FORT LEWIS, Wash.—An Army lieutenant who has said he'd rather go to prison than Iraq did not deploy with his unit when it left last week for the Middle East, Army officials said.
1st Lt. Ehren Watada, 28, of Honolulu, who joined the Army in March 2003, has said he would be willing to serve in Afghanistan or elsewhere, but has concluded that the war in Iraq is illegal and immoral.
Watada stayed on base in his battalion's headquarters while members of his unit left Fort Lewis by bus at 6:45 a.m., en route to their flight from nearby McChord Air Force Base, the Army said.
About 4,000 soldiers of Fort Lewis' 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division were scheduled to be part of this deployment.
"1st Lt. Watada has been ordered to remain on duty at his unit, with some limitations on his pass privileges, pending further instructions from his chain of command," Fort Lewis officials said in a statement.
No charges had been filed against Watada as of Thursday. "None will be filed until the commander has had a chance to review all of the facts of the case and consult with the Staff Judge Advocate," the Army statement said.
Watada said in an interview earlier this month that he researched the reasons behind the U.S. involvement in Iraq and concluded that the government has violated American law.
"We can't break laws in order to fight terrorism," he said.
Watada said he believes intelligence on whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction was manipulated "to fit a policy that was already implemented prior to 9-11," and he cited "mistreatment of the Iraqi people," saying it was "a contradiction to the Army's own Law of Land Warfare."
He did not apply for conscientious objector status, defined by Army regulations as a "firm, fixed and sincere objection to participation in a war in any form or the bearing of arms, because of religious training and belief." He said he objected only to the war in Iraq.
His attorney, Eric Seitz, did not immediately return a phone call to his office in Honolulu because he is in Europe.
— The Associated Press