On Friday, Feb. 2, the 12-member panel in the two-day Citizens' Hearing on the Legality of U.S. Actions in Iraq: The Case of Lt. Ehren Watada released its "Preliminary Report." -- The document includes four pages of findings reached by the panel, followed by a call to conscience; the text that appears on these pages is reproduced below. -- A link to the full .pdf file of the 64-page, 32MB report also appears below. -- The preliminary report notes that the Citizens' Hearing is a response to "the failure of all branches of the United States government to investigate and assess the serious issues raised by the assertions of illegality of the Iraq War by Lt. Watada and many other U.S. citizens." -- "We believe that in a democracy the ultimate responsibility to make such a determination falls to citizens," the statement from the twelve members of the panel said. -- "This is particularly true when their government fails to act in accord with its Constitution and the supreme Laws of the Land." -- The statement reviews the evidence heard, and concludes: "Based on the testimony we heard, we find that the Iraq War is an illegal war. We, therefore, support the right of military personnel, who believe the war to be illegal, to follow their conscience in refusing orders to deploy to Iraq. We believe that a person of conscience, in accord with the Nuremberg Principles, should not be punished, but rather supported, for refusal to follow orders to deploy to an illegal war." ...
PRELIMINARY REPORT FROM THE CITIZENS' HEARING ON THE LEGALITY OF U.S. ACTIONS IN IRAQ
February 2, 2007
http://www.wartribunal.org/REPORT.pdf (32 MB; 64 pages)
REPORT FROM THE CITIZENS’ HEARING ON THE LEGALITY OF U.S.ACTIONS IN IRAQ
A Citizens' Hearing on the Legality of U.S. Actions in Iraq was held in Tacoma, Washington, on January 20-21, 2007. The Citizens' Hearing was prompted by the refusal of U.S. Army Lt. Ehren Watada to obey what he believes to be an unlawful order to deploy to Iraq. Lt. Watada based his refusal on the grounds that he is fulfilling his oath as a military officer to support and defend the Constitution of the United States by refusing orders to participate in an illegal war of aggression. Testimony on Lt. Watada’s assertions about the illegality of the war is not being allowed into evidence by the military judge in Lt. Watada's court martial.
The Citizens' Hearing was convened because of the failure of all branches of the United States government to investigate and assess the serious issues raised by the assertions of illegality of the Iraq War by Lt. Watada and many other U.S. citizens. We believe that in a democracy the ultimate responsibility to make such a determination falls to citizens. This is particularly true when their government fails to act in accord with its Constitution and the supreme Laws of the Land.
We are the 12 members of the Panel of the Citizens’ Hearing. We are a diverse group of U.S. citizens with grave concerns about the legality of the U.S. role in Iraq. Half our group are military veterans of World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and more recent conflicts. Several of us belong to military families, including a woman whose cousin was killed in Iraq, the father of a soldier who served in Iraq, and a high school student with two brothers who served in Iraq. Panel members come from all regions of the United States. We heard two types of testimony: eyewitness accounts of veterans of the Iraq War and military families, and expert testimony on issues of international law, military law, constitutional law, and foreign policy. We heard from several Iraq War veterans, a family member of a National Guard soldier who served in Iraq, experts on international law, former diplomats, a former Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations, an Iraqi human rights worker, and others.
The focus of the testimony was on the legality of the Iraq War. The Panel heard testimony regarding crimes against peace, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and the duty of military personnel to refuse orders that they believe to be unlawful. Witnesses at the Citizens' Hearing included individuals who will not be allowed to testify at Lt. Watada's court martial.
We, the Citizens' Hearing Panel, place primary responsibility for initiating crimes against peace, war crimes, and crimes against humanity on the civilian leadership of our nation. We cannot stand idly by when civilian leadership of our military neglects its oversight responsibility to soldiers during wartime. We, the citizens, must hold these officials accountable, rather then let individual military members take the fall for the illegal actions of their leaders. Military personnel are defending their lives -- this is the situation in which the government has put our men and women in uniform. It is our responsibility as citizens to support them by speaking out and by holding the responsible civilian leaders accountable.
TESTIMONY AND FINDINGS
The Panel heard testimony related to the following:
CRIMES AGAINST PEACE
1. According to the Nuremberg Principles “planning, preparation, initiation, or waging a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties” is a crime against peace. Under international law, codified in the United Nations Charter, the use of force is only legal if authorized by the United Nations Security Council or used in self-defense and then only for a limited time until the United Nations can act to restore peace and security. Under Article 6, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, all duly ratified international treaties (including the United Nations Charter) are “the supreme Law of the Land.”
2. Though misrepresented to the American people as a defensive response to the September 11th attacks, there is no evidence linking Iraq to the terrorist attacks. The U.S. attack and invasion of Iraq was neither authorized by the United Nations nor undertaken in self-defense. And to date the U.S. government has failed to present evidence to validate the invasion and occupation of Iraq.
3. The war in Iraq is a war of aggression, in violation of the United Nations Charter. The initiation of this war constitutes a “crime against peace,” under the terms of the Nuremberg Principles.
4. The enduring lesson of the Nuremberg trials is that aggressive war is the supreme international crime since it incorporates all of the other crimes listed below.
1. War Crimes are defined by the Nuremberg Charter, the Nuremberg Tribunal, the Nuremberg Principles, and U.S. Army Field Manual 27-10 to include:
a) Murder or ill-treatment or deportation . . . of civilian population;
b) Murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war;
c) Killing of hostages;
d) Plunder of public or private property;
e) Wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages;
f) Devastation not justified by military necessity.
2. The Panel heard evidence that a pattern of war crimes has emerged from the U.S. conduct of the invasion and occupation of Iraq. An atmosphere conducive to war crimes has been fostered through callous disregard for the lives of Iraqi civilians that originates at the top of the civilian leadership of our military. We heard the following testimony regarding the aggressive rules of engagement that have been passed down through the chain of command from the highest levels:
a) orders include “free fire zones” in which soldiers are ordered to shoot at all living targets;
b) soldiers have been ordered to run over anyone on the road, including children, if necessary rather than impede progress of a convoy;
c) soldiers were ordered to conduct “sweeps” of civilian homes to round up men of military age for detention, and nighttime transport to unknown destinations;
d) detainees in U.S.-run prisons such as Abu Ghraib are subject to systematic degradation and torture.
3. Soldiers reported that during deployment the rules of engagement changed without adequate training in how to implement new rules of engagement in a legal and humane way. For example, when ordered to shoot a warning shot if a car failed to stop while approaching a checkpoint, no instruction was given whether the warning shot should be into the air, into the grill of the car, or into the windshield of the car.
4. Soldiers reported receiving minimal or no training to aid them in recognizing orders that might be illegal, or conduct of war that might be illegal. They also reported that the military conditioning supported only unquestioning obedience to orders.
5. The Panel heard testimony that institutional racism is pervasive in military training and conditioning. Soldiers reported systematic dehumanization of civilians in military training and conditioning that creates a climate in which the commission of war crimes occurs. Derogatory terms for Iraqis (and Arabs in general), such as “Hajis,” were used routinely by persons of all rank. The enemy was talked about as if they were sub-human, and deserving of ill treatment and death.
6. Soldiers reported that soldiers on the ground are often placed in situations that call upon them to engage in acts that could result in war crimes. Current rules of engagement fail to adequately distinguish between civilians and combatants -- a hallmark of counterinsurgency wars such as Iraq.
CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY
1. Crimes against Humanity are defined by the Nuremberg Principles as “murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, and other inhuman acts done against any civilian population, or persecutions on political, racial, or religious grounds, when such acts are done or persecutions are carried on in execution of or in connection with any crime against peace or any war crime.”
2. The U.S. has not fulfilled its responsibilities as an occupying power under the 1907 Hague Convention and 1950 Geneva Conventions.
3. In the invasion, the civilian leadership of the U.S. military ordered the intentional bombing of Iraqi civilian infrastructure such as water systems, roads, bridges, sewage systems, and electrical systems, and was negligent in planning for security and reconstruction following such bombing.
4. The U.S. has not met its responsibility as an occupying force to secure and rebuild the civilian infrastructure that was destroyed in the war.
5. The U.S. has violated the terms of the Geneva Conventions, which do not allow an occupying force to fundamentally change the laws or economy of the occupied nation. Beginning with the Coalition Provisional Authority in 2003, the U.S. gutted the existing government by throwing out civil servants and military personnel, and by issuing orders for the structural adjustment and privatization of the Iraqi economy and the non-competitive award of contracts to U.S. firms.
6. The use of indiscriminate weapons (such as cluster bombs and white phosphorus) is common, and the use of uranium-hardened munitions raises health concerns for U.S. veterans and Iraqi civilians alike.
7. The failure of the U.S. military to properly treat its own personnel for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and the return of mentally ill personnel to combat, has led to psychological trauma and suicide. Soldiers testified that untreated PTSD may be a contributing factor to abuses against civilians and that it also constitutes abuse against U.S. soldiers and their families.
DISOBEYING ILLEGAL ORDERS
1. Officers in the U. S. Army take an oath of allegiance to the Constitution -- not an oath to follow orders blindly regardless of their legality. According to U.S. Army Field Manual 27-10 (Section 509b), members of the armed forces are bound to obey only legal orders.
2. The fact that military personnel must follow only lawful orders places upon them the responsibility to exercise judgment in evaluating the legality of orders and the conduct of war. Whereas enlisted personnel take an oath to support and defend the Constitution and to follow the orders of superior officers, officers take an oath only to support and defend the Constitution.
3. The Panel heard testimony that soldiers receive minimal or no training to aid them in recognizing potentially illegal orders. Instead they are consistently taught to follow orders without question.
4. The oath to support and defend the Constitution implies that if in conscience a person believes an order to be illegal, he or she has an obligation to refuse the order.
5. Based on the testimony we heard, we find that the Iraq War is an illegal war. We, therefore, support the right of military personnel, who believe the war to be illegal, to follow their conscience in refusing orders to deploy to Iraq. We believe that a person of conscience, in accord with the Nuremberg Principles, should not be punished, but rather supported, for refusal to follow orders to deploy to an illegal war.
BASED UPON THE FINDINGS, WE ISSUE THE FOLLOWING CALL TO CONSCIENCE
1. We call upon the presiding officer in Lt. Watada’s court-martial to consider all evidence and witnesses related to the grounds of his refusal to deploy, specifically that the Iraq War itself is illegal. Further, we call upon every officer of every court-martial to allow military personnel who are facing court-martial for refusing orders based on their conscientious conviction of the illegality of orders or of the war to present testimony in support of their beliefs.
2. We call upon all Americans -- particularly younger Americans who are most potentially involved in wars -- to fulfill their responsibility as citizens, to examine all the evidence, to seek the truth, to listen to their conscience, and to act accordingly. Further, we call upon all citizens to support those military personnel who act upon their conscience by either refusing to deploy to Iraq or refusing to return to Iraq.
3. We call upon citizens of the United States to
a) hold hearings throughout the country to raise public awareness of the illegality of the Iraq War among all U.S. citizens and residents, including members of the armed forces.
b) uphold, whether military or civilian, the Constitution of the United States by peacefully resisting policies and actions of our government that do not comply with international law and that threaten the peace.
4. We call upon the Congress of the United States to
a) execute their constitutional responsibilities by holding hearings on the legality of the war in Iraq, including war crimes and crimes against humanity. In particular, we urge Congress, indeed all Americans, to listen to the compelling testimony of enlisted men and women about the atrocity-producing situations of the war and the systematic conditioning that leads to dehumanization of Iraqis.
b) abide by the Nuremberg Charter, the Nuremberg Tribunals, and the Nuremberg Principles by holding to account all national leaders who deceived the American people, led the U.S. into an illegal war of aggression, and are responsible for the crimes against humanity and the pattern of war crimes committed in the conduct of the invasion and occupation of Iraq.
c) authorize payment of reparations to the people of Iraq to rebuild their infrastructure and repair the damage caused by the invasion and occupation of Iraq.
d) fully fund the costs of restoring soldiers and their families to health, as well as to fully compensate the families of those innocent Iraqi civilians who have been wrongly killed.
5. We call upon the President and the Congress to
a) take action to begin withdrawing troops, bases, and contractors from Iraq, and to take the path of international diplomacy and peacekeeping to stabilize Iraq.
b) use our military personnel only in defensive conflicts and not in aggressive conflicts that constitute crimes against peace.
6. We call upon the civilian leadership of the U.S. military to
a) institute mandatory training of all members to recognize their responsibility not to follow illegal orders that violate international law, and to cease training that may condition soldiers to view civilians as the enemy.
b) examine, redefine, and train soldiers in rules of engagement in order to provide maximum protection to civilian populations and to reverse the current pattern of high civilian casualties.
c) train all combat soldiers to wage war only by means that are legal according to international law.
d) ban the use of dehumanizing racial slurs to describe any persons, whether friend or foe, and to initiate a strict practice of disciplining violations of this ban throughout the chain of command.
e) uphold our existing obligations under international law to refrain from using weapons that are indiscriminate or cause unnecessary suffering.
7. We call on the U.S. media to investigate the roots of war crimes in Iraq and follow the investigation up the chain of command.
8. We call upon every officer in the Armed Forces of the United States of America to follow the example of Lt. Ehren Watada, fulfilling their oath of allegiance to the Constitution, by evaluating the legality of the war and acting on their conscience.
CITIZENS’ HEARING PANEL
DAVID KRIEGER (Panel Chair)
ELIZABETH FALZONE (Gold Star Families)
ZEEK GREEN (Labor Union Members)
MARICELA GUZMAN (New Veterans)
BURK KETCHAM (Veterans of Former Wars)
EMILY LUTZ (Health Care Community)
STAUGHTON LYND (Academia)
RUSSELLW. MCNUTT (Veterans of Former Wars)
RICH MONIAK (Military Families)
LYLE QUASIM (Government Leaders)
REV. ELAINE STANOVSKY (Religious Organizations)
ESTELLA VILLARREAL (High School Students)