The father of 1st Lt. Ehren Watada was welcomed by an energetic crowd Monday evening as he spoke about his son’s stand against the Iraq war.
About 75 people gathered at the Maui Community College Library to hear Bob Watada speak about his son's ongoing legal battle.
In June, the 28-year-old Watada refused orders to deploy to Iraq with the 3rd Stryker Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division at Fort Lewis, Wash., saying he believed the U.S. military and the orders of President Bush are illegal.
Watada was being court-martialed, but earlier this month military judge Lt. Col. John Head declared a mistrial because he said he did not believe Watada fully understood a document he signed admitting to the elements of the charges against him.
Army prosecutors asked for the mistrial after Head threw out the basis for the Army's case.
Bob Watada criticized Head on Monday night, saying that as the trial progressed, he believes the judge realized his son had a chance of being acquitted of the charges and therefore forced the prosecution to request a mistrial.
A panel of seven Army officers made up the jury that would have decided Ehren Watada's fate.
"There was no basis for a mistrial," Bob Watada said. "Here's a very clear case where the judge realized (the Army) might lose the case."
Joan noted the above from Lehia Apana's "'Ehren is trying to get the word out' on Iraq" (The Maui News). The military is attempting to court-martial Watada again and with more on that, including dates, we'll note Tina Chau's "Watada's Retrial Set for JulyAttorney's Debate at UH Draws Hundreds" (Hawaii's KMGB9):
Watada's attorney says pre-trials motions are to be heard on May 20 and 21 with the trial set for July 16-20. It will be held in Fort Lewis, Washington and the same judge is presiding.
Meanwhile Tuesday, Watada's attorney and a mainland law professor held a sort of "practice round" for the big day. They debated his argument for not going to war. The debate was hosted by the University of Hawaii law school and titled "Lt. Watada's Case and the Legality of the War in Iraq."
It was standing room only inside the law school's Moot Court Room as law students and non-law students came to hear Watada's attorney, Eric Seitz, and Michael Lewis, a law professor from Northern Ohio University. The debate wasn't meant to produce a winner or a loser, but encourage more dialogue about the case.
"We have two wars going on," said law student Dan Dean, "one in Afghanistan and the other in Iraq. And whether you're on one side or the other, it's really important in your own mind to believe what you want to believe and not accept what has been offered to you."
Miriah Holden, another law student said, "today was rather interesting. I don't necessarily agree with all of the things that were said today on either side. It has opened the door of what's going to happen."
Ehren Watada isn't the only war resister facing a court-martial. On March 6th, in Germany, the court-martial of Agustin Aguayo will begin. Marcia notes "Resister Agustín Aguayo faces court-martial 'They’re taking a stand for all of us'" (Socialist Worker):
Agustín's wife HELGA AGUAYO has led the campaign to support her husband. Here, she talks to Socialist Worker's GILLIAN RUSSOM about Agustín's case and the growing opposition to the war among soldiers and veterans.
CAN YOU talk about what made Agustín decide to become a conscientious objector?
IN THE movies, Hollywood glamorizes the military and makes them look like such heroes, but when he started training, he realized, "I'm training to kill people." He's the type of person who just questions everything, and as he progressed in his training, he didn’t like the answers to the questions that he was asking himself.
Many people say, "Why would he join to begin with?" Well, when he joined, he absolutely thought that if the country asked him to do something, there would be a very good reason to do it. But he began to feel that there’s no good reason to ask someone to kill people.
HOW DID you come to oppose the war in Iraq?
IT WAS seeing what it does to military families. I'm a mother, and seeing how it affects the children and the people really got to me. That made me ask questions and do research. And this war is just completely unnecessary.
The military has a term for the wives who are left behind with the children--they call them geographical single mothers. I was a geographical single mother for over a year. And what that does to the wives and the children is just unacceptable. That's how I began to oppose this war, but now, I'm political about it.
WHAT DO you and Agustín believe is really behind this war?
ONE OF the care packages sent to the soldiers was a book on the history of Iraq. Of course, most of the soldiers didn't want to read it. But my husband happened to see it, picked it up and started reading it while he was in Iraq.
He said that it really changed what he believed. He was a conscientious objector--he believed that killing was wrong. But after reading that book, he realized that the war in Iraq has essentially been created for the personal gain of a few people.
What he told me was that for a few corporations, it's in their best interests to keep the chaos going in Iraq. And he just came to believe that killing is wrong, but this war is wrong too, because it's all motivated by money.
WHY DID he decide to go AWOL when they tried to send him to Iraq for a second deployment?
TO BE honest, he never had the plan to go AWOL--so much so that he never even took out a passport.
We never anticipated it getting as ugly as it did. We thought they would accept that he wouldn’t go, and that they would arrest him. But the night before, I said to my husband, "I know they're going to take you to Iraq by force. I just know it." And he said, "That's unheard of. It just hasn't happened."
The next morning, we met outside the base, and he turned himself in. I'll never forget the phone call about an hour after he turned himself in--he called me from the unit headquarters, and he said to me, "They actually think I'm still going. After everything I've done, they still think I'm going."
That was when my nightmare became a reality. He said, "They're bringing me home to grab my stuff." And I just started hiding all his Iraq gear, thinking that if they can't find it, they can't take him.
Of course, that was just wishful thinking. They would have taken him regardless, which is why he jumped out the window as soon as he could. He wasn't willing to go, and they weren't getting that message clearly. So the only thing he could do was go AWOL.
[. . .]
WHAT DO you expect from the court-martial on March 6?
I EXPECT that Agustín will be found guilty, at least of being AWOL and missing movement. If he gets the desertion charge and is found guilty, he will get more time.
He's facing seven years. Based on other soldiers' experience--like Kevin Benderman and Camilo Mejía--the most a soldier has been in jail so far was a year, with good conduct. He's in Germany, and they're stricter over there. I’m just hoping it's not more than two years.
Activists can absolutely help. Courage to Resist started this campaign "Free Agustín Aguayo" up in Seattle, and we loved it. In Germany, the German peace activists went out to the base on his birthday and demanded his freedom.
The more people who stand up and say, "We stand by him," it sends a clear message. Not only to the military, but to soldiers who want to do the same thing, and to kids who are thinking about enlisting. They need to know the realities of what war does to families and communities. And if people want to help us on a personal level, we need fundraisers.
And silence has sent a clear message as well, but we'll save the peace resisters for another day. We will note that as they continue their Cowards Silence, the chaos and the violence continues. Martha notes Ernesto Londono's "Car Bomb Near Soccer Field Kills 16 Children, 2 Women in Ramadi" (Washington Post):
Sixteen children playing soccer and two women were killed Monday in a car bombing in the western Iraqi city of Ramadi, an Iraqi official said Tuesday, in an attack that Iraqi leaders decried as horrific.
The bomb, hidden under wood panels loaded on a Kia pickup truck, exploded in a residential area near a soccer field where the children were playing, according to Col. Tariq al-Alwani, the security supervisor in Anbar province.
"It's a tragedy that the kids are targeted," the colonel said. "The kids we consider as a message to the world." He said news of the bombing had emerged a day late because most reporters have left Ramadi out of concern for their safety.
And in the New York Times, Kirk Semple covers the above in "U.S. and Iraqi Forces Arrest 16 Suspected in Killings and Kidnappings:"
Violence continued to torment Iraqi civilians on Tuesday, as car bombs, mortar attacks and improvised bombs claimed dozens of victims, the authorities said.
In the deadliest attack, a suicide bomber driving a truck packed with explosives detonated his payload in Ramadi, a predominantly Sunni city in Anbar Province, killing at least 16 people, 15 of them children, said Dr. Muhammad Salih of the Ramadi Hospital. News agencies reported that some of the victims had been playing soccer on a nearby field.
But American military officials said they had received no firsthand reports of such an attack. Lt. Col. Josslyn L. Aberle, a military spokeswoman in Baghdad, said that if such an attack had occurred, the military "absolutely" would have heard. "The police and our soldiers would’ve gone to investigate," she said.
Colonel Aberle said the only large explosion the American military in Ramadi knew of on Tuesday was one it had caused: the controlled explosion of a cache of weapons. The detonation was more powerful than the military’s explosive experts had expected and blew out windows in nearby buildings, she said, causing slight injuries to 30 civilians and a police officer, mostly from flying glass.
On Monday evening, a bomb exploded near a mosque in Ramadi, killing 15 people and wounding nine, she said. Recent large and deadly attacks on civilians in Anbar appeared to be part of a worsening power struggle there between some Sunni tribal leaders and Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, officials said.
If you missed it, the topic of Agustin Aguayo was addressed yesterday on KPFA's The Morning Show when Philip Maldari spoke with Jeff Englehart and Tom Cassidy of Iraq Veterans Against the War about Aguayo's upcoming court-martial.
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