Military war resisters protect First Amendment freedoms

By Susan Van Haitsma

Austin American-Statesman / DissidentVoice / CommonDreams

Freedom. It’s the word used over and over by George W. Bush to defend military offensives initiated by his administration. Freedom, he says, is being protected and expanded through the sacrifices of US soldiers ordered into Iraq and Afghanistan.

First Amendment rights to speak, assemble, publish, practice religion and petition the government are essential freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution soldiers swear to defend. But are soldiers themselves accorded the rights they are ordered to protect? Is it possible for First Amendment freedoms to be advanced by an institution that suppresses those freedoms?

On June 7, 2006, 3-year Army officer, Lt. Ehren Watada, stationed at Ft. Lewis, WA spoke publicly in opposition to the invasion and occupation of Iraq and declared his intent to refuse orders to deploy. After careful study of the events leading to the invasion and reports of the ways the occupation has been conducted in light of US Constitutional and international law, Lt. Watada reached a conclusion shared by many, perhaps most of his fellow Americans.

Lt. Watada stated, “The war in Iraq violates our democratic system of checks and balances. It usurps international treaties and conventions that by virtue of the Constitution become American law. The wholesale slaughter and mistreatment of the Iraqi people with only limited accountability is not only a terrible moral injustice, but a contradiction to the Army’s own Law of Land Warfare. My participation would make me party to war crimes… My oath of office is to protect and defend America’s laws and its people. By refusing unlawful orders for an illegal war, I fulfill that oath today.”

On June 22, Lt. Watada refused orders to deploy with his unit to Iraq. On July 5, he was formally charged with three articles of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), including charges of missing movement and of “conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman” and using “contemptuous words” toward officials, specifically President Bush. The words used by Watada, “our government led us into war based on misrepresentations and lies,” echo the sentiments of millions of people in the US. The charges against Watada represent the first known prosecution since 1965 of UCMJ Article 88 regarding contempt of superior officers. Lt. Watada’s lawyer, Eric Seitz, said, “We expected the missing movement charge, but we are somewhat astounded by the ‘contempt’ and ‘conduct unbecoming’ charges. These additional charges open up the substance of Lt. Watada’s statements for review and raise important First Amendment issues.”

A pre-trial hearing of Lt. Watada’s case is scheduled for August 17. Watada does not consider himself a Conscientious Objector to all war, but he takes seriously his obligation to abide by the Nuremberg Principles, international law ratified by the US following WWII.

The fourth article of the Nuremberg Principles states, “The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him.” Punishable as crimes under international law are the following:

Crimes Against Peace, including “waging a war of aggression.”

War Crimes, including “ill treatment of prisoners of war, plunder of public or private property and wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity.”

Crimes Against Humanity, including “murder and other inhuman acts done against any civilian population.”

Do we want soldiers to follow orders without question, or do we want them to think critically about their actions? Why are some soldiers punished for committing atrocities during war at the same time that other soldiers are punished for resisting orders to participate in a war known for its atrocities? Lt. Watada joins a growing number of soldiers whose moral convictions are leading to punitive convictions in military courts. Many soldiers who have sought Conscientious Objector status have been denied. Thousands of soldiers have gone AWOL as a result of the formidable legal blocks to establishing moral objections to the Iraq war. Many have sought refuge in Canada, though political asylum for US military war resisters is not official there.

Freedoms are protected and expanded, not through war, as President Bush would have us believe, but through the courageous moral choices being made by young war resisters like Lt. Ehren Watada. By practicing First Amendment freedoms of speech, press and conscience, they are shouldering the responsibilities being shirked by their elders to bring international and US law to bear on the war in Iraq.

Van Haitsma is active with Nonmilitary Options for Youth in Austin, Texas. She can be reached at jeffjweb@sbcglobal.net

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Confronting the Violence of Dollar Hegemony

It was not until Robert Rubin became special economic assistant to president Clinton that the US would figure out its strategy of dollar hegemony through the promotion of unregulated globalization of financial markets. Rubin, a consummate international bond trader at Goldman Sachs who earned $60 million the year he left to join the White House, figured out how the US was able to have its cake and eat it too, by controlling domestic inflation with cheap imports bought with a strong dollar, and having its trade deficit financed by a capital account surplus made possible by the same strong dollar. Thus dollar hegemony was born.

Henry CK Liu

By Greg Moses

DissidentVoice / InfoShopNews / UrukNet

As Islamic states and communities caucus over the crisis in Lebanon, non-Islamic populations in the West also desire some quick way to peacefully deter the hyper-violence of the reigning Washington-London-Jerusalem machine. Ahmed Amr calls our attention to currency activism, a grassroots dollar boycott, suggested by former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. By withdrawing economic activity as much as possible from the production and circulation of USA dollars, billions of people all over the world might collectively compel substantial and lasting concessions from our steel-tipped oligarchs, if not turn them out naked overnight.

The power of currency activism can be dramatically envisioned upon premises of dollar hegemony worked out in the pages of Asia Times by economist Henry CK Liu. In dialectics marvelous to read, Liu argues that Clinton’s place in economic history was secured by consolidating dollar hegemony as the monetary structure for globalization, a.k.a. neo-liberalism. The care and feeding required by this system explains odd collaborations between Republicans and Democrats, Texans and Saudis, or think about this one: Wal-Mart shoppers and the Communist Party of China (CPC).

Liu’s dollar-hegemony theory explains how Wal-Mart shoppers have the CPC more on the leash than the other way around, because when Lee and Sandy Heartland drop their dollars into the big-box stores crammed with things made in China, what happens is that Chinese money managers have little choice but to preserve their dollar holdings in the form of US Treasury Bonds. The more Wal-Mart shoppers buy, therefore, the more the CPC comes to hold T-bills, and the tighter together we are drawn into the world of dollar hegemony.

To seriously disrupt the productive systems that reproduce dollar hegemony would risk write-downs of all savings dependent on T-bill repayments. So if China is an emerging economic competitor, as everyone can see, Liu stresses that the CPC has more importantly become an embedded financial partner in the dollar’s monetary regime.

Or recall the stashes of cash found and lost in Iraq during the USA-led invasion. Doesn’t a pile of loose dollars count for a most transparent motive anywhere in the world? From the point of view of dollar hegemony, CENTCOM is securing a final frontier with distinct financial topographies.

So an important frontier of dissent has been suggested by Minister Mohamad’s call for oil producing countries to denominate their trade in some currency other than petro-dollars. Indeed this might inscribe a limit to the hyper-violence that dollar hegemony today enables. However, as Ahmed Amr replies, Minister Mohamad’s suggestion will be hard to follow for OPEC managers who would face the same predicament as the CPC in terms of savage losses to their own wealth if the dollar were to suffer. In fact, dollar hegemony helps to explain why the patriarchs if not the people of the Middle East consider Hezbollah retrograde.

As a matter of global economic democracy, Liu has been touting the virtues of currency pluralism while trying to deflate campaigns for belligerent exchange policies. And last week’s refusal by top Western leaders to pronounce cease fire over South Lebanon accelerates the urgency of finding a global activism that can wage simple peace with peaceful tools. Currency pluralism might help. Otherwise, we have been shown a future where we all get sucked into blood games that we can neither begin nor end on our own terms.

If grassroots peace movements could express themselves in currency choices, then we would find new voice in numbers. How many percentage points of monetary withdrawal could make George Bush look up the word magnanimous? It’s a big word, I know, but there are good reasons why people with fleets of F-16s should be compelled to pronounce ethical vocabularies. Those who do not place limits on their own ability to kill are virtually begging grassroots peacemakers to craft real limits for them. In the flashy grins of Western leaders last week we found the promise that we could all be punished some day. The world, including the vast majority of the West, must find some way to grin back.