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First Officer to Refuse Iraq Duty Speaks Out

by Rachel Ensign

U.S. Army 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, right, speaks to the media and supporters, Wednesday, June 7, 2006, in Tacoma, Wash. Watada said he feels the Iraq war is illegal and immoral and is refusing to deploy when his Army brigade, stationed at Fort Lewis, Wash., leaves for Iraq later this month. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

1st LT Ehren Watada knew that once he completed his officer training with the 3d Stryker Brigade (armored vehicles) of the Second Infantry Division at Ft. Lewis, WA it was highly likely that he would receive deployment orders for Iraq. Anticipating this, he told his commanders in January 2006 that he would refuse to deploy because he believed US military operations in Iraq violated international law. He didn't file for discharge as a conscientious objector (CO) because he remains willing to fight in lawful wars that are in defense of the nation.

Following this, he was told that he could submit a request to resign his commission. He was notified in May that this request had been denied by his command.

A native of Hawaii, Watada 28, was raised in a family which encouraged a questionning attitude about military duty. His father, Robert Watada, a retired state official,

erformed "alternative service" with the Peace Corps in Peru because of his opposition to the Vietnam War. He told the Seattle Times that he had laid out the "pros and cons" of military service to his son, when he was considering enlisting following the US invasion of Iraq in March 2003. Young Watada was an Eagle Scout in high school and had graduated with a finance degree from Hawaii Pacific University prior to enlisting in the US Army.

"He knew very well of my decision not to go to Vietnam...but he felt that he wanted to do his part for the country," Watada told the newspaper. The young officer concedes that he had doubts about the war, but felt that President Bush should be given the benefit of the doubt when he claimed that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.
LT Watada had planned to "go public" at a June 7th press conference organized by a Seattle antiwar group, the Courage to Resist (www.couragetoresist.org/x/). However, his commanders thrwarted his plans by ordering him restricted to Ft Lewis during daylight duty hours.

When Watada communicated with news reporters via telephone he stated; "I feel that I have been lied to and betrayed by this administration. It is the duty and obligation of every soldier to evaluate the legality of every order, including an order to go to war." The young officer has retained civilian defense counsel and pledges to fight criminal charges such as desertion, disobeying orders, or missing a movement by raising his duty as an officer to obey international and domestic law.

A Letter from LT Ehren Watada's Mom
For more information go to http://www.thankyoult.org/

Mike McCormick has published Watada's interview online, via, YouTube http://talkingsticktv.org/