Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Ehren Watada: Still Fighting for His Freedom

Great piece in last week's issue of The Nation on the status of Lt. Ehren Watada, who is the first commissioned officer to refuse to serve in Iraq. In case you missed what's happened lately, Watada's military court trial for his failure to deploy ended in a mistrial; however, the military courts have threatened to re-try him--contravening, Watada argues, his constitutional right to be spared double-jeopardy.

Now Watada's taking his case to the US courts, asking them to deny the military court the right to subject him to yet another trial on the same charge. And thus far the US court has complied, offering a stay to block the 2nd military court trial.

Watada will go before that judge on October 19th to plead his case, and it should be interesting to see what comes of it. If he loses, Watada goes back to the military court to be tried again--and it will be a miracle if there's yet another mistrial this time around. Moreover, the likelihood of a military court finding in his favor strikes me as slim to none, not least because in order to find him innocent
the court would essentially have to declare the war in Iraq both "immoral and illegal"--the charges that form the crux of Watada's claim about his innocence (i.e., that he was, as an officer, dutybound not to take part in conduct he knew to be immoral or illegal--and by the measure of American law, he says, this war is both). If the court says he is right, then not only has it delivered a slap in the face to the Executive Branch, but it also has on its hands about 200,000+ criminal-soldiers who have deployed as directed to carry out an illegal war. And who the hell wants to deal with that?

I couldn't be a bigger fan of Watada's and I have every finger and toe crossed that the US courts will find that he deserves access to his constitutional rights as much as any other citizen. Because-- and call me a pessimist--I'm pretty confident that this guy stands no shot if the military tries to take another swing at him. See what standing up for your morals gets you in this country these days?

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