Claiming he's no rebel soldier, a former Army medic is going back to a military court to appeal his bad-conduct discharge for refusing to wear a United Nations uniform during a peacekeeping mission.
Michael New argues he was being patriotic by not shedding his American military identity. His superiors say he disobeyed an order.The Supreme Court, without comment, in March rejected New's appeal of his 1996 discharge, siding with a federal trial judge and appeals court that said he hadn't exhausted his military legal options.
As a result, New took his case Thursday to the Army Court of Criminal Appeals in Falls Church, Va., to argue that as an American soldier he had a right to object to wearing the insignia and the blue beret of U.N. forces as part of an international mission.
"He saw it as an act of switching allegiance," said his attorney, Henry Hamilton, a retired Army judge advocate general.
If the military appeals court doesn't decide in New's favor, Hamilton said his client would go to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces and then, if rejected, appeal again to the Supreme Court.
"Michael New is not a rebel soldier," said his father, Daniel New, of Conroe, Texas. "Michael New is a very loyal soldier."
New, 25, a medical specialist now on involuntary leave in Houston, joined the Army in 1993. His bad-conduct discharge is being held in abeyance pending appeals.
No other American solider has refused to wear the U.N. uniform.
While stationed in Germany in 1995, New was ordered to participate in a U.N. peacekeeping mission in Macedonia, one of six former republics of Yugoslavia. But after learning he would have to wear U.N. garb, New told his superiors he didn't want to participate. He requested a transfer to a non-U.N. unit or an honorable discharge.
"I have never taken an oath to the United Nations, but I have taken the required oath to support and defend the Constitution," New said in a written statement.
At New's January 1996 court-martial, a seven-member military jury took only 20 minutes to convict him of disobeying an order.
Army Judge Lt. Col. Gary Jewell limited the case to the question of whether New had refused to do his duty, according to his attorneys.
In looking for avenues of appeal, New's lawyers are arguing that President Clinton illegally ordered the Macedonia deployment because he didn't get congressional approval. Instead, the commander in chief invoked a portion of the U.N. charter that allows the president to deploy up to 1,000 troops on noncombat missions.
"It is actually a case of fraud and deceit at the highest level of government," Hamilton charged.
The Clinton administration and the Pentagon, however, said it's a clear case of a soldier not following orders.