News Release

The Iraq War and Free Speech: The Pentagon vs. Lt. Watada


“The U.S. government agreed to drop two counts of conduct unbecoming an officer from its case against the Army lieutenant who called the Iraq war illegal and refused to deploy,” the Associated Press reports. “1st Lt. Ehren Watada, whose court-martial is scheduled Feb. 5, still faces a maximum of four years imprisonment if he is convicted of missing movement for his refusal to deploy last June and two remaining counts of conduct unbecoming an officer for comments made at a Veterans for Peace Convention in Seattle.”

AP added: “The two counts dropped Monday carry a maximum of two years in prison. They stem from comments he made to reporters in June explaining why he refused to go to Iraq and why he was challenging the Bush administration’s reasons for going to war. In exchange, Watada’s attorney Eric Seitz agreed that two subpoenaed reporters will not have to testify.”

The following are available for interviews:

Col. Ann Wright served in the U.S. Army for 13 years and in the U.S. Army Reserves for 16 years. “It was a very wise strategy move for the Army to drop the subpoenas against the journalists,” she said today. “But I think the Army should have dropped all four ‘conduct unbecoming’ charges because all of Ehren Watada’s statements were given out of uniform and not on government time. And there is still such a thing as free speech, even in the military.”

Wright, who also served for 16 years in the U.S. diplomatic corps, added: “And I think Lt. Watada should be able to present in the court-martial the rationale for why he missed the military movement, as he believed it was to an illegal war, a war of aggression, which was a war crime, and he refused to participate in a war crime.”

As a diplomat, Wright helped reopen the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, in December 2001. Previously, 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.
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Aaron Glantz — an independent journalist and author of the book How America Lost Iraq — has reported extensively from Iraq since the spring of 2003. He said today: “The U.S. military’s prosecution of Lt. Watada for speaking out against the war contradicts American values. America’s involvement in Iraq is increasingly unpopular among the rank and file of the Armed Forces. … It is extremely important during this time of war that we hear from our servicemen, because they know more than most about the folly and brutality of the U.S. occupation of Iraq.” Glantz will be at Fort Lewis next week to cover Lt. Watada’s court-martial.
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167