With a banner waving high over University Avenue, a group of University of Wisconsin students showed their support Monday morning for a U.S. military officer facing court martial after refusing to fight in Iraq.
The Associated Press reported Monday that Lt. Ehren Watada from Honolulu faces "charges of conduct unbecoming of an officer" after calling the U.S. occupation of Iraq an "illegal war." Watada faces up to four years in prison and a dishonorable discharge.
"It was encouraging to see so many people beeping [their car horns] in support of the war resisters," said Chris Dols, a Campus Antiwar Network member. "We wanted to show support for his brave stance to be an outspoken critic of an illegal war."
The protesters draped a banner over the University Avenue pedestrian bridge depicting Watada and several other soldiers refusing to be deployed.
"We also passed out literature, and encouraged people to get involved," said Paul Pryse, a Campus Antiwar Network member.
Pryse said Watada would most likely get convicted of the charges based on a prior ruling stating political evidence against the war would not be admitted.
However, Pryse said Watada still has a solid case because international law and the U.S. Constitution prove the "illegality" of the Iraq war.
Dols said Watada is basing a portion of his case on the Nuremberg trials where "carrying out illegal orders is a war crime."
However, an officer in the U.S. military said the Constitution does not fall under international law.
"What it boils down to is, being in the military, you take an oath," said the officer, a recent UW graduate, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "There's no gray area about it. You know what you're getting into, especially as officers — we set an example."
And, the officer added, it is not the duty of a soldier to get involved in politics.
"An officer's job isn't to make political statements," the officer said. "Being a commissioned officer, he should know that."
Pryse said the administration directing the war would continue hypocritical practices with the case.
"[If convicted], it will be another indicator that President Bush and supporters of the war support the troops. But when a leader comes out and says this is illegal, they throw the book at him," Pryse said. "It shows the hypocrisy of the whole thing."
According to Pryse, the Campus Antiwar Network would continue to support dissenting troops throughout the spring semester.