Elections support his move, Watada claims
The Army drops one of its three charges against the officer
First Lt. Ehren Watada, who will become the first Army officer to face a court-martial next year for refusing to fight in Iraq, said he believes this week's elections support his contention that the Iraqi war is immoral and illegal.
He made his remarks after one of three charges against him was dropped by the Army yesterday.
Watada told Honolulu reporters via a telephone conference call from Seattle that "almost every day, someone from the military or the outside sends me some kind of correspondence or approaches me in person to render support or their respect.
"That just reinforces my honest belief that from the very beginning my actions were right according to my conscience and, most importantly, my duty to the American people."
Lt. Gen. James Dubik, commanding general of I Corps and Fort Lewis in Washington, dropped one of three charges against the 28-year-old artillery officer. The charge was connected to "contemptuous" comments against President George Bush that Watada allegedly made last June.
Watada now faces charges for refusing to join his unit on June 22 when it left for Iraq, and conduct unbecoming an officer.
Honolulu attorney Eric Seitz said the Army added another specification of conduct unbecoming an officer based on his comments in Seattle during the national convention of Veterans for Peace in August.
Seitz said that Dubik also refused a pretrial proposal that Watada spend only four months in jail.
"The Army demanded that he serve at least a year," Seitz said. "We don't feel that it is warranted."
The Army said yesterday the court-martial jury would be composed of 10 officers. Five enlisted soldiers have been selected if Watada decides that the jury be composed of only two-thirds officers.
Initially, Watada faced up to eight years in jail, a dishonorable discharge and forfeiture of all pay and privileges. He now faces up to six years if he is convicted of the two remaining charges.
In a written statement, Watada's mother, Carolyn Ho, said, "The court of public opinion is the best way to affect his case. With all the revelations in the news for the past several weeks, it is astounding that there is no effort by the military to shift gears."
His father, Bob Watada, in another written statement, said, "People come up and tell us that Ehren is a true American hero. Of course, we are concerned about the outcome, but we are very gratified with the enormous support from a broad sector of the American people."