Making an Example of Ehren Watada


he people running the Iraq
war were eager to make an example of Ehren Watada at a court martial
in February. But the man on trial set a profound example of conscience—helping
to undermine the war that the Pentagon’s top officials are
so eager to protect. “The judge in the case against the first
U.S. officer court-martialed for refusing to ship out for Iraq barred
several experts in international and constitutional law from testifying
Monday [Feb. 5] about the legality of the war,” the Associated
Press reported. 

While the judge was hopping through military hoops at Fort Lewis
in Washington state, an outpouring of support for Watada at the
gates reflected just how broad and deep the opposition to this war
has become. However, the AP dispatch merely stated that “outside
the base, a small group that included actor Sean Penn demonstrated
in support of Watada.” But, in fact, several hundred people
maintained an antiwar presence at the gates, where a vigil and rally—led
by Iraq war veterans and parents of those sent to kill and be killed
in this horrific war—mirrored what is happening in communities
across the United States. 

In direct resistance to the depravity of the Bush administration
as it escalates this war, Lieutenant Watada is taking a clear and
uplifting position. Citing international law and the U.S. Constitution,
he points out that the Iraq war is “manifestly illegal.”
And he adds: “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. It is my duty not to follow unlawful orders and
not to participate in things I find morally reprehensible. My participation
would make me party to war crimes.” 

Outside the fence at Fort Lewis the criminality of the war and the
pain it has brought were heavy in the air. Darrell Anderson was
a U.S. soldier in Iraq. He received a Purple Heart. Later, he refused
orders to return for a second tour of duty. Now he gives firsthand
accounts of the routine killing of Iraqi civilians. He speaks as
an eyewitness and a participant in a war that is one long war crime.
He makes a convincing case that “GI resistance is emerging
and pivotal.” 

Also at Fort Lewis I met Carlos Arredondo. He’s traveling the
country in a long black hearse-like station wagon with photos and
letters from his son Alexander plastered on the sides of the vehicle.
At age 20, Alexander died in Iraq. A conversation with Carlos Arredondo is likely to leave you in tears. “When the Marines came
to inform Arredondo of his son’s death and stayed after he
asked them to leave, he set their van on fire, burning over a quarter
of his body in the process,” the

Boston Globe

Carlos and his wife Melida are now members of Military Families
Speak Out. 

Among the speakers at a nearby event the night before Watada’s
court-martial was Helga Aguayo, whose husband Agustin is a U.S.
Army medic now charged with desertion. After deployment to Iraq
in 2004, he applied for recognition as a conscientious objector,
without success. During his year in the war zone, he refused to
put ammunition in his weapon. Today, despite a mistrial at his February
hearing, Watada is facing up to four years in prison if the Army
goes forward with a planned new court martial in March. 

Half of his potential sentence has to do with the fact that he made
public statements against the war. The war-makers want such honest
courage to stop. But it is growing every day.


Solomon is author of

War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits
Keep Spinning Us to Death

and director of the Institute for Public
Accuracy (IPA).