In a case that has drawn international attention, Lt. Ehren Watada of Hawaii is the first commissioned officer of the US army to publicly refuse to serve in Iraq and to campaign for an end to this war. He is now facing court-martial on charges of missing movement, two counts of contempt towards President Bush, and four counts of conduct unbecoming an officer. If convicted, Lt. Watada could be sentenced to up to eight years in a military prison.
Ms. Ho was a guest speaker at a fundraiser on Sunday Oct 29 in a Philadelphia loft home organized by the Global Women's Strike (GWS) and Payday men’s network that included SELMA JAMES, international coordinator of the GWS who was on a national speaking tour, and MICHAEL BERG, whose son Nick was a contract worker killed in Iraq, and who is a candidate for US Senate in Delaware. Carolyn Ho has joined Ms. James at talks at Haverford College, Georgetown University and George Washington University and will be embarking on a national tour in November and December.
Lt. Watada has said of his stand,
Although I have tried to resign out of protest, I am forced to participate in a war that is manifestly illegal. 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... Normally, those in the military have allowed others to speak for them and act on their behalf. That time has come to an end… I hope that my example shows other soldiers that they too have the power to choose right over wrong and that freedom is something that can never be taken away.
On June 27, thousands of veterans, military families, women, antiwar activists and others in more than 30 cities across the US and in several other countries took part in the Day of Action to Stand Up With Lt. Watada, and in many demonstrations since. Payday and the GWS organized events in Philadelphia, Los Angeles, London, Venice and Rome, and there have been demonstrations in Turkey, Israel, and Japan in support of Lt. Watada.
Michael Berg, has said of Lt Watada, “I know what it is like to stand up and speak the truth and to feel alone… [but] there are people all over this country today standing in support of what he has done. He is a courageous resister of the highest caliber, and I applaud him.”
Nancy Carroll of Women of Color in the GWS, a wheelchair user and great-grandmother from Philadelphia says, “My son died young of complications resulting from what he was exposed to in Vietnam – Agent Orange. Lt. Watada and his mother and father are taking a stand so that no more of us will be forced to face the grief of losing our sons and daughters, physically and mentally, to Bush’s wars. They spend billions of dollars for war, but not a dollar for a child.”
Eric Gjertsen of Payday, a network of men working with the Global Women’s Strike and with military refusers and their families in many countries, says, “More and more soldiers are following Lt. Watada’s courageous example - refusing commands which would inflict atrocities on the Iraqi population. Some 8,000 US soldiers are officially ‘deserters’, hundreds are seeking refuge in Canada and other countries, and the number of young women and men signing up for the military (particularly people of color) is at an historic low despite the pressure of the ‘poverty draft’. It is mothers like Carolyn Ho, as well as soldiers’ partners, aunts, and other women relatives, who are most likely to be the campaigners but who are rarely recognized. Ms. Ho is urged and supported by women’s organizations to have a public voice in support of her son.”
To arrange an interview with Carolyn Ho in the Phila area, please call 215-490-4543 or 215-848-1120.