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Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Iraq War Put On Trial

The Case of Lt. Ehren Watada
JANUARY 20-21, 2007
Tacoma, Washington, USA

In an unprecedented two-day Citizens' Hearing held over January 20-21, more than 600 citizens joined a distinguished tribunal panel in listening to testimony about the legality of the US invasion of Iraq. The Citizens' Hearing was convened to present evidence that Lt. Ehren Watada would have presented in his February 5 court martial on the
question that the military ruled barred from entry on Jan. 16 - the question of the Iraq War's legality. Lt. Watada has repeatedly asserted that because the Iraq War is illegal, it is his duty to refuse orders to deploy. He is the Army's first commissioned officer to take such a stand.

Panel Chair David Krieger asserted: "If Lt. Watada cannot get a full hearing about the war's legality in a military trial, then his case should at least be presented in the court of public opinion. This Citizens' Hearing was about giving Lt. Watada's position equal time."

Testifiers included experts in military policy, international law and war crimes:
* Daniel Ellsberg Military analyst who released the Pentagon Papers in the Vietnam War;
* Denis Halliday Former UN Assistant Secretary-General, coordinated Iraq humanitarian aid;
* Richard Falk Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University;
* Antonia Juhasz Policy-analyst and author on U.S. economic policies in Iraq;
* John Burroughs Lawyers’ Committee on Nuclear Policy Executive Director;
* Benjamin G. Davis Assoc. Prof. of Law, University of Toledo; expert on law of war;
* Francis Boyle Professor of international law at Univ. of Illinois (video).
* Marjorie Cohn National Lawyers' Guild President; Thomas Jefferson law school (video)

Other testifiers were military veterans, and others directly affected by the Iraq War:
* Ann Wright Retired Army Colonel and State Department official;
* Darrell Anderson Army 1st Armored Division in Baghdad & Najaf; awarded Purple Heart;
* Harvey Tharp Former U.S. Navy Lieutenant and JAG stationed in Iraq;
* Geoffrey Millard 8 years in Army National Guard; awarded 13 medals;
* Dennis Kyne 15 years as Army medic & drill sergeant; trained in NBC warfare;
* Chanan Suarez-Diaz Former Navy hospital corpsman; Purple Heart and valor commendation;
* Stacy Bannerman Military Families Speak Out; author of "When the War Came Home"
* Eman Khammas Iraqi human rights advocate (video).

The format of the Citizens’ Hearing (convened at The Evergreen State College Tacoma campus) resembled that of a congressional hearing. A panel of citizens heard the testimony, examined witnesses, and will issue a fact-finding report. The Panel focused on the legality of the war, whether the invasion of Iraq constituted a "crime against peace,” whether the military occupation of Iraq constitutes a "crime against humanity," and whether individual soldiers have an obligation or duty to refuse unlawful orders that may lead to “war crimes.”

The 12-member Citizens’ Hearing Panel includes veterans of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, as well as more recent veterans. It will include a military family member, Gold Star family member, and high school student (representing youth of military age). The Panel will also include a government leader, religious leader, labor union member, and health care worker. Half of the Panel members are military veterans.

Many of those who testified, most of whom would have been called to testify at the court martial if the judge had allowed that evidence, agreed that Lt. Ehren Watada had not only the right to refuse to deploy to Iraq in an illegal war, but had a duty to do so. Whether violations of the Nuremberg Principles or the US Constitution, some testifiers asserted that Lt. Watada should be recognized for his courage rather than undergoing a Court Martial.

Panelist Rich Moniak from Juneau, Alaska, whose son served in Iraq and Afghanistan, said during the deliberation: "The testimony presented to me highlighted how this war has failed the Iraqi people and placed our soldiers at risk of being accessories to war crimes."

Law professors Benjamin G. Davis and Richard Falk agreed that there are clear legal grounds on which the war is illegal. Falk, citing the sections of the US Army Field Manual, emphasized that international law is applicable to the behavior of US soldiers in a times of war and that soldiers have the duty to refuse unlawful commands. Davis sharply criticized the decision of the military judge to not hear Watada's full defense, stating that Americans have a right to have their defense heard.

The most compelling testimony came from former members of the US military, including five veterans of Iraq. According to Ann Wright, a former Army Colonel and US diplomat who served three and a half decades for the US government, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Powell created the preconditions that led to torture. She added: "We must
ensure that members of the US military are not put in the position of being ordered to carry out crimes against humanity."

Darrell Anderson, who received a Purple Heart for his service in Iraq, talked about a situation he was involved in when orders were issued to "shoot everyone" regardless of whether they were civilians, including children. He stated that they used, what he called, "excessive force." He said: "I realize it was my duty as a soldier to refuse this illegal war."

According to Chanan Suarez-Diaz, who also received a Purple Heart for his service in Iraq, the psyched up emotions among the troops resulted in US soldiers taking "trophies" of brain matter from Iraqis they killed and putting such in their refrigerators on base.

Immediately following the closing statements, the panel retired to discuss the testimony, consulting the US Army Field Manual, the Nuremberg Principles, and Article Six of the U.S. Constitution. They discussed the testimony until well into the night. Panelist Staughton Lynd, an attorney who holds a PhD in history from Columbia University, said: "The overpowering testimony from Iraq veterans highlighted the conditions that soldiers on the ground are facing."

Russell W. McNutt, a veteran of three wars: World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, stated: "I was exposed to a lot of knowledge. The soldiers who served in Iraq that we heard from were facing the dirty end of war. In urban warfare there are no definite boundaries, in different instances the enemy can be in front of you or behind your back. There
is a lot of tension about who is a civilian and who is an insurgent. Under those circumstances, instantaneous decisions must be made in responding to threats. Time to exercise discretion is limited, but every effort should be made to ensure innocent bystanders are not injured through the use of deadly force."

Tribunal organizer Zoltan Grossman commented: "It is the command structure, rather than individual soldiers, that puts enlisted personnel in the position where they feel they have to commit war crimes to survive. The command structure is ultimately responsible for war crimes or crimes against humanity. For example, testimony indicated that the dehumanization of Arabs through the use of racial slurs comes from a systematic training process, not only from
individual soldiers' prejudices or fears."

Elizabeth Falzone, whose cousin was killed while serving in Iraq, reflected: "The Citizens' Hearing provided a real venue for citizens to hear from soldiers who are returning from Iraq. Hearing from them and more from family members is especially important with the "surge", and the repeat deployments that we're seeing."

The Citizens' Hearing and the distinguished panel will release the full report prior to Lt. Watada's court martial, including the panel's final statement and excerpts from the testimony. Interviews with panelists or testifiers can be arranged through Cindy Sousa at 206-734-5040 or

There are now video and audio clips on the web site:, and more will be available.

Information about Lt. Ehren Watada's case, his February 5th Court
Martial and the mobilization leading up to it, is at

On a personal note, I am leaving next Sunday morning to fly up to Fort Lewis and meet up with other members of the campaign which has been working since last June to support Ehren. Hopefully I will be able to talk my daughter into letting me borrow her laptop so that I can blog from up there. Until then, this week leading up to the court marshall is just about as harrowing emotionally as it gets, knowing that First Lieutenant Ehren Watada is facing six years in prison of his own life to stand up to our government is doing in it's crime of pre-emptive warfare based on nothing but a pack of lies and deception. If you are only just now learning of Ehren's case, please please read everything you can get your hands on and sign the petition in support of him which will be presented at the court marshall here.

"Pre-emptive Warfare and the Nuremburg Principles"

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