Thursday, January 18, 2007


The first U.S. Army officer to refuse deployment to Iraq urged the public in a statement yesterday to "stop the war so that the death and sacrifices of American soldiers will not be in vain" following a major legal setback in his court-martial proceedings.Ehren Watada, a first lieutenant based at Fort Lewis, Wash., near Seattle, faces six years in prison for failing to deploy to Iraq last year with his Stryker brigade and for criticizing President Bush and the war in statements to the media and at a peace convention.[. . .]Despite the setback, Watada urged Americans to "fulfill their civic obligations" by protesting the war. "I firmly stand by my belief that this war is illegal and immoral," he said in his statement yesterday.

The above, noted by Joan, is from Teresa Watanabe's "'Stop the war,' Watada urges" (Los Angeles Times via Honolulu Advertiser). Yesterday, 'judge' Head's Tuesday rulings on the parameters of Ehren Watada's February 5th court-martial became news -- the rulings stripped of Watada of any defense. So now Ehren Watada faces a sham hearing with no defense while also facing six years in prison if convicted. The AP reports:

Army officials said in a statement that they had full confidence in the military justice system to ensure that Watada gets a fair trial.

Full conficence in the military justice system would be evidenced by allowing Watada to make the best defense he can. The fact that the military argued against that and the fact that the 'judge' ruled in their favor (thereby shutting down Watada's defense) begs to differ. The shameful behaviors are not 'justice' -- they're cowardly and reveal just how scared the army is.Motive doesn't matter 'judge' Tool (yes, his name is "Head") argues and wants everyone to see the kangaroo court's proceedings as 'justice'.

Yesterday, in the snapshot, we noted the (still) ever changing mind of Sarah Olson which prompted an e-mail asking why Matthew Rothschild "doesn't qualify for a slap down"? I think the visitor would do better to worry about their own publication then what The Progressive's doing. But to answer the question, we didn't blame Aaron Glantz or Laura Flanders or any journalist who's attempted to unravel what Olson is doing today so we wouldn't blame Rothschild for it and, as noted in my column for Polly's Brew two Sundays ago, Rothschild has a book coming out shortly. Its topic is what he's covering (and has been covering for years) so it makes perfect sense for him write about Olson. The problem with Olson is the ever shifting stories she tells.

Olson is not the story but continues to eat up valuable time. You either say, "I'm not going to testify" or you don't. Or, in Olson's case, you say "I'm not going to testify" when interviewed by Flanders and then you change your story again. Two Sundays ago, when she told Flanders she wasn't going to testify, a few members e-mailed and my reply was, "If she sticks to it, we'll note it and note she's made the right decision." With her ever changing statements, we weren't about to waste time applauding her for taking a stand when she repeatedly contradicts herself.

Another issue is that until she actually DOES (something, anything), she's really not "news." She's speculation. She's gas baggery, but she's not news.

It's 'news' in the way that Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake were 'news' for the Superbowl. (Although that was actually all about Jackson, as though she were on stage ripping off her own top.) It's junk news.What would change that would be either her finding a position and sticking to it or after it actually happens. As it stands now, it's just speculation and it's not news. It is harmful to journalism -- this indecision. It's harmful to herself as she continues to talk about herself (as opposed to going over Watada's story) and she's going to find herself in the same boat of another one time independent media journalist which is not being taken seriously. On the latter, that journalist was encouraged (by a mainstream outlet) to make herself the story. This week's victime didn't do a thing for journalism and made the woman a joke.

It's the same argument I had against Mary Mapes' book (and I'm sympathetic to Mapes). The book should have been a journalistic argument for why the story (Bully Boy going AWOL) should have been aired, how it was sourced, etc. Instead, it was an appeal for being liked with stories of her grandmother and other things. If you're a journalist, present yourself as one. The case Mapes had to make was why her story was accurate (I believe it was accurate) and why the network backed down. When journalists go touchy-feely, it's hard to take them seriously.

Olson appears to be attempting two main things: seeking support and wanting to get across this is bad for journalism. On the latter, she recites the same talking points (which sound prepared by an attorney, not by a journalist) that are hollow. On the former, if you want support you generally have to do something unless you goal is to become this week's tragedy queen.

Rothschild's article can be found here, it's a topic he's been covering for years and fits in nicely with the topic of his upcoming book. In addition, it got Watada noted if only for a small moment and as an aside but still more than, I don't know, say writing about iPhones?

(Those who get that will be howling, those who don't, feel free to scratch your heads.)

Returning to Watada, from Mike Barber's "Ruling is a setback for Army lieutenant" (Seattle Post-Intelligencer):

Army Lt. Ehren Watada cannot use his conclusion that the war in Iraq is illegal as a defense for refusing to deploy there, a Fort Lewis military judge has ruled.
So this weekend, a "Citizens' Hearing on the Legality of U.S. Actions in Iraq" will convene in Tacoma to address that issue in support of Watada. The 28-year-old Fort Lewis soldier is the only known commissioned military officer to refuse to serve in Iraq, asserting that the war is "immoral and illegal" and that he is duty-bound to refuse illegal orders.
The citizens hearing, featuring peace activists and human rights luminaries "testifying" before a panel, comes against the backdrop of Tuesday's decision by Lt. Col. John Head, an Army judge, to deny Watada's motion to defend himself on grounds that the war is illegal and his speech against it is protected.
Head refused motions by Watada's lawyer, Eric Seitz of Hawaii, that were argued at a Jan. 4 pretrial hearing to dismiss four charges of conduct unbecoming an officer over public statements and one count of missing movement with his unit to Iraq.

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