Inouye agrees with court-martial for Watada
The senator says he is not "too happy" with the Army officer
U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye said it would be fair for an Army officer from Hawaii who refused to deploy to Iraq to face court-martial, a recommendation made earlier in the day by an investigating officer at Fort Lewis, Wash.
Inouye, despite his strong stance against the war, said Friday that because of his own record of service in World War II he "can't be too happy" about 1st Lt. Ehren Watada's refusal to deploy.
Watada, 28, of Honolulu, faces a possible military trial on charges of missing troop movement, conduct unbecoming an officer and contempt toward officials, including using "contemptuous words" against President Bush in media interviews.
Watada refused to deploy to Iraq on June 22 with his Fort Lewis-based unit because he believes the war is illegal. Final decision on whether he faces court-martial will be made by Lt. Gen. James Dubik, Fort Lewis commander.
Inouye answered questions about the Watada case during a news conference called to discuss the senator's recent trip to the Philippines.
"It would be inappropriate for me to comment on his guilt or innocence, because I don't know the facts," Inouye said.
When asked about the fact that some Japanese-American veterans groups in California have criticized Watada for refusing to go to Iraq, Inouye commented he wasn't praising Watada.
Inouye, who lost his right arm during World War II in action that later earned him the Medal of Honor, was one of only 23 senators to vote in 2002 against a resolution giving Bush the broad authority he sought to use military force against Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
The Army laid out its case against Watada at a hearing last week, showing video footage of the lieutenant calling the war illegal.
Investigating officer Lt. Col. Mark Keith, who conducted the hearing, said in a report released Friday at Fort Lewis that it would be difficult for Army officers to determine the legality of combat operations ordered by the commander in chief, "nor should they attempt to do so."
"I find that ... Watada's beliefs regarding the war in Iraq do not excuse his refusal to deploy or his public statements," Keith wrote.
He rejected defense claims that every officer must evaluate the legality of each order given.
But Keith said he believes Watada was sincere in his beliefs and this "should be considered in deciding whether the case should go forward to a general court-martial and should mitigate any future punishment."
In recommending the charges, the investigator said Watada's refusal to obey a lawful order cannot be excused "and serves to embolden others to commit the same or similar misconduct."
On Watada's criticism of Bush, Keith wrote:
"Watada's contempt for the president serves to break down the good order and discipline of all military personnel by casting doubt regarding his integrity and leadership attributes while under the stress of combat operations."
He said Watada's feelings toward the president and the idea that U.S. soldiers' refusal to fight could stop the war border on a violation of Article 94, regarding mutiny and sedition. Watada is not charged under that article, however.
Finally, he said Watada's actions and statements during various media interviews justify a charge of conduct unbecoming an officer.