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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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Comments (18)

He is just another in a lon... (Below threshold)

He is just another in a long line of fools used by the left wing as a tool to stay in the news, for a while, then threw out like the rotten apple he is. Will the fools never learn, no?

Jay,Interesting po... (Below threshold)


Interesting post, I thought this case had already come and gone. I think Watada is wrong and hopefully they will convict him when they finish a trial. Historically Watada doesn't have a leg to stand on.

Historically the majority of armed conflict that the various U.S. armed forces have been involved in have not been formally delcared wars. There have been various actions authorized by Executive Order and sometimes supported by congress, sometimes not.

The Congressional Research Services (CRS) has a publication titled, Instances of Use of United States Armed Forces
Abroad, 1798-2007
, order code RL32170, that lists chronographically all the times U.S. forces have been used for conflicts of varying degrees. It was updated in SEP 2007 and includes instances of authorizing force against the Spanish in Florida, various indian wars, naval missions to protect U.S. property in foreign countries etc.

In a way this is pretty sad... (Below threshold)

In a way this is pretty sad. I'm sure the young Lt thinks he's a martyr for a "just" cause. Shame of it is after 6 years in Leavenworth the asshats who used him will move on to their next prop and he'll be left with a 55 gallon drum sized assh^le, a dishonorable discharge, and a reputation that will follow him till he dies.

For some reason, I put Fred... (Below threshold)
Son Of The Godfather:

For some reason, I put Fred Thompson in as the actor playing your "kindly officer"... Maybe it was the southern drawl thing, but it worked. :)

Anyone who has served in th... (Below threshold)

Anyone who has served in the military for more than a week has been given training on what constitutes an unlawful order. This is not something someone decides on their own. The soldier is taught what an illegal order is and is not. Clearly, the president ordered and the Congress has approved. Congress may not like their decision today, but that's their problem - not Watada's.


Absolutely spot-on, Jay. Hu... (Below threshold)

Absolutely spot-on, Jay. Huzzah!

Watada is an idiot, and deserves the hurricane of crap he's going to be buried under.

For some reason, I... (Below threshold)
For some reason, I put Fred Thompson in as the actor playing your "kindly officer"... Maybe it was the southern drawl thing, but it worked. :)

I was thinking of Wilford Brimley's character from Absence of Malice. I love to watch that movie just for that one scene he was in.

The mislead anti-war left i... (Below threshold)

The mislead anti-war left in this country, much like their islamic radical buddies, operate wholly on BELIEF. What "IS", is subject to their speculation.

The type of moron who think... (Below threshold)

The type of moron who thinks a war without a formal "declaration" is "unconstitutional" is likely also to be the sort who believes Congress cannot print paper money because the Constitution only mentions the power to "coin money."

Both types of idiot - if they can be distinguished from each other at all - tend to profess their belief with the fervor of fanatics (wonder why? - heh), and with the enthusiasm of first discovery, as if they had, by reading the Constitution's text with burning insight, found some new meaning that Changes Everything. . . Something undiscovered through a couple of centuries of jurisprudence and scholarship, which lay hidden waiting for them to bring to light.

Better to tackle Blake, you dullards - perhaps there is something Northrup Frye missed.

I love the argument that, s... (Below threshold)
Steve L.:

I love the argument that, since the first trial ended in a mistrial, the government isn't allowed to try him again. Yeah, they're the first ones to think of that.

In answer to Lt. Watada's Q... (Below threshold)
Mikey NTH:

In answer to Lt. Watada's Question -

Is a formal declaration of war necessary for a legal state of war to exist?

No. This question was addressed in The Eliza, 4 US 37, 40 (1800). In that case the US was at war with France, an undeclared naval war. Justice Washington stated that contention by force between nations is a public war. If there is a formal declaration, then it is a solemn and perfect war in that every citizen of the nation is authorized to commit hostilities against all members of the other nation. "But hostilities may subsist between two nations more confined in its nature and extent; being limited as to places, persons, and things; and this is more properly termed imperfect war; because not solemn, and because those who are authorized to commit hostilities, act under special authority, and can go no farther than the extent of their commission. Still, however, it is public war, because it is an external contention by force, between some of the members of the two nations, authorized by the legitimate powers."

nogo? any lefty? hello??</p... (Below threshold)

nogo? any lefty? hello??

The reason for Watada's mis... (Below threshold)

The reason for Watada's mistrial is that the military prosecutor decided that Watada didn't understand documents he signed admitting to the crime. Thank God this pinhead never did actually lead troops in Iraq.

The question General Pac... (Below threshold)

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.

That's a bizarre distinction, Jay. How can you take action on something that IS illegal unless you first determine whether you BELIEVE it to be illegal? Actions follow from beliefs. That's not to say that you can't be wrong in those beliefs, though.

Besides, you're addressing a question that wasn't asked. The question was "should you disobey illegal orders", not "if you disobey orders you believe to be illegal and you're wrong, should be you able to avoid the consequences of your actions simply because you believed them to be properly founded".

Obviously everything you do is based on what you believe. And you don't ever really believe something is illegal anyway; what you're really doing is just forming a belief about how those with authority will believe. E.g., if the IRS states that they believe a deduction is legal, I doubt you're going to declare their "belief" wrong and that it "is not" legal. And even if you do, you're just substituting your own belief for theirs, not making a statement of absolute certainty.

Even the final decision of what "IS" illegal is also ultimately a "belief", by a judge or other legal authority. (As Republicans are quick to admit when the ruling doesn't go their way, I might add.)

It is absolutely Watada's place to make a judgment of what he believes to be legal or illegal. Just as you make the judgment of what deductions are legal, and how close to the fire hydrant you can legally park.

But if your judgment is deemed wrong, then you have to be prepared for the consequences.

Several of you are skirting... (Below threshold)
Tim in PA:

Several of you are skirting around the important issue here. Jay, you ever serve?

The thing is, every service member IS supposed to decided whether or not an order is legal. (remember, "I was just following orders" is no defense) On the other hand, though, they're also given some (usually crappy, but some nonetheless) training on what an illegal order would be (laws of land warfare and whatnot). It is also made clear that if you choose to do so, there is going to be a shitstorm whether you're right or wrong, but the idea is that you'll eventually be cleared if you made the right call.

In this guy's case, he very obviously did NOT make the right call. His position is retarded, end of story.

If he honestly feels the wa... (Below threshold)
retired military:

If he honestly feels the war is illegal than he is right to disobey the order.

However, if the Army honestly feels that the order is legal than they have every right to court martial his sorry ass and send him to jail.

Lets hope the Army is as consciencous (spelling) about doing what is right as the sorry ass LT.

Ol' Vizzini knows that chea... (Below threshold)

Ol' Vizzini knows that cheating while pretending pure conniving intellect can and will end badly.


So will end the Brave LT.

An illegal order is ... (Below threshold)

An illegal order is an order to commit a crime. The example we got was if an Ensign says wash my car. You wash it and report him it maybe an abuse of his power you let others decided. On the other hand if he says you boys done good go rape and kill those women. Kill those prisoners well those are crimes. The order are illegal (unlawful) and punishable under the UCMJ as well as civilian law.

This LT has not spent time reading the UCMJ or he would realize he has violated a number of the Punitive articles.

Last i checked the President and Congress are the one who decided on the US of American Military forces. The press and anti-war protesters are neither part of the Executive or legislative branches of government. So their options on what is legal or illegal war is not germane. Furthermore he is an American soldier not a member of some international peace keeping force so again what some International law states is bogus.

This joint resolution may be cited as the "Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against Iraq".
Was given by congress even they pretend it never occured so the use of Military force is Legal.
This Army Officer joined in 2003 after this was passed in 2002. He should have joined the Peace Corp instead of the Army.






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