Army charges Lt . Watada
Army Charges Lieutenant Who Wouldn't Go to Iraq
A Fort Lewis Army officer who refused to serve in Iraq could face seven years in
prison under charges filed Wednesday.
The Army accused 1st Lt. Ehren Watada of missing his brigade's troop movement to
Iraq, twice speaking contemptuously of the president and three acts unbecoming an
officer. The alleged actions are violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
The charges come about a month after Watada announced his decision not to deploy
with the 3rd (Stryker) Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division at a June 7 news conference
in Tacoma with opponents of the Iraq war.
Watada said he was morally obligated to obey the Constitution, not what he claimed
were unlawful orders to join in an illegal war. He also released a DVD statement
criticizing what he said was the "wholesale slaughter and mistreatment of the
Watada's actions quickly made him a high-profile figure in the anti-war movement,
hailed for his heroism by war protesters and denounced by others as a disgrace to
the Army uniform.
Watada, who continues to work at Fort Lewis in an administrative position, did not
comment on the charges against him.
His attorney, Eric Seitz, expected Watada to be charged for missing the troop movement.
But Seitz said he was "somewhat astounded" by the other charges, which
he said raised "important First Amendment issues," regarding freedom of
In a press statement, Army officials noted that contempt charges can result from
contemptuous statements toward the president or other public officials.
The contempt charges resulted, in part, from a June 7 statement where Watada accused
President Bush of "betraying trust" by using deception to initiate the
Iraq war, according to documents provided by the military.
The charges of conduct unbecoming an officer resulted, in part, from Watada's statement
that the war was not only "morally wrong" but also a "horrible breach
of American law."
The charges set the stage for an Article 32 hearing, where the Army appoints an
investigating officer to review the evidence and holds a hearing that could last
for days or weeks. At the hearing, Watada's defense attorney will have the right
to cross-examine prosecution witnesses, or call his own.
After the hearing, the investigating officer will make a recommendation of whether
the charges merit a court-martial trial.
Watada, 28, is a native of Hawaii who graduated from Hawaii Pacific University with
a finance degree and then joined the Army in the spring of 2003 as the invasion
of Iraq was launched.
In an earlier interview, Watada said he initially supported the war because he believed
Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. While he had some early concerns about the
conflict, he felt it was important to give Bush the benefit of the doubt.
As the war progressed, Watada said, his feelings changed after reading articles
that asserted the war was illegal. He became convinced that there was "intentional
manipulation of intelligence" by the Bush administration.
On June 22, about two weeks after the Tacoma news conference, Watada followed through
on his decision not to serve in Iraq. He did not show up at an early morning roll
call, as members of his unit boarded a bus to McChord Air Force Base, where they
would take a flight to the Middle East.
At the end of June, Watada was not allowed to leave Fort Lewis to help protect operational
security during deployment, according to base officials.
But as of the weekend, with the deployment complete, Watada was allowed to leave
base during after-duty hours and is again living in his Olympia apartment, according
to his father, Robert Watada.
Army officials said Watada has been trustworthy and is not considered a flight risk.
Up until the last flight left for Iraq late last week, Army officials were still
hoping Watada might join his unit, according to Robert Watada.
Ehren Watada, however, remained "very strong" about his decision not to
go, said his father.
The Army on Wednesday charged 1st Lt. Ehren Watada with three separate violations
of the Uniform Code of Military Justice:
* Missing troop movements to Iraq, Article 87.
* Two instances of allegedly speaking contemptuous words against the president,
Article 88, including June 7 statements that "... this administration was just
continually violating the law to serve their purpose, and there was nothing to stop
them. Realizing the president is taking us into war that he misled us ... has broken
the bond of trust that we had. If the president can betray my trust, it's time for
me to evaluate what he's telling me to do."
* Three instances of allegedly engaging in conduct unbecoming an officer that
brought dishonor to the armed forces, Article 133. These charges relate in part
to comments that his participation in the war in Iraq would "make him party
to war crimes"; that he became ashamed of wearing the uniform as he read about
the level of deception used to initiate the war; that he was "shocked and at
the same time ashamed" that President Bush had planned to invade Iraq before
the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Source: U.S. Army
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