News Release

Soldiers Refusing to Go to Iraq


In a story headlined “Watada lawyer rebukes judge,” the Seattle Times reports today: “First Lt. Ehren Watada’s court-martial verdict could hinge on the Fort Lewis officer’s own testimony when he takes the stand later this week to testify about why he refused to go to war.”

The following veterans and military family members are among those who have been gathering outside Fort Lewis supporting Watada:

Anderson was an Army Specialist in Iraq in 2004. He said today: “Three of my friends beat a prisoner to death. The more soldiers we lost, the more extreme our procedures became. I would do raids and put bags on people’s heads and they’d get sent off to Abu Ghraib. Then I went AWOL and went to Canada; eventually I got a discharge. The soldiers who have been to Iraq know what we’re doing is wrong; now people like Watada know before they go.”
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Dennis is Anderson’s mother. She said today: “I’m getting contacted by three to five soldiers or their moms every week. But so many have no resources. They especially need some independent legal help.”
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A veteran of the 1991 Gulf War, Kyne said today: “Responsibility should not simply go down the chain of command, it should go up — but the higher-ups are not living up to their responsibilities. … More important than simply following orders for an officer is ensuring the health and welfare of your troops.”
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Arredondo’s son, 20-year-old Marine Lance Cpl. Alexander Arredondo, was killed in Najaf on Aug. 25, 2004. Carlos Arredondo said today: “The military has all these ways of getting young people into the military, but does nothing but throw obstacles for people looking for a way out. Maybe, if a man like Watada had been my son’s commander, my son wouldn’t be dead.”
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Sarah Olson is an independent journalist and radio producer who has covered Iraq war veterans since 2003. She interviewed Lt. Watada in May regarding his decision to refuse to deploy to Iraq. The government for a time attempted to force her to testify against Watada, but dropped that portion of its case last month.

She said today: “Lt. Watada’s court-martial is deeply concerning on several levels. First, the judge, John Head, excluded all but one of the defense witnesses yesterday. By allowing the ‘conduct unbecoming’ prosecution of Lt. Watada for statements made regarding the Iraq war, it appears Judge Head is intent on sidestepping the constitutional protections afforded to members of the military. Lt. Watada is facing four years in prison, and is being prevented from presenting a meaningful defense.”

Olson added: “Lt. Watada’s court-martial is taking place within the context of an increase in active-duty military opposition to the Iraq war. The military’s own polls show that over 50 percent of the military is unhappy with the direction of the war. The numbers of AWOL soldiers are steadily increasing.”
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Further background on the Watada case, including video of Watada, is available here.

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167