A local attorney with decades of experience in military justice says the judge in Army 1st Lt. Ehren Watada's court-martial overstepped his bounds, possibly jeopardizing the government's case against the war objector.
Attorney Earle Partington says military judge Lt. Col. John Head lacked authority to set a new date, March 19, for trial after declaring a mistrial Wednesday, and it could take at least year before the case can go back to trial.
"I'm surprised he thought he could do that," said Partington, who has represented numerous military service members since the 1960s and served in the military in Vietnam. He said the government might have "to start over from scratch."
Partington, who recently represented a Kaneohe Marine in a court-martial, said the judge in that case noted that he could not just reset a trial after declaring a mistrial.
Watada, a 1996 Kalani High School graduate, is being court-martialed for refusing to deploy to Iraq and for conduct unbecoming an officer. Last year, the Fort Lewis, Wash.-based officer announced his refusal to deploy based on his belief that the war in Iraq was illegal.
Head declared a mistrial after questioning Watada over an agreement he signed before the trial started, stipulating certain facts of the case. The judge said he did not believe Watada fully understood the stipulation of fact. Watada said he never intended to admit he had a duty to go to Iraq with his soldiers, part of the crime of missing troop movement.
The above, noted by Joan, is from Leila Fujimori's "Watada trial judge erred, risking case, one expert says" (The Honolulu Star-Bulletin). Staying with the topic of Ehren Watada, Carl forwards this e-mail from Courage to Resist:
Vigils called for Friday to demand immediate discharge for Lt. Watada 1,000 rallied for Lt. Watada at Ft. Lewis during court martial
Lt. Watada mistrial clear victory, "very likely" unqualifiedIn depth report and analysis by Courage to Resist
Courtroom sketch by K. Rudin / Truthout
FORT LEWIS, WA (February 8, 2007) -- In a complex and confusing turn of events yesterday, Army lead prosecutor Captain Scott Van Sweringen reluctantly requested, and was granted a mistrial in the case of First Lieutenant Ehren K. Watada, the first military officer to publicly refuse to fight in Iraq.
In summation, the day after the prosecution rested a poorly presented case against Lt. Watada for "missing movement" to Iraq and two counts of "conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman," the prosecution then requested--over the strenuous objections of Lt. Watada's defense team--in essence a "do over." Lieutenant Colonel Judge John Head then agreed to the "do over." The basis for which, and the judge's motives, may likely be a matter of debate for some time.
Lt. Watada's civilian lawyer Eric Seitz later explained, "The mistrial is very likely to have the consequence of ending this case because a retrial would be a case of double jeopardy based on the military rules for courts martial and applicable case law." Should the Army proceed with a second trial, Seitz said he would seek dismissal of the charges with prejudice so they could not be again filed. "I do not expect a retrial to ever occur," stated Seitz. Army Captain Mark Kim, Lt. Watada's appointed military defense lawyer, noted that he agreed with Seitz's conclusions.
John Junker, a University of Washington law professor independently consulted by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper explained, "You can't just stop in the middle and say, 'I don't like the way it's going' and start over. If the defendant objected, it does raise the possibility" of double jeopardy. Junker noted, "That doctrine comes from the Constitution."
Read full report by Courage to Resist organizer, Jeff Paterson
Vigils called for Friday to demand immediate discharge for Lt. Watada; 1,000 rally for Lt. Watada at Ft. Lewis during court martial
Recent Iraq war vets join all day rally for Lt. Watada at Ft. Lewis 2/5/07 Photo by Jeff Paterson
Vigils continue outside the gates of Ft. Lewis and a "victory rally" is planned for Friday to demand that the Army discharge Lt. Watada and drop all charges against him. Supporters in the Ft. Lewis area will gather outside the gates of the Army base at Exit 119 from 4pm-7pm for banner and sign-holding followed by a candlelight vigil with speakers and music. (more info)
Plan one in your community!
On Monday, the first day of the court martial, over a thousand people and giant puppets rallied at the gates of Fort Lewis, Washington in support of Lt. Ehren Watada. Formed for the occasion, the "Tacoma Puppetistas" visually dominated the mass rally by putting the war on trial via huge puppet theater. Meanwhile Iraq Veterans Against the War and families of military resisters led chants and marches from rallies in a nearby park to the base gates.
On Fort Lewis, supporters of Lt. Watada lined up at the visitors station beginning at 5:00 am in order to gain entry to the court proceedings. Many were turned away, but about 50 civilians were eventually allowed to view the proceedings from a viewing room with an audio/video feed.
Helga Aguayo and dughters outside Ft. Lewis during Watada court martial 2/5/07.
Photo by Jeff Paterson
At the rally outside, Helga Aguayo, with her two daughters and mother-in-law at her side, spoke of her husband Agustin’s three year battle with the Army for a conscientious objector discharge--only to then be forced to refuse to return to Iraq for a second deployment.(video) Spc. Aguayo is now facing seven years imprisonment at a upcoming March 6 court martial for desertion. For more information on Agustin Aguayo's case,
to download the informational flyer to distribute, and to
contribute to his defense fund visit:
Tuesday (Day 2) photos from outside the courtroom, and at the gates of Fort Lewis .
Previous Lt. Watada news from Courage to Resist:
Army drops activist subpoenas for Lt. Watada trial (Jan. 31)
Lt. Watada prosecutors surrender on journalist subpoenas (Jan. 28)
Judge rules “illegal war” debate forbidden during court martial (Jan. 16)
For additional information about Lt. Watada's case visit:
Agustin Aguayo, Helga's husband, faces a court-martial March 6th in Germany. Also present was Darrell Anderson and many with, or who heard of the court-martial via, Iraq Veterans Against the War. They and other groups did a great job organizing and getting the word out. I'm not sure if they've gotten any acknowledgement for their work from the press. Courage to Resist got some acknowledgement (not enough, they did and do amazing work) but I didn't see even that small level of applause going to Iraq Veterans Against the War -- hopefully I just missed it -- so let's note their strong, amazing work here. And with more on some of the groups and people standing with Watada, Ellen notes Kaz Suzat's "Mistrial declared in Lt. Watada war resister case" (PSL):
Outside at the park, many current and former war resisters urged the movement to support soldiers’ resistance. Randy Rowling, a Vietnam War resister and member of the Presidio 23--featured in the documentary "Sir, No Sir!" --spoke about his decision to resist military service.
Sara Rich, mother of G.I. war resister Suzanne Swift, gave an impassioned call to help the many resisters who are AWOL, underground and often homeless.
Helga Aguayo, accompanied by her two daughters and mother-in-law, spoke about her husband, Agustin. He is currently in jail in Germany, facing eight years in prison for refusing to return to Iraq.
Ricky Clousing, who served three months in prison for desertion, summed up the political mood of the day. He said that "the politicians are not going to stop the war; it will be the soldiers who will stop it." He called on the anti-war movement to create the political and material support to make that happen. "I'm done talking to politicians; I want to talk to soldiers," Clousing concluded.
Supporters were visible outside the base throughout Watada's trial. This reporter observed dozens of car loads of active duty soldiers entering the base on Feb. 5. The response to the protesters was overwhelmingly positive.
Watada's trial proceeded as expected until the judge declared a mistrial on Feb. 7.
Francisco had a highlight and wanted this noted because OpEdNews has regularly covered Watada, from Gustav Wynn's "Eyewitness: Watada Judge Panicked and Bailed" (OpEdNews):
Watada's fate remains now unclear. He may be indemnified due to double jeopardy rules, but could also be dishonorably discharged. Certainly this round goes to his supporters, but a conspicuous back-page burial or altogether media blackout has minimized impact during the immediate 24 hours.
The Army will have to deal with this issue backfiring badly - can you court martial an officer without allowing him his day in court? Apparently not.
Official post-trial statements were made by both sides, with the Army reiterating the stipulation agreement was the sticking point, but somewhat glossing over the details. Defense counsel Seitz announced he had no idea what the judge was thinking and felt that the Army had made a mess of the case.
For those that still may be confused, Bill Simpich's explanation might be the clearest available: The judge asserted that the statements in the pretrial stipulation agreement amounted to an admission of guilt by Watada, going so far to refer to it as a "confessional stipulation". He seemed to believe that signing the document precluded Watada from testifying further on the issue of missing the troop movement, as if anyone pleading innocent would sign such a document. Faced with the reality that the statements were not necessarily a final finding of guilt, and that Watada had to be allowed by law to explain, the judge suggested Watada did not understand the stipulation, repeating this numerous times to no avail. He then made the cryptic non-sequitur "I'm not seeing we have a meeting of the minds here. And if there is not a meeting of the minds, there's not a contract".
This, along with his anxious demeanor suggest the judge simply declared a mistrial to extricate himself from a sticky position, apparently wanting above all costs to avoid putting the legality of the Iraq war on trial in his courtroom.
For more details and the precedent for double jeopardy applying here, see http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/020807A.shtml
And on giving credit where it's due, Francisco, Miguel and Maria's community newsletter, El Espiritu, comes out on Sundays and rarely gets mentioned due to that (on Sunday morning, I just want to go to bed). Kat has taken a ton of photos (here in Tacoma) and plans to develop them tonight (provided we're all back home by this evening) -- they'll be in El Espiritu Sunday so be sure to check your inboxes.
And from Naomi Spencer's "US Army court martial against war resister lieutenant ends in mistrial" (World Socialist Web Site), Molly asked that we note this paragraph:
Attempting to keep antiwar sentiment from bleeding into the courtroom, Head also imposed a dress code that included a prohibition against antiwar buttons or other apparel that might be construed as a support for Watada. Head told Seitz, who is a civilian attorney with a long record of defending war resisters, to "leave the dramatics at the door." Outside the Fort Lewis base, activists staged antiwar rallies during the court martial.
Molly wasn't aware that buttons were banned. Aaron Glantz covered this and I must have forgotten to include it when looking at Megan and Zach's transcripts (of Glantz' radio reports) or his reporting in print form. But yes, Spencer is correct, just another concern of Judge Toilet's when he should have been focused on the law.
Lloyd notes Joshua Partlow "Iraq, U.S. Advised To Avoid Offensive Against Militiamen" (Washington Post):
Iraqi and U.S. forces should not launch a military offensive against the militias -- most of them Shiite -- that are a major source of turmoil in Iraq, but should instead rely on nonviolent steps to bring militiamen into the political fold, according to an Iraqi report that draws largely on the views of prominent Shiite politicians.
"In the short-term at least, there can be no military offensive against the militias. Military confrontation, in the current climate, will only strengthen their appeal and swell their ranks," the Baghdad Institute for Public Policy Research concludes.
The institute said the 18-page report, "Dismantling Iraq's Militias," was based on a round-table discussion by six Shiite politicians, two Kurds and a Sunni Arab. Government officials said Thursday it would be considered in setting policy, but some here saw it as reflecting the private thinking of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as more U.S. troops arrive to try to end the violence.
Today the US military announced: "Three Soldiers assigned to Multi-National Force-West were killed Thursday from wounds sustained while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province." And the United Kingdom's Ministry of Defence announced: "It is with deep regret that the Ministry of Defence must confirm the death of a British soldier in Iraq today, Friday 9 February 2007. MOD Announcement We can confirm that there was a roadside bomb attack on a Multi-National Forces patrol south east of Basra City that resulted in the death of the British soldier. Three other soldiers have also been injured, one of whom is described as critical."
Amy Goodman's latest column is entitled "Bang pots and pans for Molly Ivins" (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) and Brenda, Erika and Doug all e-mailed to note it:
The untimely death of Molly Ivins last week, after a long battle with breast cancer, has provoked a surge of impassioned eulogies -- yes, that would be the appropriate use of the term "surge."
Ivins was first and foremost a journalist, in the highest and best sense of the word. She spent the time, did the digging. She had a remarkable gift for words, a command of English coupled with her flamboyant Texas wit. She directed her reportorial skill at the powerful, holding to account the elected and the self-appointed. She first questioned authority, then skewered it.
I had the good fortune to meet Molly, but on too few occasions. I went to Austin, Texas, for the 50th anniversary celebration of The Texas Observer, the plucky, progressive news magazine that was Molly's journalistic home for so long. Texas' former governor, Ann Richards, was there.
[. . .]
Molly's legacy rings out, clarion calls to action from the beyond. After she was diagnosed with cancer in 1999, she implored her readers: "Get. The. Damn. Mammogram. Now." The American Cancer Society predicts that there will be more than 40,000 breast cancer deaths in the U.S. in 2007. Death rates are declining, although detection and survival rates are lower for women of color. Improvements can be attributed in part to women following Molly's advice: "Get. The. Damn. Mammogram. Now."
In her final column, titled "Stand Up Against the Surge," Molly wrote:
"We are the deciders. And every single day, every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to help stop this war. Raise hell. ... We need people in the streets, banging pots and pans and demanding, 'Stop it, now!' "
Her hallmark was to call it as she saw it, and on Iraq she was clear: "It is not a matter of whether we will lose or we are losing. We have lost." She took Sen. John McCain to task for supporting the "surge." The coordinated acts of civil disobedience at his Senate offices in Washington, D.C., and in Arizona on Feb. 5 were a fitting tribute to Molly. Meanwhile, houston.indymedia.org announced the formation of The Molly Ivins Brigade, to protest the war with pots and pans.
That excerpt includes a bit of the sections Doug, Brenda and Erika each noted. And we'll return to the topic of war resisters. First up, Ehren Watada and then Joshua Key. From
Geov Parrish' "The Army blinked" (Working for Change via Axis of Logic):
How did this happen? It happened because one young officer stuck to his principles, even under enormous pressure, and the Army didn't know how to react. Its handling of the case has allowed Ehren Watada –- young, photogenic, articulate, and deeply moral -– to become a folk hero within the anti-war movement, so much so that even his (supportive) parents have become minor celebrities in their own rights.
This outcome will only cement Watada's status, with or without a second court martial. But Watada's victory shows something further. It shows us that the Army, and the government, is not a monolith. The internal contradictions posed by a war now almost universally acknowledged as both disastrous and founded upon lies are leaving America's military in disarray, just as they have left the political fortunes of the Bush administration in shambles. Iraq is a baby that tars all who touch it.
How profound is that disarray? One man, armed only with unshakable conviction and a simple truth –- that if a war is illegal, begun with lies that subverted the Constitution, then orders to deploy for that war must be illegal as well, in violation of an officer's oath to defend the Constitution –- has thrown the military justice system for a loop. The military cannot under any circumstances afford to have its officers disobeying orders to deploy. Yet an officer who did exactly that is likely now off the hook, simply because he posed an unanswerable challenge to an indefensible war.
And if Lt. Ehren Watada, against all odds, can exploit the contradictions of Iraq and do his part to refuse to support this war, so can each of us. The Bush administration is no more inflexible and unassailable than the military justice system, and a Congress reluctant to cut off war funding is more malleable still. If Ehren Watada can prevail, so can we.
The political haggling, posturing, and butt-covering? Mere details. All it takes to stop this war is persistence, unshakable conviction, and a simple truth: this war is deeply illegal, deeply immoral, and must be stopped. Now.
Just ask Lieutenant Ehren Watada.
US war resister Joshua Key has a book out, Vic noted Brian Lynch's "Profile: Joshua Key" (Vancouver's The Georgia Straight):
Before deserting the U.S. army in 2003 and fleeing to Canada with his wife and four children, Joshua Key spent over half a year in the rubble and chaos of Iraq. As he describes in his harrowing new book, The Deserter's Tale (House of Anansi Press, $29.95), written in collaboration with Canadian author Lawrence Hill, Key helped raid roughly 200 households in Ramadi and Fallujah. He searched the contents and occupants of countless cars while patrolling urban checkpoints and the Syrian border. And he watched with growing revulsion as scores of unarmed Iraqi civilians--some of them children--were beaten, maimed, or killed by his comrades with virtual impunity.
For all this, he and his fellow grunts never uncovered so much as a trace of terrorist activity or laid eyes on the insurgents who would sometimes lob mortars into their camp at night. "They were just shadows in the dust," as he tells the Straight during a call from a town in northern Saskatchewan that he declines to name, where he and his family have settled for the past year.
Key, now 28, comes from a patriotic, poverty-stricken family in rural Oklahoma. He enlisted, he says, because life in the armed forces promised health insurance and training for a career in welding. Yet, according to The Deserter's Tale, what he mainly learned from the army was xenophobia and fear. Boot-camp instructors, he says, drilled their recruits on the idea that all Muslims are bloodthirsty, every one of them a would-be terrorist. And when Key arrived in the bomb-cratered streets of Iraq, his commanding officers issued constant reports that heavily armed terrorist cells or mobs of Saddam Hussein's sympathizers were poised to attack. None of these threats materialized, he says. And as he recalls in his book, he began to sense that "the repeated warnings of danger were meant to keep us off guard, and to keep us frightened enough to do exactly what we were told."
The link to The Deserter's Tale goes to Overstock.com which two members used to purchase it and both report the turnaround was very quick. One of the two was Shirley who notes she wouldn't have purchased it at her local bookstore because "It wasn't there." She adds the price was the best she found online (currently $14.86 for a book whose list price in the US is $23.00). Joshua Key is among many war resisters who self-checked out and went to Canada (others include Kyle Snyder, Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey). Remember that Camilo Mejia has a book due out in about four months and Kevin and Monica Benderman will also have a book shortly.
The e-mail address for this site is firstname.lastname@example.org.