Saturday, September 16, 2006

Military tries to sneak in a new charge against Ehren Watada

The Army yesterday added a charge to those already faced by 1st Lt. Ehren K. Watada for refusing to deploy to Iraq on the grounds that the war is illegal and unjust.
The additional specification under the charge of conduct unbecoming an officer for comments made in an Aug. 12 speech means the Honolulu man faces another possible year in prison -- now a total of eight years -- if convicted, his attorney, Eric Seitz, said.
Seitz said the Army "is trying to shut up and stifle" Watada.
"It's part of a continuing process where, even before he did anything, they called him in and threatened him that he's got to be quiet," Seitz said, "and that if he says anything, he's going to get into more trouble."
The 1996 Kalani High School graduate several times tried to resign his commission, and publicly made known his intentions to refuse to deploy with his Stryker vehicle unit when it left on June 22 for northern Iraq.

The above is from William Cole's "Lt. Watada facing new charge" (The Honolulu Advertiser). Seitz notes that the charge wasn't presented in the Article 32 hearing in August and that, if they try to tack it on at a court-martial, he will move to dismiss it. The military shouldn't be able to tack on new charges without having argued them.

The AP notes:

According to a support group -- Friends and Family of Lieutenant Watada, he told the veterans -- quote -- "to stop an illegal and unjust war, soldiers can choose to stop fighting it.''

According to? As noted in the snapshot on August 17th:

The speech Watada gave is here at CounterPunch and here at Truthout which also includes the video option (QuickTime and Windows Media). In addition KPFA's Flashpoints played one part of the speech yesterday

So you can read a transcript (done by Dahr Jamail) or you can watch it or you can listen to it. According to? Granted most of independent media took a pass on it and the hearing in real time
(a story they hadn't been "covering") but it was covered and the speech was presented in several media formats. The speech was given at the Veterans for Peace conference held in Seattle.

A longer AP article notes:

The Fort Lewis commander, Lt. Gen. James Dubik, will decide whether the case proceeds to court-martial, Piek said. Last month, investigating officer Lt. Col. Mark Keith recommended that Watada be court-martialed.
"The Army's unwillingness thus far to seek any reasonable solution or outcome of this situation certainly has placed Lt. Watada into a position where he has little or no choice but to vigorously defend himself against charges that we submit are extravagant and unjustified," Eric Seitz, Watada's civilian defense attorney, wrote in a rebuttal submitted to the military court in August.

More information on Watada can be found at Courage to Resist and From an e-mail (that Brenda forwarded) sent out by Courage to Resist:

In a surprise move today [Friday], the U.S. Army chose to add an additional specification under the charge of Conduct Unbecoming an Officer and a Gentleman for comments Lt. Ehren Watada made Aug. 12 during a speech to the Veterans For Peace national convention in Seattle. Lt. Watada stated "to stop an illegal and unjust war, soldiers can choose to stop fighting it." The additional, gratuitous charge raises the stakes in the widely publicized and controversial case of the first military officer to publicly refuse to fight in the illegal Iraq war and occupation.
It is unknown if the military intends to hold another Article 32 pre-trial hearing to review the new charge, or simply railroad it directly to court martial. A final decision on the forwarding to court-martial on all seven charges now pending against Lt. Watada remains forthcoming from
Fort Lewis Commanding General Lt. Gen. James Dubik.
If convicted of all charges, Lt. Watada could now face over eight years in prison, more than six of them for publicly voicing his opposition to what he considers an illegal and immoral war.
In June Lt. Watada stated, in language reminiscent of the
House Minority Judiciary Committee report "Constitution in Crisis" that "the war in Iraq is not only morally wrong but a horrible breach of American law," and that he felt his "moral and legal obligation is to the Constitution and not those who would issue unlawful orders." Many groups and legal experts have weighed in on Lt. Watada's right to publicly explain the rational for his actions. The American Civil Liberties Union filed an amicus brief defending Lt. Watada’s right to respectfully and publicly explain his refusal to deploy.

For more on what actually happened in the hearing (as opposed to a tacked on charge that's never been heard), you can refer to a summary of testimony on August 17, 2006, Ruth's Report focusing on Ann Wright's testimony, The Third Estate Sunday Review's "Denis Halliday said what?" and Ruth's Report focusing on Francis A. Boyel's testimony. (Ruth's working on her latest currently and it will probably go up Sunday, just FYI.)

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