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Saturday, January 20, 2007

What If They Gave A War And Nobody Came? Why I Support Ehren Watada

It has been seven months now since I learned of the case of First Lieutenant Ehren Watada, the first officer to refuse deployment to Iraq. The article I read was in the LA Times which stated that Ehren had refused deployment on grounds the war is illegal. It struck me like a ton of bricks. This young officer, of whom I knew little about at that moment, was willing to risk court marshall, a ruined career, and years of his own youth in prison for what many in this country and most of the rest of the world was saying. I went on line to find out more only to learn that in just a few days, more than 30 vigils/protests were being held in various cities. The easiest one for me to get to was in front of the Federal Building in San Diego. It was summer, so my 16-year old and 9-year old would be going with me to stand with others but also to learn more. That day I heard Marjorie Cohn (read her legal presentation here), professor of law at Jefferson Law School and President Elect of the National Lawyer's Guild Speak and articulate Ehren's reason for not deploying: he refused to commit a war crime by participating in an illegal war, he refused to lead his men in illegal actions, and he also refused to kill innocent Iraqis.

When an officer takes his oath, he takes his oath on the Constitution of the United States. Much has happened to Ehren since then, and just three days ago, the judge in the pre-trial running up to the court marshall ruled that Ehren cannot present his defense, saying that the legality of the war is not at issue here, yet Ehren is being charged with four counts of conduct unbecoming of an officer for his speech. If he is charged for his speech, why is he not being allowed to defend that speech? Why? Because this is the military and apparently they have a set of rules apart from those set forth in the Constitutiion. Now that Ehren has been stripped of his defense, he is facing six years at Leavenworth Federal Prison. Six years when this fine young man should possibly be settling down to raise a family. But Ehren will have to delay that part of his life since he is the one who put HIS life on the line for all that is right in this matter.

What if they gave a war and nobody came? What if they gave an ILLEGAL war and nobody came? I am just a housewife, an ordinary citizen with three daughters. I don't have the fear that anyone of them will die overseas in a war because I know they will never enlist in the military. But with the troop surge and the saber-rattling on Iran and Syria, more troops being requested in Afghanistan, there is a very real possibility that the draft will be reinstituted. Is this war that we have embarked on in Iraq for the security of our nation? Simply put, no it is not. It is a war of aggression against a citizenry who posed no threat whatsoever. It has quite a while now that it was proven that the reasons given for invading Iraq were false, not just bad intelligence, but manipulated intelligence. Where is the supposed culprit of 911? So let me ask those in the military who have not taken Ehren's stand, why are you still willing to fight in an illegal war? Why are you still killing people in another country where we should never have gone? Why have you not laid down your arms and refused to kill? Many of you have parents who are home fighting to end this war. I say, if they gave a war and nobody came there COULDN'T BE A WAR!

The problem with much of the peace movement here in the US is that it is concerned only with our own losses. They cry real tears for the 3000 plus fallen soldiers and those mamed, but what about the dead Iraqis and Afghanis? The estimates are 655,000+ in Iraq alone as a result of our invasion and continued occupation. If you are for peace, why aren't you refusing to participate in this war? Is it too hard for you to understand that as participants you are guilty of war crimes yourselves? Have you taken time to see pictures of all those people dead as a result of OUR actions? Have you prayed for them? Please, stop and honestly ask yourself this question. Stop and get in touch with the conscience I pray God graced you with. Because this is what First Lieutenant Ehren Watada did, he stopped and thought.

If Ehren goes to prison for the full six years, a part of all of the people of conscience will be there with him, clanging their tin cups against the bars and shouting until we are freed too. Ehren, you stand for the innocent, and it is our country's moral imperative as a nation to hear your voice and act as you did. Bring the troops home now so that they are no longer killing innocent people.

Ehren Watada's public statement in June 2006, refusing to deploy to an illegal war:

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