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07

Feb

2007

Conduct Unbecoming - Ehren Watada
Wednesday, 07 February 2007 11:51
by Jayne Lyn Stahl

In Ft. Lewis, Washington this week, a 28 year old commissioned Army officer , First Lt. Ehren Watada, faces court martial before a panel of his peers for refusing to return to Iraq, as well as two counts of conduct unbecoming an officer for publicly condemning the war. If convicted of both charges, he faces up to four years in jail, as well as dishonorable discharge from the Army.

While making public disparaging remarks about a war in progress is deemed to be an actionable offense, Watada argues that "under military law those in the military are allowed to refuse, in fact, have a right to refuse unlawful orders." It is his belief that the U.S. is in Iraq under false pretexts, and illegally; he thinks it is his duty to refuse those orders. It is important to keep in mind that Ehren Watada is not a conscientious objector, not someone opposed to combat; he has said he would be willing to fight in Afghanistan. He is not against war, per se, he is speaking out against this administration's military adventurism, and its activist campaign to deceive the American people, manufacture evidence, and shun diplomacy.

Watada is not the first to say "hell, no, we won't go." Many enlisted service members have faced discipinary action for abandoning their units, and/or saying they won't go to Iraq; "Watada is the first to do so publicly." (NYT) And, we will need more Watadas in the months to come if, as pro-Iraq neoconservative, Richard Perle suggests, the president intends to attack Iran before his term runs out. We will need more Ehren Watadas especially in light of Senator Chuck Hagel's recent disclosures that the president attempted to get a resolution through Congress, back in the fall, of 2002, which would have allowed him to pick a fight anywhere in the Middle East. It's not too late. There's still plenty of time to occupy and plunder Tehran in which case abandonment, by a commissioned officer, may become the only honorable thing to do.

Judging by muscle-flexing in his State of the Union address, the fighter jets are waiting in the wings. In fact, the Bush Doctrine can best be summed up by the phrase" fill in the blanks." It is making the same noises now about Iran it once made about Iraq, and doing no more to back up those allegations than with Iraq; i.e. suggesting that Iran is arming Iraqi insurgents without concrete evidence, insisting that Iran is lying about its nuclear ambitions.

As the Los Angeles Times recently noted "no Iranian agents have been found" in Iraq despite state department spin to the contrary. Clearly, the Commander-in-Chef is at it again, cooking up yet another recipe for armed, unilateral, pre-emptive (read: unprovoked) military action. Bush's taunts of the Iranian president are hauntingly reminiscent of his censure of Saddam Hussein. Only, instead of Baghdad, we merely substitute Tehran, and the result looks, ominously, like more of the same. And, while the prosecutor in the Watada case calls Watada's statements "disgraceful," (Reuters) what could be more disgraceful than fabricating a rationale to attack, and topple a sovereign country? Excuse me, but is it any less a lie if say so in private? This double standard for the military is outmoded, and based on a code of ethics that no longer exists.

For the most part, the mainstream media are standing by, almost voyeuristically, and downplaying the domestic troubles currently facing the Iranian president, his failure to deal with unemployment as promised, and talk of impeaching him. We do need an enemy with whom to go to war, after all. By helping to transform Ahmadinejad into a wartime president, Bush is helping to keep him in power, and we know all about the power of wartime presidents.

So, this is the context in which the court martial of one young, and very brave First Lieutenant must be taken, and this is the only context. Ehren Watada is setting a much-needed precedent, and that is --just say no to an illegal war, one based on lies and deception. Watada is not saying that war should be outlawed, only that his government, and those in command should tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth to those they expect to make the ultimate sacrifice in their name. As another Republican president, Ronald Reagan, once said, "Trust, but verify." Had Congress, the media, and the American people taken President Reagan's advice, we would never have been in Iraq in the fist place, and Ehren Watada would never be standing trial for "abandoning his unit." Indeed, the abandonment that is criminal here is that of this government's abandoning the trust of those it governs.

Watada's public outrage against being a pawn in the Machiavellian game of a superpower run amok is something that future generations will see in much the same way as we remember courageous acts of civil disobedience by men like Patrick Henry. In his refusal to play along with the kind of ethos that says it's okay to swear, and plunder in private, as long as one sings, and smiles in public, he is refusing to participate in a lie. One can only hope that, if the gestures of this president towards Iran prove to be authentic, there will be others, like First Lt. Watada who will publicly refuse to accommodate hypocrisy and deceit.

Given that Lt. Col. John Head, the judge in the Watada court martial, has ruled that his defense attorney's witness list is "irrelevant" (Reuters), insists that the legality of the war, or lack thereof, is not something worthy of discussion in a military court, and believes that military service requires accepting limits to free speech, a plea bargain, or agreeing to a lighter sentence may be the only way out. Should this honorable, and courageous young man be convicted, this president, and his military, will, for generations, bear the guilty verdict of history.
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a guest said:

0
It is interesting
It is quite interesting that the writer of this story seems to gloss over a lot of facts such as 1st Lt. Watada signed up in full knowledge that he had the possibility of being deployed to Iraq. When taking the Oath of an Officer in the Army one solemnly vows to uphold the orders of those appointed above them. The write of this story does not hold any venom back when addressing the President of the United States, instead calling the President the, "Commander-in-Chef". I find it amusing to read the rules about posting a comment here, "no personal invective, no demonizing or pseudo-psychologizing of your opponent." However it is perfectly fine for the news writer to name call, label, mislabel, and apply "hero" status to a man that essentially abandoned his unit.
 
February 07, 2007
Votes: +0

a guest said:

0
de nile ain't just a river lol
I think people are scared and don't want to believe this war is based on lies. If it's not, tell me why we must be there. Yeah, he left his unit. He did it knowing the price, and what some people might think about him after. He did it because he doesn't want to fight when he doesn't know what he's fighting for. So tell me, if you were in the army and swore an oath to obey all orders, and those orders go against your moral judgement, would you still follow orders because of an oath, or do what you believe is right? It sucks that the army and the people has to be afraid of standing up for themselves. It reminds me of an evil king with evil plans and no one objects because they are afraid of being punished so they live in misery under his rule. Doesn't anyone have a voice anymore? I heard watada loud and clear. Instead of people bashing him should try to find a better use for their voice and use their opinion toward something that helps our country. Watada didn't have to make all those speeches, but he did in hope we would all listen and together help get our troops back. So against the fact he left his unit I think some people are missing the purpose of why he did it in the first place. I would consider those people to read his speeches and then think about, do some research, and make a clear opinion. And unlike those who attack Watada, I will not tell you your opinion is wrong. The most important thing watada wants is for us to do our homework and discover the truth about this war. So instead of aruging over him maybe we should ask ourselves, so what is the truth?
 
February 07, 2007
Votes: +0

a guest said:

0
...
I have read Ms. Stahl's article with interest. It might be good to separate the hype from the facts, however.

First, a factual error should be corrected. Ms. Stahl writes, "Watada is not the first to say "hell, no, we won't go." Many enlisted service members have faced discipinary action for abandoning their units, and/or saying they won't go to Iraq." 1LT Watada is not "enlisted"; he is a commissioned officer, and is, in fact, the first commissioned officer to abrogate his responsibilities in this manner. Purposely missing a troop movement is a serious offense for enlisted; it is all the more serious for an officer.

Second, it might be good to actually read the officer's oath of office:

"I (insert name), having been appointed a (insert rank) in the U.S. Army under the conditions indicated in this document, do accept such appointment and do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter, so help me God."

The fact remains that 1LT Watada, a college graduate, joined the Army, entered Officer's Candidate School, and became a line officer in the Stryker Brigade, a unit which is sure to be deployed in hot areas, and did so of his own accord. Nowhere in his job description does it state that he can pick or choose his assignments if he disagrees with the policies of the goernment; were that the case, we might have seen mass desertions of the military during the Clinton Administration.

His actions do not "bear true faith and allegiance"; in fact, his actions clearly contradict the core values of the Army, "duty, honor, country."

1LT deserves an all-expenses paid vacation in a military prison for abandoning his men and his mission.
 
February 07, 2007
Votes: -1

a guest said:

0
Brave, but not a hero
I am a Platoon Sergeant in an infantry Company in Iraq. I am telling you that 1st Lt. Watada is not a coward. Because in many ways what he is going through is harder than just going with it and deploying. I think he chose a hard path for himself, then made it harder by his public statements.

The problem I have with 1st Lt. Watada, is that he abandoned the platoon of men he trained with. An officers highest responsibility is to the welfare of his soldiers, not to his own political beliefs. 33 Men went to war with a leader they did not know, because of the lieutenant's decision. That is what breaks my heart. 1st Lt. Watada, seems a smart and articulate man, and will come out of this eventually and be fine. But what about the privates, that counted on him? What about the squad leaders, that had learned to work with him? What about his platoon sergeant, who gets a new Lieutenant while headed to war? What abouy the lieutenant, that went in his place? A man probably headed back for another tour early, because of the unexpected vacancy. All this disrupton for all these men because their leader did not place them first.

The bottom line is ths. We as soldiers are instruments to be used by the civilian leaders of this nation. We take that oath. I am sure none of us wants to see a time when we allow military leaders to decide which orders to follow, and which political positions are palateable. We do not want our army to become like the armies of Latin American nations. So just because some people sympathize with 1st Lt. Watada in this instance, they must realize that none of us wants an army that is disloyal to our elected leaders. SFC Murphy
 
February 07, 2007
Votes: +0

a guest said:

0
Officers Oath of Office
QUOTE: "When taking the Oath of an Officer in the Army one solemnly vows to uphold the orders of those appointed above them."

The oath of office that has been previously cited on this post is referring to the ENLISTED soldiers oath of office NOT the Officers Oath of Office. They are different. Officers DO NOT swear allegiance to follow the orders of the President!!!

Please check your facts before adding misinformation to the debate. thank-you.

Here are both Oaths:

The Oath of Enlistment (for enlistees):

"I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God."

The Oath of Office (for officers):

"I, _____ (SSAN), having been appointed an officer in the Army of the United States, as indicated above in the grade of _____ do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance tot he same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservations or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter; So help me God."
 
February 07, 2007
Votes: +0

a guest said:

0
...
Didn't the germans went through arguments during World War II? Follow a leader that has been lying and cheating or follow their conscience?
 
February 07, 2007
Votes: +1

a guest said:

0
Office of Office
The above comment is true about the "Oath of Office" for the Army, that phrase does apply to officers and is slightly different then the enlistment oath.

HOWEVER Military service-members that do not obey the lawful orders of their chain of command risk being charged. With what? Article 90 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), for enlist I believe it would be article 91. This article makes it a crime for a military member to WILLFULLY disobey a superior commissioned officer.

Article 91 makes it a crime to WILLFULLY disobey a superior Noncommissioned or Warrant Officer.

Article 92 makes it a crime to disobey any lawful order (the disobedience does not have to be "willful" under this article).

With that said Lt. Watada is clearly in the wrong? Why? The United States Congress authorized it, and since it was authorized it is not illegal.

This is why his defense team/witnesses were excused from the Military court. The legality of the war is not in question; his actions are in question.


 
February 07, 2007
Votes: -1

a guest said:

0
Having principles is never easy - GOOD LUCK LT
The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) 809.ART.90 (20), makes it clear that military personnel need to obey the "lawful command of his superior officer," 891.ART.91 (2), the "lawful order of a warrant officer", 892.ART.92 (1) the "lawful general order", 892.ART.92 (2) "lawful order". In each case, military personnel have an obligation and a duty to only obey Lawful orders and indeed have an obligation to disobey Unlawful orders, including orders by the president that do not comply with the UCMJ. The moral and legal obligation is to the U.S. Constitution and not to those who would issue unlawful orders, especially if those orders are in direct violation of the Constitution and the UCMJ
 
February 07, 2007
Votes: +0

a guest said:

0
...
The Iraq war was entered legally according to US law. The President initiated action and Congress voted to authorize that action. That being the case Watada was never asked to perform anything "unlawful". Send him away! He signed up voluntarilly for military service in 2003, AFTER the Iraq war began! He is nothing but a pawn of the anti-war voices. His anti-war daddy is very proud.
 
February 08, 2007
Votes: +0

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