On Sunday, the Austin (Texas) American-Statesman published the longest interview yet printed with Bob Watada, the father of Lt. Ehren K. Watada, who refused to deploy to Iraq in June on the grounds that the war there is illegal.[1]  --  Introducing his interview, reporter Brad Buchholz said that because some of the charges against Watada bear on statements he has made, "the Watada case is now as much about free speech as it is about war and moral choices."  --  The interview succeeded in breaking through the mainstream media filter that in most cases excludes even the mention of international legal issues.  --  Buchholz asks Bob Watada:  " This country has never done something quite like this before  --  declaring war against a state for things we fear might happen.  While some might look at this as a morality question, your son insists this is also a matter of law."  --  Bob Watada replies:  "I think we agree with other countries in the world, after World War II, that this kind of world anarchy cannot continue.  When we signed on with the United Nations, we all agreed that to engage in hostitilies against other country is wrong.  It's called Crimes of Aggression, Crimes against Peace, Crimes against Humanity.  We agreed with everybody that that was wrong, and we signed our name on that.  And yet we're doing that."  --  Such exchanges in the print media have been extremely rare.  --  Bob Watada's interview also revealed for the first time that "while [Ehren] was [serving in the U.S. Army in South Korea], he did the research and found out exactly where my brother had been killed.  Then he took an eight-hour train ride from his base, went to the spot, took a whole day.  I had sent him a photo of my brother, his uncle — and Ehren put it by the tree where his uncle died.  He took some picctures and then sent them back to me, and said, 'Well, this is where Uncle is.'"  --  In other media coverage, CBS 42 (Austin, Texas) reported briefly on an appearance by Bob Watada and Rosa Sakanashi, father and stepmother of Lt. Ehen K. Watada, in Austin, Texas on Sunday.[2]  --  On Monday KXAN, another TV station in Austin, reported that Bob Watada would speak at a local high school.[3] ...

1.

Question & Answer

MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE: A CONVERSATION WITH BOB WATADA
By Brad Buchholz

Austin (Texas) American-Statesman
October 29, 2006

http://www.statesman.com/life/content/life/stories/other/10/29/29watadaonline.html

Bob Watada is worried for his son, and for good reason. U.S. Army Lt. Ehren Watada of Fort Lewis, Wash., is facing military court-martial -- and the prospect of eight years in jail -- for refusing an order in June to deploy to Iraq and expressing his belief that this war is illegal and immoral.

Yet for all his concern, Bob Watada is clearly a proud father.

"We're very proud of Ehren for the stand he's taking," says Watada, a retired government employee from Hawaii who has spent the last three months traveling on a cross-country "public opinion campaign" on behalf of his son. "We recognize, yes, that he might get punished for it. But as he said, "I will take the punishment because what is happening is very, very wrong."

Ehren Watada is the first commissioned officer to openly defy a deployment order to Iraq. Lt. Watada's public explanations for his disobedience -- "the war in Iraq is not only morally wrong but a horrible breach of American law" -- prompted the Army to add "contempt" charges against him. Consequently, the Watada case is now as much about free speech as it is about war and moral choices.

"They (the Army) are basically trying to shut him up," says Bob Watada, "(but) you don't lose your free speech rights when you get into the military. The officers don't anyway. That's going to be a major contention (at the trial)."

Bob Watada is quick to note that his son tried to resign his commission in advance of his deployment and that his objections pertain only to the current conflict in Iraq. He says his son is no pacifist; he has served in a war zone in South Korea. Yet the father is clearly sensitive to matters about war, peace, and free speech.

Raised by Japanese-American parents on a Colorado farm in the 1940s, Bob Watada knew what it was to be cautious about self-expression during wartime. He joined the Peace Corps in the 1960s and sought several education deferments rather than serve in Vietnam. He lost an older brother in the Korean War in 1951. Matters of war and conscience have long touched this family, intimately.

Austin American-Statesman: How would you describe your son's state of mind right now?

Bob Watada: He says, "Whatever may come, I'll be strong through it. He's more concerned about me than I am about him. He keeps calling me to ask me -- and his stepmother, Rosa -- if we're all right. He's more concerned about our health than he is of his own future. But as he says, "I'll take what's coming to me. Because I'm going to stand up and do what's right."

At the moment, he's not confined, right? He has duties at Fort Lewis, but he's not in the brig.

That's correct. He lives off base. He's assigned to (an) administrative unit on base. He goes off and on the base, every day, a 9 to 5 job. I ask him, "What do you do every day?" He says, "Push paper." . . . We expect to hear the announcement of his trial date at any time now.

You've said you're concerned that your son is going to jail. Do you see this as a certainty?

Well, right now, this is what the military wants to do. They have him for eight and a half years, for simply saying "I do not want to go to Iraq to commit further war crimes. I don't want to go to Iraq to lead my men into commiting war crimes and putting their lives at risk, for nothing. . . ."

They (the Army) are basically trying to shut him up. They don't want their soldiers to tell the truth of what is going on in Iraq, though many, many are now. But (Ehren) is the first officer to publicly come out and say, "This whole war is based on a deception." There were no weapons of mass destruction. There were no chemical and biological weapons. . . . There were no (9-11) terrorists in Iraq, and yet we're killing thousands of people over there, and getting ourselves killed (in violation of) the Geneva Conventions and the United Nations Charter.

Your son seems to be saying, in essence, "Dock me my two years for missing a troop movment if that's what you must do. But don't penalize me six more for airing my rationale." Yes?

That's correct. You don't lose your free speech rights when you get into the military. The officers don't anyway. That's going to be a major contention. That he had every right to speak and exercise his free speech rights. . . . That's why the American Civil Liberties Union jumped into this with both feet, to support our son that he has these rights as an officer.

You said your son tried to resign his commission as early as January, 2006 -- six months before he refused the deployment order.

Yes. He and I had a number of discussions about it. . . . He said, "There are certain things I cannot and will not do." I said, "I think the miltary is going to be reasonable if you tell them why you don't want to go. They'll accept that." Well, we were both fooled. Did anybody acknowledge his request? No. They just ignored him. Then he made a number of informal attempts by talking to his immediate supervisors and talking to the people above, to no avail.

Is there anything that you can share with us that gives us some context for your son's actions? A part of me imagines that you're a close-knit family, that you read a lot about war and peace growing up. Was this kind of conversation a part of your home?

To some extent, yes. . . . He was an Eagle Scout . . . And I know, having been involved in Scouts, that the boys are taught things about honesty, morality, and responsiblity in our community. So that's a part of him. It's part of the things we've talked about (during the last year) -- that life is sacred, and you should not take that lightly. (We talked) about doing the right thing. And I remember at one point during the conversation, I said, "Ehren, you're not going to change the world." He came back and said, "You know dad, you always told me that one person can make a difference. . . . I may not be able to make a difference, but I have to make a try."

But did you talk to him about war and peace, your feelings about Vietnam, when he was a boy?

We talked about the horrors of war. And of course, (his mother and I) talked to the family about my brother who was killed in Korea, how that devastated the family, devastated his mother. It's not the number of dead -- 2,700 Americans in Iraq. Each of those persons has a wife, a child, or a mother or a father, or siblings. The death devastates the family. It's ruining a family.

So Ehren had an uncle he never knew, the uncle killed in Korea.

That's correct. Ehren served in Korea (last year) in the war zone there they call the DMZ. And while he was there, he did the research and found out exactly where my brother had been killed. Then he took an eight-hour train ride from his base, went to the spot, took a whole day. I had sent him a photo of my brother, his uncle -- and Ehren put it by the tree where his uncle died. He took some picctures and then sent them back to me, and said, "Well, this is where Uncle is."

It sounds as if his experiences in his military may have shaped his current feelings about Iraq as much as the years (he spent with you) before the military. Yes? Maybe? No?

I think so. One of the things the commanders told him was that, as an officer, he had an obligation to study all about war. All about the battles that you're going to be going into. Because you're going to ask your men to go into battle for their country and die for their country, and you'd better have a good explanation for them.

When he began to study about what was going on in Iraq, he just came to a conclusion that he could not take his men into harm's way, for what we know now is an attempt by the administration to colonize and privatize Iraq for the multinational corporations.

I'm trying to imagine that voice of someone who supports the war effort, who has voted for the president, who believes in staying the course in Iraq. I can imagine that person saying, "Lt. Watada has a moral responsiblity to do what he's told -- as a matter of commitment to his men, to his country, and to himself."

We are a civilized country today. Where whether you're a solder or a civilian, you (should be able to) stand up and say, "This is wrong." If you see somebody killed on the street, you stand up and say, "This is wrong."

I hope our morality is there, that we have people like my son who will say it's wrong. Because if we don't, this country is really, really going in the wrong place. As I say: I really hope we're not the barbarians of 2,000 years ago, where you plundered and killed. . . . What might happen if Americans could stand up and say, "Is this what America is all about? The commander wants us to do this, but shouldn't we stand up and say this is wrong?"

Yet your son joined the military (in 2003) at a time when world opinion was already along the lines of, "This isn't a good idea; a lot of people might perish if the U.S. wages war in Iraq."

Well, my son joined the Army for patriotic reasons. He wanted to do something for his country, to help this president fight this war against terror. He believed the Presdient must have some (credible) information about terrorists in Iraq. Remember, there was almost a hysteria in the country about terrorism. (Later), Ehren said, "Wait a minute. I thought we came to fight terrorists and not to look for oil, not to control oil."

Your son has made the statement that pre-emptive war is illegal. And yes: This country has never done something quite like this before -- declaring war against a state for things we fear might happen. While some might look at this as a morality question, your son insists this is also a matter of law.

I think we agree with other countries in the world, after World War II, that this kind of world anarchy cannot continue. When we signed on with the United Nations, we all agreed that to engage in hostitilies against other country is wrong. It's called Crimes of Aggression, Crimes against Peace, Crimes against Humanity. We agreed with everybody that that was wrong, and we signed our name on that. And yet we're doing that.

Your son's larger message seems to be, "Yes the war is immoral and illegal, and I feel a sense of dishonor if I serve in it." But he also has some tough things to say about the culture of the military. He's said, "American soldiers become indentured servants, whether they volunteer out of patriotism or are drafted through economic despeartion." And: "The American soldier must rise above the socialization that tells them authority should always be obeyed without quesiton."

Well, yes, he's talked to me about that. . . . The whole process of basic training is to break down the thought of right or wrong. The whole thought is, you'll follow whatever command you're given. It's like training a dog to go bite.

Well, I guess my son is saying it doesn't have to be that way. That if we're going to have a professional army, that the professional army should be a culture that says, "We're going to do good. . . ."

The dispassionate observer might say, "Well, Ehren Watada is talking about the situation in Iraq, but he's never set foot on that soil itself. What right does he have to say such things?

I've said in response to that, "Do you have to kill somebody in order to know it's wrong?" . . . One signficant organization that is fully behind him is Iraq Veterans Against the War. A lot of these people have come to him and talked to him. They've come out publicly, said they were going to support him. In fact, at the Veterans for Peace Conference, I heard 59 Iraq veterans stood up behind him, and considered him their leader.

During your "public awareness" travels, have encountered Iraq veterans who say "You're not doing the country a service"? People who have served, who have been to Iraq? Is there a flip side to that coin?

One time that question was raised. But we make it clear that we're not talking about what the soldiers did in Iraq; we're talking about what the leadership of the country has done to Iraq. Our message is that we're supporting the troops, and that we're trying to get them out. So they won't have to do this.

Along the way, we've had three or four Iraqi veterans join us. I remember in Cal State University Northridge, a student -- a veteran -- came up and talked. And he said, "Don't join the military, because it's going to happen to you. And you're going to have to go kill people who did nothing to you."

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2.

PARENTS OF LT. WATADA DEFEND SON'S DECISION
By Kim Miller

CBS 42 (Austin, TX)
October 29, 2006

http://keyetv.com/topstories/local_story_302232832.html

[ Lt. Watada is facing court-martial in the state of Washington, so his parents travel the country to help their son explain his decision.

"It was a very difficult decision because he realized he was part of a unit going to Iraq," Bob said. "Soldiers needed to stand up."

The Lieutenant speaks from his web site about the reasons the Bush administration gave for going to war and the difference between supporting the troops and supporting the war.

"People have asked me, 'Aren't you abandoning your troops by making the decision you've made?'" Watada says. "No, I'm not. The best way I can support my fellow soldiers and those under me is by helping to oppose an illegal war and helping end it."

Watada explains to this South Austin crowd that his son is not a conscientious objector. Ehren does not object to all war, just this war.

"We know that he is taking the hardest way to do it," said Rosa Sakanishi. "But he is eager to do it. Willing to do it because he thinks he's doing the right thing."

The Lieutenant's parents started their talks in Hawaii in August and will continue across the U.S. through November 18.

3.

FATHER OF SOLDIER WHO EVADED DEPLOYMENT IN AUSTIN

KXAN (Austin, TX)
October 30, 2006

Army Lt. Ehren Watada made national headlines for being the first commissioned officer to refuse deployment to Iraq. And Monday, his father plans to speak at Garza Independence High School.

Sunday, Bob Watada arrived in Austin for his cross-country tour to gather support for his son's possible court martial.

In June, Bob's son told the military about his decision. Now, he faces several charges for evading deployment.

Ehren says he's speaking out for soldiers who lost their lives in a war he claims is illegal.

"He refused to go along because of the fact that war crimes are being committed every single day, and he could not participate in the war crimes," Bob said. "Furthermore, he could not lead his men into battle. He is very confident he did the right thing, and of course, we're, as parents, very proud of him."

If convicted, he could be discharged from the military and spend more than seven years in a military prison.