(By Akiko Fujita, originally published in The Advertiser, June 9 2006)
A U.S. Army officer said yesterday fighting in the war in Iraq would make him ''party to war crimes'' and he would not go.
First Lt Ehren Watada's supporters said he is the first commissioned U.S. officer to publicly refuse to serve in Iraq and risked being court-martialled.
The Pentagon said Lt Watada was among some of those enlisted who have applied for conscientious objector status.
''The wholesale slaughter and mistreatment of the Iraqi people is not only a terrible moral injustice but a contradiction of the army's own law of land warfare,'' Lt Watada said in a taped statement played at a press conference in Tacoma yesterday.
''My participation would make me party to war crimes.''
Lt Watada, 28, had been scheduled to be deployed to Iraq for his first tour this month.
Lt Watada said his moral and legal obligations were to the U.S. Constitution, ''not those who would issue unlawful orders.'' Paul Boyce, army spokesman at the Pentagon, said Lt Watada's case was being reviewed, adding it ''is not the first case, nor is his case particularly unique''.
Meanwhile, an Iraqi investigator said yesterday a small group of U.S. Marines alleged to have killed up to two dozen Iraqi civilians at Haditha last year had conducted a three hour house-to-house hunt.
The account is the most detailed yet of the Iraqi accusation.Two separate U.S. military investigations are under way. -