"We nonviolently oppose the reliance on unilateral military actions rather than cooperative diplomacy."


October 28, 2004

We urge the U.S. Army to release immediately and unconditionally William Webster, whom we believe is currently being held prisoner at Fort Lewis, Washington, and to restore his benefits.

On Tuesday, October 26, 2004, the Times of London called attention to the plight of William Webster, whom Amnesty International has identified as an important prisoner of conscience and who is reported by the Times to be a prisoner in Tacoma, presumably at Fort Lewis, following his court-martial last June (Daniel McGrory, Free My Husband, Pleads Wife of "Traitor," Times [London, UK], October 26, 2004).

William Webster has been sentenced to 14 months imprisonment, a bad conduct discharge, suspension of his salary, and loss of pension and other benefits.

William Webster's "crime" is to have refused, on grounds of conscience, to fight in the war in Iraq. The Times of London reports:

"He applied in September last year to be recognized as a conscientious objector. He withdrew the application after senior officers told him that he would not succeed, and that they would ensure that he would not have to choose between following his President's orders or his faith. [William Webster converted to Islam in 1994.] Instead he applied to be reassigned to non-combatant services. Mrs. Webster said: 'One of his senior commanders told him, "Don't resign as you are due to retire early 2005 and you will lose your 20-year pension." Literally a couple of days before the unit set off his commanding officer said, "Pack your bags, you are coming with us to Iraq." ' Even then he again offered to leave the army. He was refused, though he continued to carry out his duties in Germany when the unit left without him."

Neil Durkin of Amnesty International says: "Mr. Webster has been imprisoned merely for exercising his right to oppose a war on conscientious grounds. We consider him a prisoner of conscience who should be released immediately and unconditionally, with full restoration of his salary, pension and other entitlements."

William Webster's treatment seems particularly harsh and unjust. Having served honorably in the United States Army for almost twenty years, he appears to have taken great pains to apprise the military of his situation in an attempt to work out a solution, following the advice of senior officers. As a reward for his efforts, he was ordered on short notice to do what he had informed his superiors he could not in good conscience do, and then arrested for refusing.

Amnesty International has taken up the case and obtained thousands of signatures on a petition in the hopes that this will embarrass the Bush Administration into reconsidering what it considers a landmark case.

We, the members of United for Peace of Pierce County, in whose neighborhood William Webster is being held, join our voices to those of Amnesty International, and address the following request to Colonel William H. Haight III, Lieutenant Colonel Gerald P. O’Connor, Major David K. Kennedy, and The Honorable Les Brownlee, Acting Secretary of the Army:

Release William Webster immediately and unconditionally, with restoration of his benefits.

We further urge the citizens of Tacoma to address the same request to the officials of the United States Army named above, and to petition the organs of the media to call attention to the injustice of which William Webster seems to be a victim.


"We nonviolently oppose the reliance on unilateral military actions rather than cooperative diplomacy."