(KHNL) - He refused to go to Iraq with his unit.
But a Hawaii-born soldier could not refuse to appear in a military courtroom Thursday.
It's Iraq war objector Lieutenant Ehren Watada who faces possible criminal charges for refusing to deploy and making illegal statements, but his defense strategy is to go on the offensive.
His lawyer put the war itself on trial.
"First of all the war is illegal," said Attorney Eric Seitz. "There's nobody who credibly argues otherwise - by virtue of the fact the United States was not acting in self defense."
With controversy over the case already swirling around the gates of Ft. Lewis.
Watada's legal strategy will likely fan the flames. His attorney admits he has little hope he can prevail in the hearing and prevent the Army from going forward with charges.
Even so, he called three high-profile witnesses to defend Watada's actions.
Video of Watada making anti-war statements is the bedrock of the military's case.
They played a DVD Watada made to prove his statements are so anti-government, they're criminal.
"My participation would make me party to War Crimes," Lt. Watada said on the DVD.
Army officials aren't commenting about the merits of the case, but a base colonel says he believes morale is still high despite Lieutenant Watada's case.
"My morale is just as high as it was 2 weeks ago or 2 months ago," said Lt. Col. Dan Williams. "I do what I do because I love my country."
When asked, Watada's attorney was quite candid saying he doesn't really feel like he can win either here or at the courtmartial level.