Friday, February 09, 2007

Watada and Nuremberg

US Army 1st Lt. Ehren Watada has been on trial -- in essence, for undermining the military. Is he guilty - most certainly! What should be his penalty? The case should be dropped. He should receive our thanks.

The government of the USA took a great and costly risk to unilaterally enter war. There actually was no clear and present danger from Iraq. The Bush administration claimed to know of weapons of mass destruction, etc.; but they did not know. They were wrong, or perhaps deliberately they lied.

Is this important? Yes.

An article by Paul Rockwell in the Baltimore Sun (1 Feb 2007) discusses this key issue (here is an excerpt):

"Under the enlistment contract, every soldier has a right, even a duty, to disobey illegal orders. The legality of Lieutenant Watada's orders pursuant to a "war of choice" is the central issue of the trial.

No American soldier has any obligation to participate in military aggression, in "crimes against peace," or in any operations that violate the Geneva Conventions. Under constitutional government, the authority of military command derives not from one person alone but from the rule of law itself.

There are only two conditions in which a war is legal under international law: when force is authorized by the U.N. Security Council, or when the use of force is an act of national self-defense and survival. Apart from these conditions, war is an act of aggression. The U.N. Charter, based on the Nuremberg Conventions, prohibits war "as an instrument of policy." And the war in Iraq is just that - a war of choice.

There is a common tendency among lawyers and military commanders to sneer at international law. But the Constitution is unambiguous. Article VI states: "All treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land, and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby."

There is no exception for the military, no wall between domestic and international law.

Lieutenant Watada reminds us that the U.S. Army Field Manual states: "Treaties relating to the law of war have a force equal to that of laws enacted by Congress. Their provisions must be observed by both military and civilian personnel with the same strict regard for both the letter and spirit of the law which is required with respect to the Constitution and statutes.""

>> full article at:

Ultimately this is the bottom line. We say soldiers must stand up to their leaders in refusing illegal orders. Concentration camp SS guards and common soldiers were held personally responsible for atrocities. If this war is illegal, our soldiers should not be there. End of story.

Ehren Watada (和多田) grew up in Hawaii and was an Eagle Scout. He completed deployment to Korea before refusing to deploy to Iraq.