In a response to an editorial published in Tuesday’s News Tribune absurdly miscasting Lt. Ehren Watada’s position as an argument “against any national defense” and lecturing him that the Iraq war is “a war that the lieutenant, as a soldier, had an obligation to fight,” Rob Gramenz, of Tacoma, replied:  “The trouble with that analysis is that most modern ‘wars’ the U.S. has been involved in, from Vietnam to Iraq, are not about national defense at all.  They are about maintaining global dominance and control.  They are illegal wars.  --  We need to understand this, but it will take a revolution in our thinking.  For Watada and, hopefully, for many more of us, the revolution starts now.  Not by picking up a gun, but by refusing to wield one.”[1]  --  David Gilmour, also of Tacoma, chided the McClatchy newspaper’s complacent belief that the United States is “a democracy”:  “Many Americans have glimpsed dictatorship in our regime.”[2]  --  Dean Wilson, also of Tacoma, was willing accept the News Tribune’s view that Watada had a duty to fight, but then laid into the Bush administration and the press as the true culprits in the present catastrophe:  “[T]he real crime and tragedy . . . is the malfeasance and malevolence of the Bush administration in pursuing an illegal war, propagated on willful deceit, perpetrated by a cabal of neo-cons who never felt the need to bind themselves to the same-sworn duties of Watada. . . . What a sad and tragic affair, that we demand duty and even the ultimate sacrifice from these brave young men and women, while allowing the deceit and incompetence that carries them into battle to fester into blustering about a war with Iran.  --  And, as the News Tribune pontificates on Watada’s duties, it elegantly sidesteps its own, saying ‘the resulting catastrophe has thrown a harsh light on the original arguments and intelligence used to justify (the war in Iraq).’  --  Had the media thrown a harsh light on the run-up to the war, the moral quandary of Watada and the tragic cost that America and Iraq continue to endure might well have been avoided.”[3]  --  The editorial the provoked these statements is also posted below.[4] ...

1.

[Letter]

RECENT WARS HAVEN’T BEEN ABOUT NATIONAL DEFENSE
By Robert Gramenz

News Tribune (Tacoma, WA)
February 8, 2007

http://www.thenewstribune.com/opinion/letters/story/6358720p-5674286c.html

Re: “Watada: An icon who should have deployed” (editorial, 2-6).

The editorial honors my right to protest an illegal war but scolds officers who refuse to lead their soldiers into an illegal war.

1st Lt. Ehren Watada is not against all military action, just illegal military action. We now know that the reason President Bush and other politicians chose to use military action in Iraq was to stabilize a region with oil resources and with strategic importance to the United States. But that’s not what the U.S. military, acting essentially unilaterally, is for. That’s not what Watada and his fellow soldiers signed up for.

I have come to believe that Watada did the right thing. I struggled with this since it seems to make sense, as the News Tribune editorializes, that “those who argue that individual soldiers should be able to pick the wars they fight . . . are essentially arguing against any national defense.” The trouble with that analysis is that most modern “wars” the U.S. has been involved in, from Vietnam to Iraq, are not about national defense at all. They are about maintaining global dominance and control. They are illegal wars.

We need to understand this, but it will take a revolution in our thinking. For Watada and, hopefully, for many more of us, the revolution starts now. Not by picking up a gun, but by refusing to wield one.

Robert Gramenz
Tacoma

2.

[Letter sent to the News Tribune]

WATADA NOT IN YOUR DEMOCRACY
By David Gilmour

February 6, 2007

Your editorial about Lt. Watada as an icon raises the issue about how human and heroic a soldier can be in "our democracy," its freedoms much changed through the Bush years. The Constitution is no longer intact with the USA Patriot Act still in effect. Many Americans have glimpsed dictatorship in our regime, and the recent election has helped only slightly to alter the despotic power Bush and Co. were arrogantly wielding in their Middle East pre-emptive war policies. In such a time, Lt. Watada decided to refuse service in a war he understood as illegal, perpetrated by criminal motives of greedy capitalistic politicians. No pacificist he, but a very ethical military man with re: the U.S.-Iraq War and Occupation.

Heroism is emphasized sometimes by how far one strays from normal behavior. Lt. Watada has shown such extraordinary moral courage, a heroism beyond the ken of most citizens in these United States. He wrestled with his conscience as a soldier sworn to uphold the Constitution; then, through a terrifying dilemma, he came down on the side of human dignity against the force of banal duty and obligation, to which most people, soldiers or otherwise, would mindlessly succumb. His heroism is undeniable to me and like a hero he will suffer for his act.

What is relevant lies within the heart and soul of this brave individual who stands alone in full realization of his act, showing the power of individual choice as action for Americans in a diminished democracy. Watada is a conscientious individual of a democracy any of us have yet to comprehend.

Lt. Ehren Watada, I would hope, feels no guilt for his non-deployment. Through it he has gained his integrity as a human being and thus may stand as a hero for us all. Icon? He's a living hero.

David Gilmour

3.

[Letter]

REAL CRIME ISN’T WATADA’S; IT’S THE ADMINISTRATION’S
By Dean Wilson

News Tribune (Tacoma, WA)
February 8, 2007

http://www.thenewstribune.com/opinion/letters/story/6358722p-5674357c.html

As a retired Army officer, I concur that 1st Lt. Ehren Watada is bound to meet his duty to deploy to Iraq. But the real crime and tragedy, revealed by the trial of Scooter Libby, is the malfeasance and malevolence of the Bush administration in pursuing an illegal war, propagated on willful deceit, perpetrated by a cabal of neo-cons who never felt the need to bind themselves to the same-sworn duties of Watada. Even our commander-in-chief and his vice president assiduously avoided wartime duties and now spurn the very Constitution that Watada and his brethren are sworn to protect and defend.

What a sad and tragic affair, that we demand duty and even the ultimate sacrifice from these brave young men and women, while allowing the deceit and incompetence that carries them into battle to fester into blustering about a war with Iran.

And, as the *News Tribune* pontificates on Watada’s duties (editorial, 2-6), it elegantly sidesteps its own, saying “the resulting catastrophe has thrown a harsh light on the original arguments and intelligence used to justify (the war in Iraq).”

Had the media thrown a harsh light on the run-up to the war, the moral quandary of Watada and the tragic cost that America and Iraq continue to endure might well have been avoided.

4.

Opinion

WATADA: AN ICON WHO SHOULD HAVE DEPLOYED

News Tribune (Tacoma, WA)
February 6, 2007

http://www.thenewstribune.com/opinion/editorials/story/6355757p-5672011c.html

Terrible news comes from Iraq every few days, so it’s no particular coincidence that a horrifying bombing killed 130 people in a Baghdad market just before the court-martial of Lt. Ehren Watada began Monday at Fort Lewis.

But the bombing pretty much summarizes why Watada has become a hero to the burgeoning antiwar movement -- not only in the United States, but abroad. Watada has been lionized by people who oppose the Iraq war, Hollywood celebrities, and pacifists who oppose all war. The lieutenant has become the focus of rallies here and across America.

The groundswell of support for Watada is driven by the sickening bloodshed in Iraq -- which just won’t stop. If the U.S. intervention in Iraq were going well, if peace were prevailing and if American and Iraqi forces were now subduing the last dying flares of violence, Watada’s trial for defying orders to deploy there would be a minor story.

If. The war in fact has gone tragically and disastrously awry. It was fatally botched in strategy and execution, and the resulting catastrophe has thrown a harsh light on the original arguments and intelligence used to justify it.

Watada’s hero status reflects a widespread and growing public disenchantment with the conflict. Nevertheless, his stance -- refusing to participate in a war he considers illegal -- is wrong. To his credit, he has acknowledged the weakness of his legal case and seems willing to accept the consequences of court-martial.

But those who argue that individual soldiers should be able to pick the wars they fight, based on personal judgments about their legality, are essentially arguing against any national defense. A military cannot exist without an effective chain of command and soldiers who obey the orders they are given, not the orders they would prefer.

Beyond that, soldiers in the United States serve a democracy; as such they must be subject to elected civilian authority. Under the Constitution, war powers are vested in the the executive and legislative branches of government.

Bush initiated this war under authority granted by Congress, which Congress has not rescinded.

In a dictatorship, it may well be honorable to refuse orders from above under some circumstances. But a democracy offers other means of challenging policy and even reversing it with enough public support.

Watada’s supporters are exercising precisely those means when they peacefully protest a war that the lieutenant, as a soldier, had an obligation to fight.