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Public Support For Lt. Watada Across Nation [
To Refuse To Serve
By Ret. Col. Ann Wright
Tuesday 27 June 2006
Today, is the National Day of Action in support of U.S. Army 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, who, on June 22, refused an order to deploy with his unit to Iraq.
Watada said he could not participate in an "illegal and immoral war against people who did nothing to deserve our aggression. My oath of office is to protect and defend America's laws and its people. By refusing unlawful orders for an illegal war, I fulfill that oath."
Watada's refusal to deploy to Iraq raises ethical, moral and legal questions, not only for him, but for other military personnel as well as for civilians. He believes the war on Iraq is a violation of international and domestic law and is therefore illegal. Watada says that as a military officer of honor and integrity he must refuse an order to participate in an illegal act.
Watada joins 10 other members of the U.S. military who - as a matter of conscience - have refused to either go to Iraq or to return there and have been court-martialed for their actions. Two are currently in prison for their stands. In addition, over 200 U.S. military personnel have gone to Canada to avoid being sent to Iraq, nine of whom have gone public with their war resistance. There are over 6,400 U.S. military are absent without leave (AWOL), while thousands who have returned from AWOL have been given administrative discharges instead of courts-martial. The military has not provided information on whether those who have turned themselves in were AWOL due to opposition to the war.
For Watada and those other military volunteers who have chosen to go public with their dissent from the war on Iraq, the path of conscience is not easy. By their actions, they challenge an administration whose policy of aggressive, pre-emptive war has placed those volunteers, the institution of the U.S. military and the nation itself in danger.
Refusing to obey an illegal order is a time-honored tradition in the U.S. military, but that refusal carries incredible risk. If the order is found by a military board of inquiry to be lawful, then the soldier is will be brought before a military court for trial.
Watada's public refusal to deploy to Iraq puts the military panel who will sit in judgment of his actions in a dilemma. The military has extraordinarily talented military lawyers who are well-versed in the laws of land warfare, the Geneva and Hague conventions and the Nuremberg principles. Indeed, military lawyers were the strongest opponents of the decision by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez to throw out internationally agreed to protections for prisoners of war and instead create a new, illegal term called "enemy combatants." This legally meaningless phrase provides no protections for those detained on the battlefield and jeopardizes U.S. military personnel who end up in the hands of opponents. Now, these military lawyers must decide whether protection of an administration's illegal war of aggression is more important to the national security of the United States than recognition that, by the Nuremberg principles, military and civilians have a responsibility to stop their governments from committing illegal acts.
As a retired colonel with 29 years in the U.S. Army and Army Reserves, and as a U.S. diplomat for 16 years who resigned in March 2003 from the State Department in opposition to the war in Iraq, I strongly support Watada's decision to publicly challenge the illegality of the war.
I hope that on June 27, as part of this National Day of Action, Americans will find ways in their communities to "Stand Up with Lt. Watada." We should discuss the important moral and ethical issues that he and the other brave and courageous men and women have raised in their refusal to participate in the illegal war on Iraq. See www.ThankyouLt.org for a list of communities and activities scheduled for June 27.
As civilians, we also have a moral responsibility when we see an administration committing illegal acts. We cannot be silent and let this illegal war continue. Stand up for Watada and our country.
Col. Ann Wright served in the U.S. Army for 13 years and in the U.S. Army Reserves for 16 years. She also served for 16 years in the U.S. diplomatic corps, and in that capacity helped reopen the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan in December 2001. She received the State Department's Award for Heroism as the acting U.S. ambassador during the rebel takeover of Freetown, Sierra Leone in 1997.
Public Demonstrations of Support for Lt. Watada Across Nation
Tuesday 27 June 2006
On Tuesday, June 27, people in dozens of US cities will demonstrate their support for US Army 1st Lt. Ehren K. Watada's public refusal to participate in the "illegal war" and occupation of Iraq. Lt. Watada is the first US military officer to take this stand.
Public events will take place at Ft. Lewis (4-6 p.m. at exit 119 overpass off I5), Atlanta, Charlotte, Cleveland, Ft. Lauderdale, Honolulu, New York City, Oklahoma City, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Toronto, and many other cities. Events are being coordinated by the Family and Friends of Lt. Watada through the website www.ThankYouLt.org. National organizations such as Veterans For Peace, American Friends Service Committee, United For Peace and Justice, Code Pink, Campus Anti-War Network, Not in Our Name, Courage to Resist, and numerous others will participate.
Veterans For Peace Executive Director Michael McPhearson said today, "The Bush administration continues to put our nation's service members in harm's way for no good reason. It has become clear to Lt. Watada that his duty can not be served by leading his troops into an illegal war based on deceit and half truths." Elizabeth Wrigley-Field of the Campus Anti-War Network stated, "Our generation is confronted with military recruiters in our schools and communities, urging us to sacrifice - and possibly die - to carry out an illegal war most of us don't support. Students and young people stand in solidarity with Lt. Watada's courage in refusing to be party to war crimes."
"Lt. Watada's stand is in line AFSC's Quaker values and principles. We support his right to object to the immoral and illegal war in Iraq," said Oscar Castro, of American Friends Service Committee. Lietta Ruger, Washington State Military Families Speak Out Chapter Coordinator said, "We have two returning Iraq vets in our family, both sergeants. I want their officers to be as conscientious and discerning about their orders as Lt. Watada. Larry Ebersole, Chair of Amnesty International Puget Sound stated, "Amnesty International/London is monitoring the situation of Lt. Watada and will take specific actions when the situation requires."
Lt. Watada first attempted to quietly resign in protest over the "illegal war" in January 2006. On June 7, he publicly announced his intention to refuse deployment, and on June 22 he followed through on his pledge by refusing to ship out with the 3rd Stryker Brigade. Since then he has been confined to Ft. Lewis under investigation and possible court-martial charges. Lt. Watada has explained, "It is my conclusion as an officer of the Armed Forces that the war in Iraq is not only morally wrong but a horrible breach of American law. As the order to take part in an illegal act is ultimately unlawful as well, I must as an officer of honor and integrity refuse that order."
By refusing to participate in the Iraq war and occupation, Lt. Watada joins a growing number of high-ranking military officers and current and former members of the armed services who have challenged the legality of the war in Iraq, including UK RAF officer Lieutenant Malcolm Kendall-Smith, who also refused deployment to Iraq last year.
Eric Seitz, Lt. Watada's attorney, declares, "We will vigorously defend Lt. Watada and demonstrate that the action he has taken is not only the correct legal and moral position but that it is one that is supported by a great majority of people in the United States and around the world who understand that the US invasion of Iraq is not and never could be justified."
Contact: Cindy Sousa - 206 734-5040; David Solnit - 510 967-7377
June 27 National Day of Action Spokespeople
National/Regional Supporting Organiziation Spokespeople:
Lietta Ruger, Coordinator, Washington State Military Families Speak Out - 360 942-9169
Oskar Castro (busy 4-6pm) American Friends Service Committee - 215 241-7046
Larry Ebersole, Chair, Amnesty International Puget Sound - 206 527-9683
Elizabeth Wrigley-Field, Campus Antiwar Network - 646 320-6880
Michael T. McPhearson, Executive Director, Veterans For Peace - 314 725-6005; cell 314 303 8874
Local June 27 Event Spokespeople:
Ft. Lewis, Washington:
Larry Mosqueda - 360 280-6198; 360 866-2404
New York, New York:
Heather Squire - 917 572-0254
Elizabeth Wrigley-Field - 646 320-6880
San Diego, California:
Reiko Obata 858 483-6018
Ryan Johnson (US war resister) - 416 792-0223
Nantua, New York:
Steven White - 845 664-3088
David Mitchell - 845 596-0464
Ingemar Smith - 678 886-2742
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma:
Jon Cantrell, Veterans for Peace - 405 317-8826
Leah Bolger, Veterans for Peace - 541 207-7761
Ft. Lauderdale, Florida:
Lori Russell, Code Pink - 954 401-1768
Jim Albertini - 808 966-7622
Eric Gjertsen - 215 490-4543
Kansas City, Missouri:
63rd Street Patriots
Carol Huhs - 816 210-2253
Bob Watada and Carolyn Ho, mother and father of Lt. Ehren Watada.
www.democrats.com Washington Director Washington Director
www.pdamerica.org Board Member
www.impeachpac.org Washington Director