Revolution #51, June 18, 2006

“I Have A Legal and Ethical Obligation to Speak Out Against, and Refuse to Fight, this Patently Illegal War”

Army Officer Refuses Deployment to Iraq

The images of the Haditha massacre in Iraq are still fresh. And other atrocities continue to come out exposing the U.S. military wantonly murdering Iraqi people. Against this ugly backdrop, on June 7, U.S. Army First Lieutenant Ehren Watada publicly refused deployment to Iraq. Lieutenant Watada became the first commissioned officer to publicly refuse deployment.

In a press statement Ehren Watada said, “It is my conclusion as an officer of the Armed Forces that the war in Iraq is not only morally wrong but a horrible breach of American law. Although I have tried to resign out of protest, I am forced to participate in a war that is manifestly illegal. As the order to take part in an illegal act is ultimately unlawful as well, I must as an officer of honor and integrity refuse that order.”

The day following Lt. Watada’s refusal and public statement, military higher ups moved to prosecute Watada for what amounts to public speech. Watada’s response was to the point, “I have a legal and ethical obligation to speak out against, and refuse to fight, this patently illegal war in Iraq. This has not changed.”

The lead lawyer representing Watada, Eric Seitz, made clear that Watada is being gone after to keep him from “speaking out in opposition to the unlawful war.”

According to a website supporting Watada, “[i]t is expected that the military is moving to stage a Commanding Officer’s Non-Judicial Punishment hearing (Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice) in order to impose even further restrictions on Lt. Watada. The military will likely focus their investigation on vague UCMJ articles that bar ‘conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman’ (Article 133) and ‘any commissioned officer who uses contemptuous words against the President (or any senior members of government)’ (Article 88).”

In a call for support prior to his announced refusal Lt. Watada said, “I refuse to be silent any longer. I refuse to watch families torn apart, while the President tells us to ‘stay the course…’ I refuse to be party to an illegal and immoral war against people who did nothing to deserve our aggression. I wanted to be there for my fellow troops. But the best way was not to help drop artillery and cause more death and destruction. It is to help oppose this war and end it so that all soldiers can come home.”

Watada has been receiving growing support for his actions. Among the support were the comments of Camillo Mejia, an Iraq war veteran who spent a year in jail for refusing to return. Camillo, quoted in, said: “The Pentagon recently reported 8,000 cases of desertion. These are people in the military who are saying ‘no’ to their units and the war, but where are they? It takes a special kind of individual to break the silence and risk all for a bigger cause.” Mejia also commented that “the stance Ehren [Watada] is taking is inspiring, but others need to take more responsibility and realize that they have power, too, and then they have to use that power.”

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