Thursday 2 July 2009


It is a sad day in American jurisprudence when a soldier of conscience is court-martialed ~ not for lying, but for telling the truth; not for breaking a covenant with the military, but for upholding the rule of law in wartime. He is charged with "missing movement" and "conduct unbecoming an officer" including the "use of contemptuous words for the President."


Lt. Ehren Watada is the first commissioned U.S. officer to refuse to serve in Iraq. Facing court martial, Watada in a 2006 speech to a Veterans for Peace gathering:

"Today, I speak with you about a radical idea. It is one born from the very concept of the American soldier or service member. It became instrumental in ending the Vietnam War ~ but it has been long since forgotten. The idea is this: that to stop an illegal and unjust war, the soldiers can choose to stop fighting it.

"Now it is not an easy task for the soldier. For he or she must be aware that they are being used for ill-gain. They must hold themselves responsible for individual action. They must remember duty to the Constitution and the people supersedes the ideologies of their leadership.

The soldier must be willing to face ostracism by their peers, worry over the survival of their families, and of course the loss of personal freedom. They must know that resisting an authoritarian government at home is equally important to fighting a foreign aggressor on the battlefield.

Finally, those wearing the uniform must know beyond any shadow of a doubt that by refusing immoral and illegal orders they will be supported by the people not with mere words but by action.

"The American soldier must rise above the socialization that tells them authority should always be obeyed without question. Rank should be respected but never blindly followed.

Awareness of the history of atrocities and destruction committed in the name of America ~ either through direct military intervention or by proxy war ~ is crucial. They must realize that this is a war not out of self-defense but by choice, for profit and imperialistic domination.

WMD, ties to Al Qaeda, and ties to 9/11 never existed and never will.

The soldier must know that our narrowly and questionably elected officials intentionally manipulated the evidence presented to Congress, the public, and the world to make the case for war. They must know that neither Congress nor this administration has the authority to violate the prohibition against pre-emptive war ~ an American law that still stands today.

This same administration uses us for rampant violations of time-tested laws banning torture and degradation of prisoners of war. Though the American soldier wants to do right, the illegitimacy of the occupation itself, the policies of this administration, and rules of engagement of desperate field commanders will ultimately force them to be party to war crimes. They must know some of these facts, if not all, in order to act."

Lt. Ehren Watada answering questions at June 7, 2006 press conference in Tacoma, Washington. (Jeff Paterson)

In January 2007, growing still more indignant and articulate in arguing his case, Watada remarked:

"Back in Officer Candidate School we had a saying: freedom is never free. This is true. Except that in a democracy everyone must pay to retain it and surely everyone pays if it is lost.

"Normally in our democracy the people speak and act for those in the military. Representatives are elected and officials are appointed to serve on behalf of the people. If the policies of any official are illegal or immoral, it is the obligation of our representatives to correct this misconduct and hold those responsible accountable. This is done to insure the safety and welfare of the American people. This is done not as a simple matter of politics but as an assurance to our way of life

"Before my pre-trial, I watched on CSPAN as our newly elected Congress smiled and waved and congratulated each other. They shook hands, smiled for the camera and had grand parties with unlimited food and drink. Meanwhile, thousands of miles away, our countrymen are trying desperately to stem gushing wounds and drag their comrades to safety. What are we smiling about?

"In no small way, our elected representatives have failed the people. Be they Republican or Democrat, those with the power and duty have failed to protect the people against the violation of civil liberties, abuse of constitutional powers, and breaches of international and federal law.

"Before you nod your head in agreement, consider this: where our elected representatives have failed the people, have not the American people as a whole failed their country, including those in the military ~ those who have no voice?

I am told: those in the military do not have a right to question or dissent. Then who I ask, is speaking for us? Who is acting on our behalf? Some will say because the war persists today, the people will it and it could not be illegal or immoral.

Could it be that, the vast majority of the people do not care about the legality or morality of this war nor are they willing to risk much to stop it if it is?

"We in the military are paying a horrible price, and very few of the 300 million people in this country seem to be willing to help us, to scream out, to stop this tragedy this instant."

Here is a taped statement by Lt. Watada, followed by Lt. Watada speaking at the Veterans for Peace 2006 National Convention August 12, 2006 in Seattle...


No comments:

Post a Comment

If your comment is not posted, it was deemed offensive.