Unpublished letters to The Guardian and The Independent (UK)
5 February 2007
Colonel Collins got his facts wrong: Lt Ehren Watada did offer to resign but it was refused. (Should soldiers be able to opt out of wars? 5 February).
Lt Watada faces a four-year sentence not only for “refusing to go to Iraq and for making public statements against the war” but also for urging other soldiers to do the same. (First US officer since Vietnam goes on trial for speaking out, 3 February).
Unlike Colonel Collins, who had “severe reservations” but prioritised following orders, Lt Watada acted on his conscience, and, it has to be said, in line with international law.
One charge, “Conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman” which carries a two-year sentence, arises from Ehren’s extraordinary speech at the Veterans for Peace convention last August.
“This is a war not of self-defense but for profit and imperialistic domination…”. Pointing to soldiers’ resistance which “became instrumental in ending the Vietnam War” he proposed that “to stop an illegal and unjust war, the soldiers can choose to stop fighting it…If soldiers stood up and threw their weapons down, no president could ever initiate a war of choice again.”
But to do this “they must have the unconditional support of the people. ...Convince them that no matter how long they sit in prison… their families will have a roof over their heads, food in their stomachs, opportunities and education.”
Lt Watada’s mother, Carolyn Ho, calling for an International Day of Action as the court martial opens today, said “As a mother, I have evolved from fearing for his safety and for his future to the realization that there is a higher purpose to all that has transpired. What Ehren is doing will galvanize the anti-war movement.”