Tuesday, February 24, 2009
WARNING: THIS POST IS LONG!
Culled from AOL News and AP stuff:
SAVANNAH, Ga. (Feb. 10) -- Sporting a dragon tattoo on his forearm and skulls on both biceps, Cliff Cornell looks tough. But he dissolves into tears as he reflects on his return to the Army four years after he fled to Canada to avoid the war in Iraq.
"I'm nervous, scared," Cornell said, wiping puffy eyes beneath his sunglasses Monday at a Savannah hotel after a three-day bus ride from Seattle. "I'm just not a fighter. I know it sounds funny, but I have a really soft heart."
Cornell, 29, of Mountain Home, Ark., turned himself in to military police Tuesday afternoon at nearby Fort Stewart, where he'll likely face criminal charges for abandoning his unit before it deployed to Iraq in January 2005.
He said he fled because he doesn't think the war has improved the lives of Iraqis, and he couldn't stomach the thought of killing.
"During my training, I was ordered that, if anyone came within so many feet of my vehicle, I was to shoot to kill," said Cornell, who enlisted in 2002 but never deployed to war. "I didn't join the military to kill innocents."
He had joined the Army with the promise from the military recruiter that he would receive $9,000 sign up bonus and job training. He found out that “Ninety per cent of what the recruiters tell you is a pack of lies,” he said. “They know you’re from a poor family. Army recruitment techniques amount to entrapment, targeting young men from poor families”, said Cornell.
“Well, that was part of my agreement I had with my recruiter. I told him what I wanted to do, but I didn’t want to go to war, and he more or less guaranteed I would never be shipped to war, “Cornell said.
The Army artillery specialist made it to Canada in 2005 and soon started a new life working at a grocery store on Gabriola Island in British Columbia.
Cornell's attorney, James Branum of Lawton, Okla., said Cornell was assigned to a unit after meeting with military police, but it was still unclear if the Army would hold him in pretrial confinement. "He was visibly shaking when they came to pick him up," Branum said.
Cornell's exile ended last week when he crossed the U.S.-Canada border into Washington state. He left voluntarily to avoid deportation.
The first U.S. service member forced out of Canada after the government denied him protective status as a war objector was 25-year-old Army Pvt. Robin Long of Boise, Idaho. He was sentenced to 15 months in prison last August after pleading guilty to desertion charges at Fort Carson, Colo.
Michelle Robidoux, spokeswoman for the Toronto-based War Resisters Support Campaign, said the group has worked with about 50 U.S. service members seeking refugee status or political asylum in Canada. The group estimates more than 200 have fled to Canada, most of them hiding out illegally.
"There are probably another three or four who are imminently under threat of deportation, and we're trying hard to fight that," Robidoux said.
The lower house of Canada's Parliament passed a nonbinding motion in June urging that U.S. military deserters be allowed to stay in Canada, but the Conservative Party government has ignored the vote.
During the Vietnam War, thousands of Americans took refuge in Canada, most of them to avoid the military draft. Many were given permanent residence status that led to Canadian citizenship, but the majority went home after President Jimmy Carter granted amnesty in the late 1970s.
The Army has listed Cornell as a deserter since a month after he left, but he hasn't been charged with any crimes, said Fort Stewart spokesman Kevin Larson.
Larson said Cornell was being given a billet and a new uniform and would begin drawing pay, at least until commanders decide whether to charge him. Their options include dropping the case, seeking administrative punishment or pursuing a court-martial. "We're going to treat him courteously and professionally, like any other soldier," Larson said.
The unit Cornell was assigned to when he fled — the 1st Battalion, 39th Field Artillery Regiment, Third Infantry Division — disbanded in March 2006.
Larson disputed Cornell's contention that he would have been expected to kill civilians. "Indiscriminately shooting people is not what the Army does. That's not how we train and not how we fight."
Branum said he expects Cornell to be charged with being absent without leave, punishable by up to 18 months in prison, or desertion — a more serious charge with a maximum prison sentence of five years.
He said he hopes the Army shows some leniency since Cornell avoided the war because of his political convictions.
"This is different from someone leaving for selfish reasons," Branum said. "This is someone who said, 'I'm not going to kill civilians.'"
Holy crap. Where do I even begin?
Part of me feels sorry for this guy. I’m not a complete monster. I understand not agreeing with what you feel is/was an unjust war and not wanting to kill innocent civilians. No one in their right mind wants to kill innocents, and no soldier particularly enjoys killing. Those that do should get help. Quickly.
However…I am not about to believe the hype. I take umbrage with a bunch of what Cornell is saying, and the tripe that is being tossed about by several blogs and websites that are part of the Liberal Ass-Circus (www.tomjoad.org/warheroes4.htm, www.wmtc.blogspot.com, www.couragetoresist.org, to name a few) that are pandering to his story like he’s the next Jesus Christ, crucified for defying Rome.
I was a soldier, and specifically I was a Military Policeman during the end of the Cold War and during the first Gulf War, and one of those above-listed sites had the audacity to claim that MP’s were torturing people in Iraq. I find that so hard to believe that I view your accusations with incrudulity bordering on vehement contempt. That ain’t what we do, pal. Wanna read how I feel about Abu Ghraib? Go here: http://mojosteve.blogspot.com/2007/11/who-pulled-strings-at-abu-ghraib.html
Back to Cornell. Dude, recruiters are salesmen, and you bought what they were selling. No one forced you to sign up at gunpoint. No one forced me to sign up either. There’s not a draft going on, like during Vietnam when no one had a choice. You went willingly, pal, and you pocketed that nine grand along the way. No one gave me nine grand to join up. According to what I read, you’re an artillery specialist, right? Dude, did you think that gun-bunnies and cannon-cockers never deployed and sat in the rear with the gear? It’s a branch of Combat Arms. Their nickname is "The King of Battle". Those big ole’ shells that go boom from the pointy end of the big gun? They kill people. Did you not learn that at Fort Sill? I’m pretty damned sure you knew what you signed up for, homeskillet.
Nowhere in any of the training I received did anyone tell me to kill anyone who got too close to my vehicle. In fact we were constrained by so many layers of mung and crap under the Rules of Engagement that those people would have pretty much climbed inside the vehicles with us before we were given permission to fire.
You claim the recruiters hit up poor people? Again, I take umbrage. I came from an upper middle-class home, and my stepfather was, at the time, an officer in the Navy. We were hardly poor. Looking at the classmates of mine who enlisted around the same time as me (at least 10 of us enlisted within a year of graduation from our class of about 80 in a small Maine high school ) none of us were poor. In fact, pretty much everyone I served with came from middle-class backgrounds. None of us came from dirt farms, washing in streams and eating sawdust, as implied. If you look at the latest recruiting statistics, you’ll find that the vast bulk of today’s recruits are well-educated and predominantly upper-middle-class kids. The military is no longer the option of last resort for miscreants and delinquents. Those days were long over by the time I enlisted in July of 1987.
Finally, I’m really not so sure that we need to be locking these guys up. Sure, they were following their conscience, but they were in the wrong to just cut and run. Instead of spending taxpayer money to house/feed/clothe these prisoners for a year or so, just cut them loose with an Other Than Honorable Discharge, or even a Bad Conduct Discharge. The Army will be rid of them, and they’ll still have a “big chicken dinner” on their permanent record, as well as forfeiting their college money and bonus pay. I deserted during wartime and all I got was a big chicken dinner and this lousy t-shirt......yeah, that works.