First Lt. Ehren Watada acclaimed in Hawai
press coverage 20 December 2006
U.S. army officer who refused to deploy to Iraq rallies support in Hawaii before his military trial

 

More than 350 hear Watada speak at local church
Advertiser Staff, Tuesday, December 19, 2006

 
Army 1st Lt. Ehren Watada and his stepmother, Rosa Sakanishi, at the Church of the Crossroads last night. Watada faces a court-martial for his challenge to the war in Iraq.

REBECCA BREYER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Watada, a 1996 Kalani High School, graduate, addresses a crowd of more than 350 people at the Church of the Crossroads.

REBECCA BREYER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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A standing-room-only crowd of more than 350 gathered tonight at Church of the Crossroads on University Avenue to hear Army 1st Lt. Ehren Watada in his first and only Hawai'i public appearance since facing Army charges.

Watada thanked the crowd, and said there have been other men who have refused to go to war in the past.

"These men were not cowards and traitors," he said.

He asked those gathered to learn more about the war in Iraq and to make a decision about the war based on their research.

Watada faces a court-martial for his refusal to join his unit on a deployment to Iraq. A pre-trial hearing is set for Jan. 4.

The 1996 Kalani High School graduate faces a court-martial on charges of missing a troop movement and conduct unbecoming an officer for comments he made concerning the Bush administration's reasons for going to war in Iraq.

If convicted of all charges, he could be sentenced to six years confinement and be dismissed from the service.

COPYRIGHT 2006 The Honolulu Advertiser, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

War resister at home, speaking out
By Rod Ohira, Advertiser Staff WriterWednesday, December 20, 2006

The soft-spoken, well-groomed man in the dark suit greeted with a standing ovation by more than 350 people at Church of the Crossroads did not look anything like the war resisters who gained sanctuary there nearly four decades ago.

Army 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, a 1996 Kalani High School graduate who faces a court-martial early next year for refusing an order to deploy to Iraq, spoke publicly about his case for the first time in Honolulu last night at an event organized by World Can't Wait-Hawai'i at the Mo'ili'ili church.

Before taking the stage, Watada spoke with The Advertiser.

When asked what he would say to critics who call him a coward, Watada said: "I'd say: 'Why are we focusing on me and the personal issue? The issue is about the war and people need to educate themselves about everything that's going on about the war. They need to take a position one way or another. If people agree with me or disagree with me, I really don't care.' "

He added, "What people need to do is take a stance. And if they truly believe there is something wrong with this war that it's immoral and illegal they should ask themselves what are they willing to sacrifice in order to stop this war?"

His position has affected close friends and relatives, Watada said.

"In the beginning, a lot of them said: 'Why'd you sign up if you're not willing to go?' And then they came to realize that's not the issue," Watada said. "The issue is that the war itself is wrong and that those who started the war in the first place have done a grave injustice to the American people and they need to be held accountable. That's primarily what I'm speaking out against."

Watada's parents were in attendance last night. Bob Watada, who was against the U.S. fighting in Vietnam and Iraq, supports his son's stance.

"What we did in Vietnam is kill 3 million people and that's what we're doing in Iraq," Bob Watada said. "For the most part, this war is about oil and gaining domination of Iraq to make certain the multinational corporations ... get their resources over there."

Shannon Monkowski, of Kona, came to Church of the Crossroads on University Avenue, to support Lt. Watada.

"I think he's a hero," Monkowski said. "He has the courage to stand up and say that he's not going to participate in Bush's illegal war. What we're doing in Iraq is shameful, worse than Vietnam."

In 1969, Judy Austin was among the volunteers at Church of the Crossroads who helped set up a sanctuary for GIs opposed to fighting in Vietnam and draft protesters.

Austin, whose last name is now Rantala, stood at the church's office entrance and refused to allow government officials to seize documents.

"Men and women have the right not to fight if their conscience tells them it is not right," said Rantala, who was in attendance last night. "I think Ehren is pointing out to us that this is possible to do. It brings back some old memories."

Last summer, Watada refused to deploy to Iraq with his Stryker brigade, based at Fort Lewis, Wash., and made comments critical of the war that were reported in the news media. He is charged with missing troop movement and conduct unbecoming an officer. A pretrial hearing is set for Jan. 4 and a trial is scheduled for February.

If convicted of all charges, Watada could be sentenced to six years confinement and be dismissed from the service.

Reach Rod Ohira at rohira@honoluluadvertiser.com.


Vol. 11, Issue 354 - Wednesday, December 20, 2006
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Army 1st Lt. Ehren Watada participated in a talk open to the public last night at Church of the Crossroads. Watada, above, stood with his father, Bob Watada, in the background before the start of the program.

Watada states his case in Moiliili

Standing ovations greet a soldier facing a court-martial for refusing to go to Iraq

A highly sympathetic crowd of a few hundred people gave Army 1st Lt. Ehren Watada standing ovations before, during and after a speech at the Church of the Crossroads in Moiliili.

Watada, a Honolulu native, faces court-martial in Fort Lewis, Wash., next month on six counts for refusing to deploy to Iraq and for conduct unbecoming an officer, charges that carry a maximum six years' imprisonment. He was back in Honolulu to meet with his attorney and visit with family.

Watada acknowledged that his actions have divided the community. "That was not my intent," he said. But upon learning the facts of the war, he said he was in turmoil.

He called the war in Iraq an illegal war of aggression.

He quoted Nazi Germany's Hermann Goering, who said while the common people are usually not willing to go to war, "all you have to do is tell them they are being attacked."

Watada said the American people were deceived by the Bush administration, which manipulated intelligence to fit policy and regime change in Iraq.

"We have been lied to, deceived and betrayed," he said. "A crime has been committed against the constitution."

He also told the audience that 10 intelligence agencies concluded the presence of American troops in Iraq are "fueling Islamic extremism all over the world."

He said as a military officer he needed to take a stand.

"I hated to leave my troops, but something had to be done to stop this insanity," he said.

"How could I order men to die for something I believe is wrong?" he said.

Watada said he could no longer condone the war and asked himself if he had the ability to do something about it, and took it upon himself to speak on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves.

"Wearing the uniform is not and is never an excuse," he said.

His message fell on receptive ears.

Kristen Clyne, 31, a graduate student at the University of Hawaii, said the speech was "really inspiring."

She said she liked that Watada didn't focus on legislators to make changes, but on people.

"This war wouldn't really be permitted without the support of the people, and it is really on the people to stop this war," she said.

Daniel Chung, 54, noted, "It's about time somebody did something."

"Some people would rather die than admit they're wrong, but he's willing to put his reputation on the line. That's true patriotism," Chung said.

But not everyone totally supported Watada. A retired soldier who did not want to be identified said she was curious to hear him.

"I agree with what he's saying (about the war), but he was still in uniform. But he had the obligation of following orders and he didn't.

"It's too bad because I'm sure he's going to prison."

 
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