Dishonor

I’ve griped several times about the willful morons at TruthOut.org (hey, how goes that Karl Rove indictment, fellas?) and their refusal to verify subscriptions to their Daily Drivel, but every now and then I poke through whatever’s got them in a tizzy to see if they’re still just as big idiots as they were. And so far, they are.

Well, yesterday was a banner day. Their daily dump in my inbox had one of the dumbest pieces I have ever read. It was yet another sob story about US Army Lieutenant Ehren Watada — this one reprinted from The Nation.

Lt. Watada signed up for the Army and was commissioned in November of 2003 — note that date; several months after the US invaded Iraq. He went through all the training and whatnot, and served in several locations. Then his unit got its orders — they were headed for Iraq.

That was enough for him. He wanted out, so he tried to resign his commission. The only problem was that rather invonvenient contract he had signed where he had pledged to serve eight years. Well, the Army couldn’t really hold him to that, could they?

Yes, they could.

Lt. Watada then tried to argue that the war was illegal, and therefore his orders to deploy were illegal as well — and thus his refusal to obey was justified.

I have this image of a kindly officer (who, in my mind, has a soft southern drawl) trying to set Lt. Watada’s head right and keep him out of digging his own grave.

“Look here, Watada, you’re saying that the war in Iraq is illegal?”

“Yes, sir. It’s against international law and the United States Constitution, because it was not properly authorized by Congress, and my oath demands that I disobey orders that would make me a war criminal.”

“God save us from barracks lawyers. Look here, son. That whole ‘illegal orders’ thing — that’s a huge step. That’s intended for the really, really obvious cases — like if I was to tell you to go shoot some prisoners or obey my orders and no one else’s or frag some officer I don’t like. In every other case, that argument ain’t gonna win you nothing but a nice long stay in Leavenworth.”

“Sir, the war is illegal. It was never declared by Congress.”

“Son, think about that for a second. Your commander-in-chief thinks the war is legal. That’s why he’s ordering you over there. The Congress you talk about obviously thinks it’s legal — no matter what they say, they keep voting money to keep it going — and anyone who puts on our nation’s uniform oughta know that actions speak a hell of a lot louder than words. Your entire chain of command thinks it’s legal, because otherwise they’d all be doing what you’re doing — and they’re not. And there’s an entire corps of lawyers in there who do nothing but study and practice military law, and THEY got no problem with the situation. Now, son, all those people have a hell of a lot more experience and knowledge than you, and every single one of them says you got your head up your ass on this one — and if you keep this up, they’re gonna take away your commission, bust your head-stuffed ass down to private, toss your head-stuffed ass into the stockade for a few years, take away your pay, and then slap you with a dishonorable discharge for the rest of your life. Are you willing to face that, son, or would you rather keep the word of honor you gave willingly when you signed those enlistment papers?”

Well, now Lt. Watada is trying yet another assheaded legal maneuver. His first court martial ended when the presiding officer declared a mistrial. He’s arguing that a second trial would constitute double jeopardy, so he should be freed. Enter again Kindly Southern Officer:

“I’ve already been tried, and they didn’t convict me! They can’t try me again!”

“Son, how in THE hell did someone dumb as you ever live long enough to get through college, let alone be commissioned in this man’s Army? No, you wasn’t convicted, but you wasn’t acquitted, either.”

“But they put me on trial once! They can’t do it again! The Constitution says so!”

“No, they STARTED to put you on trial. Then someone screwed up something, so they stopped and wanna start over. They’re entitled to one FULL trial, and that means it ends with a verdict. If they don’t get to the verdict, then it ain’t a full trial.”

“But.. but… but… that’s unfair!”

“No, son, that’s the law. It happens all the time. Look how many mistrials are declared in the real world. It don’t mean nothing ‘less there’s a verdict — and even not that sometimes, if some other judge decides that verdict don’t count.”

At the end of the article, there are three paragraphs that spell out the incredibly stupid, self-centered wrong-headedness of Watada and his supporters.

While evidence of the war’s illegality was barred in Watada’s court-martial, his position is grounded in military law and doctrine. At a National Press Club luncheon February 17, 2006, just a year before Watada’s court-martial, Gen. Peter Pace, then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was asked, “Should people in the US military disobey orders they believe are illegal?”

Pace’s response: “It is the absolute responsibility of everybody in uniform to disobey an order that is either illegal or immoral.”

The Army wants to sentence Ehren Watada to six years in the brig for the crime of trying to fulfill that absolute responsibility.

The question General Pace was asked was about orders someone BELIEVES are illegal. His answer was about orders that ARE illegal. And, quite simply, it is not Lt. Watada’s place to make such judgments. He did the right thing — he expressed his concerns to his chain of command, and they answered him. He simply didn’t like their answer.

In TruthOut’s world, “belief” triumphs over all else. Never mind that the arguments Lt. Watada is putting forth have been tested time and again — and his position found wanting every single time — the mere fact that he sincerely believes them trumps long-established precedents. And he sincerely believes that his mistrial constitutes the government’s sole opportunity to put him on trial for violating his oath and refusing to honor his obligation.

I wonder just where his backers will be in a few years, when he’s released from the stockade and no longer of any use to them as a convenient prop. I have my suspicions that, when he tries to move on with his life with that conviction and dishonorable discharge on his back, he’ll be far less popular with those who call him a hero today.

Lt. Watada is an adult (at least in the eyes of the law). He’s made his choices, as poor as they might have been. Now he faces the consequences of his poor choices, despite being advised every step of the way about those consequences. And he’s chosen to listen to those who have guided every step of the way down the path of his own personal destruction.

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