WASHINGTON – With a backdrop of American troop deployments, the Supreme Court refused Tuesday to review the legality of sending U.S. soldiers on peacekeeping missions.
The court declined to take an appeal from a soldier who received a bad-conduct discharge for refusing to dress in the United Nations uniform in 1995 when his unit was being sent to the former Yugoslavia.
"The order in this case did not come in a time of war, nor at a time requiring prompt action, but it came in a time of peace, distanced in both time and place from a combat area," former Army medic Michael New told the Supreme Court.
New contends that then-President Clinton should have gotten congressional approval for the deployment.
The case came up just a few days after President Bush ordered a military campaign aimed at terrorist and military targets in Afghanistan in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. In preparation for the campaign, more than 25,000 reservists were called to active duty.
In the New case, a seven-member military jury had deliberated for just 20 minutes before convicting him of disobeying an order. His sentence was a bad-conduct discharge. He wanted to be transferred to a new unit or honorably discharged.
His appeal said that he could not be forced to obey an illegal order.
"The mission lives and dies by the soldier following an order," the government's attorney had argued before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces.
The appeals court ruled against New, who appealed to the Supreme Court.
New, a native of Conroe, Texas, was stationed in Germany when his infantry unit was assigned to duty in Macedonia, one of six republics of former Yugoslavia, to guard against the spread of unrest from other areas torn by ethnic turmoil because of Yugoslavia's dismemberment.
New refused to wear the insignia and blue beret of the United Nations, saying he would not serve a foreign power. Part of his appeal involves whether U.S. soldiers should be required to wear U.N. apparel.
He questioned the practice of "turning American soldiers over to U.N. command and control — to foreign officers who neither report to nor take orders from the president."
New set up a Web page and his father documented his case in a book.
He had joined the Army in 1993 and served in Kuwait. His attorney said he received an achievement medal for treating a badly injured soldier.
Since the case started, he was convicted of forging prescriptions.
The case is New v. U.S., 01-425.