The court-martial of Lt. Ehren Watada will begin on Feb. 5, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin reported Monday; a pre-trial hearing is scheduled for Jan. 4. -- The news was announced by Watada's attorney, Eric Seitz, at a discussion of the issues in his case held Sunday on the campus of the University of Hawaii-Manoa. -- Reporter Robert Shikina noted that "John Masunaga, 83, a veteran of the highly decorated 442nd Regimental Combat Team in World War II, attended the gathering to support Watada." -- The Honolulu Advertiser also devoted a piece to Sunday's pro-Watada forum. -- Curiously, no papers in Washington State have yet reported the news. -- A Tuesday morning conference call featuring Watada, his attorney, and his father produced a rather incoherent article by Alex Massie in the London Telegraph on Wednesday on the case, which has yet to generate much international coverage. -- Also reporting on the conference call was the Party for Socialism and Liberation, which is involved through A.N.S.W.E.R. in the antiwar movement. -- An article on the party's web site said the charges against Watada "result from his public opposition to the imperialist war in Iraq" and noted that "Organizers in support of Ehren Watada are calling for Dec. 8-10 days of action." ...
WATADA COURT-MARTIAL SET FOR FEB. 5
By Robert Shikina
** A forum supporting the Army lieutenant is held at UH-Manoa **
November 20, 2006
[PHOTO CAPTION: Bob Watada, Ehren Watada's father, spoke yesterday at a panel discussion, "Ehren Watada: Conscience and Constitutionality," at the UH-Manoa Architecture Auditorium. At left is Eric Seitz, Ehren Watada's lawyer.]
Supporters of 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, the first commissioned officer to face a general court-martial for refusing to fight in Iraq, were out in force yesterday during a public forum at the University of Hawaii.
Watada's attorney, Eric Seitz, told the audience of more than 100 people that Watada's pretrial hearing is set for Jan. 4, with the court-martial beginning Feb. 5.
Seitz was on a three-person panel discussing the case along with UH law professor Jon Van Dyke and Watada's father, Bob, at the School of Architecture Auditorium.
The event was sponsored by the Honolulu Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League, which has expressed its support for Watada. However, the national chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League has declined to take a position on the case, only supporting a fair trail.
Watada is charged with missing movement for not deploying to Iraq with his unit from Fort Lewis, Wash., on June 22. He is also charged with conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman for comments he made. He faces up to six years in prison. An additional charge of contemptuous remarks against the president was dropped.
Military officials and those who oppose Watada were not at yesterday's event.
Carolyn Ho, Watada's mother, said in a letter read to the audience, "For some elected officials to claim that this is beyond their purview and Lt. Watada is courageous but should take the consequences for his decision is an outright evasion of responsibility and lack of moral courage."
Van Dyke argued that the war in Iraq is illegal and that Watada was correct in opposing the war in accordance with the Nuremberg trials and the United Nations Charter.
"We want Lt. Watada to stand up to this sense of a culture of impunity and insist that the law that we would apply to others would also be applied to us," he said.
Watada's father recently returned from a three-month national trip to raise support for his son, stopping in 38 states.
Seitz told the audience, "There is really no cogent legal or factual argument to support what the Army is doing here.
"By charging Ehren, the Army is reaching way out there and essentially inviting us to take this case into the federal courts, to take it all the way up to the Supreme Court," Seitz said.
John Masunaga, 83, a veteran of the highly decorated 442nd Regimental Combat Team in World War II, attended the gathering to support Watada.
"Ehren's standing up for something we all should have stood up for," he said, noting the internment of Japanese Americans. "The time World War II started, we were trying to prove ourselves good loyal citizens."
"Sometimes you have to speak up and try to right some of the wrongs," he said.
Sixteen other groups also sponsored the Watada event, including local branches of Veterans for Peace and Iraq Veterans Against the War.
Watada joined the Army in June 2003 after graduating from Hawaii Pacific University.
WATADA 'STANDING UP FOR SOLDIERS'
By Derrick DePledge
November 20, 2006
Bob Watada, father of Army 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, said yesterday that his son is speaking out on behalf of other soldiers who oppose an illegal war.
"Ehren is standing up for the soldiers," Watada told an afternoon forum on his son's case by the Japanese American Citizens League's Honolulu chapter. "He's for the soldiers."
Lt. Watada, facing a general court-martial for refusing to deploy to Iraq, has become a voice of conscience for many in the antiwar movement. But opinion among soldiers, veterans and Japanese-Americans is more divided.
The Japanese American Citizens League's Honolulu chapter -- after a close vote -- has chosen to fully support Watada, a 1996 Kalani High School graduate. But the league's national organization has decided not to take a position on his refusal to deploy while expressing concern about his free speech rights.
The forum yesterday, at the University of Hawai'i-Manoa, was held to build public awareness and support for Watada's legal fight. His father, his attorney, Eric Seitz, and UH-Manoa constitutional law professor Jon Van Dyke defended Watada's actions as courageous and justified. No one from the Army was invited to present an opposing view.
Last summer, Watada refused to deploy to Iraq with his Stryker brigade, based at Fort Lewis, Wash., and made comments critical of the war that were reported in the news media. He is charged with missing troop movement, conduct unbecoming an officer, and contempt toward officials. Pre-trial motions are set for January and a trial is scheduled for February. He could be sentenced to six years in military prison if convicted.
An Army investigator, in an August report recommending court-martial, found that Watada's "beliefs regarding the war in Iraq do not excuse his refusal to deploy or his public statements."
The elder Watada has been speaking to audiences across the country on behalf of his son and yesterday urged supporters in Hawai'i to write letters to newspapers and hold demonstrations to publicize the case. He said his son has come to the same conclusion as many Americans about the unpopular war and is being punished for exercising his constitutionally protected right to free speech.
"Basically, from my view, they were just trying to shut him up," said Watada, who believes President Bush and Vice President Cheney should be impeached over the war.
Van Dyke and Seitz say the war is illegal under United Nations Charter and that Watada was right not to deploy on moral grounds. The U.S., in its justification for war, alleged that Iraq had failed to comply with U.N. disarmament resolutions. The U.S. and its allies discussed a new resolution on the war with the other nations on the U.N. Security Council, but when diplomacy stalled, determined that a new resolution was not required before the 2003 invasion.
"This war cannot be justified -- logically or factually or legally," Seitz said.
But Seitz also said Watada does not want to be a martyr by going to military prison and recognizes there is an element of civil disobedience to his actions that warrants some punishment. Seitz said he proposed to the Army that Watada serve several months of confinement in quarters and be discharged. But Seitz said the Army wanted Watada to serve at least a year in military prison.
"He knows now, and he has known from the beginning, that there are risks in this case," Seitz said.
Many people who attended the forum, including several veterans and students, appeared supportive of Watada, judging from the written questions to the panel and the applause after Watada's father said Bush and Cheney should be impeached.
"I thought it was refreshing and concise," said Allicyn Tasaka, on the advisory board of the league's Honolulu chapter. "I support Lt. Watada."
Jennifer Kanahele of 'Aiea, an Army civil affairs specialist, said her feelings were mixed.
"I guess I kind of agree with him that the reasons why we went to war may not have been valid," she said. "But he refused a movement, and he is punishable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice."
LT. WATADA, FIRST ARMY OFFICER TO REFUSE TO SERVE IN IRAQ, SPEAKS OUT ON UPCOMING COURT MARTIAL
** Pre-Hearing Tele-news Call Tuesday, 9 a.m. EST -- Fears Gag Order May be Imposed Soon -- Journalists May Be Subpoenaed **
November 20, 2006
To: Assignment Desk, Daybook Editor
Contact: Trevor Fitzgibbon, 202-246-5303, or Alex Howe, 202-822-5200, or Lai Ling Jew, 212-584-5000, all for Lt. Ehren Watada
Lt. Ehren Watada is the Army's first commissioned officer to refuse to serve in Iraq. Lt. Watada refused on grounds that he believes the war to be illegal and immoral. He is being charged with conduct "unbecoming an officer" and will hold a telephone news conference call on Tuesday at 9 a.m. EST to discuss the charges against him and his upcoming court martial.
His lawyer, Eric Seitz, and his father, Bob Watada, will also be present.
Recent correspondence with the presiding judge gives strong indication that a gag order for Lt. Watada, his attorney, and anyone affiliated with the case, may be imposed. Journalists who have already interviewed Lt Watada may be subpoenaed.
The pre-trial date is scheduled for January 4 and 5. The trial date is February 5. The substance of Lt Watada's case is likely to be more thoroughly aired at the pre-trial hearing then at the trial itself.
WHO: Lt. Ehren Watada, Attorney Eric Seitz, Bob Watada (Ehren's father)
WHEN: 9 a.m. EST
Call in number for journalists: 1-877-707-9628. Conference ID: "Iraq"
IT WAS MY DUTY TO REFUSE TO GO TO IRAQ, SAYS FIRST AMERICAN ARMY OFFICER FACING COURT MARTIAL
By Alex Massie
November 22, 2006
The first American army officer to face court-martial for refusing to serve in Iraq said yesterday that it was his duty to recognize and refuse "illegal" orders.
Lt. Ehren Watada, 28, faces four charges of conduct unbecoming an officer for his refusal to join his unit in Iraq in the summer. Speaking ahead of a pre-trial hearing, the conscientious objector pledged that he would "fight with everything I have for my freedom and that of all Americans. I will face imprisonment to stand up for my beliefs."
If he had gone to Iraq, his service would have been due to end next month. Instead, if convicted, he could face six years in prison.
He claimed that his refusal to follow orders had been justified by "a surge in popular resistance to the war as evidenced by the recent elections" and complained that "the army seems intent on making an example of me".
"No one else is speaking up for the troops dying every day," he said.
Lt. Watada's court-martial comes at a time when the American public is becoming increasingly disillusioned with the war in Iraq. Recent opinion polls find that a majority of Americans now consider the war a mistake.
His campaign has been supported by leading anti-war activists such as Cindy Sheehan and Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked Pentagon papers to the New York Times during the Vietnam War.
Lt. Watada argues that the replacement of Donald Rumsfeld as defense secretary demonstrates that the tide of public and political opinion is turning in his direction. A Japanese-American who was raised in Honolulu, he joined the army in March 2003 after graduating from Hawaii Pacific University. He said the September 11 terrorist attacks had inspired him to "serve my country in a time of need in what many of us felt was a war on terrorism".
He maintains that sacrifice has been betrayed by the Bush administration.
After passing through officer training, Lt. Watada was deployed to South Korea. He subsequently began to doubt the morality of the Iraq war last summer as his unit returned to Fort Lewis, Washington. He then refused to follow orders when his Stryker armoured vehicle unit, part of the 2nd Infantry Division, was deployed to Iraq earlier this year.
His offer to serve in Afghanistan or resign his commission was rejected by the army, who say it is unacceptable for officers to pick and choose their assignments.
Justifying his objection to the Iraq war as a matter of conscience, Lt. Watada said: "No crime is greater than to lie over something as grave as war. I felt that was a wrong I could not condone."
Pre-trial hearings have been set for early January and the court-martial is scheduled to begin in February.
Lt. Watada's defense team intends to subpoena witnesses -- including "decision-makers" -- whose testimony will, they claim, demonstrate the war's illegality.
Lt. Watada's lawyers argue that the war was illegitimate because it was not explicitly endorsed by the United Nations Security Council and because Congressional authorization was based upon the faulty premise that Saddam Hussein's regime had weapons of mass destruction and was connected to al-Qa'eda. His defense team also plans to cite the Nuremberg tribunals' ruling that following orders from a superior officer does not exculpate soldiers from the consequences of their actions. He said the best way for the war to end would be if soldiers refused to serve.
Yesterday Lt. Watada said every officer had a duty to consider whether they could serve in a campaign that made troops a party to war crimes. It was "the responsibility and obligation of members of the military" not to follow "unlawful and immoral orders."
Doing so would "not only be a betrayal of themselves but a betrayal of their country."
However, Lt. Watada's lawyer, Eric Seitz, said that "under no circumstances are we criticizing the moral decisions [other servicemen] have made."
Lt. Watada says his former colleagues, now serving in Iraq, respect his decision to follow his conscience rather than his orders.
LT. EHREN WATADA TO FACE COURT-MARTIAL FOR RESISTING IRAQ WAR
By Jane Cutter
Party for Socialism and Liberation
November 21, 2006
SEATTLE -- On Nov. 11, the U.S. Army announced that Lt. Ehren Watada will be court-martialed for missing troop movement as well as for multiple counts of "Conduct Unbecoming an Officer and a Gentleman." These charges result from his public opposition to the imperialist war in Iraq.
Political charges of "contempt towards the president" were dropped. However, Watada still faces a possible four years in prison for political speech critical of Iraq war. The trial date for the court-martial has not yet been set, but is expected to be in early 2007.
Ehren Watada responded to the charges: "I hope that actions such as mine will continue to help expose the truth behind the fundamental illegality and immorality of the war."
Watada told reporters at a press conference, "Almost every day, someone from the military or the outside sends me some kind of correspondence or approaches me in person to render support or their respect."
Organizers in support of Ehren Watada are calling for Dec. 8-10 days of action with the following demands: Support for all war objectors, protect the right to conscientious objection, protect the liberties and human rights of GIs, and sanctuary for war objectors.
In Seattle, these actions will lead in to larger mobilizations and events to coincide with Lt. Watada's trial early next year. For more information, visit http://www.thankyoult.org/.