SEATTLE – An Army officer who refused to serve in Iraq because he believes the war is illegal was steadfast in his resolve ahead of a military court hearing, saying the decision was "my obligation to this country."
1st Lt. Ehren Watada, 28, of Honolulu, faces a possible court-martial for refusing to deploy to Iraq on June 22 with his Fort Lewis-based unit.
"I made this decision a long time ago," Watada said during a telephone interview. "It is my obligation to this country. I'm not happy about it and I didn't want to do it, but I had to."
A hearing Thursday at Fort Lewis was to determine if he should stand trial. He was charged last month with conduct unbecoming an officer, missing troop movement and contempt toward officials.
His lawyer, Eric Seitz, said he has lined up two witnesses to support the soldier's claim that the war violated domestic and international law: University of Illinois professor Francis Boyle, an international law expert, and Denis Halliday, a former United Nations assistant secretary-general.
Watada has been reassigned to the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, I Corps, and now works in an administrative position at the post.
"You don't join the military just to blindly follow whatever orders you're given," he said. "An order to go to an unlawful and immoral war based on false pretenses is no different than to kill innocent civilians."
After the hearing, an investigating officer will recommend to commanders whether Watada should stand trial. If convicted, he could face more than seven years in prison and a dishonorable discharge.