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Watada Trial Off to a Rocky Start

Posted on Feb 5, 2007
Ehren Watada

Lt. Ehren Watada’s court-martial began on Monday.

The court-martial of Lt. Ehren Watada, the first commissioned officer to refuse to go to Iraq, began on Monday with the judge refusing to allow most of the defense’s witnesses to testify. Watada’s civilian lawyer, Eric Seitz, had some harsh words for the judge: “If you are going to tie my hands and you are going to script these proceedings, then in my view we’re all wasting our time.”


1st Lt. Ehren Watada, 28, of Honolulu is charged with missing movement for refusing to ship out with his unit, the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. He also faces charges of conduct unbecoming an officer for accusing the Army of war crimes and denouncing the administration for conducting an “illegal war” founded on “lies.”

As his court-martial got under way, military judge Lt. Col. John Head refused to allow almost all defense witnesses to take the stand. Head previously ruled that Watada’s attorney, Eric Seitz, could not debate the legality of the Iraq war in court.

If convicted, Watada could receive four years in prison and a dishonorable discharge. He has requested that his case be heard by a military panel of officers, the equivalent of a jury. It had not yet been selected by midday.

At one point, Seitz suggested Head could be committing judicial misconduct if he denied Seitz an opportunity to ask panel members biographical questions to determine any bias.

“If you are going to tie my hands and you are going to script these proceedings, then in my view we’re all wasting our time,” Seitz said.

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By BB, February 26, 2008 at 10:28 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Interested in your thoughts….McCain with checks and balances, or Hillary and/or Obama without?

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By Ronald Torngren, February 6, 2007 at 10:37 am Link to this comment
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Kwagmyre, You sound just like Michael Moore, Sean Penn, and the rest of the looney left.  Comparing the US to Nazi Germany is not only ignorant, but shows how much you hate your own country.  If you don’t like it here why don’t you move to N. Korea or
Iran.  I’m sure that there are lots of Real Americans that would pay for your ticket.

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By short vega, February 6, 2007 at 8:06 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Ronald Torngren:
“My wife is active duty army and knows that when given an order it is to be obeyed.  We elected President Bush and our Congress to decide what is and what is not legal.”

The world (and the US) would be a much better place without dimwits like you.

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By Russell, February 6, 2007 at 5:03 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Watada volunteered into the United States Army. And when “tapped” to deploy he showed is lack of character (patriotism). He mentions that his research showed that the war was illegal. I wonder how he felt right after 9/11…when troops were deployed into Iraq—would he have gone then?  Or is he just scared of getting killed?
He did not speak out against the war when he was collecting his paycheck - only when the possibility that his unit would be inserted into Iraq.  Watada would go to Afghanistan but not Iraq- soldiers don’t get to pick and choose.
GUILTY AS CHARGED - then again, what do you expect from a father who is a conscientious objector.

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By Dan Flynn, February 6, 2007 at 3:21 am Link to this comment
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I live in England where the majority of people were opposed to war with Iraq. Our Parliament was told by Tony Blair that our country was in danger unless we supported our USA allies in toppling Saddam’s regime as they had Weapons of mass destruction which would be used against us within days. Reluctantly we went to war as it seemed that we had no choice but it appears now that the motive for war (self Defense) was a lie and that Tony Blair just wanted to look good in front of G Bush. In my view that makes the war illegal and both BUSH & BLAIR should face a war crimes tribunal. Any soldier that refused to fight in this illegal war is a hero and history will prove it so. I am sad that so many of our brave soldiers had to die (100 British to date & over 2000 Americans) for the ego of two men but it still does not give us any cause to continue the war. It is time to brinng our young people home. Dan Flynn

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By reis southworth, February 6, 2007 at 1:18 am Link to this comment
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In a democracy there must be checks and balances built into all levels of government, including the executive branch.
The lack or dysfunction of checks and balances in the executive branch can only lead to facism.
The creation of crisis is the facist’s vehicle for perpetuating control of the government and it’s citizens.

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By Jen, February 6, 2007 at 12:36 am Link to this comment
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I read that this man used to be an exemplary boyscout. 

It seems he still is.  HONOR. PRINCIPLE. DUTY.

This man personifies them all.  Yes you may say he’s neglecting his duty by obeying orders.  But isn’t America supposed to be a nation of laws and not of men?  He is putting duty to country, the law, and the constitution above that of the illegal orders of flawed men.

This man is not a coward as some paint him.  What he’s doing takes more guts than “goin along” with the rest of em and shipping to Iraq.  1 man against the entire establishment.  Now that is COURAGE! 

Yes, yes, and yes…we have heard the so called “he volunteered and signed up, so he should do as they order” blah blah argument.  I mean get real. 
Yes he volunteered.  He volunteered to serve his country.  He volunteered to give up certain freedoms by joining the military.  But the other half of that is you TRUST your superiors and leaders not to throw your life away into a DUMB and UNECESSARY WAR.  The superiors have violated that trust.  Iraq before the invasion WAS NOT a threat to America.  THERE WERE NO “TERRORISTS” IN IRAQ BEFORE AMERICANS WENT IN.  The only reason they are there now is because we Americans are there.  The reasons for war have all been shown false.  So when this man says by following orders to deploy he would be violating his duty to the country, he’s absolutely right.

Mr. Watada…you sir, are a true American HERO.

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By Ask the NSA, February 6, 2007 at 12:33 am Link to this comment
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During the Nuremberg trials we determined that the Nazis could not hide behind the “we were just following orders” defense. This implied that they had a duty to disobey orders which to a reasonable person were illegal, immoral, or otherwise against any common sense of decency.

This is precisely what Lt. Watada has done, refused to participate in an illegal and immoral war.

If we are now going to say that it is his duty to follow orders no matter what, then there is truly nothing left worth dying for in this country, for we have become the very evil we fought against not so long ago.

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By John, February 6, 2007 at 12:12 am Link to this comment
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What a douche bag. Its not a soldier’s responsibility to decide if a war is illegal or not. As a soldier you can’t pick and choose what wars to fight. Wether Iraq is a “legal” war or not is beside the point. His duties lie with his men as an officer and that kind of loyalty and elan transcends all this political mumbo jumbo that shrouds the Iraq War.
If Watada thinks the war is unjust, that’s just fine, but as a soldier he should have just shut up and done his job. Then criticize the war and the Bush administration after he has served.

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By James, February 5, 2007 at 11:57 pm Link to this comment
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Lt. Watada’s decision will cost him his freedom.  He is not a coward.  A coward would have made a plea to reduce the sentence.

Watada’s decisions will follow him through out his life.  That’s Lt.Watada’s burden.  I admire him for his conviction and trying to working within the Department of Defense to find a solution.  Even, when the Army didn’t want a solution from Watada.

He is not a hero.  Nor is he a martyr.  He is a man who stands for what he believed in.  Willing to account for his actions and be responsible.

I admire those traits.

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By Jim Williams, February 5, 2007 at 10:25 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The last time there was an illegal war, half a million troops deserted [source: ]].  Along the way, the military did its best to squash First Amendment rights.  Here is a telling quip from the 1968 court martial of Pvt. Ken Stolte Jr. and PFC Daniel Amick; it is an exchange between defense attorney Francis Heisler and the apprehending officer [source: ]]

Heisler:  Can you think of any rule or regulation which says that these two boys shouldn’t have been passing out leaflets such as this?

Captain:  No — well, in effect, yes I can, I do know that every soldier, whether he enlists or is drafted, takes the oath of induction and swears to be loyal to the United States Army.

Heisler:  Do you know the oath of induction?

Captain:  Yes.

Heisler:  Would you please repeat it.

Captain:  I swear to defend the Constitution of the United States ....

At this point, the entire court room breaks out laughing, and the law officer declares a ten-minute recess.

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By Wally, February 5, 2007 at 10:11 pm Link to this comment
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To me this case is nothing but a kangaroo court, and the big apes are running the show.
  The question is whether the war is legal. That issue should be resolved before the military can go off half cocked handing out sentences for refusal to serve under “illegal” conditions.
  The military court should cease, if they can’t resolve the issue of the legality of the war and turn the case over to a court that can hear the evidence on the wars “legality” and make a ruling.
  If in fact the war is illegal, Watada has, in my opinion, no obligation to serve or obey any order.
  Contract law does not allow for contracts to be made “enforceable” if they are “illegal” and are thus rendered “null and void”
  Watada’s contract of servitude with the military is only enforcable under legal conditions.

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By SadButTrue, February 5, 2007 at 10:02 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that in the military John and Head are both synonyms for toilet.

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By Mirror6, February 5, 2007 at 10:00 pm Link to this comment
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I don’t understand when you guys will realize enough is enough. More than 3000 of our guys died in the worthless war in Iraq. If had we been attacked by someone and we were resisting like Iraqi citizens are doing now to drive out the occupiers then we can say a war worth saving our country. The Bush, Dick Cheney cronies are profiting from war and having sacrifice done by the poor guys. How long will it take for those who consider this unnecessary and unjust war to show so called “Patriotism”. This is not partritism, rather blindness and madness. Whatever the officer did - that is the right thing to do.

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By Aaitje, February 5, 2007 at 9:49 pm Link to this comment
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Officer Watada’s inevitable conviction for his bravery, is yet another reason WHY American’s with half a brain should *refuse* “service* in the U.S. Military.

At least Bush was smart enough to understand the truth behind the marketed “Serve Your Country” bullshit, and with the help of his daddy’s powerful friends, was able to avoid said “service” and look where it got him! The White House!

Stupid John Kerry not only served but he *volunteered* and look where *that* got him—the WH stolen right from under his nose by the very people that weren’t so DUMB as to “serve their country”.

Although Lt. Watada is absolutely right; that the war in Iraq is ILLEGAL, as a soldier, he’s sworn to serve the President no matter what a stupid-ass numb-nut the person is.

As a service member, you’re canon-fodder, and at the mercy of whatever lunatic can steal power, and that’s why I tell my kids: “To HELL with U.S. Military service! I didn’t give birth to sacrificial meat for the wealth and power of the already wealthy, and powerful. F-that!”

See…I’m smart, and so are my kids—-just like George W. Bush.

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By BornFree, February 5, 2007 at 9:26 pm Link to this comment
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Lt Watada is a true patriot. Those who are referring to his so called Japanese/American ancestory are racist and bigots and they ought to be ashamed of themselves.
The real question is the legality of war and there is more than enough evidence to prove that it was based on fabrications and lies and has caused much death and desruction. Forget about the legalities also, what Lt. Watada has done is the moral thing to do.

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By Kwagmyre, February 5, 2007 at 9:08 pm Link to this comment
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#51791 by Ronald Torngren:

“My wife is active duty army and knows that when given an order it is to be obeyed.  We elected President Bush and our Congress to decide what is and what is not legal.  I don’t remember voting for the cowardly Watada and could care less about his views of legality.  I hope they throw the book at this traitor.”

Nice goin’ Ron.  If we were now living in Nazi Germany it’s reassuring to know how you and your wife would so zealously carry out the Fuhrer’s orders for the destruction of the Jews, gays, gypsies,etc., and then once you got caught by the Allies right after the collapse of the regime, you’d feel so secure saying, “but we were ONLY following legally given orders!”

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By joneden, February 5, 2007 at 8:15 pm Link to this comment
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Given that Officers of the US Military are charged with only carrying out lawful orders—and are subject to prosecution for behaving otherwise—Watada and all other officers find themselves in truly a Kafkaesque position.

Connecting the dots: From human behaviors to Ecosystem decline

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By L.G., February 5, 2007 at 7:59 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I am not an lawyer. However, considering notions of international law at the Neurenberg Trials, would not the judge, any superior officer who ratified the findings of the court, and possibly the jury be guilty of war crimes, if criminal activity comes about directly related to their prosecution of watada?

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By Quy Tran, February 5, 2007 at 6:56 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Truth always hurts mostly when the truth tells LIE. Bush criminal administration is in that case. We should bring him to justice but not Watada who only told the whole world the naked truth of the illegal war in Iraq.

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By Steve Hammons, February 5, 2007 at 6:05 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Watada’s Japanese-American ancestry has not been brought up, at least not overtly.

But, some people might wonder about his patriotism or equate his ethnic background with a political viewpoint he might have.

This may be so. The history of Japanese-Americans in the US and in our military is a complex and interesting one.

Especially interesting is the WWII US Army Military Intelligence Service (MIS) made up of Japanese-American soldiers.

The story of the MIS is a fascinating one that might provide insight into the Watada case.

For more information, see:

Secret WWII Army Intelligence Unit Has Lessons for Us Now

Steve Hammons
American Chronicle
October 28, 2005

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By Ronald Torngren, February 5, 2007 at 5:59 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

My wife is active duty army and knows that when given an order it is to be obeyed.  We elected President Bush and our Congress to decide what is and what is not legal.  I don’t remember voting for the cowardly Watada and could care less about his views of legality.  I hope they throw the book at this traitor.

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By Bert, February 5, 2007 at 5:07 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I was in the service, and I was always under the impression that the officer corps had the privilege of resigning their commissions anytime they wanted to. I guess things were different than what I was told, or the military’s changed over the years, nonetheless I think he did a pretty brave thing by refusing to serve in Iraq.
There’s some that would probably accuse him of cowardice and worse, but sometimes it is the braver path to refuse to do something that you believe to be morally wrong.
He probably is going to end up facing the punishment they’re talking about, I think this administration has one hell of a vindictive streak, but at least Lt. Watada has the distinction of having made a decision and then stood by it. That’s part of what being an officer is all about, having principles and the personal
courage and moral fortitude to make a decision.
Lt. Watada’s far from being a minority or a lone voice in our country in his opposition to the war, this year may well see a successful opposition by Congress to the whole business, then again, it may not. Only time will give us the final outcome.

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