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Citizens' Hearing on Legality of U.S. Actions in Iraq

Tacoma, WA, Jan 20-21, 2007

Live Blogging Coverage at Washblog.com - almost verbatim reporting of the testimonies from Daniel Ellsberg, Ann Wright, Iraq veterans;  former JAG and Arabic linquist Lt Harvey Tharp, non-commissioned officer Geoffrey Millard, Richard Falk,Benjamin Davis, Denis Halliday.

 see more blogger reports of other testimonies at   Washblog.com

also visit Citizens' Hearing on Legalility of U.S. Actions in Iraq website for continually updated reports and audio of the 2 days of testimony.  You won't want to miss any of these poignant and powerful testimonies.




For immediate release: December 11, 2006 Contact: Cindy Sousa 206-734-5040 cindy@sdmcc.org

Citizens’ Hearing to Put Iraq War “on trial” Before Watada Court Martial;

Tribunal Announced on 60th Anniversary of Nuremberg Principles.

The “Citizens’ Hearing on the Legality of U.S. Actions in Iraq” will be held on January 20-21, 2007, in Tacoma, Washington, two weeks before the February 5th court martial of 1st Lieutenant Ehren Watada at Fort Lewis.

Organizing Committee members Rob Crawford, Associate Professor at the University of Washington, Tacoma says that the national event “will put the Iraq War on trial, in response to the Army’s trial of Lt. Watada, the first U.S. military officer to refuse deployment to Iraq.”

Organizers announced the upcoming tribunal today, December 11th, on the 60th anniversary of the United Nations General Assembly’s affirmation of the Nuremberg Principles, which--in the aftermath of World War II--disallowed soldiers from following unlawful orders that can lead to war crimes. Nuremberg Trials prosecutor Benjamin Ferencz, 86, said that

 “The enduring lessons and principles of the Nuremberg trials were that aggressive war is ‘the supreme international crime’ since it incorporates all of the other crimes. In addition, Nuremberg held that those responsible for crimes against humanity and major war crimes will have to answer before the bar of justice.”

Iraq War veterans, experts in international law and war crimes, and human rights advocates will offer testimony, in a format that will resemble that of a congressional committee.

According to Dr. Lawrence Mosqueda, member of the Organizing Committee and Professor at Evergreen State College:

"We are inviting testimony by Iraq War veterans and experts to inform military personnel and other citizens to reflect deeply on their roles and responsibilities in an illegal war.”

Testifiers include:

*Denis Halliday, Former UN Assistant Secretary General, coordinated Iraq humanitarian aid;

*Daniel Ellsberg, military analyst who released the Pentagon Papers in the Vietnam War;

*Richard Falk, Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University;

*Nadia McCaffrey, Gold Star Families Speak Out; Brussels Tribunal advisory board;

*Harvey Tharp, former U.S. Navy Lieutenant and JAG stationed in Iraq;

*Antonia Juhasz, policy-analyst and author on U.S. economic policies in Iraq;

*John Burroughs, Lawyers’ Committee on Nuclear Policy Executive Director;

*Eman Khammas, Iraqi human rights advocate (via video).

*Benjamin G. Davis, Assoc. Prof. of Law, University of Toledo; expert on law of war.

The hearing will present the case that Lt. Watada would, if allowed, make at his court martial. His defense attorneys maintain that the war on Iraq is illegal under international treaties and under Article Six of the U.S. Constitution.

Further, Lt. Watada’s defense argues that the Nuremberg Principles and U.S. military regulations require soldiers to follow only "lawful orders."

In Lt. Watada's view, deployment to Iraq would have made him party to the crimes that permeate the structure and conduct of military operations there.

A panel comprised of military veterans, members of military families, students, and representatives of labor unions, local governments, academia, and religious organizations will hear the testimony, examine witnesses, and issue a fact-finding report.

Panelists will focus on the legality of the war, whether the invasion of Iraq in 2003 constituted a "crime against the peace,” whether the military occupation and economic constriction of Iraq constitutes a "crime against humanity," and whether individual soldiers have an obligation or duty to refuse unlawful orders.

David Krieger, who was a U.S. Army 2nd Lieutenant stationed in Hawaii during the Vietnam War, and is currently the Director of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation will serve as panel chair. Krieger, who was a member of the Jury of Conscience at the 2005 World Tribunal on Iraq, observes,

“The Citizens' Hearing will place the legality of the Iraq War on trial. U.S. soldiers have always had the duty to disobey unlawful orders. That obligation was strengthened at the Nuremberg Tribunals following World War II. Following superior orders to commit unlawful acts is not a defense.”

Krieger asserts,

“Lt. Watada's position is that if the war itself is illegal, which he believes it to be, then orders to participate in the war must also be illegal. There is a duty to disobey such orders. If this position cannot be tried in U.S. courts, it must be tried before the court of public opinion.”

Lietta Ruger of Military Families Speak Out (MSFO), Washington state chapter, says:

“this hearing will focus attention on the role of the U.S. government--rather than that of individual soldiers--in perpetrating the crimes of the Iraq War.”

Tribunal organizer and Evergreen State College geography professor Dr. Zoltan Grossman comments:

“The Citizens’ Hearing will focus critical attention on the underlying premises of the Iraq War at a critical time when its future is being decided. The Citizens' Hearing will heighten the discussion of the Iraq invasion and occupation in the public--and within the military itself--as similar tribunals did during the Vietnam War.”

Nuremberg Trials prosecutor Benjamin Ferencz concludes,

"The best way to protect the lives of courageous young people who serve in the military is to avoid war-making itself. One cannot kill an idea with a gun, but only with a better idea. If people believe that law is better than war, they must do all they can to enhance the power of law and stop glorifying war."

The Evergreen State College’s Tacoma Campus (1210 6th Ave.) will host The Citizens’ Hearing on January 20-21, 2007. The organizers of the Citizens’ Hearing are also launching a new website: http://www.WarTribunal.org  to provide regular updates about the project.

For more information about the case of U.S. Army Lt. Ehren Watada, go to http://www.ThankYouLT.org



The Church Council of Greater Seattle is the 501(c)3 fiscal agent for the Citizens' Hearing.

To donate online, go to the Church Council of Greater Seattle: http://www.churchcouncilseattle.org

Go to ‘give’ then click on “Donate Now Through Network for Good” button to reach the secure site. Then choose “Designate a Fund” and put “Citizens’ Hearing.”

TO DONATE BY MAIL: Checks can be made payable to CCGS, but be sure to put "CITIZENS’ HEARING" in the subject line. The CCGS will receive and disburse the funds (which meet IRS criteria as a tax-deductible charitable contribution).

Checks should be mailed to: The Church Council of Greater Seattle, Attn.: Citizens’ Hearing, 4 Nickerson, Suite 300, Seattle WA 98109.


"The best way to protect the lives of courageous young people who serve in the military is to avoid war-making itself. One cannot kill an idea with a gun, but only with a better idea. If people believe that law is better than war, they must do all they can to enhance the power of law and stop glorifying war." --Nuremberg Trials prosecutor Benjamin Ferencz

And MFSO Washington Chapter members are right in the thick of things!
Click on headline above

Our Daughters and Our Sons

Sara Rich holds a portrait of her daughter, Spc. Suzanne Swift of the 54th Military Police Co. based at Fort Lewis, Wash., at her Eugene, Ore., home, Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2006. The U.S. Army brought charges Wednesday against Swift, who refused to return to Iraq after alleging her supervisor coerced her into a sexual relationship.
(AP Photo/Don Ryan)

Army brings charges against Fort Lewis soldier

September 27, 2006

By Associated Press

FORT LEWIS, WASH. - The U.S. Army brought charges Wednesday against Spc. Suzanne Swift, a military police officer who has become a rallying point for the antiwar movement after refusing to return to Iraq and alleging her supervisor there coerced her into a sexual relationship.

Swift, of the 54th Military Police Co. based at Fort Lewis, Wash., faces charges of being absent without leave and missing movement. The latter means she wasn't with her company when it left in January for a four-month tour of duty in Iraq, a military spokeswoman said.

Swift, 22, of Eugene, faces punishments that could range from an administrative reprimand to penalties imposed at a trial by a court-martial.

Sgt. Maj. Yolanda Choates, Fort Lewis spokeswoman, said Swift's commanders will decide how to proceed, and there is no deadline for them to do so. She said the Army's options are an administrative action, such as a reprimand, a more serious non-judicial punishment, or a court-martial.

Swift was in Iraq from February 2004 to February 2005. Her unit was sent back in January 2006, but she didn't go. She was arrested at her home in Eugene in June.

Swift alleged she had been harassed or abused by three soldiers - two in Iraq and one at Fort Lewis.

The Army said it was able to substantiate one allegation, involving the soldier at Fort Lewis, and took disciplinary action. But it said it was unable to substantiate two allegations against soldiers in Iraq, one that an soldier sexually harassed her and another that her supervisor forced her into a sexual relationship.

The Army said it had delayed disciplinary action to conduct a "thorough, impartial investigation" into her allegations of sexual harassment and said that Swift, on the advice of her lawyer, did not provide a sworn statement to investigators.

Her mother, Sara Rich of Eugene, said in a Monday interview that her daughter has most recently been assigned to clerking duties at Fort Lewis, filing police reports.

She told The Associated Press Swift suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and should have a medical discharge to deal with it.

Rich, who has been speaking for her daughter, did not immediately return phone calls on Tuesday nor did Swift's lawyer.

Swift's cause has been taken up by women's and peace groups, who have demonstrated outside Fort Lewis and invited Rich to be a speaker in a number of states, including Texas, California and Washington. She was in Washington, D.C., last week to plead her daughter's case with members of the Oregon congressional delegation.

"It's terrible," said Nancy Lessin, cofounder of Military Families Speak Out. "A criminal activity took place and you have a soldier who did what she needed to do to remove herself from criminal abuse and harassment and they are charging her."

Several groups said they will continue to support Swift and push for congressional assistance for her and protection of other people sexually harmed in the military.

"We are finding in this administration that lower-ranking people are being punished for things that higher-ranking people should be responsible for," said Michael McPhearson, national executive director of Veterans for Peace. "I'm saddened because (as an officer) I was always taught to take care of my troops and that didn't happen (for Swift)."

Ehren Watada
By Dahr Jamail
Monday 14 August 2006

On Saturday night, I was lucky enough to be at the Veterans for Peace National Convention.

For that night, Lt. Ehren Watada was able to give the following speech, which I've just received permission to post here. The speech was met with a powerful, standing ovation from the vets who've been there.

Lt. Ehren Watada, for those who don't already know, became the first commissioned officer to publicly refuse deployment to the unlawful war and occupation in Iraq. While doing this on June 22, 2006, Watada said,

"As the order to take part in an illegal act is ultimately unlawful as well, I must refuse that order."

Just as Watada took the stage and began to speak, over 50 members of Iraq Veterans Against the War filed in behind him. Watada, surprised by this and obviously taken aback by the symbolic act, turned back to the audience, took some deep breaths, then gave this speech:

"Thank you everyone. Thank you all for your tremendous support.

How honored and delighted I am to be in the same room with you tonight. I am deeply humbled by being in the company of such wonderful speakers. You are all true American patriots. Although long since out of uniform, you continue to fight for the very same principles you once swore to uphold and defend.

No one knows the devastation and suffering of war more than veterans - which is why we should always be the first to prevent it.

I wasn't entirely sure what to say tonight. I thought as a leader in general I should speak to motivate. Now I know that this isn't the military and surely there are many out there who outranked me at one point or another - and yes, I'm just a Lieutenant.

And yet, I feel as though we are all citizens of this great country and what I have to say is not a matter of authority - but from one citizen to another.

We have all seen this war tear apart our country over the past three years. It seems as though nothing we've done, from vigils to protests to letters to Congress, have had any effect in persuading the powers that be. Tonight I will speak to you on my ideas for a change of strategy.

I am here tonight because I took a leap of faith. My action is not the first and it certainly will not be the last. Yet, on behalf of those who follow, I require your help - your sacrifice - and that of countless other Americans.

I may fail.

We may fail.

But nothing we have tried has worked so far. It is time for change and the change starts with all of us.

I stand before you today, not as an expert - not as one who pretends to have all the answers. I am simply an American and a servant of the American people. My humble opinions today are just that.

I realize that you may not agree with everything I have to say. However, I did not choose to be a leader for popularity. I did it to serve and make better the soldiers of this country. And I swore to carry out this charge honorably under the rule of law.

Today, I speak with you about a radical idea. It is one born from the very concept of the American soldier (or service member). It became instrumental in ending the Vietnam War - but it has been long since forgotten.

The idea is this:
that to stop an illegal and unjust war, the soldiers can choose to stop fighting it.

Now it is not an easy task for the soldier. For he or she must be aware that they are being used for ill-gain. They must hold themselves responsible for individual action. They must remember duty to the Constitution and the people supersedes the ideologies of their leadership.

The soldier must be willing to face ostracism by their peers, worry over the survival of their families, and of course the loss of personal freedom. They must know that resisting an authoritarian government at home is equally important to fighting a foreign aggressor on the battlefield.

Finally, those wearing the uniform must know beyond any shadow of a doubt that by refusing immoral and illegal orders they will be supported by the people not with mere words but by action. The American soldier must rise above the socialization that tells them authority should always be obeyed without question. Rank should be respected but never blindly followed.

Awareness of the history of atrocities and destruction committed in the name of America - either through direct military intervention or by proxy war - is crucial. They must realize that this is a war not out of self-defense but by choice, for profit and imperialistic domination.

WMD, ties to Al Qaeda, and ties to 9/11 never existed and never will. The soldier must know that our narrowly and questionably elected officials intentionally manipulated the evidence presented to Congress, the public, and the world to make the case for war.

They must know that neither Congress nor this administration has the authority to violate the prohibition against pre-emptive war - an American law that still stands today. This same administration uses us for rampant violations of time-tested laws banning torture and degradation of prisoners of war.

Though the American soldier wants to do right, the illegitimacy of the occupation itself, the policies of this administration, and rules of engagement of desperate field commanders will ultimately force them to be party to war crimes. They must know some of these facts, if not all, in order to act.

Mark Twain once remarked,
"Each man must for himself alone decide what is right and what is wrong, which course is patriotic and which isn't. You cannot shirk this and be a man. To decide against your conviction is to be an unqualified and inexcusable traitor, both to yourself and to your country …"

 By this, each and every American soldier, marine, airman, and sailor is responsible for their choices and their actions. The freedom to choose is only one that we can deny ourselves. The oath we take swears allegiance not to one man but to a document of principles and laws designed to protect the people.

Enlisting in the military does not relinquish one's right to seek the truth - neither does it excuse one from rational thought nor the ability to distinguish between right and wrong. "I was only following orders" is never an excuse. The Nuremburg Trials showed America and the world that citizenry as well as soldiers have the unrelinquishable obligation to refuse complicity in war crimes perpetrated by their government.

Widespread torture and inhumane treatment of detainees is a war crime. A war of aggression born through an unofficial policy of prevention is a crime against the peace. An occupation violating the very essence of international humanitarian law and sovereignty is a crime against humanity. These crimes are funded by our tax dollars. Should citizens choose to remain silent through self-imposed ignorance or choice, it makes them as culpable as the soldier in these crimes.

The Constitution is no mere document - neither is it old, out-dated, or irrelevant. It is the embodiment of all that Americans hold dear: truth, justice, and equality for all. It is the formula for a government of the people and by the people. It is a government that is transparent and accountable to whom they serve. It dictates a system of checks and balances and separation of powers to prevent the evil that is tyranny.

As strong as the Constitution is, it is not foolproof. It does not fully take into account the frailty of human nature. Profit, greed, and hunger for power can corrupt individuals as much as they can corrupt institutions.

The founders of the Constitution could not have imagined how money would infect our political system. Neither could they believe a standing army would be used for profit and manifest destiny. Like any common dictatorship, soldiers would be ordered to commit acts of such heinous nature as to be deemed most ungentlemanly and unbecoming that of a free country.

The American soldier is not a mercenary. He or she does not simply fight wars for payment. Indeed, the state of the American soldier is worse than that of a mercenary. For a soldier-for-hire can walk away if they are disgusted by their employer's actions. Instead, especially when it comes to war, American soldiers become indentured servants whether they volunteer out of patriotism or are drafted through economic desperation.

Does it matter what the soldier believes is morally right?

If this is a war of necessity, why force men and women to fight?

When it comes to a war of ideology, the lines between right and wrong are blurred. How tragic it is when the term Catch-22 defines the modern American military. Aside from the reality of indentured servitude, the American soldier in theory is much nobler. Soldier or officer, when we swear our oath it is first and foremost to the Constitution and its protectorate, the people.

If soldiers realized this war is contrary to what the Constitution extols - if they stood up and threw their weapons down - no President could ever initiate a war of choice again.

When we say, "… Against all enemies foreign and domestic," what if elected leaders became the enemy? Whose orders do we follow? The answer is the conscience that lies in each soldier, each American, and each human being.

Our duty to the Constitution is an obligation, not a choice. The military, and especially the Army, is an institution of fraternity and close-knit camaraderie. Peer pressure exists to ensure cohesiveness but it stamps out individualism and individual thought. The idea of brotherhood is difficult to pull away from if the alternative is loneliness and isolation.

If we want soldiers to choose the right but difficult path - they must know beyond any shadow of a doubt that they will be supported by Americans. To support the troops who resist, you must make your voices heard. If they see thousands supporting me, they will know.

I have heard your support, as has Suzanne Swift, and Ricky Clousing - but many others have not.

Increasingly, more soldiers are questioning what they are being asked to do. Yet, the majority lack awareness to the truth that is buried beneath the headlines. Many more see no alternative but to obey.

We must show open-minded soldiers a choice and we must give them courage to act. Three weeks ago, Sgt. Hernandez from the 172nd Stryker Brigade was killed, leaving behind a wife and two children. In an interview, his wife said he sacrificed his life so that his family could survive. I'm sure Sgt. Hernandez cherished the camaraderie of his brothers, but given a choice, I doubt he would put himself in a position to leave his family husbandless and fatherless.

Yet that's the point, you see. People like Sgt. Hernandez don't have a choice. The choices are to fight in Iraq or let your family starve. Many soldiers don't refuse this war en mass because, like all of us,, they value their families over their own lives and perhaps their conscience.

Who would willingly spend years in prison for principle and morality while denying their family sustenance?

I tell this to you because you must know that to stop this war, for the soldiers to stop fighting it, they must have the unconditional support of the people. I have seen this support with my own eyes. For me it was a leap of faith. For other soldiers, they do not have that luxury. They must know it and you must show it to them. Convince them that no matter how long they sit in prison, no matter how long this country takes to right itself, their families will have a roof over their heads, food in their stomachs, opportunities and education.

This is a daunting task. It requires the sacrifice of all of us. Why must Canadians feed and house our fellow Americans who have chosen to do the right thing? We should be the ones taking care of our own.

Are we that powerless - are we that unwilling to risk something for those who can truly end this war?

How do you support the troops but not the war? By supporting those who can truly stop it; let them know that resistance to participate in an illegal war is not futile and not without a future. I have broken no law but the code of silence and unquestioning loyalty. If I am guilty of any crime, it is that I learned too much and cared too deeply for the meaningless loss of my fellow soldiers and my fellow human beings.

If I am to be punished it should be for following the rule of law over the immoral orders of one man. If I am to be punished it should be for not acting sooner.

Martin Luther King Jr. once said,
"History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period … was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people."

Now, I'm not a hero. I am a leader of men who said enough is enough. Those who called for war prior to the invasion compared diplomacy with Saddam to the compromises made with Hitler.

I say, we compromise now by allowing a government that uses war as the first option instead of the last to act with impunity.

Many have said this about the World Trade Towers, "Never Again."

I agree. Never again will we allow those who threaten our way of life to reign free - be they terrorists or elected officials. The time to fight back is now - the time to stand up and be counted is today.

I'll end with one more Martin Luther King Jr. quote:
"One who breaks an unjust law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law."

Thank you and bless you all.


The only thing Watada said that I would disagree with is that he claimed that he is not a hero. He is a leader, yet again, by taking this stance. And he may never know how many lives he has already touched.

Today, it is up to the anti-war movement to make sure his leadership touches as many soldiers' lives in Iraq as possible.

Watada is making his stand. He needs continued support. As he said, if more American soldiers in Iraq know that they, along with their families, will be supported if they stand up against this illegal occupation, countless more will follow, and this repulsive war will end.

-Dahr Jamail is an independent journalist who has reported for the Guardian, the Independent, and the Sunday Herald. He now writes regularly for Inter Press Service and Truthout. He maintains a web site at dahrjamailiraq.com.

Dissent is loyalty: 

Robert Taft, the conservative Ohio senator who is a hero to many of today's conservatives, gave a speech at the Executive Club of Chicago in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor. There are a number of paragraphs that are just grand, but here's the best one, which is worth quoting in full:

As a matter of general principle, I believe there can be no doubt that criticism in time of war is essential to the maintenance of any kind of democratic government ... too many people desire to suppress criticism simply because they think that it will give some comfort to the enemy to know that there is such criticism. If that comfort makes the enemy feel better for a few moments, they are welcome to it as far as I am concerned, because the maintenance of the right of criticism in the long run will do the country maintaining it a great deal more good than it will do the enemy, and will prevent mistakes which might otherwise occur.
Drink in those words. That's not William Fulbright two years into the Vietnam War. It's not Ted Kennedy last week. It's Mr. Republican, speaking -- when? Not mid-1943, or even March 1942. Taft delivered this speech ... on December 19, 1941!

That's right: Twelve days after the worst attack on American soil in the country's history, perhaps with bodies still floating in the harbor, the leader of the congressional opposition said to the president, we will question, we will probe, we will debate.

 By Michael Tomasky

The AMERICAN Prospect online

Enter supporting content here

"It's time to punch the clock ... the Battle for America has begun"

Click on link above for an excellent 4 minutes of getting your patriotic fire relit.