Saturday, January 06, 2007

Conscientious Rejector

American army officer First Lieutenant Ehren Watada is the first American commissioned officer to publically refuse deployment to Iraq. Last June, the 28-year-old Hawaiian native announced his refusal to deploy on the grounds that the invasion and occupation of Iraq is illegal.

He now faces a court martial on one count of "missing troop movement" and four counts of "conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman", and could be sentenced to up to six years jail. He was interviewed by Kevin Sites:

SITES: You know on that note, Lieutenant, let me read you something from a speech that you gave in August to the Veterans for Peace. You had said at one point, "Many have said this about the World Trade Towers: never again. I agree, never again will we allow those who threaten our way of life to reign free. Be they terrorists or elected officials. The time to fight back is now, the time to stand up and be counted is today." Who were you speaking about when you said that?

WATADA: I was speaking about everybody. The American people. That we all have that duty, that obligation, that responsibility to do something when we see our government perpetrating a crime upon the world, or even upon us. And I think that the American people have lost that, that sense of duty. There is no self-interest in this war for the vast majority of the American people. And because of that the American soldiers have suffered.

There really is a detachment from this war, and many of the American people, because there is no draft, or for whatever reason, because taxes haven't been raised, they don't have anything personally to lose or gain with this war, and so they take little interest.


[WATADA:] You know I think that [Congressman] John Murtha came out a few months ago in an interview and he was asked if, with all his experience, in Korea, and Vietnam, volunteering for those wars -- he was asked if he would join the military today. And he said absolutely not. And I think that with the knowledge that I have now, I agree. I would not join the military because I would be forced into a position where I would be ordered to do something that is wrong. It is illegal and immoral. And I would be put into a situation as a soldier to be abused and misused by those in power.

STIES: In your speech in front of the Veterans for Peace you said "the oath we take as soldiers swears allegiance not to one man but to a document of principles and laws designed to protect the people." Can you expand upon that a little bit — what did you mean when you said that?

WATADA: The constitution was established, and our laws are established, to protect human rights, to protect equal rights and constitutional civil liberties. And I think we have people in power who say that those laws, or those principles, do not apply to them — that they are above the law and can do whatever it takes to manipulate or create laws that enable them to do whatever they please. And that is a danger in our country, and I think the war in Iraq is just one symptom of this agenda. And I think as soldiers, as American people, we need to recognize this, and we need to put a stop to it before it's too late.

Naturally the comments to the article are running red-hot, with many, many people accusing Lieutenant Watada of being a traitor and deserter. The first comment made, from "", is typical of many of those opposed to Watada's actions:

I feel that a person that has voluntarilly [sic] joined the military and now refuses to go where assigned, during a military conflict is basically a traitor/deserter in the face of the enemy and should be treated as such. I had voluntarilly [sic] joined the military (US Air Force) during the Viet Nam conflict, so I have great feelings toward this, I did not believe what was going on at that time, but I did not shirk my duty to my country and the ideas of the constitution and Declaration of Independance [sic]. That is what I was fighting for. So as far as I am concerned this person is a deserter in the face of the enemy.

What a lovely example of contradictions! "Glassart" claims to have opposed the Vietnam war at the time, but to have volunteered regardless. Perhaps he believed that the Constitution and Declaration of Independence requires American citizens to stop thinking for themselves, shut down their higher faculties, and be suckers for the power-hungry rulers of the nation.

As a former military person (officer? pilot? desk jockey? the guy who sweeps the aircraft hanger floor? he doesn't say) he surely must know that a soldier in Washington can't possibly be deserting "in the face of the enemy" when that enemy is thousands, or even tens of thousands, of miles away. He uses that term twice, so it is important to him, but he doesn't know what it means. He calls the Vietnam War a "conflict", which is another sign of a chickenhawk: cheer the war on, but refuse to call it what it is. I'm guessing he wasn't a pilot, but one of the many air force personnel who never came within cooee of combat.

Then there is post number four, from "tilden44mobley", a twenty-year veteran of obeying orders like a good storm-trooper, a guy who was in Iraq in 1991 and says he knows weapons of mass "distruction" are still in Iraq. I can imagine the tens of thousands of American troops in Iraq right now turning on him and saying Are you calling us liars? Are you saying we can't do our jobs?

But this is the most significant comment of all:

I have lost many friends to the defense of our freedom. He discraces thier memory evertime he puts on the uniform. [sic]

In other words, blame the messenger. Don't blame the liars and con-artists who sent his friends off to die for nothing. Don't hold the crooks and cheats responsible -- instead, blame those who discover that you've been cheated.

It has been said that there is a sucker born every minute, and this common trait of shooting the messenger is an enormous factor in that. The powerful know, in fact they rely on the fact, that the people they lie to and cheat and actively harm are often their strongest defenders. Naturally there are limits to how far you can go before even the dimmest Joe Redneck loses faith, but those limits are pretty high. If there was one trait of Homo sap that has lead to misery and strife, it is the habit of actively supporting the manipulators and cheats, even after they've been revealed for what they are.

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