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. He turned in his resignation to protest the war in Iraq in January 2006. He expects to receive orders to deploy in late June and will become the first Lieutenant to refuse orders 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 May.
[. . .]
OLSON: You made the decision to refuse orders to deploy to Iraq. What happened next? WATADA: I 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. 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.
OLSON: You've 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?
WATADA: A 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.
OLSON: What is your intellectual and moral opposition to the Iraq war? What is that based in? WATADA: 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 that 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. Finally, the 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.
Molly noted the above which is from Sarah Olson's "The Courage to Resist" (Left Turn). It's a great starting point because the interview establishes what Watada's standing for (in case anyone's not been paying attention -- I know members have) and because August 17th (Thursday) Ehren Watada's Article 32 hearing begins (though many seen to have forgotten). Molly wants it teamed up with "DVD Must See: Sir! No! Sir!" (The Third Estate Sunday Review) which is both a review of a wonderful documentary, Sir! No Sir!, and also notes how the film applies to events today. Remember that Courage to Resist and ThankYouLt.org are organizing and trying to get the word out for "a National Day of Education" on August 16th.
As Jonah points out, events are already starting. He highlights Khurram Saeed's "Anti-war activists rally for Army officer who refused to go to Iraq" (The Journal News):
NANUET -- More than 30 anti-war protesters showed their support yesterday for a U.S. Army officer who has refused to go to Iraq and faces a possible court-martial. Members of the Rockland Coalition for Peace and Justice dedicated their weekly vigil at Route 59 and Middletown Road yesterday to 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, who thinks the war in Iraq is illegal.
Watada joined the Army in March 2003, the same month the U.S. invaded Iraq. On June 22, the 28-year-old refused to deploy to Iraq with his unit, the 3rd Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division.
[. . .]
An Article 32 hearing for Watada will begin Thursday at Fort Lewis, Wash. The hearing is similar to a civilian grand jury and will determine whether Watada will face a court-martial. If convicted of all charges, Watada could face seven years in prison, forfeiture of pay and a dishonorable discharge.
David Mitchell said he felt a kinship with Watada. He said he served two years in federal prison in 1967 because he refused to be drafted for the Vietnam War. Mitchell believed that war to be illegal under international law.
"He's not just someone saying it's illegal and I want to have my conscience accommodated within the system, like let's broaden the COs, conscientious objector status, so I can have an exemption," Mitchell said. "He's saying I'm not going to do that. This war is wrong. And I want to directly confront the war as being wrong."
On Wednesday, peace and anti-war groups nationwide plan to hold a "National Day of Education" to support Watada's stance.
Watada's stance needs to be supported (Cedric goes over some of the reasons here) and Iraq needs our attention. KeShawn wrote wondering what the reaction was to the Iraq edition of The Third Estate Sunday Review? Ty says overwhelmingly positive and that reaction included e-mails from those who aren't regular readers. We'll be doing something similar next Sunday (and had that planned even if the reaction hadn't been positive). Wally, Jess and I have an idea for a recipe feature (don't worry, it's not really cooking) that we'd hoped there'd be time to work on but there wasn't (when we lost the editorial, it put us way behind) so that will be carried over. Ava and I are attempting to find some TV show that will fit with the theme but I'll note here that we may break the theme. Otherwise, the edition will again focus on Iraq.
And why not? The war does drag on.
They're just there to try and make the people free,
But the way that they're doing it, it don't seem like that to me.
Just more blood-letting and misery and tears
That this poor country's known for the last twenty years,
And the war drags on.
-- words and lyrics by Mick Softly (available on Donovan's Fairytale)
Last Sunday, the American military fatality count in Iraq stood at 2591. Right now? 2601. The 26oo mark was passed with little notice, little attention. Does it matter? Not as much as we'd think, apparently.
Brendan notes Tom Hayden's "See You At Armageddon?" (Common Dreams):
The issue of Iraq is "ripe" for an anti-war majority at the polls. The "war on terrorism" is a different matter, which is why Republicans want to shift the public focus from the debacle in Iraq to the latest terrorist threat.
Peace advocates don't have a consensus on what to say. We need to win on the issue that is ripe, which is Iraq, while not being trumped by other issues which are still ripening.
The case against Iraq must make sense to the broadest majority of Americans, and be bullet-proof against Republican and talk show fusillades.
Ripe if anyone pays attention. We moved from 2500 American troops dead to 2600 during the time of the so-called 'crackdown' in Baghdad. That hasn't worked out too well either. (An understatement, but we knew it wasn't working before it got off the ground.) Eddie notes Nancy A. Youssef's "Chances dim for peace in Baghdad" (McClatchy Newspapers):
The Baghdad security plan, which some cast as the last chance to avert a civil war, will be thwarted by Iraq's prime minister because he is unwilling to tackle the country's biggest security threat, many residents and politicians fear.
The plan calls for U.S. forces to sweep neighborhoods and help restore services, eventually leaving the capital under Iraqi military and police control. If that happens, U.S. troops could begin to withdraw. If it doesn't, the country's sectarian conflict could spiral out of control and escalate into a regional war between Iraq's Shiite and Sunni Muslim neighbors.
The offensive hasn't produced any major improvements in the capital since it began on June 14, and many Iraqis fear the plan is doomed by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's willingness to attack Sunni insurgents but not the Shiite militias that support his Dawa political party.
"The government has to make a clear decision about dismantling militias," said Saad al-Janabi, a member of the secular Iraqi slate. "Reconciliation will not happen unless the Iraqi army is in charge."
Maliki blasted U.S. soldiers for raiding a suspected Shiite militia leader's home early last week in the Baghdad slum of Sadr City. It was the most vitriolic language Maliki has used to describe U.S. military tactics to stop the surge of sectarian violence in the capital.
How badly has it failed? In the most recent news of violence in Baghdad, KUNA notes:
A high ranking Iraqi security source in the Interior ministry said Sunday that the final death toll of the bombings in the Al-Zafaraniyah district in southern Baghdad is 57 killed and 145 injured, most of them women and children.
57. After nearly two months of the so-called crackdown, after Bully Boy extended tours of troops who were supposed to be home this month, after Baghdad's been flooded with US forces (when crackdown version 1.0 failed). It's not working, it's not going to work. But they have no plan B, they never have. Like Nixon, they only know force, force, force. When the other side(s) uses force as well they scream foul despite the fact that the only thing they peddle is force. Brendan highlighted Tom Hayden and think about how little press you saw (big or small) on the trip Hayden, Cindy Sheehan, Medea Benjamin, Ann Wright, Diane Wilson and others took to Jordan. That was two Fridays and Saturdays ago (the meeting with Iraqis to discuss peace). Bully Boy apparently sets the tone and the agend and everyone rushes to follow. Otherwise, we'd see some real attention given to the meeting and some real discussions of what came out of it. But instead . . .
On a more positive note, Charlie highlights this from a speech David Swanson gave at the Veterans for Peace conference in Seattle, "Veterans for Impeachment" (Op-Ed News):
Polls suggest that most of the U.S. troops in Iraq want to come home, but Bush says we should support the war to support the troops. Meanwhile it is the military holding the chickenhawks back from putting nuclear options on the table. Bush is using our troops for his power and profit. I've seen veterans for war make a point of pride out of being used. I recently spoke on a panel in San Diego and mentioned that Suzanne Swift had been lied to by recruiters. Paul Hackett was on the panel and said "You know, that's life."
Actually that's death for some of the young men and women who have been lied to and sent to Iraq. I'll tell you what's life. Life is doing what Ricky Cousing is doing, what Lt. Watada is doing, what everyone must summon the courage to do. And life is impeachment. This war cannot be ended except by removing Bush and Cheney from office.
So, we need to keep passing impeachment resolutions in towns and cities and pushing for passage of one in a state legislature. And we need to push impeachment if we are going to win. Beginning August this month.
We do not need to choose between impeachment and elections; we need to promote impeachment if we are going to win any elections.
We also need to take over our nation' capital. Beginning Sept. 5, we will establish Camp Democracy on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. This will be a camp for peace, justice, and impeachment. I'm happy to say that VFP will be part of Camp Democracy. Please join us:
That was the conference that led to the news of Ricky Clousing. Another stands up and says no more. There actually has been mainstream media coverage on this (and, in fact, the mainstream media broke the story). It should also be noted that in the last few weeks it's been mainstream media that's covered issues of Iraq -- from on the ground, to war resistance, to Camp Casey III, to you name it, as our independent media has lost interest, the mainstream media (like the people) have increased their interest. Bonnie notes Melanthia Mitchell's "Soldier to return to military custody" (Associated Press):
Seattle More than a year after sneaking away from his unit, an Army sergeant said Friday he'll turn himself over to military custody.
Ricky Clousing, 24, planned to go to authorities at Fort Lewis, south of Seattle.
"I stand here before you today about to surrender myself, which was always my intention," Clousing told several dozen friends, family and war veterans - some conscientious objectors - who gathered in front of a war memorial at the University of Washington campus.
If Clousing turns himself in at Fort Lewis, "he surrenders to military control," Fort Lewis spokesman Joseph Hitt said Friday.
If military police find that Clousing is either a deserter or absent without leave from the U.S. military, he will be sent back to Fort Bragg in North Carolina, the post he walked away from.
Officials at Fort Bragg did not return an Associated Press call for comment on the case Friday.
Less than six months in Iraq, Clousing said he witnessed the "baseless incarceration" and the "daily physical, psychological and emotional harassment" of Iraqi citizens.
He said he also witnessed the killing of an innocent Iraqi man by an American soldier in Mosul but said when he tried to talk to unit leaders he was treated as an inexperienced soldier who "needed to shut up."
"I saw firsthand the abuse of power that goes without accountability," said Clousing, who has refused to participate in a "war of aggression" that has "no legal basis to be fought."
Clousing joined the Army in July 2002 and was trained as an interrogator with the 82nd Airborne Division, based at Fort Bragg, N.C. He deployed to Baghdad in December 2004.
"We Americans have found ourselves in a pivotal era where we have traded humanity for patriotism," Clousing said Friday. "We have traded our civil liberties for a sense of security."
As the interest in Iraq on the part of independent media dropped off, members noting it (and everyone was noting it) began to make statements in e-mails about that fact that the war could be over right now, the troops home now, if everyone could do their part (Dominick noted this as "Not dropping Iraq like a hot potato every other week"). Possibly so. Certainly people would be more aware of Iraq (and the violence that continues daily). This illegal war isn't ending and
Lyle went looking for some historical similarities while also trying to find some socialist coverage (Pru is on vacation and, as she noted in last Friday's gina & krista round-robin, no column this week.) He found Joe Allen's "Vietnam: The War the U.S. Lost:From Quagmire to Defeat" (International Socialist Review):
By 1971, more than 71 percent of Americans told pollsters that Vietnam was a “mistake,” while 58 percent regarded the war as “immoral.” And a clear majority believed that all U.S. troops should be removed by the year’s end. The U.S. Senate barely defeated a bill sponsored by Senators George McGovern and Mark Hatfield to bring all GIs home by December 31, 1971.2 Yet despite all the talk of peace, the war would continue for another four years. Almost as many Americans died in Vietnam during Nixon’s presidency as in the Johnson years.
How does one explain this? The incoming Nixon administration set itself the goal of bringing the American war in Vietnam to an end without it being seen as a defeat for U.S. imperialism. In attempting to achieve this, Nixon would not only raise to new heights the destruction the U.S. would inflict on Vietnam, but he would widen the war into neighboring countries.
These war policies revived and deepened the antiwar movement in the United States. The antiwar movement would surge to the zenith of its strength, while soldiers, sailors, and air force personnel began to rebel in larger numbers. A special commission appointed by Nixon to assess unrest on the campuses following the invasion of Cambodia, led by William Scranton, the former Republican governor of Pennsylvania, argued that the country was “so polarized” that the division in the country over the war was “as deep as any since the Civil War” and declared that “nothing is more important than an end to the war” in Vietnam.3 It was the strength of this opposition that not only led to the final withdrawal of U.S. troops from Vietnam, but also to the adoption of repressive measures by an increasingly paranoid Nixon administration that would lead to its own downfall.
That's an excerpt from the third part and Lyle also notes "Part One: From the French Conquest to the Overthrow of Diem" and "Part Two: From the overthrow of Diem to the Tet Offensive."
We're not up to 71 percent. CNN's poll last week had the figure up to 60 percent. It could be higher and should be, but the awareness factor depends upon coverage and a sense of responsibilty to end the war. That's not coming through in independent media.
Pru always wonders if people like the highlights she chooses? They do. And futher proof comes via the fact that her vacation led Francisco to do as Lyle does and look for some socialist coverage. He found Elizabeth Schulte's "How the U.S. caused Iraq's nightmare" (Socialist Worker Online):
Now, the Bush administration says it has to increase the troop level because of this unrest. But U.S. forces are the problem, not the solution in Iraq--as a steady series of headlines exposing atrocities committed against Iraqi civilians show. On August 3, U.S. troops fired on a convoy of supporters of Shia leader Moktada al-Sadr at a checkpoint south of Baghdad, wounding at least 16 people.
The anger focused at the U.S. occupiers and anyone who supports them is easy to understand.
The unraveling of the U.S. occupation has led some prominent Democrats to openly criticize the Bush administration. Sen. Hillary Clinton, for example, called on Donald Rumsfeld to resign last week during the defense secretary's reluctant appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
"I have never painted a rosy picture," said a nervous Rumsfeld. "I have been very measured in my words. And you'd have a dickens of a time trying to find instances where I've been excessively optimistic."
Not such a dickens, actually. In July 2003, Rumsfeld appeared before the same committee and said, "The residents of Baghdad may not have power 24 hours a day, but they no longer wake up each morning in fear wondering whether this will be the day that a death squad would come to cut out their tongues, chop off their ears or take their children away for 'questioning,' never to be seen again."
Death squads are as much a threat to Iraqis as they were under Saddam Hussein. Except now, the U.S trains them.
Despite Clinton's strong words with Rumsfeld, she and the Democrats--who largely endorsed Bush’s invasion three years ago--are no more interested in loosening their grip on Iraq than the Bush administration. They just want to manage the occupation differently.
And that's where we are today. Members hold independent media responsible since all the program time, Iraq can never register ("Agree with you, it's past time any of the Pacifica Radio stations created a program that's sole focus was Iraq," Zach wrote). Marcia's e-mail detailed her own devolving relationship with independent media (particularly one program -- members know which one) and she ended with a lyric excerpt that she felt best summed up where she stands currently re: that show:
You would think by now you'd see it in perspective
She's too insecure to ever really change
You've convinced yourself this time you'll be objective
You won't need any breakin' in
There's no reason to believe it will be different
She's still playing games and running from herself
But you've always thought your love for her could save her
And that's how you get taken in
-- Carole King's "You Still Want Her"
Marcia wasn't sure of the source (she has it on a tape that a friend made for her -- also Carole King wrote the words and music for this song, no co-writer). I know it originally appeared on King's Touch The Sky lp. At one point, I believe Welcome Home and Touch The Sky got paired on a single CD that pulled from both albums (didn't provide all the tracks from each) but I'm not sure that "You Still Want Her" is on that. It was on a CD that paired up Pearls and Touch The Sky. If it's available on anything else, I'm not aware. But Marcia's interested in getting it on CD, so if you know of something ("That's not a used CD for around fifty bucks") pass it on.
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