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The Price of Dissent: 1st Lt. Watada's Future Still a Mystery

Pacific Citizen, News report, Pacific Citizen Staff Posted: Jun 14, 2008

In the past several months the name of 1st Lt. Ehren Watada has seen very little press time. That's a major change from last November when the JA officer's name was a frequent presence in both the mainstream and Japanese American press.

It was seven months ago that a federal judge blocked the U.S. Army from conducting a second court-martial of Watada for refusing to deploy to Iraq with his unit in June of 2006.

U.S. District Judge Benjamin H. Settle ruled that a second trial would violate Watada's constitutional rights, essentially agreeing with the officer's attorneys who argued double jeopardy - that a person could not be tried twice for the same crime.

Although the Army had indicated its intention to file paperwork to prevent the federal judge's injunction from becoming permanent, no paperwork has been filed to date.

It's left the 30-year-old Hawaii officer in a state of limbo.

"I kind of think it's like Guantanamo - just hold him ," said the officer's father Bob Watada in an interview with the Honolulu Advertiser.

Ehren Watada - the first commissioned officer to refuse deployment to Iraq - continues to work in an administrative position at Fort Lewis in Washington.

Watada, a 1996 graduate of Kalani High, announced his decision to refuse deployment to Iraq with his Stryker Brigade in June of 2006, setting off a firestorm of controversy in the Japanese American community.

Some argued that his refusal was a stain on the legacy of the heroic World War II JA veterans and that as an officer he took an oath to serve his country. Others have argued that Watada's stance is an honorable one for his refusal is based on his belief that the Iraq War is not only immoral but illegal.

In interviews with the Pacific Citizen, Watada has said that he is willing to serve in other areas of the world, including Afghanistan. In addition, prior to his refusal to deploy to Iraq he had offered to submit his resignation which was refused by his superiors.

Watada was tried in military court in February 2007 for charges of conduct unbecoming an officer and of missing troop movement.

watadaIf he is convicted, he could face up to six years in prison.

The officer's first court martial ended in a mistrial.

"The attorneys are talking to the Army. They aren't telling me what they are saying, but they are talking to them," said Bob Watada to the Advertiser.

He hopes his son's attorneys will be able to bring the issue to a conclusion soon.

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