Tag Archives: gi resistance
More legal documents and some analysis
Thank You Lieutenant Watada !
View Lt. Watada’s Historic Speech to the 2006 Veterans for Peace Convention
A federal judge in Tacoma has delayed the court-martial of 1st Lt.
Ehren Watada, a Fort Lewis Army officer to refuse to deploy to Iraq.
In a rare intervention of a civilian court in the military justice
system, U.S. District Court Judge Benjamin H. Settle granted the
emergency stay shortly before close of business Friday.
Watada’s trial, slated to begin at 9 a.m. Tuesday, is now postponed
until at least Oct. 26, the judge ruled.
In granting the stay at 4:48 p.m., Settle determined that he has
jurisdiction under federal law to grant the stay and that Watada’s
claim that a second-trial amounts to double jeopardy is not frivolous
and “has merit” for consideration.
“The irreparable harm suffered by being put to a trial a second time
in violation of the double jeopardy clause of the Fifth Amendment
stems not just from being subjected to double punishment but also from
undergoing a second trial proceeding,” Settle wrote in quoting case
Watada’s lawyers, Jim Lobsenz and Ken Kagan of the Seattle firm Carney
Badley Spellman, have argued that the circumstances of a mistrial
declared in Watada’s court-martial in February result in double
jeopardy — being tried twice for the same charge.
The mistrial was declared over Watada’s objections and after a panel
of military officers acting as a jury had heard evidence but not begun
Watada’s appeals have been dismissed by the military trial judge and
the U.S. Army Court of Appeals. An appeal was made Sept. 18 to the
Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, the highest court in the
military justice system.
Lobsenz and Kagen said they were compelled to ask the federal court on
Wednesday to stop the court-martial. Watada’s trial approached, and
nothing had been heard from the armed forces appeals court. With
Monday a federal holiday to observe Columbus Day, time was even
shorter, they said.
Settle indicated at a hearing on Thursday that he might defer to the
military appeals court if it made a decision by Friday, but at close
of business Friday, it hadn’t ruled.
Because the case being heard in federal court, the U.S. Attorney’s
Office now is arguing the government position.
Watada publicly refused to go to Iraq with the 3rd Stryker Brigade in
June 2006, contending that the war there is illegal and exposed
members of the military to war crimes. He has been charged with
missing movement and conduct unbecoming an officer. He could be
sentenced to up to six years in prison if convicted.
Settle has set up a briefing schedule to examine the merits of the
double jeopardy argument and how long he will continue the stay. The
government has until Oct. 12 to file its arguments, and Watada’s
lawyers must reply by Oct. 17.
P-I reporter Mike Barber can be reached at 206-448-8018 or
Seattle Post Intelligencer Editorial, 10/5/07
Watada Court-Martial: Let him go
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER EDITORIAL BOARD
The twists and turns of the court-martial proceedings against Fort
Lewis 1st Lt. Ehren Watada continue to cause pain and division.
Watada came to an easily debated but apparently sincere decision that
the Iraq war was wrong, even illegal. He had one mistrial, and his
attorneys are trying to block a second proceeding as violating rules
against double jeopardy. But the court-martial is scheduled to begin
However the defense appeals turn out, we think there is a case for
letting Watada leave the Army without further ado. That could be taken
as a statement of higher-level confidence, a choice to focus on the
larger military mission that President Bush and Gen. David Petraeus
insist is making new progress. At a minimum, many of those who oppose
the Iraq war would welcome the leniency for someone they view as a
person of conscience.
AI Index: AMR 51/152/2007 (Public)
News Service No: 191
5 October 2007
USA: Conviction of war objector would violate international rights
Amnesty International today expressed serious concern that US Army First Lieutenant Ehren Watada could face up to six year’s imprisonment solely for his conscientious objection to participating in the Iraq war. Ehren Watada is due to face US court-martial on 9 October for refusing to deploy to Iraq.
“It is unacceptable that Ehren Watada should face punishment for peacefully expressing his objections to the war in Iraq. His internationally recognized right to conscientious objection must be respected,” said Susan Lee, Amnesty International’s Americas Programme Director today.
Ehren Watada refused to deploy to Iraq in June 2006, based on his belief that the Iraq war is illegal and immoral. Amnesty International believes that his objection to the war is genuine and that, if found guilty, he would be a prisoner of conscience who should be immediately and unconditionally released.
The right to refuse to perform military service for reasons of conscience, thought or religion is protected under international human rights standards, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which the US has ratified.
Ehren Watada is charged with missing his unit’s deployment in June 2006 and with “conduct unbecoming an officer” for making public comments criticizing President George Bush and the Iraq war. In addition to a possible six-year prison term, he also faces a dishonourable discharge from the Army. His first court-martial in February 2007 was declared a mis-trial after questions arose as to whether Ehren Watada had understood a pre-trial agreement he had signed.
Ehren Watada joined the army in 2003 for a three-year term, which was due to end in December 2006. In January 2006, he submitted a letter to his army command outlining his reasons for refusing to participate in the Iraq war and asking to resign from the army. He did not formally apply for conscientious objector status because US army regulations stipulate that applicants for this status must be opposed to war in any form; they do not provide for conscientious objector status on the basis of an objection to a specific war.
Amnesty International considers a conscientious objector to be any person who, for reasons of conscience or profound conviction, refuses to participate in war or armed conflict. This can include refusal to participate in a war because one disagrees with its aims or the manner in which it was being waged, even if one does not oppose taking part in all wars.
In a speech given in August 2006, Ehren Watada defended his position, “One who breaks an unjust law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.”
by Randy Rowland
The San Francisco newspaper merely reported that a prisoner at the Presidio Stockade had been shot and killed by a guard. It was Friday, October 11th, 1968. Knowing that I would most likely end up in the stockade the next day, I was asked to investigate what was going on inside, and report it to the anti-war movement.
Saturday a massive demonstration was to be held in San Francisco: “GIs and Vets march for peace.” 10,000 or more people would march in the demo. Four of us, AWOL from the military, were to turn ourselves in to military authorities at the end of the march.
The Brass, worried about the growing GI anti-war movement, tried to prevent active duty GIs from going to the demo through harassment and blatantly restricting whole units to base for the weekend. In spite of this, many GIs and vets marched in the demonstration. Afterwards there was a small ceremony at the gates to the Presidio Army Base and I stepped over the line, into the custody of the awaiting MPs. I had been on orders to go to Vietnam (a common unofficial punishment for having applied for noncombatant status). On the advice of my lawyer, I had gone AWOL to avoid shipment. I hadn’t been on a military base in over 3 months. I was nervous-word on the street was that there was a lot of brutality going on in the stockade.
Much to my surprise, the military authorities decided to put me in a holding company instead of confining me in the stockade. By now it was early evening, and I tried to think of how to deal with this unexpected development. I couldn’t find out what was going on in the stockade if I wasn’t in it. The Sergeant on duty in the orderly room was the kind of guy all the jokes about military mentality are based on. I walked in and announced “I’m refusing to sweep this floor on grounds of conscience!” It didn’t occur to the Sarge that nobody had asked me to do anything. He immediately found a broom and thrust it in my face growling, “I’m giving you an order to sweep this floor, and I don’t want lip, just assholes and elbows.” I wouldn’t take the broom. His face was a study in self-righteous determination as he handcuffed me to a chair. Half hour later, I found myself in the Presidio Stockade.
It didn’t take long to hear the story of how the guard had shotgunned a prisoner at close range, how there had been a riot on Friday night in response to the murder. The prisoners were angry, and wanted to escalate the struggle. I found Keith Mather, one of the “Nine for Peace,” GIs who had chained themselves to clergymen in a San Francisco church in protest to the war. He and I and a few others started going around talking to prisoners calling for a meeting later at night in the cellblock. People debated the options hotly and finally agreed on a sit-down demonstration in the stockade yard on Monday morning. We drew up a list of demands, including investigations into the murder of the prisoner, protests against stockade conditions, opposition to the war and racist harassment of Blacks. I passed a copy of the list to my lawyer Sunday morning and reported back that he would set up support on the outside. We spent the rest of the weekend debating each other and the rest of the prisoners about why it was important to do the action, how important it was to connect with the civilian movement, and what the likely consequences of our protest would be.
Monday, October 14th, 1968 was a cool but clear day. The inmates stood tensely in morning formation. None of us was sure if anyone else would do it. But on cue 27 of us broke ranks and walked over to a grassy spot in the yard, singing “We Shall Overcome.” We sat down, linked arms and continued to sing. The Sgt. in charge was yelling. Moments later the Commandant arrived and tried to order us to return to the formation. We sang louder. He tried to read us the articles of mutiny. We drowned him out, pouring our souls into the song. Walter Polowski, who had agreed to be our spokesman, stood up and read the list of grievances and demands. When the Brass tried to speak, we burst into song again.
A CID photographer came into the compound and began taking our photos for “evidence.” We knew the penalty for mutiny was death, but in a wildly elated way we didn’t care. We were going up against the motherfuckers, we were taking our stand. They brought firemen up to squirt us with their hoses, but the firemen refused to do it. We kept singing. They brought in a company of MPs with riot gear and gas masks. We feared the worst, but kept singing. Finally the MPs moved in and picked us up one at a time and carried us back into the cells. The demonstration was over, but the storms were only about to begin. We were charged with mutiny, the most serious military offense. As the Regulations put it, “there is no maximum sentence.” The reason mutiny is considered so serious is that not only is it going up against the Brass, it is done in concert with others.
The image of GIs facing the electric chair for singing “We Shall Overcome” sent a shock wave through the community. And after the first several mutineers to be tried got 14, 15, and 16 years each, there was a national uproar which contributed greatly to the general disillusionment about the system that was growing throughout the land and especially within the ranks of the military. Once again, the Brass, in raising their hand to beat us down, punched themselves in the eye.
Asked later why he had approved such harsh charges and treatment against a peaceful demonstration, the Commander of the 6th Army replied “We thought the revolution was starting, and we were trying to crush it.” The Presidio 27 Mutiny was one of the early big acts of resistance in the military. By 1971, even by Pentagon admission, the U.S. Army had degenerated to the point where it was unreliable. GIs had decided that it wasn’t our war and no amount of oppression could crush our movement.
By spring of 1970 the Presidio case had gotten so much publicity and there was such a “Free the Presidio 27” movement that the Brass must have decided to cut their losses. All of us were released within a short time of each other. After a year and a half of imprisonment, the gates of Leavenworth swung closed behind me. I was wearing my car coat that every prisoner gets when they leave. I had my bus ticket, $25, and a letter ordering me never to step on a whole list of military bases again. I had done time with military resisters from bases all over the world, all of us concentrated in Leavenworth.
Twenty years later, I met a couple of the 27 for the first time since we all were in prison together. One of them, John Colip, remarked, “I don’t think too much about all the things they did to us, I think about all we did to them. You know what I remember best about those times? We were incorrigible!” The Presidio Mutiny was very much representative of the GI movement. We were mainly working class youth, politicized by what was going on in the world, with our view of America-the-Unbeautiful clarified by the war, the military, and the brutality and outright torture we experienced behind bars. They tried hard to break us, but the only break was with them. Like so many GIs during that time, we really felt that we had nothing to lose, and nothing in common with them or their society. Through it all we kept our spirits, kept our unity, and not only didn’t we ever repent, we went out of our way to keep messing with them.