Watada is in none of those camps and he does not claim to be
a conscientious objector. He decided to go public with his
opposition to the war, a choice his civilian lawyer, Eric
Seitz, believes singled out Lt Watada for prosecution. "They
decided at a lower level to make an example out of Lt Watada,"
he said. "It was this kind of questioning and resistance
that ended up destroying the ability of military forces to
fight in Vietnam and they are very concerned about a
repetition of that."
Watada's objections to the war are unlikely to be aired at
his court martial. The judge has narrowed the scope of the
trial and refused defence witnesses.
Pentagon maintains that Lt Watada gave up his right to free
speech when he put on the uniform. "As a soldier you are
held to a different standard. You can't go and say things
that are going to offend the order and discipline of the
military," said Joseph Piek, a spokesman at Fort Lewis,
Washington, where Lt Watada is to stand trial. "Soldiers
understand that you can't divorce yourself from being a
is also shared by the retired generals who spoke out last
wearing the uniform," said General John Batiste, who left
the army in protest at Mr Rumsfeld's leadership. Lt Watada's
criticism falls into a different category because he was
still on active duty. "Discipline is fundamental in a
military organisation and officers swear to support and
defend the constitution of the United States against all
enemies, foreign and domestic, and obey the officers
appointed over them."
would not have envisaged his collision with army doctrine
when he joined the military in March 2003 after finishing
college in his native Hawaii. A former boy scout, he had
always wanted to join the army - an ambition that did not
change with the prospect of war in Iraq. "Certainly I joined
the military already knowing that we were about to enter a
war in which there was some notable opposition," Lt Watada
said. "But when the administration comes out and says the
threat was imminent and that Saddam has weapons of mass
destruction and that he has ties to al-Qaida and therefore
he has the means to attack us at any point, I remember
telling my father: 'You know, we should give them the
benefit of the doubt.'"
shipped out to South Korea in June of that year. By the time
his unit returned to the US in June 2005, American public
opinion had already begun to turn against the war. But Lt
Watada's conversion did not start until several months later
when he began reading up on Iraq in preparation for a tour
so shocking to me. I guess I had heard about WMD and that we
made a terrible, terrible mistake," he said. "Mistakes can
happen but to think that it was deliberate and that a
careful deception was done on the American people - you just
had to question who you are as a serviceman, as an
last year, Lt Watada took his doubts to his commanding
officer, hoping he would be allowed to retire quietly. He
also offered to serve in Afghanistan. Both options were
refused although the military did offer him a safe berth in
Iraq - which he turned down.
accepts that refusing orders on the battlefield would lead
to chaos. "In a pitched battle of course you can't have
soldiers saying 'oh, no I don't feel like covering that
sector right now.'" But he refuses to believe that the
dissent of a junior officer would destroy army morale, or
threaten control of America's military, and he was not
willing to wait until he was out of uniform to speak out.
Someone had to speak out, he argues.
"Everybody is scared there is going to be a coup if the
military does not bow down to civilian control, but that
does not mean to bow down blindly," he said.
general can still resign in protest publicly, and not be
subverting civilian control. He can be sending a message,
and I think it would be a huge message if it was someone on
active duty. But these guys wait until they retire and their
pension is secure."
"I wish it didn't have to be me. I wish the generals hadn't
put me in this position."