When 27-year-old US Army First Lieutenant Ehren Watada announced his refusal to deploy to Iraq yesterday, he did so surrounded by veterans, military family members, and members of the religious and anti-war communities. News of Watada's intent to refuse his orders to deploy to Iraq has galvanized anti-war communities around the country, many of which are already calling for a series of demonstrations in support of Watada's actions. And others they hope will be inspired to refuse deployment to Iraq as well.
At a press conference in Tacoma, Washington, Watada announced his view that the war in Iraq is immoral and illegal, and his intent was to refuse to deploy to fight that war. Watada said, "It is my duty as a commissioned officer of the United States Army to speak out against grave injustices. I stand before you today because it is my job to serve and protect soldiers, the American people and innocent Iraqis with no voice." Watada went on to say that his participation in the Iraq war would make him party to grave moral injustice and war crimes.
While Watada may face a court martial for his decision to refuse to deploy to Iraq, he has also received significant support from veterans' organizations. Members of Iraq Veterans Against the War, the War Resisters League, and many chapters of Veterans for Peace have all come to Watada's defense.
Family and friends of Lieutenant Watada have launched a national campaign to support his actions and to encourage other military personnel to do the same. Anti-war activists are planning coordinated national actions set to begin at the end of June in support of Watada's anticipated refusal to deploy to Iraq. For more information, visit the web site: http://www.thankyoult.org.
I am not, repeat not, encouraging anyone to desert the armed forces or otherwise resist being sent to Iraq, other than through normal channels such as resigning or not re-enlisting. They joined, they go where they're sent, unless they can pull some kind of strings. I didn't support draft resisters going to Canada during Vietnam either, but I understood why they did it.
It's a personal decision. I don't blame anyone who doesn't want to go, for all the reasons Lt. Watada stated. It takes balls, and he'll pay the price. He knew that before he went public with it. He probably hasn't been in long enough to resign, so this was his only choice. Right, wrong, or indifferent, his decision will follow him for the rest of his life.
Quite a few enlisted men have split the scene rather than go to Iraq, but they have mostly just done it and been quiet about it. This is first I have heard in public of an officer doing it.
Bush's War is criminal and unnecessary, but it will take many, many more soldiers refusing to go to make a difference.