Sunday, June 18, 2006

Lt. Watada talks back to the commander-in-chief

Army 1st. Lt. Ehren Watada, the first Army officer to publicly refuse an order to deploy to Iraq, is speaking out while he still can.

By the end of this month, when his Stryker Brigade deploys from the Fort Lewis base near Tacoma, he's likely to be in the stockade.

He'll join Sgt. Kevin Benderman, whose 15-month sentence for refusing deployment offers an indication of what awaits Watada. Benderman also received loss of pay and reduction in rank and will be dishonorably discharged upon his release. (See "That Other Defiant Soldier," the Weekly)

Benderman's case is not well-known, however, while the publicity Watada has gained since he announced his refusal June 7 likely is giving the Army fits. After listening to Watada talk, I understood why. (There's no tape or transcript, so I'm using some similar quotes Watada has used elsewhere.)

Watada, 28, does not speak from a radical perspective. He believes in the country, the military and even the War on Terror, and has stated that he would have served in Afghanistan if posted there.

He just doesn't believe he should have to serve in an illegal war, and he's not afraid to tell the president so.

As he put it in his June 7 statement:

"The war in Iraq violates our democratic system of checks and balances. It usurps international treaties and conventions that by virtue of the Constitution become American law.

"The wholesale slaughter and mistreatment of the Iraqi people with only limited accountability is not only a terrible moral injustice, but a contradiction to the Army's own Law of Land Warfare. My participation would make me party to war crimes."

The full statement is on his website.

As he tells it, Watada's eyes began to open when he realized that the administrations rationale for the Iraq war was based on lies. Only after researching the Constitution and international and military law did he decide to take a stand.

"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," he said.

The ranks of people like Watada are growing, according to Peter Laufer, author of "Mission Rejected: U.S. Soldiers Who Say No to Iraq."

"After profiling those in the book, I'm not only not surprised by what Lieutenant Watada did, I expect there to be more cases," Laufer told the Seattle P-I.

Meanwhile, the First United Methodist Church of Tacoma has declared itself a sanctuary for soldiers who don't want to go to Iraq.

Alternate link for comments

No comments:

Post a Comment