There is still no indication when the U.S. Army will decide the outcome of Lt. Ehren K. Watada's Article 32 hearing, held on Aug. 17 at Fort Lewis, WA.  --  The case garnered some national media attention on Friday, when Time magazine posted an account of Thursday's pre-trial Article 32 hearing of Lt. Ehren Watada.[1]  --  Reporter Eli Sanders wrote that "lawyers for Lt. Watada used the opportunity to put the [Iraq] war itself on trial, trying to prove he was right to see the war as 'manifestly illegal,' and as a result, to refuse to participate."  --  On Sunday, Jeff Paterson posted an account of the Aug. 17 Article 32 hearing and post-hearing press conference on the Indymedia web site along with ten photos.[2]  --  In Bangladesh, the English-language Financial Express published on Monday a fervent open letter from Philadelphia peace activist Habib Siddiqi defending Watada's decision to refuse to participate in the Iraq war; the article was also published in the American Muslim.[3]  --  The Honolulu Advertiser reported Tuesday that the scheduling of a press conference by Bob Watada, Lt. Watada's father, at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center in Los Angeles, where several memorials honor fallen veterans, led a charter president of Japanese American Korean War Veterans to complain that "No Japanese-Americans did anything like that" before, adding:  "We went to Korea, and we didn't know what the hell we were there for.  In Vietnam, those guys didn't know what the heck they were there for.  But nobody refused to go."[4]  --  Bob Watada called the complaint "a stretch," and said that like the veterans in question his son was acting in defense of the United States Constitution.  --  In an editorial published Sunday, the News Tribune (Tacoma, WA) characterized Lt. Watada's defense as "absurd."[5]  --  On Aug. 14, United Methodist News Service reported that two bishops of the United Methodist Church had written letters supporting Lt. Watada, and two Methodist congregations in Portland, OR, planned to attend the Aug. 16 rally at the gates of Fort Lewis in his support.[6] ...



By Eli Sanders

** An Army officer who refused duty in Iraq goes to court with a novel argument: he had a duty to disobey because the war is illegal **

August 18, 2006,8599,1228779,00.html

When he refused to deploy to Iraq in June, Army Lt. Ehren Watada said he was following his conscience and upholding his duty not to obey illegal orders. But that didn't impress military officials, who promptly charged him with violating Army rules and sent him on a path toward a likely court-martial.

In doing so, they set up an unusual collision between a man who is believed to be the first officer to refuse duty in Iraq and a military justice system that is now effectively being asked to rule on the war's legality.

In a packed hearing room on this Army base south of Seattle Thursday, lawyers for Lt. Watada used the opportunity to put the war itself on trial, trying to prove he was right to see the war as "manifestly illegal," and as a result, to refuse to participate. "A soldier has an obligation to disobey illegal orders," said Francis Boyle, a Harvard-trained professor of international law who testified on behalf of Lt. Watada and whose mentor wrote the Army's field manual for land warfare. "Under the circumstances of this war, if he had deployed, he would have been facilitating a Nuremberg crime against peace."

Boyle, along with a former United Nations Undersecretary-General and a retired army colonel, argued that the U.S. decision to attack Iraq in 2003 without U.N. authorization made the war illegal from the beginning. He went further, arguing that the failure of the Bush Administration to find either weapons of mass destruction or a provable link between Iraq and the Sept. 11 attacks showed that Congress was persuaded "by means of fraud" when it voted to authorize the war.

Lt. Watada, 28, is from Honolulu and was part of a Stryker unit that deployed to Iraq on June 22 -- without him. He joined the Army after Sept. 11 and initially served in South Korea, where he received stellar marks from his superiors. As recently as last summer he was willing to go to Iraq. But the more he learned about the war, the more doubts he had, according to his public statements.

In January, after he became convinced that the war was illegal, he tried to resign rather than go to Iraq, but the Army wouldn't let him do so. As a compromise, he asked to be sent instead to Afghanistan, a war he supports. His request was not granted.

At the hearing yesterday -- a precursor to a court-martial known as an “Article 32 hearing” -- Watada sat calmly in his fatigues, gave no statement, and during breaks answered no questions from the many reporters gathered to watch the proceedings. However, military prosecutors played several clips of Lt. Watada speaking in public about his reasons for not deploying.

In one clip, from a Veterans for Peace convention held last weekend in Seattle, Watada explained that he is trying to put forward a "radical idea" first born during the Vietnam War. "The idea is this," he said. "That to stop an illegal and unjust war, the soldiers and service members can choose to stop fighting it."

That, prosecutors said, is exactly what they most fear. To give credence to Lt. Watada's argument, they said, would create a breakdown in military order and discipline. "It's just dangerous in our Army to allow that to happen," said Capt. Dan Kuecker, one of the prosecutors. Whether the war is legal, he said, "is not a decision for a lieutenant to make -- it's a decision for politicians and legislators." Watada's behavior, Capt. Kuecker told the hearing, "is dishonorable and it is disgraceful."

Lt. Col. Mark Keith, who presided over the proceeding, is expected to decide within the next few days whether to recommend a court-martial for Lt. Watada. If one takes place, and Watada is convicted, he could face up to seven years in prison.




By Jeff Paterson

** Following the military pre-trial hearing of Lt. Ehren Watada’s refusal to deploy in support of the illegal Iraq war and occupation, supporters gathered at a Tacoma community center for a briefing on the days events. Lt. Watada, his lawyer Eric Seitz, and defense witnesses Denis Halliday, Col. Ann Wright (ret.), and Prof. Francis Boyle gave an overview of the day's events that featured a military courtroom debate on the legality of the Iraq War. **

August 20, 2006

[See link above for nine photographs by Jeff Paterson]

TACOMA, WA -- Following the day-long Article 32 military pre-trial hearing of Lt. Ehren Watada’s refusal to deploy in support of the illegal Iraq war and occupation [on Thurs., Aug. 17], supporters gathered at a Tacoma community center for a briefing on the days events.

Following a standing ovation from supporters, Lt. Watada explained his willingness to go to jail for the truth if needed. Lt. Watada’s civilian attorney, Eric Seitz of Honolulu explained that the defense does not seek to put the war on trial -- it’s the military’s prosecution of Lt. Watada that requires them to do so. “We appreciated the opportunity to lay the groundwork to prove that the war in Iraq is illegal and that Lt. Watada, coming to this conclusion after much research, was duty bound to refuse to participate,” said Mr. Seitz. “This case is really about the duty of individual soldiers to look at the facts and fulfill their obligation to national and international law,” he said.

All three defense witnesses gave an overview of their earlier testimony to Army Lieutenant Colonel Keith, the military hearing officer in the cramped Fort Lewis courtroom. Despite frequent objections from the prosecution, LTC Keith allowed the defense to present evidence about the illegality of the war in Iraq. Approximately three hours of the four-hour hearing were devoted to testimony by former United Nations Undersecretary Denis Halliday, Army Colonel Ann Wright (ret.), who resigned in March 2003 to protest the invasion of Iraq, and University of Illinois Professor Francis Boyle, an international law expert.

The defense submitted documents into evidence including an amicus brief filled by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Charter of the United Nations, The War Crimes Act, a German high court ruling in favor of a soldier who refused to participate in the Iraq war, and letters of support from organizations and prominent individuals, including Representative Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii.

Most likely, a military court-martial to convict Lt. Watada of three counts of conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman, two counts (for the same statements) of contempt towards officials, specifically President G. W. Bush, and one count of missing movement will be convened in November. If found guilty of all charges, Lt. Watada faces over seven years in confinement. He faces over five years imprisonment for simply expressing his opinion that President Bush misled the American people into an illegal war.

The Friends and Family of Lt. Watada are moving forward with plans for a mass regional mobilization during the upcoming court martial, and many other actions and projects to help Lt. Watada put the war on trial.


UNITED BY A COMMON THREAD (original title: "Open Letter to the U.S. Military Tribunal to Drop Charges against 1st Lt. Ehren Watada")
By Habib Siddiqi

Financial Express
August 21, 2006 (orig. posted Aug. 16)§ion_id=5&newsid=34987&spcl=no
The American Muslim

I have never met Ist Lt. Ehren Watada in my life, or his father. Yet his actions, to refuse to go to war, make me feel that we are united somehow by a common thread that cannot be torn by either a bulldozer or by distance.

War often is a racket. It is for the benefit of the few who initiate it at the expense of many. As for President Bush's war in Iraq it is the worst example of how our nation was deceived by this man and his entourage who did not mind using all evil means at their disposal to get us into war. They epitomize evil. They are the worst of God's creature on earth. They lied to our nation and rest of the world. They deceived the Congress saying that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destructions (WMDs), while he did not. They said he would use WMDs against our troops and Israel. He did not. Our leaders in the Washington, and their 'Amen Corner' in the Capitol Hill wanted to believe everything that pro-Israeli neocons had fed them. They conspired to changing the geography of the Middle East, for the vested interest of Israel. So, Colin Powell went to the U.N. and lied there unashamedly and so did many world leaders and diplomats (not just here in the USA, but also in the U.K.).

Now look what this ugly war has delivered. It has killed some 250,000 innocent civilians in Iraq and maimed and orphaned at least a million. In the name of disarming Saddam, our troops literally disarmed hundreds of thousand of children, who will only know that it was America that killed their parents, siblings, and led to their handicap. What do such crimes against innocents produce other than revenge seekers who may one day come to haunt us in an imbalanced war, what we so conveniently, without any reflection and guilt, dump as 'terrorism'?

We have literally set the clock of Iraq back to the dark ages, (and not Middle Ages) since Baghdad under its Islamic Caliphate was the metropolis of the world for a number of centuries, 7th-16th CE, while our Western world was deep into savagery then. In this war, just as in the first Gulf War, our troops, under directives of Pentagon, deployed depleted uranium, a banned chemical that leads to cancer and other ailments. There are thousands of deformed children born every month in the various hospitals of Iraq as a result of such usage. What a monumental crime against the people of the oldest civilization on earth, perpetrated by the so-called vanguards of the youngest civilization? Our troops let the looting of Baghdad Museum happen, even some bringing those looted artifacts -- treasures of humanity -- here to sell to underworld treasure hunters. Our troops destroyed everything in Iraq that was necessary for its people to survive and feel good. Our troops produced beastly prison scandals of Abu Ghraib, horrific massacres of Haditha, and many such horrendous crimes that pale My Lai by comparison. Now Iraq is on the brink of a civil war, thanks to our and British troops, who are accused of even planting IEDs to start the sectarian war. If you ask any Iraqi today: are they better off today, the most oft-repeated answer is -- NO. After all, it is easy to live in a country where there is no democracy but at least security, for security triumphs over all needs in a civil society. No buts, no questions there.

So, when Ehren refused to participate in that war, what he did is noble and humane, just and proper. By refusing to participate in Bush's evil war, he demonstrated that humanity is more important than mere uniform or the codes that it provides. If ours was a losing country like Germany in post-World War II, Bush, Blair, Rumsfeld and many, including Powell and Condi Rice, today would be hanged for their crimes against humanity, for deceiving humanity, for preparing the groundwork for war, killing and destruction, let alone invading an independent member state of the U.N. And we shall all have been celebrating officers like Watada for their courage not to go to an immoral war. Unfortunately, that day has not come. Our war criminals are in the winning side, and since history is written by winners, they have saved their skin, and now, instead, want to put Ehren behind the bar for his refusal to participate in that war. This is really amazing! What are we coming to: when the innocents are punished, bombed and killed, and the evil criminals rule our world!

As a Muslim, I am by nature, anti-war and for peace and social justice (for the root word of Islam comes from the Arabic word *Salam* which means peace; and peace cannot be sustained without justice). Unfortunately, I see how the most powerful warlords of our time want to play God by victimizing my people and all those who hate war and are willing to stand for truth and justice. So, when I see someone like Ehren of another faith who takes the risk of not going to a racket war for it's inherently immoral and evil to participate in killings and destructions for the benefit of the few (Bushies, Bechtel, Cargill, Halliburton, etc.), I cannot but salute them for their courage.

It would be great disservice to millions of those who raised their voices against the war to punish Ehren. He symbolizes the conscience of majority of our humanity. A guilty verdict would be immoral and unnecessary. No justice would be served by sacrificing one more innocent human being at the altar of War Party. If and when our world has too many guys like Ehren that day would be a day that we can all celebrate and use our weapons to plough our land for greater good of all humanity, of all races, colors, and religions.

So, again, my fervent request to the hearing committee deciding the fate of Ehren is: don't sacrifice him, don't incriminate him for his noble intention not to participate in an immoral war that shamed our nation with scenes of Abu Ghraib, Haditha and not-to-be-found WMDs. When war is evil, it is better not to participate, and not the other way around. By his refusal to participate in war, Ehren has proved that he is a just and honorable human being that we can all be proud of. May he find peace and tranquillity in this life and hereafter.

--The writer is [a] peace and anti-war activist based in Philadelphia, USA.


By Mike Gordon

Honolulu Advertiser
August 22, 2006

The decision by a Hawai'i-born Army officer to disobey deployment orders to Iraq drew fire yesterday from some Japanese-American veterans on the Mainland, who said the action shamed them and other veterans like them.

In their first public statement, the members of nine veterans groups in California and a Korean War Medal of Honor recipient expressed outrage at Army 1st Lt. Ehren Watada's decision.

Robert M. Wada, a charter president of the Japanese American Korean War Veterans, said veterans are angry at what they view as an attempt by Watada to "make himself a martyr and a hero." He said Watada's actions disrespect a legacy of military service dating back to World War II.

"No Japanese-Americans did anything like that and that is why Japanese-Americans are so upset," Wada said by telephone yesterday from his office in Fullerton, Calif. "He is doing something that has never been done by Japanese-Americans."

But Bob Watada, the lieutenant's father, said that calling his son's actions shameful to Japanese-American veterans was "a stretch."

He said his son is grateful for the veterans who fought to defend the Constitution.

"My son is doing the same thing, fighting for the Constitution, fighting to preserve civil liberties," Watada said by telephone yesterday from San Francisco, where he is speaking to community groups this week about the case. "He is standing up for our Constitution and all the principles it stands for."

Ehren Watada, a 1996 Kalani High School graduate, was charged last month with conduct unbecoming an officer, missing troop movement, and contempt toward officials. He refused to deploy to Iraq on June 22 with his Stryker unit, the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division based at Fort Lewis, Wash.

Watada is awaiting the results of Thursday's Article 32 hearing. The hearing is similar to a civilian grand jury proceeding and could result in a court-martial proceeding.

Until yesterday, the Mainland veterans had preferred to remain quiet and let the lieutenant's actions dictate whatever punishment the military would give him, Wada said. But the Japanese-American veterans complained repeatedly last week, via e-mail and phone calls, when Watada scheduled a news conference at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center in Los Angeles, Wada said.

The center is home to several memorials honoring fallen veterans, including Watada's uncle, a Korean War casualty. The veterans planned to protest, but the news conference was canceled.

"No one refused to go just because they didn't believe in the war," Wada said emphatically. "We went to Korea, and we didn't know what the hell we were there for. In Vietnam, those guys didn't know what the heck they were there for. But nobody refused to go."

The organizations objecting yesterday to Watada's actions included the Japanese American Korean War Veterans, Americans of Japanese Ancestry WWII Memorial Alliance, five Veterans of Foreign Wars posts, an American Legion post and the Nisei Veterans Coordinating Council of Southern California.

Japanese-American veterans in Hawai'i have not issued a collective statement, but when asked yesterday, agreed with their Mainland colleagues.

Ron Oba, the 82-year-old president of the 442nd Veteran's Club of Honolulu, was blunt.

"It is not for us to question why, but to do and die," he said. "That addresses the entire Watada case."

Oba said the veterans in the club haven't spoken much about Watada's case.

"No matter which way you answer, it is controversial," Oba said. "Some people believe it is immoral. Some people say you are an officer and you are trained to obey. And he is not obeying them."

S. Don Shimazu, a former president of the 442nd Veterans Club of Honolulu, said that as an officer who swore allegiance to his country, Watada should have understood what he was getting into.

"I think it is a disgrace," said Shimazu, 82. "He should have been very well aware of what the future held."

--Reach Mike Gordon at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..




News Tribune (Tacoma, WA)
August 20, 2006

A thought experiment: What if 1st Lt. Ehren Watada had been at Haditha?

The scenario is far-fetched. Watada -- now facing possible court martial for refusing to deploy to Iraq in June -- is an Army officer. The troops suspected of massacring 24 civilians in Haditha on Nov. 19 were Marines. They were infantry; he is in artillery.

Though his notions of military honor are confused, the 28-year-old Watada clearly has a functioning conscience. If the Marine investigators are right about what happened in Haditha, a number of people there suffered a massive failure of conscience that day.

In a preliminary hearing at Fort Lewis last week, Watada’s defenders argued that the entire war in Iraq is a crime, so he was simply refusing to follow unlawful orders when he refused to accompany his unit there.

The defense is absurd. Every war this country has fought -- including the Civil War and World War II -- has been criticized by some Americans as illegal, immoral or foolish. That is their right, and there’s certainly a mounting case that the Iraq war has been a folly.

But it’s not given to soldiers -- especially volunteers like Watada -- to pick and choose their combat assignments. The United States would not have a credible national defense if its troops could individually opt out of wars that didn’t meet their personal notions of legality. Opting out is a question for the nation as a whole to decide.

Watada is critical of America’s blunders and abuses in Iraq; one of his defense witnesses Thursday, a University of Illinois law professor, cited “pervasive” American crimes against civilians, including the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.

The sporadic acts of U.S. misconduct reported in Iraq hardly add up to “pervasive.” Still, they have occurred, and they are exactly why soldiers with consciences -- including the likes of Watada -- are needed on the battlefield. Officers in particular play a critical role as custodians of civilized values when bombs are exploding, order has broken down and enemies are hiding among civilians.

Details now emerging from the Haditha investigation suggests that evidence of the reported massacre was concealed or altered. A company logbook of the Marine unit involved, for example, was reportedly tampered with.

That points to at least a strong possibility of complicity on the part of officers. There was already evidence that Marine officers were reluctant to investigate the episode. These are the very people responsible for clarifying moral expectations, enforcing military law and otherwise preventing 19-year-olds with machine guns from turning into barbarians.

If Watada hadn’t lost sight of what he joined the Army to do, he’d be needed in places like Haditha. The military has plenty of officers with a strong sense of moral conduct. It even has troops who don’t like this war. Thank goodness they aren’t all sitting in the guardhouse, refusing to go.


By Kathy L. Gilbert

United Methodist News Service
August 14, 2006

NOTE: Photographs are available at

Some United Methodists are rallying in support of Army Lt. Ehren Watada, 28, who has refused deployment to Iraq because he feels the war is "morally wrong" and "a breach of American law."

He faces charges of missing troop movement, conduct unbecoming an officer, and contempt towards officials. A native of Hawaii, Watada is currently at Fort Lewis in Tacoma, Wash.

A vigil and rally will be held at the gates of Fort Lewis on Aug. 16, the date of the pre-trial hearing for Watada. Members of Peace House, a United Methodist church, and Epworth United Methodist Church will participate, according to the Rev. Barbara Bellus, Epworth's pastor. Both congregations are in Portland, Ore.

Supporters of Watada are asking for letters of support and prayers, Bellus said. Three United Methodist bishops have written letters in support of Watada.

"This letter is being written in support of you from one born and raised in Hawaii, where there is a diversity of cultures and people, and a deep appreciation for all of creation and all persons," said Bishop Robert T. Hoshibata of the denomination's Portland (Ore.) Area.

"Along with much of the rest of the nation, I have been observing with great interest and concern the media accounts of your decision to challenge the legality of the current war being raged in Iraq," he continued.

"I perceive in your actions a courageous questioning of the role of the military in our world and a willingness to act on the basis of what you believe to be ethically right. As a bishop of the United Methodist Church, I affirm our church's stance on peace and war and applaud your willingness to balance your call to duty with your innermost thoughts and core beliefs."

In becoming the first military officer to refuse an order for deployment to the Iraq war, Watada has stated, "It is my conclusion as an officer of the Armed Forces that the war in Iraq is not only morally wrong but a horrible breach of American law. As the order to take part in an illegal act is ultimately unlawful as well, I must, as an officer of honor and integrity, refuse that order."

Bishop Roy Sano, executive secretary of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, addressed his letter to Watada's mother, Carolyn Ho.

"I was inspired by the brave step your son took in refusing to be deployed to Iraq," he wrote. "In the United Methodist Church, we do not take civil disobedience lightly, but when necessary for conscience sake, we approve it in our Article of Faith and Social Principles. In addition, I want you, and above all your son, to know that 109 United Methodist bishops signed a statement of conscience concerning the war in Iraq."

The statement, signed in November 2005, said in part: "As elected and consecrated bishops of the church, we repent of our complicity in what we believe to be the unjust and immoral invasion and occupation of Iraq. In the face of the United States administration's rush toward military action based on misleading information, too many of us were silent."

United Methodist Bishop Mary Ann Swenson, who leads the church's Los Angeles Area, also wrote a letter of support for the lieutenant. "I commend you as one who has taken a courageous and difficult stand to publicly make known a position you have come to believe in opposition to a particular war."

Swenson cited Paragraphs 164, "About military service," and 165, "About war and peace," from the denomination's lawbook, the 2004 Book of Discipline, which she said were the "underpinning of our support for you."

Paragraph 164 states in part: "We support and extend the church's ministry to those persons who conscientiously choose to serve in the armed forces or to accept alternative service."

"We believe war is incompatible with the teaching and example of Christ," states Paragraph 165.

--Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.  News media contact:  Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..