating series on torture and other abuses, and it quotes Thomas White, the former Army secretary, as saying that it was clear from the moment Guantánamo opened that one-third of the inmates didn’t belong there.

"These abuses happened partly because, for several years after 9/11, many of our national institutions didn’t do their jobs. The Democratic Party rolled over rather than serving as loyal opposition. We in the press were often lap dogs rather than watchdogs, and we let the public down.

"Yet there were heroes, including civil liberties groups and lawyers for detainees. Some judges bucked the mood, and a few conservatives inside the administration spoke out forcefully. The Times’s Eric Lichtblau writes in his terrific new book, "Bush’s Law," that the Immigration and Naturalization Service commissioner, James Ziglar, pushed back against plans for door-to-door sweeps of Arab-American neighborhoods.

"'The book recounts that in one meeting,' Mr. Ziglar bluntly declared, 'We do have this thing called the Constitution,' adding that such sweeps would be illegal and 'I’m not going to be part of it.'

"The Truth Commission investigating these issues ideally would be a non-partisan group heavily weighted with respected military and security officials, including generals, admirals and top intelligence figures. Such backgrounds would give their findings credibility across the political spectrum — and I don’t think they would pull punches. The military and intelligence officials I know are as appalled by our abuses as any other group, in part because they realize that if our people waterboard, then our people will also be waterboarded.

"Both Barack Obama and John McCain should commit to impaneling a Truth Commission early in the next administration. This commission would issue a report to help us absorb the lessons of our failings, the better to avoid them during the next crisis."

Mr. Kristof has put forth a strong case for a strong investigating Truth Commission. He asks for your commitment to establish such a commission should either of you become President. How do you respond to this prize-winning, eye witness-inclined journalist?


Ralph Nader
Ralph Nader


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robin long
heath druzin
monique james
susan bourette
robert matas