Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Journalist Refuses to Testify in Court Martial of Iraq War Refuser

Sarah Olson, a regular reporter for Truthout.com, interviewed Lt. Ehren Watada for the August 2006 issue of Left Turn Magazine (#21, Estamos en la Lucha).

In this interview, Ehren Watada first publicized that he was refusing to serve in the Iraq War, stating
I’ve come to believe this is an illegal and an immoral war, and the order to have us deploy to Iraq is unlawful. I won’t follow this order and I won’t participate in something I believe is wrong.

Watada, the first commisioned officer to refuse to serve in Iraq, is now awaiting a February 2007 court-martial for his refusal, and the U.S. Army has subpeonaed Sarah Olson. They have also named independent reporter Dahr Jamail, who regularly reports from Iraq and frequently contributes to Left Turn Magazine, as a proseuction witness.

Olson has just published her response to the Army, titled "Why I Object to Testifying Against Lt. Watada," saying
The U.S. Army has cobbled together portions of my interview with Lieutenant Watada and these statements comprise the foundation of one charge of conduct unbecoming an officer. To substantiate this alleged crime, the Army has subpoenaed me to testify on behalf of their prosecution...

It is my job as a professional journalist to report the news, not to act as the eyes and ears of the government. I am repelled by this approach that jeopardizes my credibility and seeks to compel my participation in muting public speech and dissenting personal opinion.

The army may have her sent to jail for refusing to testify in the court-martial proceedings.

Despite the unprecedented nature of such a subpeona, very few news outlets have reported on the event. According to Google News, only independent media outlets, the Guardian of London, the Army Times, some Arab-American press, local San Francisco Bay area press, and CBS news have picked up the story at all.

Journalists and others are calling for support on behalf of Sarah Olson on the grounds of freedom of speech and freedom of press. Lt. Watada is also only the highest ranking of many soldiers and sailors that have refused to fight in Iraq on legal and moral grounds in the face of court martials. Others include Camilo Mejia, Kevin Benderman, Pablo Paredes and Abdullah Webster. A more complete list is available on the web page U.S. War Heroes from the Iraq War. This phenomenon of soldier resisters is also occurring in Israel, as documented by the book Breaking Ranks. As the new film Sir, No Sir documents,a similar pattern during the Vietnam War ultimately forced the U.S. government to withdraw their forces and end the war.


Anonymous said...

The Associated Press also did a story on Olson -- http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/news/local/states/california/northern_california/16268916.htm

Here are two stories on a Bay Area site for journalists:



Saimon Fitzyerald said...

I saw the AP story, but, at least when my post was written, it had only appeared in the Mercury News, a San Jose paper. San Jose is located in the South San Francisco Bay area.