I write in praise of Ehren Watada, a brave young man who has placed truth and honor above obedience. Watada, a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army, has refused orders for deployment to Iraq on the grounds that he is bound to uphold the U.S. Constitution and not to follow illegal orders. By taking this stand, he is putting the war, its initiators and those in charge of conducting it on trial while putting himself at risk of incarceration.
Watada has taken the position that the war in Iraq is an illegal war, and that the conduct of the war and occupation has followed a pattern of illegality directed from above. In a recent speech to the Veterans for Peace national convention in Seattle, Lt. Watada said, "Today, I speak with you about a radical idea … born from the very concept of the American soldier. The idea is this, that to stop an illegal and unjust war, the soldiers can choose to stop fighting it."
Lt. Watada's idea is one that has echoes from the Nuremberg trials. It was at Nuremberg in Germany that the victorious Allied powers, including the United States, held Nazi leaders to account for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Among the principles derived from the Nuremberg trials was one that said it is not an adequate defense for such crimes to argue that one was only following orders.
Lt. Watada is taking a stand by refusing to follow such orders. He is exercising his rights as an American citizen, an officer of the U.S. Army and a human being with the capacity for thought and reflection. He is making it clear that he did not check his conscience at the door when he joined the military three years ago and is unwilling to be placed in a situation where he will have no choice but to commit war crimes.
Referring to the crimes of the Iraq war, Lt. Watada stated, "Widespread torture and inhumane treatment of detainees is a war crime. A war of aggression born through an unofficial policy of prevention is a crime against the peace. An occupation violating the very essence of international humanitarian law and sovereignty is a crime against humanity."
By his courage, Lt. Watada challenges our complacency. Certainly it is easier for most Americans to go along with an unjust and illegal war than to challenge it. That is what happened for years during the Vietnam War. That is what is happening now during the Iraq war, almost as if we had learned no meaningful lessons from the Vietnam War. Lt. Watada is challenging the code of silence in the military and in our society. He rightly points out that the crimes being committed in Iraq are funded with our tax dollars. "Should citizens choose to remain silent through self-imposed ignorance or choice," he argues, "it makes them as culpable as the soldier in these crimes."
The above is from David Krieger's "Honor above obedience" (National Catholic Reporter). Ehren Watada is the first officer to publicly refuse to serve in Iraq. He feels the war is illegal. Bob Watada, his father, is currently on his second speaking tour to raise awareness on his son. (Carolyn Ho, Ehren Watada's mother, has also spoken out publicly to raise awareness.)
Bob Watada's schedule through Friday includes:
Tues 10/3 7:00pm ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism)
1800 Argyle Ave. #400, Los Angeles
Contact: Carlos Alvarez, 323-464-1636, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Wed. 10/4 12:00-2:30 pm Angela Oh's Korean American Experience Class
Life Sciences Bldg., RM 4127, UCLA Westwood Campus
Wed. 10/4 Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research
6120 S. Vermont Ave, Los Angeles
Contact: So Cal Library 323-759-6063
Thurs 10/5 5:00 pm World Can't Wait March & Rally
(March starts at noon at pershing S1/Bob speaks in front of Federal Bldg 300 N. Los Angeles St. at 5:00 pm.
Contact: Nicole Lee 323-462-4771 email: email@example.com
Fri. 10/6 7:00 am Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace (ICUJP)
Immanuel Presbyterian Church, 3300 Wilshire Bl., Los Angeles
Contact: Thalia 626-683-9004 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Fri 10/6 12:30 San Fernando Valley Japanese Community Center
SFV Japanese American Community Center, 12953 Branford St., Pacoima 91331
Contact: Phil Shigkuni 818-893-1851, cell: 818-357-7488, email email@example.com.
A full schedule (PDF format) can be found here. The speaking engagements go past Friday. We'll continue to note them here. More information on Ehren Watada and other war resisters can be found at Courage to Resist.
To emphasize again, from Richard A. Oppel Jr. and Qais Mizher's"Iraqi Leader Unveils New Security Plan Amid Rising Violence" (New York Times):
In addition, the past few days have been one of the deadliest stretches for coalition forces in months, as the military reported the deaths of 10 more American and British servicemen since Saturday. At least 13 troops have been killed in the past three days.
How many this month so far? Eleven. (That's from Iraq Coalition Casualties Count which is what we source too for the fatality count. AP and other wire services tend to lag slightly behind.) While we're noting counts, the US military has raised the fatality count for September by one. Sunday evening (October 1st) it was 73, now it is 74. Whether there are others to report for September that they're holding off on, who knows?
CODEPINK is celebrating their fourth anniversary. Cindy notes Medea Benjamin's "Four Years of CODEPINK Rabble-Rousing for Peace" (Common Dreams):
We started CODEPINK four years ago, shortly after the Bush administration had announced its color-coded alert system. Remember? It was yellow for mellow, orange for high alert, and red was-well, red. We felt the color-coded alerts were a way to manipulate people's post-9/11 fears to justify invading Iraq. We started a new color code, CODEPINK, to say, "Yes, let's bring to justice those who attacked us on 9/11, but let's not wage war on a country that had nothing to do with 9/11." Invading Iraq, as we wrote in a report after our first fact-finding trip to Baghdad before the US invasion, "would be disastrous for the Iraqi people and make us less safe here at home."
Four years later, we have unfortunately been proven all too right. Iraq is indeed a disaster, with some 100 Iraqis dying violent deaths every day. Almost 3,000 of our soldiers have died. We are sinking $8 billion a month into this quagmire, with no end in sight. And we are not, as the recent intelligence report confirms, safer at home.
While many people who joined anti-war rallies early on have since retreated, becoming part of the silent majority who oppose the war, we at CODEPINK have been protesting this war non-stop. We've camped out in the freezing rain outside the White House and in the sweltering heat outside Bush's ranch in Crawford. We went without food for 80 days as part of a fast to bring the troops home. We've stood outside high schools and career fairs encouraging young people not to join the military, provided support to soldiers who refuse to go, and lobbied for veterans' benefits under the banner "Love the Troops, Hate the War." We've lobbying our elected officials, helped organize at congressional hearings, passed local anti-war resolutions and campaigned statewide to bring home our National Guard. We've dogged warmakers and supporters from George Bush to Karl Rove to Hillary Clinton, popping up in "pink slips" at their fundraisers, speeches, parties and homes to tell them their services are no longer desired.
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the national catholic reporter
the new york times
richard a. oppel