The first chapter in what could be a lengthy legal saga for an Army officer charged with refusing to deploy to Iraq begins this morning in a post courtroom.
First Lt. Ehren Watada faces a military hearing in which the Army prosecutor, Capt. Dan Kuecker, will present evidence that Watada should be court-martialed for the three charges brought against him: missing movement, contempt toward officials and conduct unbecoming an officer.
Watada, 28, a native of Hawaii, has refused to serve in Iraq because, he says, the U.S.-led invasion violates U.S. and international law.
Defense attorneys often use what is known as an Article 32 hearing to understand the case against them in preparation for a court-martial without tipping their own hand.
But Watada's case is different.
His civilian attorney, Eric Seitz, said Wednesday that he fully expects his client to face a court-martial and be convicted of one or more of the counts so the Army "can make an example of him."
As a result, Watada's defense team isn't holding back during the hearing, which is scheduled for today and Friday. Seitz will call three experts to the stand, including a former United Nations assistant secretary-general, in an attempt to show the Army that Watada has a strong legal argument.
The above is from Christian Hill's "Resister's fight shif ts to court today" (The Olympian). Today, Ehren Watada's Article 32 hearing begins. Talk about it, discuss it, get the word out.
Again, Cedric (Cedric's Big Mix) is advising those calling to leave a message for Donald Rumsfeld (703-545-6700) or mailing him (1000 Defense Pentagon, Washington, DC 20301-1000) to say: "Hands off Ehren Watada! Let him go." Billie advises that you can use firstname.lastname@example.org to e-mail the Pentagon. She suggests "Re: Ehren Watad" or "ATTN: DONALD RUMSFELD."
Visibility and support matter. Get the word out. Below is a an e-mail Brad passed on (from Courage to Resist and ThankYouLt.org which both have additional information at their sites online):
Former Asst. Secretary General of the United Nations to take stand [today] for Lt. Watada at military hearing
Witnesses to appear tomorrow in Lt. Watada's defense: Prof. Francis Boyle, Dennis Halliday, and Army Col. Ann Wright (ret.)
On August 17th, U.S. Army First Lieutenant Ehren K. Watada, the first commissioned officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq, will appear before a military court, for the first hearing of a case that raises core Constitutional issues about the legality of the Iraq war, freedom of speech, and the limits of presidential power.
Watada's civilian counsel, Eric A. Seitz of Honolulu, will call expert witnesses including former United Nations Undersecretary Denis Halliday, University of Illinois Professor Francis Boyle, an international law expert, and U.S. Army Colonel Ann Wright (ret.) to support Lt. Watada's contentions that the invasion of Iraq violated domestic and international law and that high level policies and rules of engagement permit, encourage, and condone the commission of war crimes in Iraq.
Lt. Watada's Stand PDF leaflet by Jeremy Brecher and Brendan Smith
Online Resource Toolkit
Watada announced his intention to refuse to deploy to Iraq in June, explaining "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. The war and what we’re doing over there is illegal."
He has since been charged with three counts of conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman, two counts (for the same statements) of contempt towards officials, specifically President G. W. Bush, and one count of missing movement. If found guilty of all charges, Lt. Watada faces over seven years in confinement. He faces over five years imprisonment for simply expressing his opinion that President Bush misled the American people into an illegal war. On August 17th he will appear for an Article 32 hearing, which is similar to a civilian grand jury hearing.
"The defense will prove not only that what Lt. Watada said about the war is true, but that as an officer in the United States Army he was duty bound to learn the truth about this war and having done so to refuse to carry out orders to participate in it," Seitz said.
For its part, the military has requested that two civilian journalists appear for the prosecution. Neither Gregg K. Kakesako, of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin nor Oakland-based Sarah L. Olson, of Truthout.org are expected to do so voluntarily. However, the military will have subpoena power later during the actual court martial, and requires their testimony to confirm Lt. Watada’s "speech crimes."
[. . .]
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Put the war on trial. Talk about Watada today. Get the word out. Let the issue die and it will die. If it matters to you, others around you need to know it matters. Deidre notes Melanthia Mitchell's "Soldier who wouldn't deploy faces court" (Associated Press):
Watada has been reassigned to the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, I Corps, and now works in an administrative position at the post.
"You don't join the military just to blindly follow whatever orders you're given," he said. "An order to go to an unlawful and immoral war based on false pretenses is no different than to kill innocent civilians."
After the hearing, an investigating officer will recommend to commanders whether Watada should stand trial. If convicted, he could face more than seven years in prison and a dishonorable discharge.
British members don't care for Paul von Zielbaur's "Iraqi and British Troops Clash With Shiite Militias" in this morning's New York Times:
Iraqi security forces and British troops fought Shiite militias and tribesmen in two major cities south of Baghdad on Wednesday in sustained battles that left two policemen and a dozen militiamen dead. The violence underscored the tenuous grip the Iraqi government maintains even in regions not under the sway of Sunni Arab insurgents.
Others may not care for it as well but those members are the most vocal. Why? Well Basra yesterday, remember this: "The hour long fighting ending, AP notes, when British troops arrived. Reuters is a little more specific: 'up to 180 British soldiers and 16 Warrior armored personnel carriers'." The reality and what makes it into the Times is quite a bit different. The paper's version indicates/stresses 'teamwork' when the reality is that the Iraqi forces appeared unable/unwilling to handle the conflict which is why British soldiers were pulled. The members aren't complaining in a "We saved their butts!" manner -- the point they're making is that Iraqi forces can't maintain Basra. It's a point that may be lost to many Times readers.
On the same conflict and more, Martha notes Sudarsan Raghavan's "Rival Shiite Militias Clash in Southern Iraq" (Washington Post):
Tensions also are rising between U.S. and Iraqi forces and the powerful anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who is emerging as the main Shiite obstacle to U.S. efforts to establish order and security in Baghdad as well as in the south.
Many of the militias are affiliated with radicalized clerics or political parties in Iraq's fragile coalition government. Some leaders, such as Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, head of the influential Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, have called for neighborhood militias to provide security, a move that would strengthen their power bases.
On Tuesday, the deputy governor of Najaf, Abdul Hussain Abtan, a follower of Hakim, advocated such self-defense units and said he would begin selecting candidates to head them, according to reports in Iraqi media. Last week, a suicide bomber in the city killed more than 30 people in front of one of Shiite Islam's holiest shrines.
When asked whether the recent militia fighting in the south was coordinated and potentially destabilizing for the country, a U.S. military spokesman, Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell, replied: "I don't have the complete picture to give you right now, but it did not appear to be anything that was out of control. It appeared to be something that was being brought back under control."
"I don't have the complete picture" should go on Caldwell's businees card.
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