Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Day 3 of Ehren Watada's court-martial begins today

By this afternoon, Lt. Ehren Watada may have finished testifying in his own court martial as the first commissioned officer to refuse deployment to Iraq.
Detractors and supporters massed outside the gates of Fort Lewis, Wash., have ranged from actor Sean Penn to Dennis Kyne, the San Jose Gulf War veteran-turned-anti-war-activist.
But others here, like Rose Takamoto, who grew up on a family farm not far from Watada's father, will be quietly, hopefully, waiting for any reprieve from the presumed outcome: years of jail time and a dishonorable discharge.
"I think it's really important,'' the 63-year-old San Josean said, explaining why a non-activist like herself got involved. "It's something that needs to be discussed.''
The consequences of civil disobedience -- especially in the military -- are heavy. It is why Takamoto believes Watada's decision was not made lightly.
If he weighed the reasons we went to war so carefully, we should, too. She has been disappointed with the paucity of local coverage from media outlets like the Mercury News, until this week. People got information at San Jose Buddhist Church, at San Jose State University and on the Internet.

[. . .]

This is deadly serious stuff, the most important issue of our time, said the Rev. Gerald Sakamoto of San Jose Buddhist Church. The reason Watada took that step deserves public airing, he added.
"Like many other people who expressed their beliefs, it may end up being a footnote in history. But his willingness to make that decision is important.''
The least we could do is engage in that debate with the same thought and conviction.

The above is from L.A. Chung's "Officer's stand on Iraq deserves our attention" (San Jose Mercury News) and Scott e-mailed to highlight it. Ehren Watada takes the stand today. This is expected to be the defense's day with Watada and one other witness. What can get offered, what can't? Mike Barber's "Commander says he felt 'bit betrayed' by Watada" (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) gives you an idea:

A day after barring defense witnesses who could have put the war in Iraq on trial in the court-martial of 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, the military judge and prosecutor heard how dicey it can be to keep the issue out.
On Tuesday, the judge, Lt. Col. John Head, riding herd to keep the focus of the trial upon the legality of Watada's conduct and not the legality of the war, at one point cautioned a prosecutor to rephrase a question that strayed close to that prohibited subject, ordering "move on!"
Lt. Col. Bruce Antonia, Watada's battalion commander, summoned home from Iraq to testify, was asked by a prosecutor about his reaction when Watada first voiced his beliefs publicly in June.
"My reaction to that was I was dismayed," Antonia said, "probably a little bit betrayed. ... Lt. Watada and I had some conversation about his opinions of the war. He said he would rather go to jail than go to what he considered an illegal war ... ," Antonia said before Head cut him off.

His sense of 'betrayal' may explain why he didn't do his job and engage in a full conversation with Ehren Watada. Maybe it's time to court-martial Antonia for conduct unbecoming an officer, a gentleman and a commander?

And while they're at it, they can address why a commander makes such a stupid statement, such a sexist statment: " What should be on their minds is getting their weapons zeroed, making final preparations, kissing their wives and children goodbye" blah, blah, blah. Now maybe Antonia just came out in favor of women in loving relationships with women? More likely this is more of the same nonsense that allows a Suzanne Swift to be harassed and assaulted -- this attitude, and remember we're talking about a commander here, that the military is male (and straight) and that everyone else just a freak. That statement's offensive and it's more offensive coming from a pig who's been put in charge. I believe 67 US troops who were female have died in this illegal war and they don't deserve some mushy headed pig erasing them from the picture.

Antonia betrayed those women and all others serving with his piece of crap statement and what happened to Swift goes exactly to the attitude he expressed. Some belong in the military (males, straight males) and others do not -- those who do not get what they 'deserve.' That a commander could make such a b.s. and offensive statement is quite telling but see who calls him out on this nonsense in the days to come -- it'll probably be the same few who could stand up for Swift and everyone will else will shrug their shoulders or pretend not to notice. When a commander makes a dumb ass statement like Antonia did, when he erases all the women in the service, it does influence, so let's court-martial Antonia.

Another thing that's apparently flying under the radar? This is from Melanthia Mitchell's "Commander testifies he felt 'betrayed' by Watada" (AP):

The court watched video of Watada's statements from June and from an Aug. 12 Veterans for Peace convention in Seattle, where he told a crowd that the Bush administration had "used us for rampant violations of time-tested laws banning torture and degradation of prisoners of war."
Under cross-examination from Seitz, Antonia told the court he believed soldiers are obligated to determine for themselves whether they've been given an illegal order.
"I would expect him not to obey if the order was illegal," Antonia said, prompting several excited murmurs from spectators watching the hearing from a nearby overflow room.
Antonia stressed, however, that if the chain of command determined it to be a legal order, he would expect the officer to obey.
Earlier yesterday, Seitz said Watada had no choice but to go public after the Army refused his offers to take a combat post in Afghanistan or elsewhere, and his request that he be allowed to resign.

The talking point put out (and amplified by many in the press) is that Ehren Watada went public [insert gasp] and this was just wrong and if he really cared, he wouldn't have. (Mike Barber's report is one of the few that's not spitting out that talking point.) Now anyone who's followed story knows better. But let's address this a second. Watada tried to work through channels for months. The unit was deploying on June 22nd. Now when was he supposed to go public, for those spitting out the talking point? Since January, he'd tried to work through channels. Nothing was accomplished, Antonia wouldn't even engage him in a serious discussion, so when was he supposed to voice his objection? According to the talking point, when would have been the right time?

If you're not getting it, it's the lead up to the illegal war argument when questions couldn't be asked (according to the mainstream press). There's never a right time, when others decide, to take a stand.

You can find this nonsense wafting from Hal Bernton's piece in The Seattle Times (where a columnist also disgraces themselves this morning):

In January last year, an able young lieutenant submitted a letter to his commanders with a startling declaration: He believed the war in Iraq was illegal and he would not serve there.
In meetings and counseling sessions, brigade commanders tried — and failed — to turn around the thinking of 1st Lt. Ehren Watada. They argued that he should not make the emotional mistakes of youth and throw away his career.
The commanders never thought they had turned Watada away from his decision not to serve in Iraq. They did believe they had struck an agreement with Watada to keep his opposition to the war within the Army.

That's not reality and it's not really what was said in the courtroom yesterday. Does the press need Q-tips? But by Bernton's account (which omits how Antonia shirked the duties of his command) the real problem isn't Watada's stand, it's that he went public. In June. After the command had months and months to address it and did nothing.

If someone under you has questions and concerns, you address them. That's why Watada studied up on the war to begin with. Because it was his duty to be able to engage with those serving under him. Antonia shirked his responsbilities by refusing to address the issues with Watada and by making his biggest concern whether or not Watada would go public.

The Watada photo is available for public use at this page of the ThankYouLt. site -- it's of Carloyn Ho (Ehren's mother), Ehren Watada and his father Bob Watada and was taken by Jeff Paterson of Not In Our Name.
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