Friday, January 7, 2000

Michael New gets court date
Soldier who refused to wear U.N. uniform awaits final appeal

By Julie Foster


Former Army Spc. Michael New, court-martialed in 1996 for refusing to obey an order to wear a United Nations uniform, will appear before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, the highest military tribunal in the land, on Feb. 4.

Considered a hero by many, the media-shy New refused to don the U.N. uniform while stationed in Germany in 1995 during a peacekeeping mission. This hearing is yet another in a long line of court battles fought to reverse the bad conduct discharge the Army gave New in 1996.

Given his past court battles, New's prospects for victory look grim. This is his second appeal in the military court system -- which New's father, Daniel, characterizes as "an intense adversarial relationship."

"It's not like a regular trial," said Daniel New in an exclusive WorldNetDaily interview.

Michael New's lawyer will be given 15 minutes to outline his arguments that New was not given a fair court martial. Judge Gary Jewell, who decided the initial case, did not allow any evidence brought before the panel of jurors on the basis that it was irrelevant to the question of whether or not New had disobeyed orders to wear the U.N. uniform.

Following New's statement, lawyers representing the U.S. Army will be given 15 minutes to refute New's arguments. At any time during the one-hour proceeding, the panel of five presiding judges may interrupt with questions that count against each side's time, according to New's lawyer, retired Lt. Col. Henry Hamilton, a former Army lawyer.

"It doesn't matter, in this case, whether [New] was right or wrong" in his refusal to don U.N. accoutrements, said Capt. Paul Fiorino, appointed by the Army to defend New in an earlier round of appeals. "The fact is, he was denied a fair trial under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. He was railroaded and that's wrong. A defendant should be allowed to present his evidence to those who determine his guilt."

"We brought a mountain of evidence that the U.N. uniform is not regulation," Daniel New said.

But the Army maintains the issue before the court is simply whether or not a soldier can disobey an order. Since the scope of the allowed debate is so limited, New can no longer argue the real issue -- should an American soldier be subject to wearing foreign military uniforms and serving under foreign military officers as occurred with New's unit in Germany.

New's officers told him that the president now has the authority to place Americans under the United Nations, according to Presidential Decision Directive 25, signed in 1994. While an executive summary of that directive exists, the document itself is classified.

Supporters of New's position claim that President Clinton has, under PDD 25, "affected to render the military independent of and superior to the civil power" -- civil power being Congress, not the Commander in Chief.

Attempts to convince military courts that foreign command of U.S. troops is unconstitutional have been declared "non-justiciable," that is, having political ramifications and involving constitutional questions that military courts are unable to address.

However, New has been denied a hearing in civilian courts until the military appeals are completed. The Army successfully argued that the case is exclusively a military matter and has no place before civilian courts.

Political ramifications may be exactly what some are avoiding in their lack of comment on New's case. WorldNetDaily repeatedly attempted to contact Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, D-Texas, representing New's home state to no avail. A staunch Clinton defender during the president's impeachment proceedings, she did not provide any comment on the matter.

Texas Sen. Kay Bailey-Hutchison, a Republican, also refused to take an official stand regarding New's case, demonstrating that the issue crosses party lines.

"This is not a Republican or Democrat issue," said Daniel New. "This is a bi-partisan American issue" -- and one that many other congressional representatives have not shied away from.

Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, not only vocally supports New, but went so far as to sponsor a bill in Congress that would have made it illegal to serve under any foreign power, including the U.N., against a soldier's will -- a move that would clear up any ambiguity on the part of the courts.

Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert also backs New's position. Ironically, though the list of New's supporters in Congress is a long one with no vocal opposition, the press has largely avoided the story.

Should New's appeal be denied, he will either take his case before the U.S. Supreme Court or return to federal court where he will again attempt to raise the issue of whether the president has the authority to place U.S. troops under foreign command.

Michael New currently lives in Texas where he is continuing his education. He maintains his distance from the media, saying, "I was prepared to go to prison. I wasn't prepared to be famous."

Julie Foster is a staff reporter for WorldNetDaily.

Julie Foster is a contributing reporter for WorldNetDaily.