[JURIST] The first commissioned US military officer to publicly refuse to join the war in Iraq did so Wednesday, calling the war "unlawful" in a taped statement [recorded video] played at a press conference in Tacoma, Washington, near the US Army base at Ft. Lewis [official website]. First Lt. Ehren Watada [advocacy website; interview transcript] said he will not apply for conscientious objector status because he only opposes the war in Iraq, adding that he would go to Afghanistan, but still risks facing a court-martial for refusing to report for duty. In Wednesday’s press statement, Watada said [prepared statement]:
The war in Iraq violates our democratic system of checks and balances. It usurps international treaties and conventions that by virtue of the Constitution become American law. The wholesale slaughter and mistreatment of the Iraqi people with only limited accountability is not only a terrible moral injustice, but a contradiction to the Army’s own Law of Land Warfare. My participation would make me party to war crimes.
Normally, those in the military have allowed others to speak for them and act on their behalf. That time has come to an end. I have appealed to my commanders to see the larger issues of our actions. But justice has not been forthcoming. My oath of office is to protect and defend America’s laws and its people. By refusing unlawful orders for an illegal war, I fulfill that oath today.
An army spokesman said Watada’s case is being reviewed, stating that ten others have refused to go to Iraq, and that Watada’s case is not “particularly unique.” Watada was scheduled to deploy at the end of June with the Army's 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. Reuters has more. From Tacoma, the News Tribune has local coverage.