I want to introduce to you First Lt. Ehren Watada, 28, a native of Hawaii, an Eagle Scout who graduated from Hawaii Pacific university with a finance degree – who decided in January of this year to refuse to head out to Iraq to lead troops in what he believes is an illegal war of occupation.

I will give Ehren a chance to introduce himself …

“My name is Ehren Watada. I am a First Lieutenant in the U.S. Army and I have served for 3 years. It is my duty as a commissioned officer of the United States Army to speak out against grave injustices. My moral and legal obligation is to the Constitution and not those who would issue unlawful orders. I stand before you today because it is my job to serve and protect those soldiers, the American people, and innocent Iraqis with no voice.

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. 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.

The war in Iraq violates our democratic system of checks and balances. It usurps international treaties and conventions that by virtue of the Constitution become American law. The wholesale slaughter and mistreatment of the Iraqi people with only limited accountability is not only a terrible moral injustice, but a contradiction to the Army’s own Law of Land Warfare. My participation would make me party to war crimes.

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 have appealed to my commanders to see the larger issues of our actions. But justice has not been forthcoming. My oath of office is to protect and defend America’s laws and its people. By refusing unlawful orders for an illegal war, I fulfill that oath today.

Thank you.”

Ehren Watada took this decision after much soul-searching as an act of patriotism and not as one of treason. It is an act of conscience of a man, who does not shy away do defend what his conscience tells him is right, who feels he, together with the American people had been lied to and betrayed by this administration. “It is the duty of every soldier, and especially officers, to evaluate the legality as well as the truth behind every order – including the order to go to war!”

Since the beginning of the war, more than 7,900 members of the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force have deserted, a small fraction of the hundreds of thousands who have served. Pentagon statistics indicate that desertions have declined as the war has progressed. They dropped from 3,678 in 2003, the first year of the war, to about 2,000 in 2005. The desertions typically involve enlisted personnel, not officers.

Ehren Watada is no deserter – he remains on post in Fort Lewis.

He believes so strongly in this cause that he would sit in prison or even die for that belief, he said on January 25th. “I will not subvert to the army, but I will not go along with the opinion that what we are doing in Iraq is right or that I am fulfilling my duty”!

His father — Robert Watada, a retired Hawaii state official — was opposed to the war in Vietnam but was able to do alternative service in the Peace Corps in Peru. He stated his son knew about his decision not to go to Vietnam but made his own one when he joined the army.

Initially, Ehren Watada supported the war becasue he believed, Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. He had some doubts though but felt, the president as Commander in Chief would not betray his trust. During the past year, his feeling changed and he became more and more convinced there was “intentional manipulation of intelligence” by the Bush administration.

At least six generals have already critizised the handling of the Iraq war, but have done so exclusively in retirement.

Should he be court-martialed, he faces up to eight years in prison.

Personally, I wholeheartedly second what was printed on signs of supporters at the Hawaii Capitol “Thank you 1st Lt. Ehren Watada for resisting illegal war” … or what was handwritten on the small sign of Nancie Caraway, a University of Hawaii’s political scientist and the wife of U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii …. “HERO“!

P.S.: Please kindly visit “Courage to resist” and sign the petition in favour of 1st Lt. Ehren Watada “Thank You Lt.org


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