Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

U.S. Soldier Guilty in Beret Case Medic Wouldn't Wear U.N. Mission Insignia

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

U.S. Soldier Guilty in Beret Case Medic Wouldn't Wear U.N. Mission Insignia

Article excerpt

A U.S. soldier who refused to serve under a U.N. command was convicted Wednesday of disobedience and given a bad-conduct discharge.

Spc. Michael New, 22, was the first American serviceman court-martialed for refusing to accept foreign command on a U.N. operation.

New, a medic from Conroe, Texas, was in a unit that was to be part of a U.N. observers mission in Macedonia. But New refused to wear the blue U.N. beret and insignia, saying that such an action was unconstitutional.

The United States provides about half of the 1,100 troops who have been in the former Yugoslav republic since 1993. The goal is to prevent the spread of fighting from neighboring Bosnia.

The jury could have sentenced New with a dishonorable discharge, six months' incarceration and a loss of pay. New's attorney said he thought the less-severe sentence indicated the jury believed New's concerns were legitimate.

Outside the courtroom at Leighton Barracks U.S. Army base, New smiled when reporters asked him how he felt, but he did not answer any questions. His attorneys say he will appeal.

New's case has been championed by conservatives who oppose placing U.S. armed forces under United Nations command. About 100 congressional representatives, including Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, have sponsored legislation making it illegal to order armed services personnel to wear U.N. insignia.

U.N. officials in Geneva declined to comment on the case Wednesday, saying it is against policy to discuss member states' court decisions.

New's father, Daniel, said the verdict was a foregone conclusion.

"We certainly were not surprised because, frankly, no military court is qualified to rule on something of this constitutional importance," he said from Texas. "We're ready to go to federal court."

The elder New said that when his son was told he could be court-martialed and lose his benefits for refusing to wear the U. …

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