As we saw in Naomi Wolf’s End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot, governments seeking to close down an open society tend to follow an established blueprint: the “ten steps.” Step Nine is to cast dissent as “treason,” which includes jailing those who refuse to fight unjust and illegal wars.
Robin Long was locked up and sentenced to fifteen months in a naval brig in California for refusing to participate in the invasion of Iraq. His letter to President-elect Barack Obama requesting clemency is partially reprinted here.
Dear President-elect Obama,
My name is Robin Long. I am currently serving a 15-month sentence at a Naval brig in California. I am locked up for refusing to participate in the invasion of the sovereign nation of Iraq, a military action I felt was wrong and an action condemned by most of the international community.
It was illegal and immoral.
My sentence also includes dishonorable discharge. I was no doubt made an example, because not only did I refuse to deploy by going AWOL but I spoke out. I spoke out about the atrocities that are going on over there and also the extensive web of lies the Bush administration told us and Congress, to go over there. I did all of this very openly while AWOL in Canada, where I was making a life for myself.
When I joined the Army in 2003 I felt honored to be serving my country. I was behind the President. I thought it was an honorable venture to be in Iraq. I was convinced by the lies of the Bush administration just like Congress and a majority of Americans. But just because I joined the Army doesn’t mean I abdicated my ability to evolve intellectually and morally. When I realized the war in Iraq was a mistake, I saw refusing to fight as my only option. My conscience was screaming at me not to participate.
I feel, like many others, that a government that punishes its citizens for taking a moral stand for humanity and against injustices will lose the faith of its people. The war in Iraq was a Bush administration mistake and my punishment is a product of that mistake and failed policy. Please see that I am being punished for my ideals and morals and for standing up to a giant so my voice could be heard. People can’t be afraid to stand up and say “This is wrong, we need change.”
You may say I signed a contract. I’d like to quote from a letter that Thomas Jefferson wrote to George Washington in April of 1793 on his thoughts of contracts and the French Treaties. And I quote “When performance, for instance, becomes impossible, non-performance is not immoral. So if performance becomes self destructive for the party, the law of self preservation overrules the laws of obligations to others. For the reality of these principals I appeal to the true fountains of evidence, the heart and head of every rational honest man.”
For me to continue to participate in my military contract would have been self-destructive to me at my deepest levels of self. It goes against everything I believe in, my ideals and morals. In the case of the invasion of Iraq, international law was broken, as well as violating our own Constitution. Article VI of the Constitution states that any treaty the US is signatory shall be the supreme law of the land. The invasion broke the rules set out for declaring war in the Geneva Convention. And according to the Nuremburg Principles laid out at the Nuremburg Tribunals, I had a higher international duty supported by our Constitution to refuse service in Iraq.
To see for yourself what “conditions on the ground” are really like, take a look at:
In the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, official truth died months before the bombing of Baghdad began. Unembedded bears witness to the enduring power of independent journalism. In their unflinching look at war-ravaged Iraq, four freelance photojournalists show that life there is brutal yet poignant; that compassion co-exists with anger, hatred and fear. By gaining the confidence of Iraqi civilians and insurgents, these photojournalists have brought back images of life in wartime, from beauty parlors and joyful wedding scenes to the carnage of civilian casualties, the heartbroken faces of grieving parents, and the glassy-eyed shock of parentless children.