USA: Conscientious objector Tony Anderson sentenced to 14 months
On Monday, 17 November 2008, US Iraq war resisters Tony Anderson has been sentenced to 14 months of confinement and given a dishonourable discharge from the military for "desertion with intent to avoid hazardous duty" and "disobeying a lawful order". The young soldier refused to deploy to Iraq in July of this year on the grounds of conscientious objection to war.
"I know in my heart that it is wrong to willfully hurt or kill another human being. I simply cannot do it. I don't regret following my conscience," he said at his trial as he struggled to compose himself. "I know there must be consequences for my actions and I must accept this fact."
Immediately after being sentenced, Anderson was placed in handcuffs and taken to the Colorado Springs Criminal Justice Center, where he will be held for a few weeks until he is moved to an army stockade.
The 14 month sentence is one of the longest given to a U.S. military serviceperson for refusing to fight in Iraq.
Hailing from the small city of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, Anderson says that he was never very attracted to military life, but joined the service at the behest of his father, who had always regretted not joining the military himself. Once in the ranks, Anderson realized that he had made an unfortunate decision. During basic training, he found himself ethically opposed to taking a human life in a military conflict. He was disturbed by seeing soldiers on his base return from Iraq deeply traumatized from their experience in combat. "I didn't want to mess myself up for the rest of my life doing something I didn't want to do to begin with," he says.
Anderson had vague thoughts about filing for conscientious objector (C.O.) status but was discouraged from doing so by his commanding officers, who told him that it would not be possible for him to obtain, and even falsely informed him that he was "not the right religion." Anderson was led to believe that filing a C.O. application would be futile.
Anderson says that when he was ordered to deploy to Iraq on July first, he "freaked out." "What upset me most was the thought having to hurt or kill someone else," he said at his trial. "I know this may be hard to believe, but I never really thought about the idea of hurting or killing another human being before I joined the military. And then in training, it just didn't seem real. I knew I could be deployed someday but I just never gave it much thought. But when I got to Ft. Carson and heard that I would be going to Iraq, I realized that this was something I would have to resolve."
Just hours before boarding his flight, he went AWOL, eventually turning himself in after 22 days in hopes of diminishing the severity of his punishment. On his return, Anderson was again ordered to deploy to Iraq immediately. This time, he simply refused, and he says, "they haven't tried to deploy me since then because they realize I'm not going to go."
The young soldier, who remained in tears during much of the trial, did not have family present at his court martial. His mother sent a statement saying she does not agree with what her son did but believes that he was sincerely trying to follow his conscience.
Anderson's civilian lawyer, James Branum, expressed frustration with the lack of fair process for cases of conscience and said, "I am disappointed by how long Tony's sentence was. 14 months is on the high end, but it could have been worse. At least Tony was able to have his day in court."
At the trial, Tony read a statement explaining that he was sincerely trying to do the right. He told of being deterred from for conscientious objector status at every step along the way, leaving him with the impression that his only option was outright refusal. He expressed regret that he did not initially move forward with the conscientious objector application.
Anderson closed by saying, "I only ask that you remember that I was trying to do the right thing."
War Resisters' International calls for letters of support to Tony Anderson.
El Paso County Sheriff's Office
2739 E. Las Vegas
Colorado Springs, CO 80906
(Tony Anderson will be moved within the next few weeks. You can check if he is still at El Paso County Jail at http://tinyurl.com/TonyAnderson)
War Resisters' International calls for letters of protest to the US government, and US authorities abroad. A protest email to US President George W. Bush can be sent at /co/alerts/20081121a.html.
War Resisters' International calls for the immediate release of conscientious objector Tony Anderson and all imprisoned conscientious objectors.
War Resisters' International