Michael Honey: Historian produces a 16-minute film about a soldier's duty to say no to illegal war

Historians in the News

[Michael Honey is a professor of labor and ethnic studies and American history at the University of Washington, Tacoma. For information on Watada's case, see www.thankyoult.org.]

The Bush Administration and Congress this week took the destruction of American civil liberties to a new low, in the name of a war against terror. The Magna Carta of 1215 established habeas corpus, the right to come before a court of law to confront one's accusers and to be safe from arbitrary arrest, indefinite imprisonment without charges, and capricious treatment. American colonists revolted against King George in 1776 in part for his refusal to ensure such legal rights.

Now George Bush and Congress have authorized the suspension of habeas corpus for non-citizens and legal permanent residents within the U.S. The President may detain anyone -- U.S. citizens included -- by designating them as enemy combatants, without the normal standards of habeas corpus. The President may also unilaterally determine what is and is not torture. The new law provides retroactive immunity to he and others who have instituted torture in the past.

On many counts, the Military Commissions Act violates the U.S. Constitution, the Geneva Conventions, and long-held precepts of fair treatment and democracy.

Within the American military, commanding officer named Lt. Ehren Watada has stood up against the President, charging him with lying about the reasons for war in Iraq, ignoring the United Nations prohibition on the use of force unless our country has been attacked, and carrying out the war in ways that have led to untold civilian deaths and human rights abuses, in violation of the Geneva Conventions, U.S. Army regulations, and the Nuremberg Principles. For these reasons, Watada says the war itself is illegal.

Watada is the first officer to refuse to go to Iraq, and the first to challenge the legality of the war. The U.S. Army at Ft. Lewis, Washington, plans to court martial him in the winter, and may send Watada to prison for up to eight years. In Tacoma, a Citizen's Hearing will be held on December 11-12, to inquire into these issues.

It is the American Way: question authority. For more information on Lt. Watada's challenge to President Bush's invasion and war in Iraq, see Michael Honey's new 16-minute film, A Soldier's Duty?

For additional documentation on the Watada case, see:

Dahr Jamail: Ehren Watada

In perilous times, it is up to the citizens to exercise their democratic rights to think and question their government. Now more than ever, we must exercise those rights.

comments powered by Disqus