A Vietnam War resister last night discussed the recent trial of an Army officer who refused to be deployed in Iraq.
David Mitchell, 64, of Chestnut Ridge was sentenced to five years in prison for refusing to fight in Vietnam because he believed the war to be illegal.
At the request of Rockland Coalition for Peace and Justice, Mitchell attended the court martial Feb. 5 to 7 of 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, 28. He talked about the recent court martial - which ended in a mistrial - last night at the Fellowship of Reconciliation.
Watada was the first Army officer to publicly refuse to report to Iraq because he considers the invasion "illegal and immoral" and believes that participating in it would violate international law.
Watada's court marshal was held at Fort Lewis, Wash. Mitchell, a lawyer and a member of the Rockland Coalition for Peace and Justice, said the case had similarities to his own 41 years ago.
Mitchell said he considered Vietnam an "unjustified, aggressive war." He refused to participate in it because he believed his participation in an illegal war would be a criminal act in violation of the U.S. Constitution and international law.
Micah notes the above from Akiko Matsuda's "Rockland war resister discusses Watada case" (The Journal News). To add to the above, Mitchell was also present at the invitation of Bob Watada and Carolyn Ho, Ehren Watada's parents.
Watada's lawyers believe that Head didn't want to give Watada an opportunity to prove the illegality of the war, so he tossed out the stipulation. The prosecution then pointed out that their whole case rested on the "statement of facts" and called for a mistrial--over the objections of Watada's defense attorneys. Head set a new trial date of March 19--ironically, the fourth anniversary of the Iraq war.
Many legal experts, however, say that Watada cannot be retried on the same charges under the Constitutional ban on "double jeopardy"--being tried on the same charges twice.
If the court-martial does resume March 19, Watada's lawyers will object and appeal, possibly pushing the trial back to May. But in the meantime, Watada will have served out his remaining time in the Army. His lawyers are now saying they think he could walk away a free man.
The Army faced an inevitable contradiction in the Watada case. On the one hand, it is trying to crack down on dissent and make an example of Watada as antiwar soldiers and veterans are increasingly speaking out. On the other hand, this might have allowed Watada to explain why the Iraq war is illegal and immoral--exactly the opposite of the military’s intentions.
The military was clearly sweating the pressure of nationwide and worldwide attention and protest in support of Watada's right to resist. On the first day of the court-martial, more than 1,000 people--led by Iraq Veterans Against the War and the family of war resister Agustin Aguayo--converged on the gates of Fort Lewis to show their support for Watada.
Watada’s heroic stand could be a defeat for the military and a much-needed victory for the reviving antiwar movement.
If it succeeds, Watada will likely embolden other soldiers to follow their consciences and abandon the war on Iraq. The antiwar movement must welcome them and take up their cause.