PHILADELPHIA - June 27 - First Lieutenant Ehren Watada, of the US Army, recently became the first US military officer to officially refuse to go to Iraq. Lt. Watada first attempted to quietly resign in protest over the "illegal war" in January 2006. On June 7th he publicly announced his intention to refuse deployment, and on June 22nd he followed through on his pledge by refusing to ship out with the 3rd Stryker Brigade. Since then he has been confined to Ft. Lewis under investigation and possible court martial charges.
Lt. Watada has said of his decision to refuse, "It is my conclusion as an officer of the Armed Forces that the war in Iraq is not only morally wrong but a horrible breach of American law. 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."
A Day of Action in support of Lt. Watada and his stand against the war in Iraq has been called by Courage to Resist and actions are taking place in more than 25 cities across the US, as well as in Canada, the UK, Japan, and Italy. Vietnam veterans, military families, students, religious groups, rape survivors, anti-war protestors, and others are taking to the streets in support of Lt. Watada. Events are being coordinated by the Family and Friends of Lt. Watada through the website www.ThankYouLt.org .
Lt. Watada has the support of his mother and father, who are campaigning on his behalf. Bob Watada, his father, who himself refused to serve in the Vietnam war, says, “We taught Ehren that he has to care for other human beings, other people on this planet, regardless of where they are. We didn’t teach him to go kill children, kill women in Iraq… he’s chosen the hard course, but it’s the right course and we’re very proud of him.” His mother, Carolyn Ho, adds, “I think that what Ehren is doing will galvanize the antiwar movement… The 1% of the population that represent the oil conglomerates, and the rich who get richer, can no longer mandate and determine our future.”
In another recent case of example of military refusal that is receiving national media attention, US Army Specialist Suzanne Swift was arrested for deserting her military police unit after suffering post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of rape and sexual harassment by superiors while on duty in Iraq. Her “proud mother”, Sara Rich, says "Suzanne hopes that her courage to step forward and stand up for what she knows is right will effect change not only for others in the military but the world." Sara Rich has met with Lt. Watada’s family and they have given mutual support.
Ann Wright, a retired US Army Reserve Colonel and US diplomat who resigned in 2003 in opposition to the war on Iraq, has said, “Refusing to participate in military operations that violate international law -- the war of aggression, the use of torture, the use of illegal weapons and purposeful targeting of innocent civilians will save Lt. Watada his sanity and his soul.”
Nancy Carroll of Women of Color in the Global Women’s Strike says, “In defending Lt. Watada, we are defending ourselves and our sisters and brothers in every country against the rape, murder and devastation unleashed by Bush’s ‘endless wars’ and the theft of billions of dollars from every population which the world needs to be invested in caring not killing.”
Eric Gjertsen of Payday adds, “Lt. Watada’s courageous refusal comes at a time when some 8,000 US soldiers are officially ‘deserters’, hundreds are seeking refuge in Canada and other countries, and the number of young men and women signing up for the military (particularly people of color) is at an historic low despite the pressure of the ‘poverty draft’. In the UK the number of deserters has tripled since the invasion. This is a reflection of the fact that the pre-emptive war on Iraq is a crime on a massive scale. Lt. Watada must be freed from confinement and allowed to communicate with his family and supporters and the public, granted an honorable discharge, and not face punishment for his actions.”
Global Women’s Strike
INVEST IN CARING NOT KILLING
Payday is an international network of men working with the Global Women’s Strike