Photo Steve Ringman, Seattle Times
There are seven jurors, all of whom are officers that hardly indicates an unbiased jury selection process. It is reminiscent when all white juries would pass judgment on African-American defendants during the Jim Crow era. The jurors, all from Fort Lewis, rank from captain to colonel. Some served in Iraq which is outrageous since the defendant believes that war is illegal and criminal. That strikes me as a monstrous conflict of interest.
Lt Watada is being charged, among other things such as missing movement, with conduct unbecoming an officer. Did he sexually harass an individual? No! Did he steal items from the P.X? No. Did he engage in Internet pornography or lewd behaviour? No. What he did was to condemn the war and Mr Bush. This is simply appalling that a member of the United States military is on trial for his freedom for daring to engage in free speech criticism of his government.
If we are supposed to support the troops during the Iraq quagmire, whom we are told are fighting for our freedom, then we should vigilantly preserve those freedoms for our military personnel who choose to exercise it: such as antiwar speech. The days of the Sedition Act are over. The days of McCarthyism are over. Or are they? If an officer cannot assess publicly a war that he is being asked to participate in, then what does that tell you about the LACK of support our martial government confers upon its military personnel. It is a disgrace that this war hero, Lieutenant Watada, faces imprisonment and separation from the military for exercising prima facie first amendment free speech protection. The constitution, narrowly construed and given a strict constructionist interpretation, does not exclude military personnel from the Bill of Rights. These are the first ten amendments of the 1788 document that were not even included in the original constitution.
How the case will be decided. The following is from the Seattle Times.
How does a court-martial work? A military judge presides and rules on what evidence may be submitted. A panel of seven officers will decide 1st Lt. Ehren Watada’s guilt or innocence and determine what — if any — punishment he should receive. Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the charges of missing a troop movement and actions unbecoming an officer could bring a maximum of four years.
Who represents Watada? A civilian attorney, Eric Seitz, and a military defense counsel, Mark Kim.
What is the review process? The case automatically will be sent to the Fort Lewis commander and an Army Court of Review. Defense counsel can then petition for the case to be taken up by the Army Court of Appeals, and then seek further review in federal courts
I appeared with the lieutenant’s mother, Carolyn Ho, last Wednesday and delivered these remarks.