Update: The Army, after their defeat at the first court martial, has now announced they are re-filing charges against Lt. Watada .  He is again facing up to 6 years in prison.  The second trial is scheduled for July 16, with pre-trial motions May 20-21.  The Watada campaign is calling for our renewed pressure on military and government officials for them to accept Lt. Watada’s resignation, and to sign the petition in his support on www.thankyoult.org See latest action alert here.  If you live outside the US, please send letters to the US embassy. Please also copy to us at payday@paydaynet.org.


Lt. Watada & his mother Carolyn Ho

Victory in Lt. Ehren Watada court-martial!

I have broken no law but the code of silence and unquestioning loyalty. If I am guilty of any crime, it is that I learned too much and cared too deeply for the meaningless loss of my fellow soldiers and my fellow human beings.  Lt. Ehren Watada

Due to the tireless effort of individuals and organizations (not just one or two but many), we have taken the ultimate step in communicating to the US military that Lt. Watada's act of conscience is an act of courage that merits praise not punishment...We will accept nothing less than for the military to accept Lt. Watada's resignation and to drop all charges.    Carolyn Ho

Read Ehren and his family’s thank you to supporters here

The Fight Inside the Courtroom and Outside

Lieutenant Ehren Watada, the first US Army commissioned officer who publicly refused to deploy to Iraq, and who invited other soldiers to refuse too, faced court-martial on 5 February in Fort Lewis, Washington state. In a stunning turn of events, the government’s case against Lt. Watada fell apart. The military maintains that Lt. Watada’s actions constituted a crime, but Lt. Watada asserts that he acted to prevent a crime – participating in an immoral and illegal war. To prove his guilt, the prosecution played Lt Watada’s dynamic speech to the Vets for Peace convention last August. But it only proved what Lt Watada freely admitted and what the judge had tried to keep out of court – his ethical and legal reasons not to deploy. (You can view the speech here). In addition, prosecution witnesses under cross-examination, two of his commanders and an expert in officer ethics from West Point, admitted that Lt. Watada had followed proper procedures in attempting to resign and in making public statements against the war.

Ehren Watada’s speech set on fire a movement increasingly opposed to Bush’s ‘endless war’, which helps explain the explosion of support for him. This movement ensured that, despite the judge’s best efforts to center the trial on Lt Watada’s supposed illegality, it centered instead on the war’s illegality. The military judge could not trust the panel of seven officers, three of whom were people of color, to find Lt. Watada guilty. Thus on 7 February the judge encouraged the prosecution to accept a ‘mistrial’ rather than continue.

Forty supporters and several dozen members of the press, including from Japan and Germany, observed the court proceedings each day.  Margaret Prescod (Women of Color in the Global Women’s Strike –GWS) and Eric Gjertsen (Payday) were in court as supporters of Ehren and his mother Carolyn Ho.  You can hear their report here.   Also at the court martial to support a fellow refuser were Helga Aguayo, wife of refuser Agustín Aguayo (see below) with daughters Rebecca and Raquel and mother-in-law Susana.

A number of movement successes contributed to the courtroom victory.

It forced the military to drop charges before the trial began, reducing the sentence from 8 to 6, and then to 4 years. 

It brought prominent actors, activists and politicians, even a congressman, to come out in support.

It got Amnesty International to recognize Lt. Watada as a prospective Prisoner of Conscience.

The national and international media began to take the issue seriously. Major items appeared in: Washington Post, LA Times, National Public Radio, the BBC, UK Guardian and Independent, Le Monde and Liberation in France, Gazzettino, Liberazione, Manifesto and Repubblica in Italy, El País in Spain, Turkish Daily News, Carta Popular in Uruguay, Al Jazeera.net, and regular broadcasts in 150 affiliates of Pacifica radio US.

Once Carolyn Ho, Lt. Watada’s mother, who had worked endlessly behind the scenes, but whose name was not even known, began to speak publicly,  Gloria Pacis, mother of refusenik Stephen Funk, came to support Ehren and shared a platform with Carolyn. Then Helga Aguayo, wife of conscientious objector Agustín Aguayo, also shared a platform with Carolyn.  A new and more accurate picture of the movement against the military emerged: soldiers refusing within, mutual support from campaigning families outside.


Lt. Watada writes, “Make no mistake, the Army can choose to lose small by immediately granting my resignation or they can lose big when they are forced to drop all charges due to double jeopardy, promote me to Captain, and grant me an honorable discharge anyway.  Even in the off-chance that they succeed in re-trying me, public opposition to this war (including the military) grows daily, congressional investigations bring more information to light, and we will have 5 more months to add to the groundwork that has already been laid.”

The mistrial is a major victory for the anti-war movement, especially for those who have increasingly rallied in support of Lt. Watada ever since he declared his refusal in June 2006. On the first day, thousands of students, veterans, religious supporters and others including from way down the West coast and elsewhere protested outside Fort Lewis. Cities and towns across the US held support demonstrations.

Payday and the GWS coordinated actions in Argentina, England, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, Morocco, Peru, Turkey, Uruguay, and Venezuela, and coordinated a fiery rally and program in Philadelphia PA and a picket at the White House in Washington DC. See reports and photos here and here.  We had earlier organised a speaking and lobbying tour in the US with Carolyn Ho, Lt. Watada’s mother, who, like so many mothers, partners, aunts and sisters, has campaigned tirelessly behind the scenes to get justice for her son. Without this caring work for justice, the courtroom victory would have been unimaginable.

Agustín Aguayo & his wife Helga

On 6 March, US Army Specialist Agustín Aguayo will face court-martial in Germany and up to seven years in prison. For three years he has struggled to be recognized as a conscientious objector. Despite his stated beliefs against war in any form, the Army attempted to force him to redeploy to Iraq in September 2006. The backbone of his campaign is his family, in particular his wife Helga.  See www.aguayodefense.org

Lt. Watada said:  “For soldiers to stop fighting, 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 has called us to specifically support Agustín, and also Mark Wilkerson (sentenced to 7 months in prison last week).

Carolyn Ho, speaking on a platform with Helga Aguayo in Los Angeles, organized by Nikkei for Civil Rights and Redress, urges us to put her son’s words into practice by raising money for the Aguayos.  “I’m hoping that you will adopt this family – that they will not be left alone to stand by themselves against the military-industrial complex.... and not just in words: in tangible monetary support, emotional support, everything.”  Donations online, or directly to the family at this address: 

Helga P. Aguayo, 36838 57th Street East, Palmdale, CA 93552  USA

No Soldiers, No Wars
Asian-American Ehren Watada is another man of color who is giving impetus to the anti-war movement within the US military – along with Filipino-American Stephen Funk, Latinos Camilo Mejia, Pablo Paredes, and Agustín Aguayo, and African-American Jonathan Hutto.  Among communities of color in the US, the stand that Lt. Watada is taking has provided one means to make deep anti-war sentiment visible.  Among the panel of officers who made up the jury, the three people of color – two women and one man – were the most sympathetic. One of the women, in response to questions on her suitability for the panel, told the court that she was impressed by Lt. Watada’s actions.

Mass marches and rallies are a powerful expression of the popular will and can be effective – the Italian government just resigned as a result of one - but other governments have largely ignored them and political parties have often exploited them. The Watada campaign spoke to a movement that had found many ways to organize: continual picketing of recruiters’ offices, leafleting on and outside military bases, protesting welfare cuts which push young people into the military, lobbying against criminal government treatment of vets and their families, blocking shipments of arms to Iraq, regular local pickets . . .  Rallying behind refusers who take on the military is a strategy that strengthens would-be refusers.

An international army of refuseniks needs our support

According to the Pentagon, 8000 soldiers have gone “AWOL” (absent without leave), hundreds are seeking refuge in Canada and other countries, and recruitment is at an historic low despite the pressure of the “poverty draft”.  The number of UK deserters has tripled since the invasion.  Over 1200 active-duty US military have signed an Appeal for Redress to Congress calling for withdrawal of all troops and bases from Iraq. (see www.appealforredress.org)

In Turkey and Israel, it is common for refuseniks to face multiple arrests and trials for the same charge. Halil Savda, a Kurdish draft refuser in Turkey, is currently serving another period in jail where he has been badly beaten. An estimated half a million people in Turkey are refusing compulsory military service. In Israel, where hundreds of students and soldiers have refused to participate in the brutal war against Palestinians, a 19-year-old refusenik Hadas Amit is serving her fifth jail term.  The Watada victory will be felt internationally.  Refusers now challenging the military are stronger, and their numbers will grow.

Jonathan Hutto initiated the Appeal for Redress

For more information see the Family and Friends of Lt. Watada website: www.thankyoult.net
To make a non-tax-deductible donation to Lt. Watada’s defense fund, please make checks payable to:
ECCOR, P.O. Box 235511, Honolulu HI 96823  USA

To make a tax-deductible donation by postal mail, please make checks out to "Hawaii People's Fund" and note
"Lt Watada Defense Fund" on the memo line. Please send to:

Hawai’i People's Fund, Attn: Lt. Watada Defense Fund, 810 N. Vineyard Blvd., Honolulu HI 96817-3590 USA

You can view or read Lt. Watada's inspiring speech to the Veterans for Peace convention in August, on www.thankyoult.org  Click on “Lt. Watada’s Speeches”. 

A video of this Lt. Watada’s speech to the Veterans for Peace Convention together with a presentation by Carolyn Ho of her son’s case is also available. Contact us for a copy of either video to show at your school, religious organization, community center, public event, TV station, etc.

Global Women’s Strike  www.globalwomenstrike.net   
, a network of men working with the Global Women’s Strike
Invest in Caring not Killing
www.refusingtokill.net  email: payday@paydaynet.org
(215) 848 1120  London  0207 209 4751