Court Martial at Fort Lewis

Court-martial of 1st Lt. Ehren Watada

The charges:

Missing a June troop movement to Iraq; maximum sentence two years in prison

Conduct unbecoming an officer; two counts, each carrying a maximum penalty of one year in prison.

• One count results from statements Watada made at a June 7 Tacoma press conference, when he said, in part, the war was a "horrible breach of American law," and that his participation in the "wholesale slaughter and mistreatment of Iraqis" would make him a party to war crimes.

• The other count results from an Aug. 12 speech Watada gave at Seattle convention of Veterans for Peace, when he said, in part, "We must show open-minded solders a choice, and we must give them the courage to act. ... I tell this to you because you must know that to stop this war, for the soldiers to stop fighting it, they must have the unconditional support of the people. ... Never again will we allow those who threaten our way of life to reign free — be they terrorists or elected officials."

This interesting story has been unfolding in the Northwest over the past several months.

Lt. Watada refused deployment to Iraq because he is conviced the war is illegal. And he has spoken out against it.

Previous articles I read cited Watada personal history of deeply considering his beliefs. And once he belives in something he stand up for it.

Now, throwing in a voluntary committment to military service makes the issue more complex. Part of the question becomes doyou obey an order that you truely believe to be illegal and immoral? That will be a major part of his defence, I'm sure.

Some anti-Watada protestors have called him a coward for refusing the Iraq deployment. That accusation is misplaced, though.

Watada volunteered for service in Afghanistan - a place just as dangerous. He was perfectly willing to go there instead of Iraq. It wasn't a question of avoiding combat - he simply did not want to take part in what he saw as an illegal conflict.

Secondly, Watada is going through his Court Martial. He didn't try to hide. The military didn't have to hunt him down and capture him. He is standing up for his beliefs when he easily could have fled.

Civil disobediance isn't about breaking the law and not being punished. It's about breaking the law (because someone feels it's the right thing to do) and accepting the consequences

Watada may be many things. But a coward isn't one of them.

I'm not sure what the ultimate outcome of the Court Martial will be. I'm not even sure what I think it should be. But it will be a fascinating story over the coming months.

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