Lt. Ehren Watada’s Mistrial

flyer from Rockland Green David Mitchell :

Lt. Ehren Watada, Ft. Lewis, WA

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The court martial of U.S. Army 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, who publicly refused an order to deploy to Iraq, was aborted unexpectedly on its third day February 7th when a mistrial was declared by the judge. Many observers believe that the judge (an Army officer) manipulated the proceedings over the objections of both the defense and Army lawyers in order to force a mistrial to end a trial that was not following a predictable safe course.

Lt. Watada refused the order to deploy to the Iraq war last June on the grounds that the war, and therefore also his order to deploy for it, are illegal under International Law, Military Law and the U.S. Constitution. He argued he was fulfilling his obligations under the legal principles and precedents of the Nuremberg Trials of the Germans after World War II that are specifically codified in military law provisions imposing an individual duty to refuse illegal orders and denying soldiers a defense that they were following superior orders.

While the judge had made a pretrial ruling that the “Nuremberg defense” was irrelevant and the legality of the war and the deployment order could not be directly contested; those issues, nonetheless, were prevalent during the proceedings. In fact, the only three witnesses put on by the Army (two of Lt. Watada’s battalion commanders and a military law professor) even had admitted on examination that a soldier had a duty to refuse an illegal order. One of the officers sitting on the “jury” was seated although she stated she was “impressed” when she heard about Lt. Watada “standing up for what he believed”.

The prosecution had “rested” to the distress of the judge with a weak case seemingly very favorable to the defense, and Lt. Watada and a soldier back from Iraq were scheduled to testify about why Lt. Watada did what he did. In testifying about his intent and motivation, Lt. Watada would have put before the jury whether he acted with criminal intent or rather with a reasonable belief that he was following his legal duty in view of what he came to learn about the war. The war, in fact, was being put on trial indirectly. And what would be the verdict or result on appeal? Instead, proceedings ended in a mistrial.The Rockland Coalition for Peace and Justice fully supports Lt. Watada in his principled stand and in his determination to resist orders to participate in an illegal war/occupation.

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