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Sunday, December 17, 2006

An American Hero: First Lieutenant Ehren Watada

In June of this year, first lieutenant Ehren Watada, became the first commissioned officer to refuse deployment to Iraq. In January he had requested to be deployed elsewhere but the army refused. Ehren then requested to resign from the military which he is entitled to do as an officer. The army also refused this request. Ehren was then faced with a decision of monumental proportion, to deploy to what he deems is an illegal war or to refuse and face court marshall and years in prison. Ehren chose the second, and now his court marshall is set for early February with his pre-trial hearing in early January. He is facing six years in Leavenworth prison for taking the stand for himself and all Americans who oppose the war in Iraq so vehemently. His defense can best be explained in the speech given by Marjorie Cohn, President Elect of the National Lawyer's Guild.

First Officer Publicly Resists War
By Marjorie Cohn
t r u t h o u t Perspective

Thursday 08 June 2006

Yesterday, US Army First Lieutenant Ehren Watada became the first officer to publicly state his refusal to obey an order to deploy to Iraq. Lieutenant Watada said at a press conference in Tacoma, Washington, "The war in Iraq is in fact illegal. It is my obligation and my duty to refuse any orders to participate in this war." He stated, "An order to take part in an illegal war is unlawful in itself. So my obligation is not to follow the order to go to Iraq."

Citing "deception and manipulation … and willful misconduct by the highest levels of my chain of command," Lt. Watada declared there is "no greater betrayal to the American people" than the Iraq war.

The "turning point" for Lt. Watada came when he "saw the pain and suffering of so many soldiers and their families, and innocent Iraqis." He said, "I best serve my soldiers by speaking out against unlawful orders of the highest levels of my chain of command, and making sure our leaders are held accountable." Lt. Watada felt he "had the obligation to step up and do whatever it takes," even if that means facing court-martial and imprisonment.

Lt. Watada asked me to speak about the legality of the war at his press conference.

I cited the Nuremberg Charter, which set forth the three most serious crimes: crimes against the peace, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. The US Army Field Manual 27-10, art. 28, incorporates the prohibition against these three crimes. The United States is committing a crime against the peace, war crimes, and crimes against humanity in Iraq.

The United States Is Committing a Crime Against the Peace in Iraq

The Nuremberg Tribunal called the waging of aggressive war "essentially an evil thing ... to initiate a war of aggression ... is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole."

A war of aggression, prosecuted in violation of international treaties, is a crime against the peace. The war in Iraq violates the Charter of the United Nations, which prohibits the use of force. There are only two exceptions to that prohibition: self-defense and approval by the Security Council. A pre-emptive or preventive war is not allowed under the Charter.

Bush's war in Iraq was not undertaken in self-defense. Iraq had not attacked the US, or any other country, for 12 years. And Saddam Hussein's military capability had been effectively neutered by the Gulf War, 12 years of punishing sanctions, and nearly daily bombing by the US and UK over the "no-fly-zones."

Bush tried mightily to get the Security Council to sanction his war on Iraq. But the Council refused to give its stamp of approval. Bush then cobbled together prior Council resolutions, none of which, individually or collectively, authorized the use of force in Iraq. Although Bush claimed to be enforcing Security Council resolutions, the Charter empowers only the Council to enforce its resolutions.

Moreover, the Constitution gives only Congress, not the President, the authority to declare war. Congress cannot delegate that authority to the President. Even if Congress could delegate the war power to the President, it cannot authorize the President to execute an aggressive war.

The United States Is Committing War Crimes in Iraq

Violations of the laws of war, memorialized in the Hague and Geneva Conventions, constitute war crimes.

All four Geneva Conventions have the same article 3, frequently referred to as Article 3 Common. Its terms apply to everyone, not just prisoners of war. It prohibits violence to life and person, murder, mutilation, cruel treatment, torture, and outrages upon personal dignity, particularly humiliating and degrading treatment. These prohibitions are memorialized in the Army Field Manual 27-10, art. 506. The Pentagon is trying to remove Article 3 Common from the newly revised instructions that go with the Manual. The implication is that the Defense Department intends to treat prisoners inhumanely.

Grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions constitute war crimes, for which individuals can be punished under the US War Crimes Act. Willful killing, torture or inhuman treatment, and willfully causing great suffering or great bodily harm are grave breaches.

The torture and inhuman treatment of prisoners in US custody at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere in Iraq are grave breaches of Geneva, and therefore, war crimes. The execution of unarmed civilians at Haditha and in other Iraqi cities are war crimes.

Commanders in the chain of command, all the way up to the commander in chief, can be prosecuted for war crimes if they knew or should have known their inferiors were committing war crimes and failed to stop or prevent them. However, it is unlikely that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales will charge Bush, Cheney or Rumseld with war crimes.

The United States Is Committing Crimes Against Humanity in Iraq

Inhumane acts against a civilian population are crimes against humanity and violate the Fourth Geneva Convention. The targeting of civilians and failure to protect civilians and civilian objects are crimes against humanity.

The dropping of 2,000-pound bombs in residential areas of Baghdad during "Shock and Awe" were crimes against humanity. The indiscriminate US attack on Fallujah, which was collective punishment in retaliation for the killing of four Blackwater mercenaries, was a crime against humanity. The destruction of hospitals in Fallujah by the US military, its refusal to let doctors treat patients, and shooting into ambulances were crimes against humanity. Declaring Fallujah a "weapons-free" zone, with orders to shoot anything that moved, was a crime against humanity.

Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson was the chief prosecutor at the Nuremberg Tribunal. He wrote: "No political or economic situation can justify the crime of aggression. If certain acts in violation of treaties are crimes they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them, and we are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us."

The Uniform Code of Military Justice, in articles 90-92, sets forth the duty of military personnel to obey lawful commands. The Nuremberg Principles, which are part of US law, provide that all military personnel have the obligation not to obey illegal orders. The Army Field Manual 27-10, sec. 609 and UCMJ, art. 92, incorporate this principle. Article 92 says: "A general order or regulation is lawful unless it is contrary to the Constitution, the law of the United States …"

The Bush administration is committing crimes against the peace, war crimes and crimes against humanity in Iraq. Lieutenant Ehren Watada is correct when he says this is an illegal war. I salute his courage.

I met Marjorie in June this year when she presented this speech in front of the federal building in San Diego at a protest on Ehren's behalf. Since that time I have become involved with Thank You and in October had the honor of working with my Democratic club and Peace Coaltion to sponsor an event at which Bob and Rosa Watada spoke on behalf of Ehren. Ehren's court marshall is QUICKLY approaching. Ehren's supporters are now in crunch mode mustering all the support we can get in order for Ehren's court marshall to go in his favor. I spoke to Bob in Hawaii last week concerning Linda Sanchez's possible letter of support to be submitted at the trial as well as the possibiltiy of other congressmen and senators coming to his aid in support. I urge any American citizen reading here who is against the war in Iraq to contact your representatives by email concerning Ehren's case. You can also write an email and send it directly to the White House at

Ehren is also asking everyone, American citizen and all others whether they be American citizens or not, to sign the petition on his website which will be presented with the final signitures both at the pre-trial and court marshall hearings. You can sign the petition here
Many people from many countries have already signed this petition to support Ehren.

As an American, Ehren makes me proud. Thank You Lieutenant Ehren Watada, for speaking for all of us who deplore the war in Iraq, and my MOST humble gratitude, for willing to risk years in prison for standing up for all that is right in this matter.

"A Soldier's Duty, the Ehren Watada Story"


DesertPeace said...

WOW!!!! Robin has a blog!
It's about time!!!! I'm so glad... and needless to say I will add you to my links.

Robin said...

Hi Steve,
THANK YOU SO much for coming by and visiting. I am tickled PINK you paid me a visit, absolutely PINK (as in a Code Pink supporter) I am truly humbly honored you are adding me to your links. Thank you dear friend. It is Karin and Chet that deserve all the kudos because I couldn't have done it without them. Stay tuned, I have some "tricks" up my sleeve, but MANY more I have to learn before I get the hang of this "fandangled thing" Thank you SO much for your support and see you REAL soon!

I love Munich said...

Oooops, I did it again - I had posted under YOUR name and deleted it!

I fully support the decision Ehren Watada took ... he is a man of integrity and courage who calls a spade a spade and stands up for what he believes in! It is often difficult to decide between the right ... and the easy, even though in his case the "easy" could very well be fatal - down to the core it is all about principles and values!
I salute him and will certainly continue to support him ... and the ones who will follow after him!

johnmccarthy said...

Greetings Robin!
Great start for your blog. I started exactly the same way and while I was building my blog, the host asked me if I would consider building a site.
The 'how to' was so simple even I could do it. That was 18 months ago and I just had my 175K visitor. Of course, I only have selective readers....(ha).
Looking forward to your opines on many subjects!

Robin said...

Greetings Back John,
So GOOD to see you here! So many times when I am doing research I use YOUR site for vital information. Wow, 175K readers in 18 months, that is AMAZING!! I hope my new readers take the time to link to you because not only are you a GREAT source of info, your story SHOULD be required reading for all Americans as well as anyone else who really wants to know just how our own government "works".
Thanks SO much for stopping by. It's just a teeny start but with a "little help from my friends" I know I'll get by. See you hopefully soon after the holidays and Seasons Greetings to you!!

Robin said...

Hi Karin,
Thank you so much for your support of Ehren and for posting his story yourself back in September. I sent the blog to Bob and just received an email back thanking me. I hope EVERYONE reading here or possibly forwarding Ehren's story throughout the blogosphere themselves takes the time to sign the petition which will be presented at the pre-trial hearing and the court marshall. Also that any Americans reading it send emails to their prospective representatives, senators and the white house. Ehren needs EVERY SINGLE letter of support and signiture that he can get. Ehren took his stance because the war in Iraq is ILLEGAL and he is willing to risk HIS years in prison. This is absolutely the most HONORABLE thing he or anyone could do, pure and simple and someone willing to do this DESERVES support!!