Lt. Watada about to be Court-Martialed

Lt. Ehren Watada is most likely going to face court martial for his refusal to deploy to Iraq. I’m kind of up in arms about how I feel about his situation and whether I support his decision or not.

The details of his particular situation are outlined in a recent NY Times article that Steve Gilliard cites in his post about it.

Lt. Watada refuses to deploy not for a half-hearted scheme to become a conscientious objector, but rather because he disagrees with this particular war: The War in Iraq. He was even offered a position out of combat, presumably in the Green Zone of Baghdad. He still refused. Now quite a few people in the blogosphere, both right and left, criticize him because they feel “he should have know he could face combat at some time or another”. Many others applaud him and his decision to not deploy.

One aspect of this that I have seen briefly discussed as a possible defense for Lt. Watada is the obligation of a military member to refuse orders if the believe they are illegal. Since the research Watada did prior to deployment led him to the conclusion that the Iraq War was started illegally, it stands to reason that any order to deploy to Iraq and fight is subsequently illegal also. Now I never had to face the type of decision Lt. Watada has, so this line of reasoning is one I am not completely familiar with. As such, I don’t know what the qualifiers would be to refuse a deployment order if one believes the order to be illegal. Especially one in which most members of the military to include the Pentagon leadership feel that invading Iraq was a valid decision made by the President. Is the burden of proof that such orders are illegal on the one refusing them or does the military leadership have to to prove they’re not?

In the end, Lt. Watada will most likely be found guilty of missing movement, conduct unbecoming an officer, and several other charges as well. I guess I’m still conflicted here. I applaud him for standing by his decision with full knowledge of the consequences, but also feel he should have known that deployment to a combat theater was possible. Of course, the Army could have solved the problem fairly quickly and with little fanfare or publicity by just honoring his request to resign his commission.

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