Some 340 people turned out here January 20-21 for a Citizens Hearing on the Legality of U.S. Actions in Iraq: The Case of Lt. Ehren Watada. It was held at Evergreen State College, which hosted the event.
Watada, who enlisted in 2003, has been stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington, as part of the armys 4,000-member Stryker Brigade. In January of last year he asked to resign his commission, writing, It is my conclusion as an officer of the Armed Forces that the war in Iraq is not only morally wrong but a horrible breach of American law. Watadas request was denied. On June 7 he publicly announced he would refuse any order to participate in the Iraq war.
The army has charged Watada with missing movement to Iraq and conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman. The latter charge is based on his public statements against the war.
On January 16, Army judge Lt. Col. John Head denied Watadas motion to defend himself on grounds that the Iraq war is illegal and that his speech against it is constitutionally protected.
Watadas attorney, Eric Seitz, said, The import of his ruling is that the military services may prosecute and punish everyone who merely expresses criticism or disagreement with official policy. A January 9 editorial in the Seattle Times called on the military court to convict him of both charges and issue a dishonorable discharge. It asserted, Once one joins the military, one loses the freedom to speak in ways that could damage soldiers morale.
At the citizens hearing, Geoffrey Millard, an eight-year veteran of the Army National Guard who joined Iraq Veterans against the War after serving 13 months in Iraq, testified that it was the policy of the military high command to racially dehumanize Iraqis.
Daniel Ellsberg, the former military analyst who in 1971 released the secret Pentagon Papers, which publicly exposed some of Washingtons conduct during the Vietnam War, accused President George Bush of war crimes that could be prosecuted under international law. Our country is engaged in clear-cut aggression, he said.
Also speaking were Eman Khammas, an Iraqi human rights advocate; Richard Falk, a Princeton University professor of international law; and Denis Halliday, a former United Nations official who coordinated UN aid in Iraq. Watada, who remains on desk duty at Fort Lewis, spoke briefly, thanking the conference organizers. He condemned the military judges decision as a travesty of justice.
The panel hearing the testimony was composed of veterans, members of military families, students, academics, local government officials, and representatives of religious groups. It will send members of Congress a report on the hearings findings.
Supporters of Watada distributed flyers urging people to attend the January 27 antiwar march in Seattle to demand all U.S. troops be brought home and funding for the war stopped. Watadas defenders have called for a National Day of Action and Support for Lt. Watada on February 5, the day of the court-martial, including a protest outside Fort Lewis.
Imperialist war in Iraq escalates
More U.S. troops sent to Baghdad
Bipartisan support for war strong
Young Socialists: Socialist revolution is only way to end imperialist wars
Troops out of Iraq, Afghanistan now!
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