Army to allow lieutenant who refused to deploy to Iraq to resign from service

By Audrey Mcavoy, AP
Friday, September 25, 2009

Army to allow Iraq war objector to resign

HONOLULU — The Army is allowing the first commissioned officer to be court-martialed for refusing to go to Iraq to resign from the service, his attorney said late Friday.

First Lt. Ehren Watada will be granted a discharge Oct. 2, “under other than honorable conditions,” attorney Kenneth Kagan said.

Watada told the Honolulu Star-Bulletin he was happy the matter has finally been closed.

“The actual outcome is different from the outcome that I envisioned in the first place, but I am grateful of the outcome,” he said.

Fort Lewis spokesman Joseph Piek wouldn’t confirm Watada’s type of discharge, citing privacy rules. But he said late Friday that Watada’s manner of resignation is described in Army regulations as “resignation for the good of the service in lieu of general court martial.”

Watada, 31, refused to deploy to Iraq with his Fort Lewis, Wash.-based unit in 2006, arguing the war is illegal and that he would be a party to war crimes if he served in Iraq.

The Honolulu-born soldier was charged with missing his unit’s deployment and with conduct unbecoming an officer for denouncing President Bush and the war — statements he made while explaining his actions.

His court-martial ended in mistrial in February 2007.

The Army wanted to try him in a second court-martial, but a federal judge ruled such a trial would violate the soldier’s constitutional protection against double jeopardy. The judge said a second court-martial on key charges, including missing troop movement, would violate his constitutional right to be free from double jeopardy.

Watada’s attorney said the soldier had handed in his resignation before, but the Army refused to accept it.

“This time, however, it was accepted, apparently only when the Army realized it could not defeat Lt. Watada in a courtroom,” Kagan said.

Watada’s father, Bob Watada, welcomed the news.

“I’m happy, very happy for Ehren. I’m happy for our family,” he said.

Watada has been lionized by anti-war activists for contending that the war is illegal. If convicted, he could have been sentenced to six years in prison and be dishonorably discharged.

Kagan said he felt history would treat Watada “more favorably” than the U.S. Army.

“It has been our distinct honor to have represented a hero and a patriot,” Kagan said.

Associated Press Writer Kathy McCarthy contributed to this report from Seattle.

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