WASHINGTON -- A U.S. Army soldier who refused to wear the blue insignia of the United Nations has declined his commander's offer of administrative punishment, opening the way for a possible court-martial or his discharge.
Spc. Michael New appeared before Lt. Col. Stephen Layfield, commander of the 15th Infantry Battalion, in Schweinfurt, Germany, yesterday and rejected nonjudicial punishment, a lesser form of military discipline than a court-martial.
The 22-year-old medic told the officer he wanted legal representation and a public hearing, according to his legal adviser in the United States.
The Army will now have to decide what to do with him.
His claim that he enlisted to serve in the U.S. Army, not the United Nations, has attracted support from more than 40 conservative Republicans in Congress, who have written to President Clinton questioning the administration's legal and constitutional authority for ordering U.S. troops such as Specialist New to serve under U.N. colors and officers.
Retired Marine Lt. Col. Ron Ray, a Kentucky attorney who is the New family's legal adviser, said the Army initially began processing Specialist New for administrative discharge after he refused to wear the blue U.N. patch and cap last week. His 550-member unit is being deployed on a U.N. mission to Macedonia, a republic of the former Yugoslavia, later this month.
The Army abruptly suspended the discharge proceedings last week and offered him nonjudicial punishment under Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
"It looks like somebody in the Pentagon is watching this pretty close, and, or, somebody in the White House," said Colonel Ray, noting that the New case has become "highly political."