Soldier in court martial for refusing to serve in Iraq<
(By Andrew Buncombe, Originally published in The Independent, February 3 2007)
Along with many Americans, Lt Ehren Watada considered joining the army in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. He signed up shortly after the US invasion of Iraq, expressing "a desire to protect our country".
But when he learnt he was to be deployed to the Middle East he researched the origin of the invasion and spoke to returning soldiers. He concluded the war was illegal and in January last year he tended his resignation, claiming the war breached international law and the US constitution.
On Monday the 28-year-old will make history as the first commissioned officer to be court-martialled for refusing to serve in Iraq. He faces up to four years in jail when he goes before the military court at Fort Lewis, Washington state, where the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division is based.
"When we sign up we take an oath ??? to protect and defend our constitution and our constitution in America is pretty much the [encapsulation] of all the freedoms and justice," Lt Watada, from Hawaii, told The Independent. "When you know what we have been doing is clearly illegal and in many cases immoral, even if I supported it with my silence I would be betraying the people I swore to protect."
Lt Watada has not sought conscientious objector status. He insists he is not opposed to all wars but that after considerable study he concluded the conflict in Iraq was illegal and that if he agreed to serve there, even in a non-combatant role, he would committing war crimes. When he tended his resignation he said the conflict breached the UN Charter, the Geneva Conventions, and the Nuremberg Principles.
When Lt Watada refused to go to Iraq last summer the army charged him with missing movement - for failing to deploy - as well as several counts of conduct unbecoming an officer.
"They are going to find me guilty - there is not any question over that," he said. "[But] they have not allowed me to bring evidence to consider the illegality of the war, they have side stepped that issue."