Just in tonight from Ft. Lewis via the Seattle P-I:
The court-martial of 1st Lt. Ehren Watada ended in a mistrial Wednesday.
The case’s judge, Lt. Col. John Head, declared the trial over after a day of wrangling over a stipulation of facts that Watada had signed before the trial and that would have been part of the instructions to the jury. The judge decided that Watada never intended when he signed the stipulation to mean that he had a duty to go to Iraq with his unit.
Again the issue was Watada’s views on the Iraq war — opinions that kept him from going with his unit to the conflict and that the judge didn’t want brought up at the court-martial.
Watada, a Stryker Brigade soldier, is the first commissioned officer to refuse to be deployed to Iraq. Watada’s unit left this sprawling base for Iraq in June, but Watada remained behind. He said he believes the war is illegal and that his duty is to not abide by illegal orders.
But Head tried to keep the court-martial from becoming a tribunal on the war and its legality and has ruled that Watada’s attorney cannot present witnesses to question the war’s legality. Outside the base, that has been the issue as peace activists from across the country have rallied to Watada’s side.
Watada is charged with missing movement to Iraq and with two counts of conduct unbecoming an officer. Those last two charges result from statements Watada made against the war in a video tape released to reporters after he made his refusal to go to Iraq public and to a Veterans for Peace convention at the University of Washington.
He had been charged with two other counts of conduct unbecoming for interviews he gave. Prosecutors dropped those charged in return for Watada’s signing a stipulation that he had given the interviews. He also acknowledged in the stipulation that he didn’t go with his unit to Iraq, though he didn’t admit his guilt to the missing movement charge…
… “I see there is an inconsistency in the stipulation of fact,” the judge said Wednesday. “I don’t know how I can accept (it) as we stand here now.”
Because much of the Army’s evidence was laid out in the document, rejecting it would hurt its case, Head acknowledged. He granted the prosecutors’ request for a mistrial, which Watada’s lawyer opposed.
Seattle Times has more:
Head said the prosecutors could move to reopen their case which had already been completed on Tuesday. However, they declined to reopen the case, which would have been complicated by the jury already seeing the agreement that now had problems.
Instead, the prosecution moved for a mistrial which the judge then granted and tentatively scheduled a trial for mid-March.
In a new trial, Watada, 28, could face up to six years in prison if convicted of all the charges against him.
Watada and his cheerleaders are the subject of my column today, reprinted here with links.
Angry, left-wing Washington Post blogger William Arkin considers American troops in Iraq who believe in their mission “mercenaries” who are “naive” and should be thankful they haven’t been spit upon yet. Curdled Democrat Sen. John Kerry thinks those soldiers, who volunteer for service, didn’t “make an effort to be smart” and are “stuck in Iraq” because of their intellectual deficiencies. At the last anti-war spasm in Washington, liberal peace-lovers vandalized a military recruitment office — repeating an act of destruction taken by rock-wielding thugs across college campuses and at ROTC headquarters nationwide.
So, who inspires these troop-bashers? Whose courage do they cheer? Whom do they call “hero”?
Not the American soldier on the battlefield, willingly and freely putting his life on the line for his beliefs, his family, our country, security and freedom.
No, their idea of a military hero is Army Lt. Ehren Watada. Did Watada take a bullet for his comrades? Rescue innocent civilians from insurgent forces? Throw himself on a grenade? Ambush a terrorist sniper nest? No.
Watada’s the soldier who went on trial this week for defying orders to be deployed to Iraq — after volunteering for duty. For those deficient in English, here’s the meaning of volunteer: “To perform or offer to perform a service of one’s own free will.” Hundreds of anti-war groupies, including actor Sean Penn, showed up to cheer Watada.
Watada was scheduled to leave Fort Lewis, Wash., for his first tour of duty in Iraq last summer. Instead of getting on the bus with his fellow soldiers, he announced he would not go and denounced the war as “unjust” and “illegal.” He was the only military officer to refuse deployment to Iraq with Fort Lewis’ 4,000-member Stryker Brigade. The anti-war propaganda machin e kicked into full gear for Watada, with coordinated press conferences in Tacoma, Wash., and Honolulu, where Watada grew up.
Some of Watada’s hometown neighbors are sick of his intellectual disingenuousness. Writing in Watada’s hometown newspaper, the Honolulu Advertiser, retired Col. Thomas D. Farrell, who served as an Army intelligence officer in Iraq in 2005-2006, retorted:
“How can anyone seriously claim that our military involvement in Iraq is illegal when both Congress and the U.N. have taken the steps to authorize it, and allow it to continue to this day? Lt. Watada argues that he has the right to make his own personal assessment, notwithstanding whatever Congress and the U.N. may do. If he’s right, why not make our personal assessments about how fast is safe to drive, or how much tax is our fair share? The answer is obvious: Anarchy would prevail, and the rule of law — the basis of all real freedom — would cease to exist.”
The only thing illegal here is Watada’s willful refusal to obey orders. Watada is just the latest in a line of losers abandoning their men, their mission and the rule of law. The left calls this “dissent.” The rest of us call it what it is: Desertion.
Many military observers say they smelled a rat when they first heard of Watada’s story. Watada graduated from Hawai’i Pacific University in 2003, joined the Army shortly after, went to Officer Candidate School and incurred a three-year obligation. Wrote Navy Officer Robert Webster:
“This guy graduated from college and then joined the Army, going to Officer Candidate school, after we had already started the Iraq campaign just to claim it was an ‘illegal’ war when his unit is called to go. Smells funny to me. In my mind, either the Army gave a commission to an idiot not aware of current events or he planned this all along.”
Soldiers making calculated political statements against their own troops?
Wouldn’t be the first time — cough, cough, John Kerry. Idiot or schemer, Watada deserves a stiff, strong penalty for his lawlessness. An excellent proposal put forth at the military blog Op-For:
“Relieve him of operational duties and send him to work at Walter Reed, to handle the in- and out-processing of wounded veterans.”
Yes, where the real heroes are.