An Army lieutenant who challenged the Bush administration’s reasons for going to war in Iraq and then refused to deploy to the country will face a military trial, the Army said Thursday.
Fort Lewis commander Lt. Gen. James Dubik recommended that the Army proceed with a general court-martial against 1st Lt. Ehren Watada.
Watada, 28, was charged with missing troop movement, conduct unbecoming an officer and contempt toward officials for comments he made about President Bush.
The Army later added another specification of conduct unbecoming an officer based on his comments in Seattle during the national convention of Veterans for Peace in August. At a hearing later that month, prosecutors showed video footage of Watada calling on other soldiers to stop participating in U.S. involvement in Iraq.
Dubik referred only the charges of missing movement and conduct unbecoming an officer. He gave no reason for dismissing the charge of contempt toward officials, Fort Lewis spokesman Joseph Piek said Thursday.
“He has the statutory discretion to determine what charges to refer to trial,” Piek said. “We can’t discuss the particulars of the case because it is ongoing.”
Watada, from Honolulu, has said he believes the war is illegal. He was first charged after he refused to deploy to Iraq on June 22 with his Fort Lewis Stryker unit, the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.
Watada’s civilian defense attorney, Eric Seitz, said he has been trying to work out a settlement with Dubik before the case goes to trial.
“I was hopeful, given the political climate and wide dissatisfaction with this war,” he said. “I don’t imagine ... that the Army gains anything by really trying to seriously punish Watada.”
If convicted of all charges, Watada could serve six years’ confinement and be dismissed from the service. No date has been set for the trial.