Given that war resistor advocate, Gerry Condon, will be visiting Bandon tomorrow evening, this is especially appropriate. For those who may not know, Lt Watada made international news when he refused to deploy with his men to Iraq, claiming the war was illegal and therefore he would be violating his oath to uphold the constitution.

The fate of 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, the first Army officer to face prison for refusing to deploy to Iraq, might be decided by a civilian judge rather than a military jury.

In a rare, last-minute move, U.S. District Court Judge Benjamin Settle on Friday put Watada’s Tuesday court-martial on hold. In the weeks ahead, Settle will decide whether this second trial should proceed, or be quashed as a violation of the officer’s constitutional rights that protect against double jeopardy, or being tried twice for the same crime.

Watada’s first trial unraveled in February when a military judge expressed misgivings over Watada’s interpretation of a pretrial agreement. The judge, over objections by the defense, ruled a mistrial. Watada’s attorneys argued that a second trial sought by Fort Lewis prosecutors would represent double jeopardy, and they unsuccessfully sought to persuade two military appeals courts to block the trial.

Watada has been called a coward by pro-war factions but nothing could be farther from the truth. I was lucky enough to meet Watada in Seattle, a year ago August and I learned that he joined the army after the 9/11 attacks out of a sense of patriotism. Extremely intelligent and thoughtful, Watada was regarded as an exemplary soldier and officer. However, when he learned that he may be deployed to Iraq rather than Afghanistan he began to seriously doubt the legality of the mission. He requested that he be sent to Aghanistan but his requests were denied. Like so many young officers, Watada found himself in the proverbial ‘Catch 22’, betraying his constitution if he obeys orders or subjecting himself to court martial if he refuses.

Watada chose to defend the constitution and sacrifice his military career, an act of supreme courage and patriotism. Please attend Gerry Condon’s talk at the Bandon library tomorrow night at 7PM.