Watada Chose to Stop Fighting
By US Rep. Mike Honda
San Francisco Chronicle
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
U.S. Army 1st Lt. Ehren K. Watada volunteered for military service
following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on our country out of a
desire to protect his family and compatriots. His service record has
been exemplary, and he was deemed “among the best” by his superiors.
All that changed on June 22, 2006, when Watada was ordered to deploy
to the Middle East as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Opposed to the
premise and conduct of the war in Iraq, Watada refused to comply with
this order. He now faces a court martial and up to six years in prison.
Lt. Watada has taken a solemn oath of allegiance as a military
officer. With the order to deploy to Iraq, he found himself with a
dilemma: Either follow this oath or risk the severe consequences of
disobedience. In the spirit of Henry David Thoreau, this young man
searched his soul and found himself unable to suppress his conscience
and opposition to what he views as an immoral, illegal war.
Watada is not alone. Poll after poll points to an ever rising tide of
public opposition to President Bush’s handling of the war in Iraq. This
soldier is unique, however, in that he is the first commissioned U.S.
military officer to refuse Iraq deployment.
I am neither a lawyer nor a veteran, and it is not my place to opine
on the legality or military propriety of Lt. Watada’s actions. I am,
however, a proud and patriotic American solemnly entrusted by his
friends and neighbors to represent them, their hopes, their dreams and
their principles in the greatest deliberative body in the world.
I voted against giving President Bush the authority to use military
force in Iraq, and do not believe his justifications for taking us into
war were even minimally adequate. As a duly elected member of Congress,
I express my admiration for a young American who, in the same spirit,
has heeded his conscience at tremendous risk to livelihood, reputation
and personal freedom in order to right what he and the vast majority of
his compatriots see as a tremendous wrong.
This soldier is neither a conscientious objector nor a pacifist. He
volunteered to serve his nation in the armed forces, has expressed his
willingness to fight in our struggle in Afghanistan, and declined his
superiors’ offer to deploy to a desk job in Iraq, out of harm’s way.
There is not, nor can there be, the slightest doubt as to this young
man’s bravery, patriotism or commitment to his fellow soldiers.
In facing charges of conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman, it
is my belief that Ehren Watada has laid bare a fact that is becoming
increasingly plain: Mr. Bush has handled this war in a manner
unbecoming a United States president.
At best, our president misled the nation on the rationale for going
into Iraq. He has embroiled this great country in a cycle of brutality
there that has grievously tarnished America’s international reputation,
has further destabilized an already precarious Middle East and has
taken the lives of more than 3,000 American fathers, mothers, sons and
Watada has risked being deemed guilty of breaking one law in
furtherance of a higher, moral one, rather than participate in a fight
that, in his and my view, needlessly sends our compatriots to their
In Watada’s own words: “To stop an illegal and unjust war, the
soldiers and service members can choose to stop fighting it” (www.
thankyoult.org, click on YouTube video).
Democrat Mike Honda represents San Jose in the U.S. House of
Update, February 7, 2007:
Fort Lewis, Washington – The court-martial of First Lt. Ehren Watada, a commissioned US Army officer who refused deployment to Iraq on the basis that he believed the war was illegal, has ended in a mistrial, a military court judge ruled Wednesday.
In a stunning defeat for military prosecutors, Lt. Col. John Head, the military judge presiding over Watada’s court-martial, said he had no choice but to declare a mistrial because military prosecutors and Watada’s defense attorney could not reach an agreement regarding the characterization of a stipulation agreement Watada signed before the start of his court-martial. The judge characterized the stipulation agreement as an admission of guilt by Watada for “missing movement” and making statements against the Iraq war. Eric Seitz, Watada’s attorney, said the stipulation Watada signed, however, was by no means an admission of guilt by his client. Rather, it was a statement of fact that his client believed the Iraq war was illegal, and that he refused to deploy to the region with his unit because of his beliefs.