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January 21, 2007

Following the Citizen's Hearing Online

Noemie wrote about the amazing Citizen's War Tribunal which took place yesterday and today at The Evergreen State College's Tacoma campus at both Washblog and DailyKos.  It's riveting reading.

The hearing for Lt. Ehren Watada forbade his attorneys from arguing that the war on Iraq is illegal under both international treaties and Article Six of the U.S. Constitution.  His defense, had they been allowed to argue it, was that Watada would have been party to war crimes if he had deployed to Iraq as an officer. 

Knowing they would not be allowed to present this defense, a Citizen's Hearing was set up to allow a range of distinguished speakers to argue that case on his behalf.  According to the website set up in advance of this weekend's hearings, they were designed to resemble a congressional committee, gathering information from testimony offered by Iraq War veterans, experts in international law and war crimes, and human rights advocates, including the following:

*Daniel Ellsberg, military analyst who released the Pentagon Papers in the Vietnam War
*Denis Halliday, Former UN Assistant Secretary General, coordinated Iraq humanitarian aid
*Richard Falk, Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University
*Stacy Bannerman Military Families Speak Out; author of "When the War Came Home"
*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
*Benjamin G. Davis, Assoc. Law Prof., Univ. of Toledo; expert on law of war
*Eman Khammas, Iraqi human rights advocate (via video).
*Geoffrey Millard, 8 years in NY Army National Guard; stationed in Ground Zero, Kuwait, Iraq
*Ann Wright, Retired Army Colonel and State Department official
*Darrell Anderson, Army 1st Armored Division in Baghdad & Najaf; awarded Purple Heart
*Dennis Kyne, 15 years as Army medic & drill sergeant; trained in NBC warfare; Gulf War I
*Francis Boyle, Professor of International Law at University of Illinois (video testimony)
*Chanan Suarez-Diaz, Former Navy hospital corpsman; awarded Purple Heart & Commendation with Valor

A panel of citizens heard the testimony, examined the witnesses and will issue a report on their findings.   They focused on "the legality of the war and whether or not 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".  The panel included veterans, members of military families, high school students, union members, and representatives of local governments, academia, and religious organizations.  David Krieger, Director of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Former Army 2nd Lieutenant stationed in Hawaii during the Vietnam War, and a member of the Jury of Conscience at the 2005 World Tribunal on Iraq (in Istanbul) served as panel chair.

From Noemie's comments at DailyKos, we get the main points made by the speakers:

   1. That there is a pattern in society at large to place the burden of the war on the soldiers

   2. That there is a pattern in the military to move the burden/punishments down the chain of command.  Generals get to retire, but lieutenants and soldiers are court martialed. 

   3. That there is a pattern in the Bush administration  of exculpating itself -- hiding behind soldiers as cover for its crimes, letting the military take the fall.

   4.  And that there is a pattern in the courts of avoiding judicial review of the real issues, so that  the soldiers, not the war itself, are put on trial.

So what we have is an entire society mobilized on all levels to pass off the blame and punish the soldiers.  It is indeed, a violation of the humanity of these people as well as a grave failure to face up to our crimes as a society, a profound harm to our national honor, and a weakening of our military strength and ability to counter terrorism.

Noemie also notes that this citizen's tribunal is a first of its kind.  Part of its power is that it includes a strong military presence, people who have "the professional and first-hand knowledge on matters of war that must be considered by any who want peace -- and that they and their families are, especially in this war, carrying a grossly unjust share of the burden."

She also repeated a critical statement made by Daniel Ellsberg about this being "the most incompetent aggression in the history of empire".   Go read it.

Posted by Lynn Allen on January 21, 2007 at 09:43 PM in National and International Politics | Permalink

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