Attention in the US is once more focusing on the issue of the legality of the Iraq war. A US Army officer who refused an order to deploy to the country has pleaded not guilty to a list of charges at a court martial. First Lieutenant Ehren Watada is charged with “missing shipment”, along with two counts of conduct unbecoming an officer.
The 28-year-old told the hearing at Fort Lewis Army base near Seattle that the order to go to Iraq was illegal as the war itself was illegal. Crowds of his supporters, including the actor Sean Penn, gathered outside.
“We want to impeach George Bush because of his illegal war and to support Lieutenant Watada and his gallant stand against the illegal and immoral war of George Bush,” said one.
“He is the most brave of the brave. He is in an impossible situation,” claimed another.
Watada’s supporters say he is the first Army officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq. He had hoped to make his case against the war in court, but was over-ruled by the judge, who said the issue lay outside the hearing’s jurisdiction. Watada could face up to four years in prison if found guilty on all charges.