Wednesday, January 31, 2007

WATADA NADA

Over on Truthout (www.truthout.org/docs_2006/013007J.shtml) there’s an 01/29 AP piece about the Watada trial. The government is dropping two counts of conduct unbecoming. Such a generous and benevolent sovereign, our military. As Ike would say: Yah.

The military justice system has been dealt with elsewhere on this site (“Bishops Bomb”, “Military Just-As”, “Military Justice is No Music” – Parts 1 & 2, “Warrior Professionals”). And the Watada case has been discussed (“Military-isms”).

As indicated in the latter Post, these General Article charges are filler, put in there to beef up the potential jail time and induce any soul foolhardy enough to want to stand up and defend himself to think again and just plead guilty. Siberia being a given, why piss Stalin off by taking up the court’s time? Say you’re sorry, get trucked back to the Lubyanka, and get ready for your long journey. Meals are provided. Be hapski. Your military defender may visit you, perhaps bring a chocolate bar for after your supper. They’ve been known to do that, you know. A glorious system, is it not? Now march.

The reporters are off the hook – they won’t have to show up and testify. But they will ‘stipulate to’ the testimony they would have provided if they had been made to come. Lt. Watada’s civilian defense counsel tries to put a brave face on it: the journalists are “shielded from the heavy hand of the government”. I don’t see how. Yes, the reporters are spared (and the media deprived of) the photogenic footage of reporters forced to testify in a military ‘court’ (yes – the quotes … they are not mean to ‘scare’ but to indicate irony, even sarcasm). Before a military ‘judge’ (ditto). (Then again, the way things are going in the country just now, maybe we should be ‘scared’, certainly more so than most of us right now.)

The reporters are off the hook. But we must hope and pray that they don’t consider themselves off the case. This war, this ‘justice’ system, the Pentagoon bosses who so cynically run it, the oily roadies who spin it … all need to have some serious tire kicked.

But the military is off the hook, too. It doesn’t have to face the prospect of that footage either. And just how much do you want to piss off the media? One of the great rings of defense around the fortress prison of military justice is precisely the media’s fawning or unthinking acceptance of this thing as a legitimate and credible system of administering honest justice. And if they go and piss off the press, then such telegenic flacks and roadies as the National Institute for Military Justice will lose the traction that their smarmy, avuncular lecture-commentary is meant to provide: Ah yes, the wonders of our system – here, let me show you just a bit – but, alas, so much is classified, or beyond the civilian mind – well, just trust us, it works fine, balancing the needs of the government and the rights of the accused to a nicety. Yah.

“They’ve already determined that he’s guilty”, reports the defense counsel. Well, of course. You don’t go and start a military operation if you haven’t yet identified and isolated the ‘enemy’ whose undoing is your tactical objective. (They tried that in the War on Terror, and look what’s happened.) These military justice ‘trials’ are nothing of the sort, and the word ‘trial’ shouldn’t be used because it confuses American and Western jurisprudence with the military operation that courtsmartial fundamentally are. A court-martial is the JAG equivalent of shock&awe, only unlike the actual field operations, the JAG version is guaranteed – think ‘shooting fish in a barrel’. But they get pay and resume notches and sometimes medals for this stuff. And so do the ‘judges’, who are also JAGs. It’s a marvelously constructed system. “What’s the Constitution among friends?” a Tammany-era pol once asked. Even more so, what’s the Constitution among officers and gentlemen?

And they are all honorable men. As the Army spokesman says: Watada’s failure to deploy “is something the military takes very seriously”. Yah. It’s dizzying to try to follow just what things the military bosses take seriously these days. Soon-to-retire generals and admirals buying weapons systems from corporate honchos who then hire them for big bucks as soon as they take off the medal-suit for the last time? Billions of budgeted dollars that cannot be accounted for by the same? Refusal to stand up, put your bemedalled career on the line and speak military truth to power when your troops’ lives are at stake? Nope. Not so serious. But a junior-officer who takes his stand against a war that was started with lies and has been continued with more lies and whose loss is being veiled by even more lies … well now THAT is serious. Harrrrrumph! Yah.

The Army also wants Watada to do at least 18 months in prison. Anything over 12 months would – the law being what it is just now – make him a ‘felon’. Imagine: serial killers, bank robbers, car-jackers, some – at least – of the ubiquitous sex offenders, murderers … and 1st Lt. Watada. The most honorable generals have decreed. Yah.

A damned shame that the ghosts of Arlington can’t speak. But then again, the Universe being what it is, just maybe they will, in their way. Listen for them. They know. And they speak Truth. And We need to hear that.

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