'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Lieutenant Ehren Watada 

From AsianWeek:

In January 2005, Watada received orders to Fort Lewis, Washington, in anticipation of deployment to Iraq. Watada felt neither frightened nor anxious, but extremely unprepared. “I was detailed to be a fire support officer with an infantry company,” Watada explained.

Watada applied his “insatiable appetite for knowledge” to his future duties in Iraq. He felt it was his obligation and duty as an officer to know what to anticipate. “I did this to better prepare myself and my soldiers. That’s what I was taught in Korea.”

He haunted the Fort Lewis library, which contains an extraordinary number of military documents, archives and databases, and scoured volumes on military history, particularly in Iraq. “I read the history of units that have gone during the initial invasion to gain a broader knowledge of what I could expect,” he said.

At the time, it was more than the war that was making headlines; the Valerie Plame case, Supreme Court nominations and the country’s heightened surveillance, all questioned the legitimacy of the war in Iraq. “I was looking at who was trying to protect us,” Watada said. “Who is standing up and speaking out for the soldiers” I told myself that nobody is.

“I just felt so saddened by what was going on and so frustrated, so disheartened,” he continued. “And yet I told myself there was nothing I could do.”

Watada recalls one radio show that especially touched him. “This guy calls, and he was pretty hysterical. His brother was being sent to Iraq again, and he was really scared for him. He asked ‘Why isn’t anybody doing anything? Where are all the protests and the rallies like there was in the Vietnam War?’”

Watada reevaluated his stance on the war in Iraq. “I just snapped. I said, ‘I can do something about it.’ Though I may suffer for it, though it may just be a blip on the radar, at least I know that I can do something about it.”

After being denied two resignation requests, Watada publicly announced his refusal of deployment orders in Tacoma, Washington, on June 7, 2006. Two weeks later, Watada was officially charged with three violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice on six counts.

AsianWeek is a mainstream magazine directed, obviously, to Asian Americans. The publication of such a sympathetic portrayal of Watada is significant, and I encourage people to read it in its entirety.

Of course, Watada should be supported without hesitation by those of us against the war in Iraq and a possible attack upon Iran. Anyone interested in doing so should go here, Thank You Lt. Ehren Watada for refusing an illegal war, or here, Thank You Lt. Ehren Watada. The second site provides an opportunity to contribute to defray the costs of his legal defense. Increasingly, only the soldiers themselves can stop these current and contemplated future conflicts.

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