US Marine faces 7 year sentence
By Jeff Mackler
An outspoken antiwar fighter, Marine reservist Corporal Tahan Jones, faces frame-up charges of "desertion with intent to avoid hazardous duty and shirk important service". According to Jones' attorney, John Murcko, "If Jones is convicted of this charge and the associated charge of 'missing a troop movement', he could serve a maximum prison term of seven years".
Jones was one of 24 antiwar Marine reservists stationed in military bases across the country who, in violation of military law and the Constitution, were herded to Camp LeJeune, North Carolina, because of their opposition to the genocidal US war against the Iraqi people.
Jones will argue that the Marine Corps, in violation of his rights, established "a firm policy wherein all reservists with pending conscientious objector applications suspected of unauthorised absence would be summarily referred to a General Court Martial on charges of desertion and missing troop movement."
Jones, whose unit is in Hayward, California, is also challenging a new regulation that prohibits defendants from calling witnesses from a distance of more than 100 miles from Camp LeJeune.
During the war, Jones was among the most frequently heard antiwar reservists. His speech at the January 26, 1991, San Francisco demonstration, which drew over 200,000 protesters, vividly described the plight of black youth in the "economic draft". These youth, he pointed out, hoped that promised training programs and future educational benefits would allow them to avoid the bleak prospects of millions of African Americans.
His widely publicised appearance at a public hearing of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors helped to prevent pro-war elements from ending San Francisco's adopted position as a "sanctuary city" for conscientious objectors.
The case against Jones is fraught with gross violations of the Marines' own regulations. Jones, for example, was activated for duty while his CO application was still pending.
In another instance, the commandant of the Marine Corps specified that the number of reservists to be activated for duty to the battalion in which Jones had previously served was to be 413. However, more that 650 reservists were activated by the local Marine Corps affiliate. Jones' unit
was never activated by the commandant — as is required by law.
The Marines counted on the government-orchestrated patriotic hysteria to cover their violations of elementary democratic rights. The persistence of Tahan Jones' defence efforts, however — which have been coupled with those of his Marine Corps friend Erik Larsen — have forced the Marines to back off from some of their most gross excesses, like threatening Jones and Larsen with the death penalty.
The Marine Corps tried to induce Jones to testify against Larsen. A reduced sentence was implied. Jones refused, preferring to abide by the truth, his bond of friendship and commonly held political and moral views. [Abridged from Socialist Action (US).]