Soldier who fled may face charges

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SAVANNAH, Ga. --- 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," Mr. Cornell said 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."

Mr. Cornell, 29, of Mountain Home, Ark., turned himself in to military police Tuesday 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 Mr. Cornell, who enlisted in 2002. "I didn't join the military to kill innocents."

The Army artillery specialist made it to Canada in 2005 and started a new life working at a grocery store on Gabriola Island in British Columbia.

Mr. Cornell's attorney, James Branum, of Lawton, Okla., said Mr. Cornell was assigned to a unit after meeting with military police, but it was still unclear whether the Army would hold him in pretrial confinement.

"He was visibly shaking when they came to pick him up," Mr. Branum said.

Mr. Cornell's exile ended last week when he crossed the U.S.-Canada border into Washington state. He left voluntarily to avoid deportation.

Michelle Robidoux, the 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 illegally.

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.

The Army has listed Mr. Cornell as a deserter, but he hasn't been charged with any crimes, Fort Stewart spokesman Kevin Larson said.

Mr. Larson said Mr. Cornell will get a billet and a new uniform and would begin drawing pay, at least until commanders decide whether to charge him. Options include dropping the case, seeking administrative punishment or pursuing a court-martial.

The unit Mr. Cornell was assigned to -- 1st Battalion, 39th Field Artillery Regiment -- disbanded in March 2006.

Mr. Larson disputed Mr. Cornell's contention that he would have been expected to kill civilians. "Indiscriminately shooting people is not what the Army does."

Mr. Branum said he expects Mr. 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.

Comments (13) Add comment
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mutt
2
Points
mutt 02/11/09 - 05:52 am
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"I'm just not a fighter. I

"I'm just not a fighter. I know it sounds funny, but I have a really soft heart." and no spine! This wimp is a deserter! Who goes into the military without knowing that soldiers are trained to and expected to fight and kill? This yahoo accepted his job and his pay before his unit was deployed, but when it came time to get to work, he ran away. The bleeding hearts will insist he get away with this, and in the current political environment he'll probably get off scott free. While my daughters head is poking out of a turret in Iraq, this so called "man" who agreed to and accepted pay to fight is bagging groceries in Canada. POS!

jackfruitpaper833
41
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jackfruitpaper833 02/11/09 - 08:20 am
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If there was no war he

If there was no war he wouldn't be in this situation. I just hate all our young men and women are dying. I use to visit the War dead site and just stare at the faces of the men and women, so young.

karmakills123
8
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karmakills123 02/11/09 - 09:38 am
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Coward.......................

Coward...........................

karmakills123
8
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karmakills123 02/11/09 - 09:39 am
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hey jackie why not go to NY

hey jackie why not go to NY and stare ate a few of the faces of the victims of 9-11.........................

mutt
2
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mutt 02/11/09 - 10:10 am
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BS Jack! It took war to bring

BS Jack! It took war to bring out this cowards true colors. If it weren't for the war we would still be paying this jerk to be trained and prepared to do a job he has neither the intent nor stomach to do. It is my contention that this slime ball volunteered under false pretenses and should be prosecuted. I can understand a person being opposed to war and killing. But, a person like that should not volunteer for service. Note Jack, the word VOLUNTEER! No one was forced into this. THERE IS NO DRAFT! Furthermore Jack "all" our young men and women are NOT dying. In fact the casualty rate in this war is unprecedented! We lost more soldiers in 1 day landing at Normandy than we have lost in this entire war. We saw more civilian deaths and collateral damage in one week in France and Normandy than we have seen in both Iraq and Afghanistan combined for the entirety of operations there. From 1965 to 1973 some 58,000 American soldiers were killed and approx. 4 million Vietnamese on both sides, during the height of the Vietnam war, which the Libs and their media mouth pieces try to compare to this war. I call BS on that comparison!

Mugatu
16
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Mugatu 02/11/09 - 11:13 am
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Article 86, Absence without

Article 86, Absence without leave, is punishable by a maximum of one year when the absence exceeds 30 days and is NOT terminated by apprehension. Because he surrendered, one year is the max. Article 85, Desertion, is punishable by Life imprisonment during a time of war. Several offenses under the UCMJ have greater punishments when committed during a time of war. While the Vietnam conflict was considered a time of war for the purposes of the UCMJ, the Iraq war has not yet been used to enhance punishment.

augustalawyer
0
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augustalawyer 02/11/09 - 12:08 pm
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I spent 16 straight months in

I spent 16 straight months in front line ground combat with the first 12 in Afghanistan and then sent straight to Iraq for 4 more. I can't say that this kid is a coward because he went over at least once. I will say that he lacks the coping skills to handle the absolute and overwhelming fear that grips those few soldiers that have to leave the camps to fight the war. I would like to hear his story before I automatically convict him.

mutt
2
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mutt 02/11/09 - 01:05 pm
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Where does it say that "he

Where does it say that "he went over at least once"? I see nothing that says this guy did anything but enlist, train, collect a pay check, and then run off to Canada in the face of deployment. God Bless you and thank you for your service augustalawyer.

steve-o
0
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steve-o 02/11/09 - 02:49 pm
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what a puss! The war is about

what a puss! The war is about following orders, period, If someone were to approach a units' humvee and detonate a vest bomb, then several U.S. soldiers would die because of this weakling. Orders are in place for a reason, and it's not up to the feild soldier to try and have compassion for the enemy.

ListenAndLearn
0
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ListenAndLearn 02/11/09 - 06:02 pm
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Desertion by any other name

Desertion by any other name is...well...Desertion. Panama, Grenada & Desert Storm got me in the American Legion, a decent retirement check, & PTSD. I'd do it again in a minute. He collected a pay check & when it was time to pay the piper, he ran. He was in Artillery? [filtered word] did he think he'd be doing? They don't have baggers at the howitzer check out.

SandyK2005
1
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SandyK2005 02/12/09 - 01:22 am
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"BS Jack! It took war to

"BS Jack! It took war to bring out this cowards true colors." ------ Actually it takes more courage to run, but come back to face any punishment for doing so. That guy is probably braver than those fighting, as he defied authority and coming back to face it again in spades now.

SandyK2005
1
Points
SandyK2005 02/12/09 - 01:28 am
0
0
"The war is about following

"The war is about following orders, period" ----- Maybe you need to pack up your bags and get the hell back to the UK, steve-o. Our Founders sure didn't take King George III's orders, and dumped his tea in the Boston harbor for good measure. What are you programmed bots too scared to think for yourselves? Too scared to defy the status quo? Too chicken to grow a backbone to one day to do your duty when this country goes South, literally? Do you know what GA did to Tories after the Revolution? They confiscated all their property. Maybe that should be your fate, Tory, should make you go back to Britain faster.

mutt
2
Points
mutt 02/12/09 - 01:59 pm
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0
Sandy you are full of it. It

Sandy you are full of it. It is not courageous to voluntarily raise your hand and swear to do your duty, accept costly training and pay under the pretense that when you are needed to fight you will fight, and then run from the fight and abandon the people who trusted you when they need you most. Obviously you have never served or you would understand the importance of following orders. This coward is lucky, deserters used to face the firing squad. I take it you are one of those "it's all about me" women. Are you the type that thinks others should sacrifice for you without even so much as a thank you? Have you ever sacrificed anything for anyone other than yourself? That's why people like you and this wimp shouldn't join the military, unreliable, self serving, unpredictable, and undisciplined. The only reason this coward came back is because he thinks Obama and the libs will see to it that he gets off with little or no punishment, and he is probably right. You call that courage? I call that a conniving coward!

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