Court-Martial ends in mistrial. Clear victory for Watada. Future
unclear, but it looks like the military may not be able to retry Watada.
News Story on Lt. Ehren Watada Below.
Interview of Ehren Watada, here.
"Never in my life did I ever imagine I would have to disobey my
president. But then again, never did I imagine my president would lie to go
to war, condone torture, spy on Americans, or destroy the career of a CIA
agent for political gain. I would rather resign in protest, but the army
"I refuse to be silent any longer. I refuse to watch families torn apart,
while the President tells us to "stay the course." . . . I refuse to be
party to an illegal and immoral war against people who did nothing to
deserve our aggression. I wanted to be there for my fellow troops. But the
best way was not to help drop artillery and cause more death and
destruction. It is to help oppose this war and end it so that all soldiers
can come home."
- LT, US Army officer*
A working group has formed to facilitate an unprecedented political and
legal support campaign on his behalf. Well respected civilian legal
representation has been secured. A legal and political defense fund has been
created. Many of us have already met LT* and have been moved by his
determination to help stop an unjust war.
We envision a broad political support campaign with this petition as our
basis of unity:
THANK YOU LT for standing up for international, US and military
REFUSING TO DEPLOY TO IRAQ in support of the ongoing ILLEGAL
From the preemptive invasion based on deception, to the deaths of tens of
thousands of Iraqi civilians and nearly 2,500 U.S. troops, to the infamous
Abu Ghraib torture cells and the recent Haditha massacre, no more evidence
is required of how very WRONG this war is. In light of these facts,
appreciate your decision to NOW follow your conscience.
We agree with you LT, it is past time for US forces to leave Iraq. We salute
your true LEADERSHIP these dark times, and believe that we can all
something from your COURAGE.
(*At the press conferences "LT's" name will be made public, but we want
hundreds of messages of support, and thousands of petition signatures before
Time is short! We are now asking people to:
** Sign the petition online:
Or send an email with your name, title, organizational affiliation (if any),
city and state to email@example.com
** Help collect personalized brief messages of support (to be used publicly)
from notable people. These can also be sent via the website, or by email to
** Encourage your local or national organization to become an official
endorser and supporter of this effort.
** Distribute this call to action and petition to friends, family, and
** Check http://www.thankyoult.orgfor
breaking news and forthcoming
organizing materials. Add yourself to the Updates and Alerts email bulletin
(provided by Courage to Resist).
** Help organize nationally coordinated support actions prior to any
possible military court martial.
** Contribute to the legal and political defense fund. Contributions are
tax-deductible. Online credit card and PayPal donations at
http://www.thankyoult.org > donate
Please make check out to "Not in Our Name" and note "Thank You LT
your check's memo line. For tax-deductible donations of $250 or more, make
check out to "Not in Our Name / Agape Foundation". Send check or money order
Thank You LT Fund, c/o Not in Our Name, 3945 Opal Street, Oakland CA 94609
Additional quotes from first U.S. military officer to publicly resist
"Mr. President, you have violated: Article I of the Constitution by
deceiving Congress, Article 2 of the U.N. Charter, U.N. Gen. Assembly Res.
3314 and the Nuremburg Tribunal Charter barring wars of aggression, and many
other international and domestic laws. As a commissioned officer of the U.S.
Armed Forces my legal and moral obligation is to the Constitution--not to
those who would issue unlawful orders. It is my duty to refuse to fight this
Army over ‘illegal’ war
The Honolulu Advertiser
In one of the first known cases of its
kind, an Army officer from Honolulu is expected to refuse to go to Iraq this
month with his unit, citing what he calls the “illegal” and “immoral” basis
of the war, his father confirmed.
The officer, 1st Lt. Ehren K. Watada, 28,
son of former state campaign spending commission executive director Bob
Watada, is believed to be one of the first military officers to publicly
take steps to refuse his deployment orders.
“My son has a great deal of courage, and
clearly understands what is right, and what is wrong,” Bob Watada said
yesterday. “He’s choosing to do the right thing, which is a hard course.”
Watada declined further comment until a
news conference planned for 11 a.m. tomorrow at the state Capitol. His son
is with a Stryker unit out of Fort Lewis, Wash., and is expected to
participate by teleconference.
Jeff Paterson, a former Kaneohe Bay Marine
who refused to board a transport in 1990 heading to the Gulf War and now
works as an anti-war activist with the organization Not In Our Name, said a
second news conference will be held in Tacoma, Wash.
Web site Paterson said was created by friends and family, the “Lt.” is
quoted as saying: “I refuse to be silent any longer. I refuse to watch
families torn apart, while the President tells us to ‘stay the course.’ ...
I refuse to be party to an illegal and immoral war against people who did
nothing to deserve our aggression. I wanted to be there for my fellow
troops. But the best way was not to help drop artillery and cause more death
and destruction. It is to help oppose this war and end it so that all
soldiers can come home.”
Ehren Watada apparently sought in January
to resign his commission, and later asked again and was denied.
Watada, who is not seeking conscientious
objector status, but rather has moral objections to the Iraq war, faces the
possibility of a court-martial, dishonorable discharge and several years in
prison if he refuses the war orders.
According to the GI Rights Hotline, a
conscientious objector has a deeply held moral, ethical or religious belief
that it is wrong to kill another human being in war.
Some service members discover that
opposition after joining the military, and are discharged, the organization
Watada doesn’t qualify as a conscientious
objector because he does not oppose all wars.
Watada graduated from Hawaii Pacific
University in 2003, joined the Army shortly after, went to Officer Candidate
School, and incurred a three-year obligation.
The Hawaii man is with the 5th Battalion,
20th Infantry, at Fort Lewis. The unit is part of a larger 3,600-soldier
Stryker brigade combat team similar to a unit being developed in Hawaii with
about 300 eight-wheeled armored vehicles.
The Fort Lewis brigade is heading to Mosul
in northern Iraq, and the soldiers are expected to leave this month and into
At a farewell ceremony on Friday, I Corps
and Fort Lewis commander Lt. Gen. James Dubik, a former Schofield Barracks
commander, said that of 299 million people in the United States, only 2.3
million serve in uniform to defend the nation, the Olympian newspaper
“Less than 1 percent of the nation is
carrying 100 percent of the burden of this war,” Dubik said.
But in a sign of increased opposition to
the three-year-old Iraq war, anti-war activists demonstrated at the Port of
Olympia after Stryker vehicles drove there for shipment, the Olympian
Police used pepper spray on about 100
activists, and 22 people were arrested in one of the more volatile
confrontations, the newspaper said.
Paterson, 38, who in 1990 alleged that the
Gulf War was about profits and oil in the Middle East and sat down on the
tarmac at Kaneohe Bay instead of boarding a transport, said he’s not sure of
the number of Iraq or Afghanistan war objectors.
Cases that resulted in court-martial
include a Navy sailor sentenced to three months of hard labor for refusing
to board a ship headed to the Persian Gulf, a specialist in the National
Guard given 120 days in a stand against fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan,
and a soldier sentenced to 15 months for refusing to deploy to Iraq a second
Robert Arakaki, the 83-year-old president
of the 100th Infantry Battalion Veterans group, who saw combat in Italy in
1945, yesterday said Watada “owes the country a lot.”
There “should be some kind of good
explanation” for why Watada wants out, he said, and Arakaki takes issue with
claims of an immoral and illegal war.
“Who determines what is legal or illegal?
Him or our government? Not him,” Arakaki said.
Retired Navy Cmdr. Jack Miller, past
president of the Hawaii chapter of the Military Officers Association of
America, said “there’s always been the problem of following orders. This
time is no different.”
“Being a Vietnam veteran, we went through
this,” said Miller, 72. “The rest of the load had to be shared by those
willing to follow orders and serve their country.”
Dependable, loyal officers are needed, and
“if one doesn’t fit that qualification, a bad apple will contaminate the
barrel. He (Watada) should be punished in some way,” Miller said. “You don’t
want someone over there in Iraq who’s not going to willingly follow orders.
Officer Announces Refusal to Deploy to Iraq
By Sarah Olson
r u t h o u t | Interview
Wednesday 07 June
Ehren Watada is a
27-year-old first lieutenant in the United States Army. He joined the Army
in 2003, during the run-up to the Iraq war, and turned in his resignation to
protest that same war in January of 2006. He expects to receive orders in
late June. He is poised to become the first lieutenant to refuse to deploy
to Iraq, setting the stage for what could be the biggest movement of GI
resistance since the Vietnam War. He faces a court-martial, up to two years
in prison for missing movement by design, a dishonorable discharge, and
other possible charges. He says speaking against an illegal and immoral war
is worth all of this and more. Journalist Sarah Olson spoke with Watada in
late May about his reasons for joining the military, and why he wants out.
When you joined the Army in 2003, what were your goals?
2003 was a couple of years after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. I had the
idea that my country needed me and that I needed to serve my country. I
still strongly believe that. I strongly believe in service and duty. That's
one of the reasons I joined: because of patriotism.
I took an oath to
the US Constitution, and to the values and the principles it represents. It
makes us strongly unique. We don't allow tyranny; we believe in
accountability and checks and balances, and a government that's by and for
the people. The military must safeguard those freedoms and those principles
and the democracy that makes us unique. A lot of people, like myself, join
the military because they love their country, and they love what it stands
joined the Army during the run-up to the Iraq war, but you had misgivings
about the war. How did that happen?
Like everybody in America and around the world, I heard what they were
saying on television about the stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction,
and the ties to al-Qaeda and 9/11. I also saw the millions of people around
the world protesting, and listened to the people resigning from the
government in protest. I realized that the war probably wasn't justified
until we found proof of these accusations the president and his deputies
were making against Iraq.
But I also
believed we should give the president the benefit of the doubt. At that
time, I never believed ... I could never conceive of our leader betraying
the trust we had in him.
was your experience in the military?
first duty assignment was in Korea. It's hard learning to be an officer, and
it was hard being stationed overseas. It is a different kind of situation
that you're put in. You're not just being told what to do and execute. As an
officer, you are constantly leading by example. You have to do the right
thing even when you don't necessarily want to. When you go into the field,
it's not like a civilian job where you go home at the end of the day, take a
shower, relax, and eat a nice meal.
SO: So you
got the order to go to Iraq after you returned from Korea. What were your
thoughts at the time?
Back in Korea we trained for a separate mission, but we all knew what was
going on in Iraq. Our commanders were telling us to be ready for war and to
start training for it.
When I came back I
still had doubts about the war and why we were in it. When they told me I
was going to deploy, I said OK: I'm going to start training for it, and I'm
going to start training the guys under me. And I'm going to do that to the
best of my ability.
SO: So what
realized that to go to war, I needed to educate myself in every way
possible. Why were we going to this particular war? What were the effects of
war? What were the consequences for soldiers coming home? I began reading
everything I could.
One of many books
I read was James Bamford's Pretext for War. As I read about the level
of deception the Bush administration used to initiate and process this war,
I was shocked. I became ashamed of wearing the uniform. How can we wear
something with such a time-honored tradition, knowing we waged war based on
a misrepresentation and lies? It was a betrayal of the trust of the American
people. And these lies were a betrayal of the trust of the military and the
My mind was in
turmoil. Do I follow orders and participate in something that I believed to
be wrong? When you join the Army you learn to follow orders without
question. Soldiers are apolitical, and you don't voice your opinion out
I started asking,
why are we dying? Why are we losing limbs? For what? I listened to the
president and his deputies say we were fighting for democracy; we were
fighting for a better Iraq. I just started to think about those things. Are
those things the real reasons why we are there, the real reasons we were
dying? But I felt there was nothing to be done, and this administration was
just continually violating the law to serve their purpose, and there was
nothing to stop them.
moment for me was in January of 2006. I had watched clips of military
funerals. I saw the photos of these families. The children. The mothers and
the fathers as they sat by the grave, or as they came out of the funerals.
One really hard picture for me was a little boy leaving his father's
funeral. He couldn't face the camera so he is covering his eyes. I felt like
I couldn't watch that anymore. I couldn't be silent any more and condone
something that I felt was deeply wrong.
made decision to refuse orders to deploy to Iraq. What happened next?
alerted my commander this January, and told him I would refuse the order to
go to Iraq. He asked me to think it over. After about a week, I said OK,
I've made my decision. I've come to believe this is an illegal and an
immoral war, and the order to have us deploy to Iraq is unlawful. I won't
follow this order and I won't participate in something I believe is wrong.
My commanders told
me that I could go to Iraq in a different capacity. I wouldn't have to fire
a weapon and I wouldn't be in harm's way. But that's not what this is about.
Even in my resignation letter I said that I would rather go to prison than
do something that I felt was deeply wrong. I believe the whole war is
illegal. I'm not just against bearing arms or fighting people. I am against
an unjustified war.
had about six months to think about this. It's a pretty heavy revelation
that you're quite possibly facing prison time. How are you feeling now?
lot of people including my parents tried to talk me out of it. And I had to
tell them, and I had to convince myself first, that it's not about just
trying to survive. It's not about just trying to make sure you're safe. When
you are looking your children in the eye in the future, or when you are at
the end of your life, you want to look back on your life and know that at a
very important moment, when I had the opportunity to make the right
decisions, I did so, even knowing there were negative consequences.
SO: What is
your intellectual and moral opposition to the Iraq war? What is that based
First, the war was based on false pretenses. If the president tells us we
are there to destroy Saddam's weapons of mass destruction, and there are
none, why are we there? Then the president said Saddam had ties to al-Qaeda
and 9/11. That allegation has been proven to be false too. So why are we
going there? The president says we're there to promote democracy, and to
liberate the Iraqi people. That isn't happening either.
Second, the Iraq
war is not legal according to domestic and international law. It violates
the Constitution and the War Powers Act, which limits the president in his
role as commander in chief from using the armed forces in any way he sees
fit. The UN Charter, the Geneva Convention, and the Nuremberg principles all
bar wars of aggression.
occupation itself is illegal. If you look at the Army Field Manual, 27-10,
which governs the laws of land warfare, it states certain responsibilities
for the occupying power. As the occupying power, we have failed to follow a
lot of those regulations. There is no justification for why we are there or
what we are doing.
SO: One of
the common criticisms of military resisters is that you have abandoned your
colleagues, and that you are letting others fight a war in your place.
What's you're response to this?
commander asked me, if everybody like you refused to go to Iraq, what would
that leave us with? And I guess he was trying to say we wouldn't have an
army anymore, and that would be bad. But I wanted to tell him if that
happened the war would stop, because nobody would be there to fight it.
When people say,
you're not being a team player or you are letting your buddies down, I want
to say that I am fighting for my men still, and I am supporting them. But
the conscionable way to support them is not to drop artillery and cause more
destruction. It is to oppose this war and help end it so all soldiers can
come home. It is my duty not to follow unlawful orders and not participate
in things I find morally reprehensible.
your feelings common among people in the military?
general sentiment of people within the military is that they're getting a
little sick and tired of this war. You can tell with the recent Zogby poll
that said more than 70% of people in the military want to withdraw the end
of this year. That's a powerful statement from people within the military
who aren't really given the chance to speak out publicly.
SO: What do
you think the US should do in Iraq now?
think the US should pull out all troops immediately. The outbreak of the
civil war is something that we caused with our invasion and our war. I don't
think it's at a point right now where we can fix it.
mentioned your sense of betrayal. Can you explain this?
president is the commander in chief, and although he is our leader, there
must be a strong relationship of trust. Anybody who's been in the military
knows that in order to have a cohesive and effective fighting force, you
need to have a certain level of trust between leaders and soldiers. And when
you don't, things start to break down.
I signed a
contract saying I will follow orders, and do what I'm told to do. There are
times when I won't be able to question it and evaluate the legality of these
orders, so I have to have the ultimate trust in my leader. I have to trust
the president's word, and trust him to do what's right. I have to trust him
to sacrifice our lives only for justified and moral reasons. Realizing the
president is taking us into a war that he misled us about has broken that
bond of trust that we had. If the president can betray my trust, it's time
for me to evaluate what he's telling me to do. I've realized that going to
this war is the wrong thing to do.
SO: What do
you make of the growing anti-war sentiment in the country?
don't see it manifest. Soldiers who come back from Iraq say they get the
impression many people don't know a war is going on; they say even friends
and family seem more involved in popular culture and American Idol. People
are not interested in the hundreds of Iraqis and the dozens of Americans
dying each week.
does the plight that faces Iraqi civilians impact your decision not to go?
Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator. He was repressive. He did use torture.
But the torture and the killing hasn't stopped since we've been there. It's
something I don't think I or anybody else in this country should be a part
In war, each side
dehumanizes the other. American soldiers dehumanize Iraqis, to the point
where Iraqi civilians are nothing to them. And that's how these atrocities
occur. You have a lot of young American men and women doing things, killing
a lot of innocent civilians without thinking. The Iraqis are probably worse
off than they were before we invaded the country.
that you've submitted your resignation, what's next for you?
submitted a resignation packet, which was disapproved. My commander has
asked me again if I am still going to go along with this. And I said yes of
course. I still believe the same things that I did six months ago. And he
said he couldn't charge me until I violate an order. So I've been given an
order to deploy in late June. When I refuse, the chain of command will
charge me and court-martial me.
people learn about your story, are there things you especially want people
to hold in their minds and their hearts about what you're doing and why?
think that we are all given freedoms and liberties by the Constitution but I
think the one God-given freedom and right that we really have is freedom of
choice. The moment we tell ourselves that we no longer have that choice is
the moment we take that one freedom away. The only freedom we have. And I
just want to tell everybody, especially people who doubt the war, that you
do have that one freedom. And that's something that they can never take
away. Yes. They will imprison you. They'll throw the book at you. They'll
try to make an example out of you, but you do have that choice. And that is
something that you'll have to live with for the rest of your life
Olson is a radio producer and independent journalist based in Oakland,
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