Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The coverage of Robert Zabala

Lance Cpl. Robert Zabala will no longer be a Marine by the middle of this month, thanks to a rare federal court ruling that some hope will be less rare, as public attitudes about the Iraq war change.
"What's unusual is the court found in favor of the soldier," said Steven Collier, Zabala's lawyer.
I met with Zabala, 23, just days after his conscientious objector status was granted by U.S. District Court Judge James Ware. The ponderous 2 1/2-year process went up the chain of command and ended Thursday night with the ruling.
"I've thought about this every day for the past four years," the San Josean said. His sense of disconnection between his values and his service began almost from the start.

[. . .]
Steve Collier, Zabala's attorney, hopes the ruling will make it easier to obtain conscientious objector status. And it is a victory for those who do not cite religious beliefs as the reason for applying for conscientious objector status.
Judge Ware, who teaches federal jurisdiction at Golden Gate University, took the unusual step of holding the hearing there, so that students could attend. "The judge thought it was an interesting case," Collier said. Perhaps there will be more such cases coming down the pike.
In nearly every case of soldiers' petitions for conscientious objector status, Collier said, federal judges have sided with the military. Not this time.

The above is from L.A. Chung's "S.J. objector: A search for true values" (San Jose Mercury News) which is a column. In terms of news reports, we noted the San Francisco Chronicle, LA Times, San Jose Mercury News an AP yesterday. This story isn't newsworthy? All the legal commentators kept on the dime by various outlets and they can't gas bag on this topic in their usual useless manner?

In terms of "one person's story" it's got interest. In terms of Iraq, it's a story (especially on a day when the New York Times has so little to offer on Iraq). In terms of war resistance, it's a story. In terms of court watchers, it's a story.

Most outlets are ignoring it or running Sandra Gonzales' story (AP).

Apparently some don't think it's news of interest or news you can use. Apparently, editors who once would, if nothing else, see the David v. Goliath elements of the story and rush to assign it have all vanished. It's rather strange when you consider the New York Times front pages a substitute teacher with the assertion that "At 81, He Tells History Firsthand" when history could be found firsthand by covering Zabala's case. Maybe in sixty years, when Zabala's story is in the distant past, it will be consider safe, er, newsworthy and news consumers will be allowed to hear about?

(For any making excuses, the New York Times has a San Francisco office. What's the point of keeping that open when they can't even file on an important story?)

Until then, apparently, everyone needs to be protected from it. On another war resister,
Lisa notes Paul Rockwell's "Commentary: Watada's Court-Martial and the Legality of the War" (Berkeley Daily Planet):

The second court-martial of Lt. Ehren Watada is set for July. This brave officer who refused deployment to Iraq faces six years in prison on three charges: "missing movement," "conduct unbecoming an officer," and “use of contemptuous words for the president."
In two eloquent speeches, Watada questioned the legality of the war in Iraq and denounced the mendacity of the Bush administration.
Ordinarily the truth of a claim is a good defense against any charge of defamation. Not in the Army. In the pre-trial hearings, the judge ruled that the truthfulness of Watada's speech is irrelevant; that treaties and international law are irrelevant; that a soldier’s only duty is to follow orders, regardless of their legality! What kind of trial is it where truth and law are inadmisible! It's a sad day in American jurisprudence when a soldier of conscience is court-martialed, not for lying, but for telling the truth; not for breaking a covenant with the military, but for upholding the rule of law in wartime.
The prosecution claims that Watada has no right to question authority because he volunteered to serve. Let's set the record straight. Watada only volunteered to follow legal orders, to participate in legal wars, and he is willing to risk his life to defend his country from a real, imminent attack. But he also took an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution. And he has kept his promise.
Watada never volunteered--no soldier volunteers--to violate human rights, to violate American treaties, to destroy the sovereignty of nations, to participate in aggression. A contract to break the law has no legal standing.
Watada is right. Except for U.N.-sanctioned intervention, defensive necessity is the sole basis for legal war. The U.N. Charter explicitly outlaws preemptive war, a war of choice. And the U.S. Constitution is unambiguous. Article VI states: "All Treaties, made or which shall be made, are part of the supreme law of the land, and are binding." Our soldiers deserve protection of the law, the social contracts for which they risk their lives.

Finally, Danny Schechter is scheduled to be a guest on today's Democracy Now!

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