Army to discharge Ehren Watada next month


POSTED: Saturday, September 26, 2009

First Lt. Ehren Watada, the first commissioned military officer to refuse deployment to Iraq because he believed it was an illegal war, has won his three-year legal battle with the Army.

With little fanfare, the Army at Fort Lewis in Washington state accepted the resignation of the 1996 Kalani High School graduate last Friday and he will be discharged during the first week in October.

Rather than seek a second court martial against the infantry officer, the Army will grant Watada a discharge “under other than honorable conditions.”

Joseph J. Piek, Fort Lewis spokesman, said “this is an administrative discharge and the characterization of Lt. Watada’s discharge is not releasable under the privacy act.”

Watada, 31, told the Star-Bulletin an phone interview today that he was “glad to finally bring this chapter to a close and to move on.”

“The actual outcome is different from the outcome that I envisioned in the first place, but I am grateful of the outcome.”

Watada said there were “many skilled lawyers” who represented him and that he was “thankful to the people from all walks of life that supported me and agreed with my stand.”

In May, Watada won a significant legal victory when the U.S. Department of Justice dropped efforts to retry him. The Army had wanted to appeal U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle’s decision last October that a second court-martial would violate Watada’s constitutional protection against double jeopardy.

Following the Justice Department’s decision, the Army made it clear the only course available to Watada is what the Army calls “Resignation for the Good of the Service in Lieu of General Court-Martial,” he said. Either Watada could voluntarily resign or be forced out with a discharge “under other than honorable conditions.”

Either way, Watada said today, the result would be the same except it would take longer if he was forced out.

Watada said he turned his resignation papers in July and it was approved by the commanding general at Fort Lewis and sent to his higher headquarters. Watada learned of the Army’s final approval on Sept. 18.

Watada was initially charged with missing the 2nd Infantry Division’s 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team’s deployment on June 22, 2006, considered by the Army as the most serious charge, and conduct unbecoming an officer.