Army officer refuses to fight in Iraq
1st Lt. Ehren Watada, who joined the Army in March 2003, said he researched the reasons behind the U.S. involvement in Iraq and concluded the war is illegal and immoral.
"We have violated American law," Watada said. "We can't break laws in order to fight terrorism."
Watada said he would be willing to serve in Afghanistan or elsewhere, but he said he believes intelligence on whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction was manipulated "to fit a policy that was already implemented prior to 9-11," and he cited "mistreatment of the Iraqi people," saying it was "a contradiction to the Army's own Law of Land Warfare."
Army officials said Watada's decision to publicly declare his intent to disobey orders "is a serious matter and could subject him to adverse action."
His unit — the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division — is scheduled to begin leaving later this month for a mission in Iraq.
Watada sent a letter to his command in January, saying he had reservations about the Iraq war and felt he could not participate, his lawyer Eric A. Seitz said. Months later, he resubmitted his request to resign, Seitz said.
The Hawaii native was told last month his request had been denied. The Army said it was because Watada's unit is in a stop-loss category, and he has not fulfilled his service obligation. His commission requires that he serve as an active-duty Army officer for three years ending Dec. 3, his lawyer said.
Watada said he would submit another request to resign but added, "I feel it is inevitable ... I will be charged and I will be punished." He said he could face prison time for failing to deploy.
Peace activists, veterans and clergy have come out in support of Watada, whose commanders barred him from attending a news conference Wednesday because it occurred during his duty hours.
Watada did not apply for conscientious objector status, defined by Army regulations as a "firm, fixed and sincere objection to participation in war in any form or the bearing of arms, because of religious training and belief." He said he objected only to the war in Iraq.