A commissioned officer of the U.S. Army announced today in Tacoma, WA, his refusal to fight in Iraq on the grounds that the war is both "wrong" and "a horrible breach of American law," UFPPC's Mark Jensen reports. -- Lt. Ehren K. Watada, 28, a native of Hawaii, was ordered not to attend his press conference, but was able to make the announcement in a video recording that was played for assembled journalists. -- Four speakers made statements in his support, including Marjorie Cohn, a well-known scholar who has written extensively on the illegality of the Iraq war. -- Lt. Watada's refusal to serve in Iraq is "believed to be the first case of a commmissioned officer refusing a direct order to deploy to Iraq," the Honolulu Advertiser reported Tuesday. -- Lt. Watada is to appear at Associated Ministries at 6:00 p.m. this evening (Wed., Jun. 7) to answer questions....
COMMISSIONED U.S. ARMY OFFICER ANNOUNCES IRAQ WAR RESISTANCE
By Mark Jensen
** Lt. Ehren Watada, barred from attending, announces his decision via video **
United for Peace of Pierce County (WA)
June 7, 2006
TACOMA (Washington) -- In what is believed to be the first case of a commissioned U.S. military officer refusing a direct order to deploy to Iraq, First Lt. Ehren K. Watada announced today that "as an officer of honor and integrity I must refuse that order."
Citing the U.S. Constitution, treaties and conventions the U.S. has signed, and U.S. Army doctrine, Lt. Watada cited his oath as a military officer and said: "My oath of office is to protect America's laws and people. I fulfill that oath today."
Lt. Watada, 28, is the son of the former executive director of the campaign spending commission of the state of Hawaii, Bob Watada.
As more than a hundred people outside gathered to demonstrate support, several dozen reporters from print, broadcast, and alternative media crammed into a small room at Tacoma's Associated Ministries, an association of 200 churches, religious organizations, and interfaith partners in Pierce County, Washington, to hear Lt. Watada announce that he would refuse orders to join a Stryker brigade combat team bound for Mosul, Iraq.
Because he had been ordered not to attend, Lt. Watada himself was "unable to attend his own news conference," organizer Phan Nguyen of Olympia, WA, told the assembled crowd. But thanks to a video recording, Lt. Watada was able to address those present.
"It is my duty as a commissioned officer of the United States Army to speak out against grave injustice," said Lt. Watada. "My obligation is to the U.S. Constitution, not to those who issue illegal orders."
Speaking in a calm, measured tone, Lt. Watada, who graduated from Hawaii Pacific University in 2003 and who has served in the U.S. Army for three years, said: "It is my conclusion that the war in Iraq is not only wrong, but also a horrible breach of American law."
The war is "manifestly illegal," Lt. Watada declared. "I must, as an officer of honor and integrity, refuse the order" to deploy to Iraq.
Citing the constitutional principle of the balance of powers, U.S. Army doctrine, and treaties and conventions to which the United States is a signatory, Lt. Watada said that to obey the order to deploy to Iraq "would require me to participate in war crimes."
Before and after Lt. Watada's brief video, several speakers made statements.
Jim Davis, a Methodist minister and university chaplain at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, noted the broad consensus among leaders of mainstream religious bodies in the United States that the Iraq war fails the test of just war theory.
Marjorie Cohn, professor of law at Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, CA, who has written extensively on the illegality of the Iraq war, cited the Nuremberg Tribunal, the Fourth Geneva Convention, and the U.N. Charter, and concluded: "Lt. Watada is correct when he says this is an illegal war. I salute his courage."
Judy Linehan of the Washington State chapter of Military Families Speak Out, the mother of a soldier who has served in Iraq, spoke in Lt. Watada's support.
Joe Colgan, of Kent, WA, father of a U.S. soldier killed in Iraq, also spoke, saying: "As a Catholic Christian we were always taught to follow our conscience. I'm here today to recognize Lt. Watada for respecting his conscience."
Lt. Watada's supporters have created a web site (www.thankyoult.org), and hope to organize a nationwide campaign in support of his refusal to fight in an illegal war.
Lt. Watada is expected to appear at Associated Ministries at 6:00 p.m. this evening to answer reporters' questions.
--Mark Jensen is a member of United for Peace of Pierce County (WA). (WA).