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Ehren Watada (born 1978) is a First Lieutenant in the United States Army, a member of the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division Stryker Brigade Combat Team, who in June 2006 publicly refused to deploy to Iraq for the Iraq War, saying that he believed the war to be illegal and that it would make him party to war crimes. The first commissioned officer in the U.S. armed forces to publicly refuse deployment to Iraq Watada will face a court-martial set to begin February 5, 2007



Ehren K. Watada was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. He attended Punahou School, then transferred in his sophomore year to Kalani High School, where he played cornerback on the varsity football team. His father, Bob Watada, served for ten years as executive director of Hawaii's Campaign Spending Commission.

An Eagle Scout and near straight-A student, Watada graduated from Hawaii Pacific University in 2003 [3] and joined the US Army after the war in Iraq began. Claiming that after 9/11 he was motivated "out of a desire to protect our country," he paid $800 for a medical test to prove that he was qualified for service. Watada first served a tour in Korea, where he was rated by his superiors as "among the best", "exemplary", and recommended for early promotion ahead of his peers. Watada then returned to the United States in June 2005 and reported to Ft. Lewis army base to begin preparation for deployment to Iraq.[4]

Upon discovering that he would be going to Iraq, Watada began conducting research on the war. After reading about International Law, the history of Iraq, articles by scholars as well as governmental and non-governmental agencies,[5] and speaking with veterans returning from Iraq,[4] he ceased to believe in the legality and morality of the war. In January 2006 he submitted a resignation request, declaring that he would not serve in Iraq. Based on this research, Watada claimed, the war violates the Constitution and War Powers Act which "limits the president in his role as Commander in Chief from using the armed forces in any way he sees fit", as well as the UN Charter, the Geneva Conventions, and the Nuremberg Principles, which "bar wars of aggression." Further, he asserted that the war was based on misleading or false premises such as the existence of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq, alleged links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda, and that the occupation itself does not follow the Army's own legal rules of conduct for occupying a country. For all of these reasons, says Watada, he cannot morally participate in the war.[6]

The Army refused his resignation. Watada has said he is not a conscientious objector because he is not opposed to war as a principle, only the war in Iraq, and so offered to serve in Afghanistan,[7] which he regarded as "an unambiguous war linked to the Sept. 11 attacks." This was also refused. Watada, in turn, refused an offer for a desk job in Iraq without direct combat involvement.[4] Lt. Watada's initial term of service ends on December 3, 2006; however, the US Army may choose to extend its officers' tours of duty at its discretion.


In response to Lt. Watada's refusal to deploy, the U.S. Army has leveled a number of charges against him:

  • conduct unbecoming an officer
  • missing movement
  • contempt toward officials (in this case, President Bush)

At the time of these initial charges, Lt. Watada faced the possibility of a court-martial and up to seven years in prison as well as a dismissal if convicted. About this eventuality, Watada says that he does not regret his decision and is willing to face the consequences, citing it as what he believes is a moral responsibility: "When you are looking your children in the eye in the future, or when you are at the end of your life, you want to look back on your life and know that at a very important moment, when I had the opportunity to make the right decisions, I did so, even knowing there were negative consequences." [6]

On these charges, Watada's lawyer, Eric Seitz, comments:

"Well, we expected him to be charged with missing movement or violating an order to get on a bus to accompany his unit to Iraq. We did not really anticipate that they would charge him with additional offenses based upon the comments and the remarks that he's made. And that opens up a whole new chapter in this proceeding, because what the Army has clearly tried to do by the nature of these charges is send out a message to people in the military, that if you criticize the war and if you criticize the decisions that were made to bring the United States into this war, that you, too, could be charged with disloyalty, contemptuous remarks and disrespect for higher officers, and in this case, specifically in this charge, the President. He claims his new found faith in Islam inspired him."[8]

[edit] Article 32 hearing

Lt. Watada's article 32 hearing was held on August 17, 2006.[9] Investigating officer Lt. Col. Mark Keith presided.[10]

The Army prosecutor, Capt. Dan Kuecker, described Watada's actions as contemptuous of President Bush, and argued that Watada's public statements hurt morale in his unit, coming as they did as his unit was approaching deployment to Iraq.[10] He played video clips from Lt. Watada's address to a Veterans for Peace conference.[11] In that speech, Watada called on his fellow soldiers to stop fighting.[12] Eric Seitz, Watada's civilian counsel, and Capt. Mark Kim, Watada's military lawyer, raised the issue of the legality of the war. Over the prosecutor's objections, Seitz and Kim called three witnesses to question the legality of the war.[10] University of Illinois Professor Francis Boyle, an authority in international law, testified that the war is illegal because it was not authorized by the U.N. Security Council, and because Congress approved the war only after being lied to by the Bush administration. Also testifying in Watada's defense were Former United Nations Undersecretary Denis Halliday, and Army Colonel Ann Wright (ret.), who resigned from the army in March 2003 in protest of the coming invasion. Like Boyle, both asserted that the war was illegal and that therefore Lt. Watada was within his rights to refuse participation in it. Also, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a friend-of-the-court brief, stating that "soldiers should not be court martialled for explaining their views."[13]

Lt. Col. Mark Keith has recommended Watada for court martial on all charges, saying, however, that he thinks that Lt. Watada appears to be "sincere in his beliefs", and that this sincerity may mitigate future punishment. It remains to be seen what will happen. Of the court martial recommendation, Eric Seitz has stated that he is dismayed that the Army seems to be trying Watada without looking seriously at his arguments and that of the other experts appearing at the trial about the legality of the war. [14]

[edit] Post-hearing developments and debates

On Friday September 15, the Army announced that it leveled another charge against him of "conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman", based on remarks that he made at a Veterans for Peace convention. This brought the potential prison term faced by Lt. Watada to eight and one-half years in prison if convicted of all charges. Approximately six of these years would have been for statements that he made concerning the war rather than his refusal to deploy to Iraq- "Missing Movement" is normally punishable by two years.[15]

Lt. Colonel Mark Keith justified the additional charge by asserting that "contempt for the President and suggestion that US soldiers can stop the war simply by refusing to fight borders on mutiny and sedition." [15]

On the other hand, Eric Seitz, Lt. Watada's civilian attorney, asserts that the Army added the new charge to make a public example of him: "He's not doing anything other than saying things he believes to be true, and that we believe are true. This makes it that much clearer that this is just a political prosecution, and that's really all this case has been about from the beginning." Kelly Dougherty, Chairperson of Iraq Veterans Against the War, agrees: "The charge is unwarranted. They are trying to show others how hard they will be punished if they speak out. Right now the military sees more and more soldiers speaking publicly and it's threatening to them. They are creating an atmosphere of threats and of fear."[15]

The charges of "contempt toward officials" was dismissed without comment by Lt. Gen. James Dubik when the decision to court-martial Lt. Watada was announced on November 9, 2006.[16]

Opinions about Lt. Watada differ widely. Besides the ACLU and Iraq Veterans against the War, Veterans for Peace has come out in support.[17] Also, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports that approximately 200 supporters held a demonstration at the Fort Lewis gates. James Yee, the former Muslim chaplain from the Guantanamo Bay detainment camps, in Cuba, was also present,[5] and Watada has told reporters that "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.”[3]

Conversely, others are opposed to Lt. Watada's actions, such as Military Families Voice of Victory, who claim that he is helping al-Qaeda,[18] and some Japanese American veterans, who claim that as a Japanese American he brings shame to the Japanese American community. [19] Watada has also reported that although he has not received any open hostility from his fellow soldiers, still there is "definitely a tension." [5] There was also a small "counter demonstration" at Fort Lewis opposite his supporters. [9]

The Post-Intelligencer reported that Lt. Watada's mother, Carolyn Ho, founded a website to support Watada, at[9] The text of his addressto the Veterans for Peace conference can be found there. Also, Lt. Watada's father, Bob Watada, went on a national tour to raise money for Lt. Watada's defense, from October 26 to November 17.[20]

[edit] Court-martial

On Nov. 9, 2006, the U.S. Army announced the decision of Fort Lewis commander Lt. Gen. James Dubik that Lt. Watada would face a court martial. Without the "contempt for officials" charges, he will face up to six years confinement as well as dismissal if convicted of all charges.[16] The court-martial is to begin on February 5, 2007.[2]

Lt. Watada's defense team intends to demonstrate the war's alleged illegality, by maintaining that the required congressional approval was granted only on the basis of the existence of WMDs in Iraq and ties between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. They also intend to subpoena witnesses to testify, and to cite the Nuremberg Principles,[21] which require soldiers to disobey illegal orders. Colonel Dan Braggio, spokesperson for the Army, has stated on the other hand that decisions such as these "are not the kind of decisions lieutenants and captains make." [3]

At a pre-trial press conference Lt. Watada remarked that he believes it his duty to refuse to fight in the war, and that he is prepared to face prison time for his beliefs.[21]

See also


  1. ^ Soldier's Iraq war stance backed: Watada has right to refuse to go, retired officer says, Seattle P-I", June 20, 2006
  2. ^ a b Watada court-martial set for Feb. 5 Honolulu Star-Bulletin, November 20, 2006
  3. ^ a b c Loyal to Country or Conscience?, "Los Angeles Times", October 16, 2006
  4. ^ a b c Officer faces court-martial for refusing to deploy, New York Times, July 23, 2006
  5. ^ a b c Deployment Refuser has no Regrets, Army Times, June 14, 2006
  6. ^ a b First Officer Announces Refusal to Deploy to Iraq,, June 7, 2006
  7. ^ Soldier's Iraq war stance backed: Watada has right to refuse to go, retired officer says, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, June 20, 2006
  8. ^ Army Charges Lieutenant With Contempt and Conduct Unbecoming an Officer for Refusing Iraq Deployment and Criticizing Bush, War, Democracy Now, July 7, 2006
  9. ^ a b c Hearings to open on 'no Iraq' officer: Fort Lewis panel to decide if Watada faces court-martial, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, August 17, 2006
  10. ^ a b c Hearing for soldier who won't serve in Iraq puts war on trial Seattle Post Intelligencer, August 18, 2006
  11. ^ Military uses video of Watada speeches as evidence against him The Olympian, August 17, 2006
  12. ^ Lt. Watada addresses national veterans convention
  13. ^ ACLU Defends Free Speech Rights of Lt. Ehren Watada, "ACLU", August 15, 2005
  14. ^ Investigator recommends court marshal on all charges,
  15. ^ a b c Lieutenant Watada Faces New Charges,, September 18, 2006
  16. ^ a b Fort Lewis soldier opposed to war faces military trial, "Seattle Times", November 10, 2006
  17. ^ Military veterans stand behind "illegal war" refuser, August 14, 2006
  18. ^ Military Families Rebuke Army Lt. for Refusal to Serve and Alliance with Anti-American Groups, Military Families Voice of Victory, June 7, 2006
  19. ^ Japanese Americans, Latest Group to Criticize Watada, KHNL 8, July 15, 2006
  20. ^ SoCal events with Bob Watada underway,
  21. ^ a b It was My Duty to Refuse to go to Iraq Telegraph UK, November 23, 2006


[edit] External links

From the webmaster:
Saying an immoral business act is "Just business," does not make it morally right.
Choosing to make an example of someone who is morally right, and is going against an immorally wrong cause, does not make it morally right by saying it is a military decision, (Unless this is Nazi Germany.)
There is no way that the military's actions can be justified by rhetoric, manipulation, semantics or George Bush. If we allow this young man to be crucified, he joins Jesus as a martyr for the rights of all the world.

During the second World War it was a crime to profiteer, this war it is the way of the government's friends (Oil, munitions and all the goodies needed to run a war).

My heart bleeds for all of the people, many my friends and relatives, who died or were maimed during these wars to end all wars.