search
top

Court Martial Begins

The court martial for Ehren Watada, who refused orders to ship out to Iraq, begins today, and it seems the judge isn’t allowing testimony about the legality of the war:

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.

It seems to me this is appropriate, since this war was approved by Congress, it is constitutional and the orders to ship out lawful.  Watada’s attorney seems to be unhappy so far:

“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.

This will definitely get me kicked out of the Libertarian Club to say this, but Watada is lucky he’s only facing prison time and a dishonorable discharge.  In wars past, he would have been lined up in front of a firing squad and shot.  When you join the military, you don’t get to pick and choose when you fight, or refuse orders to make political statements about the war.  It would be one thing if he refused orders to machine gun down a crowd of women and children, but sorry Ehren, you’re not a hero for refusing deployment orders because you don’t like the war, you’re a worm.

“He betrayed his fellow soldiers who are now serving in Iraq,” Capt. Dan Kuecker said at one hearing.

Yup!

3 Responses to “Court Martial Begins”

  1. bob says:

    ‘…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.’

    Sebastian : “It seems to me this is appropriate, since this war was approved by Congress, it is constitutional and the orders to ship out lawful.”

    This is the same argument that is made to stop 2nd amendment arguments in court; it is no more valid in this case than in cases involving the right to “keep and bear”.

    Exactly what is the concern about him making the argument that his orders were illegal? Do you really think the members of the court (jury equivalent) will be swayed by an incorrect presentation? Is it really better that only _one_ person (the judge) gets to decide that his argument is without merit (and may not be heard)?

    The man’s actions do not appear to meet the standard of “betrayal” or “cowardice in the face of the enemy”, but he certainly appears to have refused to obey a lawful order. A long prison sentence followed by a dishonourable discharge would seem appropriate. That does not justify refusing to allow him to present the reasoning that led him to take the actions that he took (or lack thereof).

  2. Sebastian says:

    It depends on whether there’s already precident in the court for the war being lawful. Since this isn’t the first Court Martial for someone refusing to deploy, I would imagine that there is existing precident within the military courts, as well as in the civilian federal courts, that basically says as much.

    In the case of controlling precident, the courts will generally disallow that issue to be raised during trial. Is this practice wrong? I’m not sure. I can see arguments for it and against it. On the one hand, I think juries should sit in judgement of law as well as facts. On other other hand, you can’t let defendents turn the court system into their own personal forums either. I’m willing to be persuaded though, in terms of whether the practice is just.

  3. bob says:

    “On other other hand, you can’t let defendents turn the court system into their own personal forums either. I’m willing to be persuaded though, in terms of whether the practice is just.”

    Let’s see: the possibility that a few defendants will waste a couple of days of court time versus a few years upto life in prison for a losing defendant (with _major_ changes in life when/if he gets out of prison). I, for one, am quite willing to pay for a few more court rooms if that is what it takes to assure that justice is served and injustice is avoided. But I doubt that it would be needed: if it is well known that you will be allowed to present your _full_ defense AND that juries have repeatedly rejected such defenses then, just maybe, you’ll chose a different course of action in the first place.

top