An amazing thing happened in a courtroom at Fort Lewis on Feb. 7. The US Army was in the third day of what, to all appearances, was a kangaroo court-martial of Lt. Ehren Watada, over his refusal to deploy for what he believes to be an illegal war in Iraq. (Noted one courtroom observer: "I had images of robe-clad kangaroos hopping through my head...") The judge, Lt. Col. John Head, had seemingly done his best in the trial's first two days to ensure conviction, while Watada had steadfastly maintained his belief that he had a duty not to follow an illegal order to deploy to Iraq.
Then, suddenly, the Army blinked, and there was a mistrial. And due to double jeopardy issues, the Army may be unable to retry Watada, or to give him anything as punishment beyond a dishonorable discharge.
Essentially, Head coerced the mistrial, ruling that Watada "did not understand" a pre-trial stipulation, prepared by the Army and signed by Lt. Watada prior to the trial, which dropped two additional charges in exchange for Watada acknowledging, among other things, that he willfully refused to deploy. Head had already ruled that Watada could not use his reason for refusal--the illegality of the Iraq conflict--as a defense, and so Head had excluded all of the defense team's witnesses to that effect. To the judge, this then meant Watada was acknowledging guilt in the pre-trial stipulation. But when the Watada team successfully motioned to include a jury instruction that Watada be found innocent if he "reasonably believed" that what he was doing was legal, after prosecution witnesses had already testified to that effect, the Army's case fell apart. Head, in his haste to control the damage, wound up declaring a mistrial over Watada's objection.
Head tentatively set a retrial date in mid-March. And the Army has said it will seek a retrial. But a judge or prosecution cannot simply abandon a trial in mid-proceeding over the defense's objection because it doesn't like the way a trial is going. That's what double jeopardy is about, and Watada's attorney has already said he will fight any effort to retry the lieutenant. That's why, after the mistrial, Army spin doctors were doing their best to express satisfaction with the bizarre outcome by noting how it shows the fairness of the military justice system--rather than by reiterating the Army's belief that Watada acted illegally.
Watada, in other words, improbably, won this round, and may have won his battle with the Army. (The war, however, still rages on.)
The above is from Geov Parrish' "The Army Blinked" (Eat The State) and Brenda e-mailed to note it. March 19th is the date Judge Toilet wants the court-martial to start again. From Courage to Resist:
Demand Army drop charges and accept Lt. Watada's resignation now!
Next step following mistrial victory: Demand that the Army respect the constitutional prohibition on double jeopardy by not attempting to court martial him again. Also:
Brady highlights Hope Yen's "Audit: Billions wasted in Iraq, more to come" (AP):
The U.S. government has squandered as much as $10 billion in public money on Iraq reconstruction aid because of overcharges and unsubstantiated expenses. More is yet to come, federal investigators said yesterday.
The three top auditors overseeing work in Iraq told a House committee their review of $57 billion in Iraq contracts found that Defense and State department officials condoned or allowed repeated work delays, bloated expenses and payments for shoddy work or work never done.
More than one in six dollars charged by U.S. contractors were questionable or unsupported, nearly triple the amount of waste the Government Accountability Office estimated last fall.
Now how will the spinners try to clamp down on the above? Will they try to tell you it's not really US money? And from another version of Yen's article:
Of the $10 billion in overpriced contracts or undocumented costs, more than $2.7 billion was charged by Halliburton, the oil-field services company once headed by Vice President Dick Cheney.
Meanwhile, Skip notes this from AAP:
Prime Minister John Howard's visit to New Zealand has ended with a press conference being abandoned over persistent questions about Iraq.
A day after anti-war protesters staged a noisy demonstration against Mr Howard's arrival, New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark walked out of the press conference when a reporter from online left-wing news site Scoop continued to ask about the war.
Helen Clark was apparently not willing to address the illegal war (which New Zealand opposes) in front of war hawk John Howard. It is currently the front page story at Scoop with photos and audio.
Heads up, Steve Rendall addresses Air America Radio and more on this week's CounterSpin. Danny Glover's a guest on today's Democracy Now! And Susan notes Bill Gallagher's "GEARING UP FOR NEW WAR IN IRAN" (Niagra Falls Reporter):
It's frightening to realize that one of every three Americans is bonkers. They think George W. Bush is a good president, doing a good job. They cling to the belief that the war in Iraq was essential for national security and, although there have been some setbacks, the United States will prevail and "victory is our only option."
Polls show a sorry one-third of the American people are still attached to the lies, myths, hoaxes and deceptions that formed the basis of our policies toward Iraq and the ongoing disaster the war has brought. This one-third is so resistant to the truth and so consumed with delusion that their views are beyond political conversion and only medical intervention makes any sense. They're nuts. And we all know far too many of them.
A handful of people consumed with political power and/or greed escape the nut brand. Blind partisans and political hacks stick with Bush and his puppeteer, Vice President Dick Cheney. So, too, do corporate moguls, oil barons, military contractors and the super-rich who are the beneficiaries of raids on the U.S. Treasury and the taxpayer-funded largess they receive from this vile administration. But the normal, the sensible and the sane have long abandoned them.
It's revealing that so many shills in the corporate media are card-carrying members of the sorry one-third, still echoing the administration's lies and failing to challenge "Bubble Boy" Bush's aversion to reality.
But Bush and his dwindled supporters remain dangerous as they gear up to sell the war with Iran just as they did with Iraq. They are again using fear and deceit to propagate the aggression and imperialism the neocons employ to foster U.S. domination of the world's resources.
The Project for the New American Century types have long had Iran in their crosshairs, just as they did Iraq. It has nothing to do with fighting terrorism and everything to do with controlling oil and Israel's "security." In spite of their failures in Iraq, these crazies still dominate the Bushevik foreign policy and world view. Make no mistake about it -- they're aiming their guns at Iran.
They figure this is the time, since Bush's days are numbered and another war will divert attention from the mess in Iraq. Just bomb the bejesus out of Iran's nuclear facilities and watch the 24-hour media coverage bolster public support for the president.
Today on KPFA, The Morning Show (7:00 am to 9:00 pm PST) will feature Matthew Rothschild and Kris Welch's Living Room (noon to 1:00 pm PST) will feature Ralph Nader. Zach passed both of those on.
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