Army Officer to be Charged with Three Separate Charges
Army charges officer for refusing to fight in Iraq
Jul 5, 8:28 PM (ET)
SEATTLE (Reuters) - The U.S. Army filed three charges on Wednesday against an officer who refused to fight in Iraq due to objections over the legality of the war.
First Lt. Ehren Watada, who supporters say is the first commissioned U.S. officer to publicly refuse to serve in Iraq and face a military court, remained at Fort Lewis base in Washington state when his unit shipped out to Iraq on June 22.
Watada called the war and U.S. occupation of Iraq "illegal" and said participation would make him a party to war crimes.
In a statement, the Army said it had charged Watada, 28, with missing movement, contempt toward officials and conduct unbecoming an officer.
"Officers are held to a high moral and legal standard. Acts contrary to this standard may be tried by court-martial," said the Army statement.
If found guilty of all charges, Watada could face several years in confinement, dishonorable discharge and forfeiture of pay, according to the Army. The missing movement charge carries the heaviest punishment of confinement of up to two years.
Watada's lawyer said he expected the missing movement charge, but was somewhat surprised by the decision to charge the officer with contempt toward officials and conduct unbecoming an officer, because it raises free speech issues.
"What he said about the war and the way the war began and the misrepresentations by the Bush administration are all true. Not only does he have a right to make those statements, he has an obligation to make those statements," said Eric Seitz, Watada's Honolulu-based attorney.
"The reasons why they are going after him for the things he said is because they want to muzzle him," Seitz said.
Watada's objection to the war sparked rallies in support and protest near Fort Lewis, Seattle and in other U.S. cities.
Watada, who had said he did not apply for conscientious objector status because he isn't against war in general, now faces a pre-trial investigation and will continue to work at the base, Army officials said.
He first attempted to resign in protest over the war in January, but the Army refused to accept his resignation, according to his supporters. Watada has said he would be willing to serve in Afghanistan, but not Iraq.
Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion and/or belief, but when you become an officer, you are sworn to obey all lawful orders. Whether you believe the order is lawful or not is not up to YOU to make that decision. You have channels you are allowed to take and procedures you can follow to check to make sure if the orders you received are lawful - and it seems this officer did not do this. He simply was going on his belief, and probably what he read in the Main Stream Media.
The first thing I would question would be why he did not file for conscientious objector status. Yes, I realize they say because he is not against war, just this one, but why did he not apply for it anyways?
Second thing I would question is why the Army did not accept his resignation of his commission? I would be curious as to the reasons behind that.
The lawyer for this officer should not have been "suprised" at the charges leveled at the AWOL officer. Did the lawyer think that the Army would not pull out all the stops to make this officer an example? I am suprised he was not charged with more.
Officers by many of the lower ranks are given respect due to their rank, and personally I have met some officers that were not fit to stir my coffee but it is not my choice whom I show the respect due to officer rank. They are officers and accordingly, I respect the rank if I do not respect the person. But at no time do I have the excuse to say what I feel like to that officer without having consequences to those actions.
Freedom of Speech is never really free, there is a price to pay one way or another.
And being former Army myself, I can tell you there is a helluva lot less 'freedom of speech' than you normally would have in the civilian world.
I think many people fail to recognize just how the military works. Everyday civvy life is not the same as Military life.
You have freedom of speech, but if your wrong, you will pay a price for your words.
You have freedom of choice, but again, you make the wrong choice, there are severe punishments that go along with it.
It is hard to describe the way the Military world works, but it will have to suffice to say there are big differences between civvy world and military world.