Friday, November 09, 2007

Ehren Watada Update (Iraq)

His sentence commuted, Scooter Libby is hanging out at home. Various Blackwater contractors were given immunity from prosecution after possibly shooting Iraqi civilians without provocation. In the meantime, the court martial saga of Ehren Watada, the army lieutenant who refused to go to Iraq, continues. In February, 2007 Watada’s court martial was declared a mistrial after considerable confusion around a stipulation that Watada had indeed refused to ship out to Iraq and had in fact spoken out against the war. The army tried to limit its case to that and was trying to keep out any testimony about Watada’s position that the war itself is illegal and that as a soldier he was bound by the Nuremberg standard that a soldier has a duty not to follow an illegal or immoral order.

Strangely, it was the Army that asked for the mistrial. Having charged Lt. Watada for making statements unbecoming an officer, the Army attempted to keep him from using the “morality” of the war as a defense. If Watada could not raise this defense, the stipulation made no sense. The judge then threw out the stipulation and granted the motion for mistrial on the second day of the court martial after opening statements had been made, evidence introduced, and witnesses had testified.

In a non-court martial case, this would almost certainly have resulted in jeopardy attaching for double jeopardy purposes. The army proceeded with a second court martial after the mistrial anyway based on the original court martial judge’s finding that jeopardy had somehow not attached. Lt. Watada’s attorney Eric Seitz then sought a writ from a regular U.S. Federal Court based on the double jeopardy issue. District Court Judge Settle granted a stay/injunction which essentially held that there was sufficient reason to believe that jeopardy had attached to force the parties to pursue that matter to its legal conclusion before the second court martial could begin.

In the meantime, Lt. Watada’s obligation for service would normally be ending very soon. Bottom line, the legal maneuverings in this matter have been extremely complicated and difficult to follow. I’ve still figured out the following.

1) The first Watada court martial in February 2007 came at roughly the time we were debating the “surge”. The Military Judge and the Army worked very hard, even risking the mistrial, to avoid having a public trial that dealt with any questions about the legality of the war in Iraq.

2) It’s fascinating that the army continues to invest so much effort into the matter after Lt. Watada’s service obligation should be over anyway. In other words, it would be relatively easy to settle this. It makes me wonder how many more Lt. Watada’s are out there.

3) Lt. Watada is one of the heroes of this war. I do find it interesting that Valerie Plame, Pat Tillman’s family, and Watada were the victims of very odd, well actually embarrassing, treatment by either the administration or the army.

Why is it that this administration has granted immunity to those who killed civilians without clear provocation and yet it wants to court martial Lt. Watada? At the end of World War 2, the U.S. prosecuted Japanese officers who had participated in waterboarding because they had a moral duty to disobey immoral orders. Which side are we on now?



At 11/09/2007 01:29:00 PM, Blogger None said...

Perhaps it is the question of how many Watada's are out there. If not for this "war" but for future ones as well.

Nearly everything that has come down as a result of Iraq has been out of this world. First the Abu Ghraib mess. Just to refresh the memory nobody higher than a specialist served time for that.

Then Haditha happened and several solders were charged. Our politicians went crazy. After listing to a radio interview with one of the defense lawyers, he suggested the trial teams were stacked against them. In other words, there were far more lawyers working to convict somebody for this. And, in the end? The charges get thrown out.

Hanging over all this is Guantanamo Bay. Obviously, here you can imprison an individual with out a trial. Heck, you can even be determined to be innocent.

I'm not sure if there is a straight line that can be drawn from all this. I'm guessing that much of it has to do with public or political perception. Abu Ghraib convicted people, just not the higher ups (close one guys). Haditha was supposed to hang somebody out to dry, yet the military seems to find it difficult to convict one of their own. In Guantanamo, only those deemed innocent deserve a defense. For Watada? I guess he falls into the Haditha category. Its just really hard to pin one of your own down.

The side we are on has never changed. Its always what is best for us at the moment. The horrors that were committed in the name of victory by Americans in WWII should haunt every single one of us.

At 11/09/2007 01:39:00 PM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

Interesting, yet I hardly think that the army is trying to treat Lt. Watada as one of their own. If they had to fully air the case, I suspect one thing that might come out is that there are a lot of Army officers who are surprisingly sympathetic to his position that the war is both illegal and immoral.

For instance, one of his superiors refused to testify that Watada's stance caused any disruption within the unit. Also, another officer supported the notion that Watada's was a principled stance as opposed to an attempt to shirk duty.

Both frustrated the judge and the prosecutors and do have some connection to the prosecutors asking for the mistrial after the proceeding had clearly started.

At 11/12/2007 07:34:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is there anyway you can get a letter to Lt. Watada saying that people are so proud of his courage? Or is he being held gitmoally?

Perhaps you could include your posts for him to have. If he's in a brig, he should be able to get mail.

Perhaps you could inquire of Pelosi's office or Boxer's to ask how to get a letter to him?

At 11/12/2007 09:43:00 PM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

I'm pretty sure he's reachable through the thankyou lieutenant Watada webpage I linked in all three articles. It was started by his mother.

I've never tried to contact him directly, but it's not a bad idea.

At 11/15/2007 12:27:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Chance- nice post.

It seems the Army has handled Ehren's case just as well as they have handled the war in Iraq. They must be nearly out of options and then what?

I suspect they don't care about military justice any longer (if they ever did). They just want to take Ehren down for whatever perceived disrespect he has shown to the military.

At 11/15/2007 09:43:00 AM, Blogger Chancelucky said...


thanks. It'll be interesting to see what the Federal Court judge does in the end and assuming that Watada wins on the double jeopardy issue whether the Army appeals it.

The case would be in the 9th circuit. I do think the court would have to find that double jeopardy does not apply to military tribunals in order to rule against him. That would mean there are almost no constitutional protections for those in the army or for those whom the army takes prisoner. It raises the question of what "freedom" are we fighting for again?


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