Army Charges Officer Who Refused Iraq Duty
Wednesday, July 5, 2006; 10:58 PM
FORT LEWIS, Wash. -- An Army lieutenant who said he refused to deploy to Iraq because he believes the war there is illegal was charged Wednesday with three counts.
According to calculations by military lawyers, 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, 28, could face nearly eight years in prison and a dishonorable discharge if convicted, said his attorney, Eric Seitz of Honolulu.
Watada is charged with conduct unbecoming an officer, missing movement and contempt toward officials.
Watada's father, Bob, said from his home in Hawaii that he's worried the military may send his son to prison but he's also hopeful a military court will find him innocent.
"I think his reasons were valid and we will have to see what comes of that," he said.
Watada, a member of the first Stryker Brigade Combat Team, refused to go to Iraq last month after researching the war. He said he would be willing to serve in Afghanistan or elsewhere. The Army refused to allow him to resign his commission.
Watada's stance prompted rallies of support near Fort Lewis, in Seattle and in Honolulu, his hometown.
A preliminary hearing will be held to determine whether he will be court-martialed.
Watada has said he did not apply for status as a conscientious objector because he isn't opposed to war in principle, just the war in Iraq.