By: Wally Myers
Cliff Cornell has been imprisoned in the brig at Camp Lejeune Marine base for 9 months. He’s counting down. In three months he will be free. But with a bad conduct discharge and loss of veteran benefits his transition will be difficult. His crime; refusing to participate in the Iraq War. He said, “It just didn’t feel right. I don’t want to be killing innocent people.” Cliff explains that he joined the Army only after repeated promises from the military recruiter that he could serve his country without being deployed to Iraq. That turned out to be a lie. “Ninety per cent of what the recruiters tell you is a pack of lies. Army recruitment techniques amount to entrapment, targeting young men from poor families”, said Cornell.
I’d been in the brig before so I was a little apprehensive visiting Cliff Cornell in the Camp Lejeune Marine Brig. I try to avoid the military as much as possible; but protesters stick together when the times are darkest. And this had to be a dark time for Cliff. But not so dark. Cliff had three ladies visiting from Canada where he had been deported because he was a war resister. There was also a Quaker from Chapel Hill; and I made 5 visitors. Cliff told me that I had just missed Dave Taylor, who is a life-time member of VFP. Fact is, a lot of us visit Cliff. But on that day Cliff was beaming; six protesters in one day. We are not just protesters; we are compassionate supporters. John Heuer has visited Cliff because during the Vietnam War, John took refuge in Canada and was allowed to stay there.
In the summer of 2008 John and I were protesting the decision by the Canadian Prime Minister to end Canada’s safe haven policy for U.S. war resistors. Little did we know then that we would be visiting one of those war resistors in the Camp Lejeune Brig.
Send Cliff a letter: Cornell, Clifford, Bldg 1014, PSC Box 20140, Camp Lejeune, NC 28542.
Questions from the Brig
By: Cliff Cornell, Prisoner of Conscience
In the last four to five years, I have been called a lot of things; some good, some bad. I have been forced to give up my life twice, been forced to move to another country. I even gave up my freedom, because I refused to take part in an illegal war. A war with no end, a war where torture is allowed, a war with endless victims on both sides, a war were the politicians get rich in exchange for blood and lives.
It’s sad that people join the services to better themselves or they join to serve their country. They put their lives in the hands of other people. And what do they do? Send them to fight in an illegal war. To die for an unjust cause as if our lives were meaningless.
They say that it is our duty to protect and to defend our country. How is this war that disrupts, tortures, and kills innocent people, how is that protecting and defending our country?
When the Iraq War started they told us they had weapons of mass destruction, none were found. Shortly after they said we were there to liberate the people of Iraq; but isn’t it against our constitution? Since when do we decide to pick or choose to follow The Constitution of the United States? And yet solders have no say. We can either go and believe that we are doing good or be punished for refusing to go. I’m serving a 12 month sentence and have been called a coward because I stood up and said that I won’t kill people. I won’t take part in the torture of people. I value human life more than my military career.
They say there is no draft; but I beg to differ. There is a draft and it’s called a poverty draft. People join because there are no other good options. College is too expensive. A lot of people have no form of medical, dental, or vision insurance. Many have no jobs or if they do, it’s a low paying job.
The military offers you everything you want, money, college tuition, and descent pay. All you have to do is sell your soul.
Is it wrong to want to better your life? To make something of yourself? Is it wrong to have hopes and dreams? Is it wrong that you joined under false promises? Is it wrong to refuse to take part in an illegal war? Is it wrong to be sent with little or no training? Is it wrong that the system works against you and not for you?