Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Lieutenant Ehren Watada

“One who breaks an unjust law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.”

Martin Luther King Jr.

A powerful plea by conscientious objector Lieutenant Ehren Watada on why he refuses to fight this war and all that it stands for.

“No one knows the devastation and suffering of war more than veterans - which is why we should always be the first to prevent it.”
A radical, but not new, idea

“[…]I speak with you about a radical idea. It is one born from the very concept of the American soldier (or service member). It became instrumental in ending the Vietnam War - but it has been long since forgotten. The idea is this: that to stop an illegal and unjust war, the soldiers can choose to stop fighting it.”

Why is the war illegal and immoral?

“The American soldier must rise above the socialization that tells them authority should always be obeyed without question. Rank should be respected but never blindly followed. Awareness of the history of atrocities and destruction committed in the name of America - either through direct military intervention or by proxy war - is crucial. They must realize that this is a war not out of self-defense but by choice, for profit and imperialistic domination. WMD, ties to Al Qaeda, and ties to 9/11 never existed and never will. The soldier must know that our narrowly and questionably elected officials intentionally manipulated the evidence presented to Congress, the public, and the world to make the case for war. They must know that neither Congress nor this administration has the authority to violate the prohibition against pre-emptive war - an American law that still stands today. This same administration uses us for rampant violations of time-tested laws banning torture and degradation of prisoners of war. Though the American soldier wants to do right, the illegitimacy of the occupation itself, the policies of this administration, and rules of engagement of desperate field commanders will ultimately force them to be party to war crimes. They must know some of these facts, if not all, in order to act.”

Actions reminiscent of Nuremburg

“The Nuremburg Trials showed America and the world that citizenry as well as soldiers have the unrelinquishable obligation to refuse complicity in war crimes perpetrated by their government. Widespread torture and inhumane treatment of detainees is a war crime. A war of aggression born through an unofficial policy of prevention is a crime against the peace. An occupation violating the very essence of international humanitarian law and sovereignty is a crime against humanity. These crimes are funded by our tax dollars. Should citizens choose to remain silent through self-imposed ignorance or choice, it makes them as culpable as the soldier in these crimes.”

Duty of a soldier

“Aside from the reality of indentured servitude, the American soldier in theory is much nobler. Soldier or officer, when we swear our oath it is first and foremost to the Constitution and its protectorate, the people. If soldiers realized this war is contrary to what the Constitution extols - if they stood up and threw their weapons down - no President could ever initiate a war of choice again. When we say, "… Against all enemies foreign and domestic," what if elected leaders became the enemy? Whose orders do we follow? The answer is the conscience that lies in each soldier, each American, and each human being. Our duty to the Constitution is an obligation, not a choice.

What the public can and should do

“[…] for the soldiers to stop fighting it, they must have the unconditional support of the people. I have seen this support with my own eyes. For me it was a leap of faith. For other soldiers, they do not have that luxury. They must know it and you must show it to them. Convince them that no matter how long they sit in prison, no matter how long this country takes to right itself, their families will have a roof over their heads, food in their stomachs, opportunities and education. [… Why must Canadians feed and house our fellow Americans who have chosen to do the right thing? We should be the ones taking care of our own. Are we that powerless - are we that unwilling to risk something for those who can truly end this war? How do you support the troops but not the war? By supporting those who can truly stop it; let them know that resistance to participate in an illegal war is not futile and not without a future.”

Brave words, shouting against the wind, it seems, at a leviathan regime and its military arms of control and war. We should support this cause however we can. We can write, we can demonstrate, we can inform others, we can help with whatever resources and means we can muster. Even if it’s just making others aware that there are those within the US, within the US armed forces that are not as blind and deaf to the lies and immoral justifications for the continuing chaos and wanton destructions in the world for the personal gain and pride of the few.

There’s no need for more blood shed, and resistance need not result in blood shed. With our silent defiance, with peaceful protests, swith our awareness of unjust causes bargained for in the name of our fundamental freedoms and principles, we can take a stand and say: “Enough is enough”.

And that is enough.

According to his mother, Lt Watada has since been charged by the military:

“In response, the military charged him with missing movement, contemptuous remarks against the president and behavior unbecoming to an officer. Taken together, these charges amount to 7 years in a military prison."
The war and other madness brought on by the current US administration may or may not stop as a result of our actions. But that is how it is with change. It takes a small step, a little action. And change will change itself.

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