Lieutenant Watada was immediately restricted to base without any actual charges or proper process. "By placing a complete gag order on Lieutenant Watada," Watada's lead defense attorney Eric Seitz said, "the military has again shown that their first concern is silencing Lieutenant Watada's speech in opposition to the illegal war in Iraq." Seitz says he will immediately challenge these restrictions.
On July 5th, the Army charged Lt. Watada with contempt towards the president. Lt. Watada was formally charged with three articles of the Uniform Code of Military Justice: missing movement (Article 87), two counts of contempt towards officials (Article 88)--specifically President G. W. Bush--and three counts of conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman (Article 133). If convicted of all six charges by a general court-martial, Lt. Watada could be sentenced to over seven years in a military prison.
Lt. Watada’s lawyer, Eric Seitz, immediately stated: "We expected the missing movement charge, but we are somewhat astounded by the contempt and conduct unbecoming charges. These additional charges open up the substance of Lt. Watada's statements for review and raise important First Amendment issues. We are delighted that the Army has given us the opportunity to litigate these questions." Most previous prosecutions of Article 88 took place during the Civil War and World War I, and the last known prosecution was in 1965 (Howe vs. U.S.). Lt. Howe was protesting the Vietnam War.
Even before Lt. Watada refused to ship out to Iraq on June 22, the Army was focusing their investigation on his speech. The formal charges confirm that the Army’s primary objective is silencing Lt. Watada’s dissent.
Colonel Ann Wright, who served in the U.S. Army for 13 years and in the U.S. Army Reserves for 16 years, is one of a number of former military officers supporting dissenters such as Lt. Watada. Colonel Wright also served for 16 years in the U.S. diplomatic corps, and in that capacity helped reopen the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan in December 2001. She received the State Department's Award for Heroism as the acting U.S. ambassador during the rebel takeover of Freetown, Sierra Leone in 1997. In a June 27 TruthOut editorial, Colonel Wright stated:
"As civilians, we also have a moral responsibility when we see an administration committing illegal acts. We cannot be silent and let this illegal war continue."
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